Know Your Instrument

16 Easy Guitar Chord Songs Every Beginner Should Know

Learning to play guitar is not an overnight activity. You know what they say: Heart of Rome wasn’t written in a day. Or something like that.

I’ve been playing for over 15 years now, and I’m still learning new techniques. Seriously, every second day I’m outclassed by some new 7-year-old kid shredding it up on YouTube.

The point is, it’s a long journey. There’s a tonne to learn, and there’s always room for refining techniques. When you’re only just starting out, it can kind of seem like that’s all you’re doing, refining techniques. I remember myself thinking when I first started taking guitar lessons, “Cool. Now can I learn a song people will know?”

Don’t get me wrong, working on your technique is extremely important. It’s one of the most important things you can do to become a better guitarist. Unfortunately, though, a lot of the time, it’s kind of boring, practicing your scales or alternate picking until your fingers are bleeding. It might look like rock ‘n roll, but it doesn’t really sound like it.

Sometimes, you just want to pick up your ax, strum a few simple chords, and learn how to play a song or two. And you don’t want it to take 4 weeks of practice to get there. Well, the good thing is there are a whole heap of easy guitar songs for beginners that you can learn right now.

Below are some of our favorite easy to learn guitar songs that will be sure to impress at your next party.

Easy Chord-Based Songs For Guitar

If you’ve been playing for a little bit already, then simple chord-based songs are an easy way to get a few new tunes under your belt. If you’re brand new to guitar and don’t know any chords, read on anyway, but bear in mind that some of these tracks might be a little tough. Learning chords can be a steep learning curve.

What Are Chords?

Chords are a set of notes played together on the guitar. They are usually a combination of three or more notes. However, you can’t make a chord out of any three notes, they need to be musically related based on the key you’re playing in. There’s no need to worry about how that works at this stage, just know that most chords you’ll be learning will be made up of three different notes. It’s the combination of these notes that gives the chord it’s specific sound.

The Main Chords You’ll Need To Know

There are literally hundreds of chords to learn if you consider all of the different inversions, diminished, augmented, and ‘add’ chords. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know them all now, but there are a few extremely common chords that will come up again and again in these songs.

If it’s been a while since you last learned them, or you simply want to brush up on your chord knowledge, here are a few common ones you’ll need for these guitar songs for beginners.

G Major Guitar Chord

If you’re brand new to chords, you’ll notice that you often see two types of chords for each letter (note), a major, and a minor. This might be written as G Major/ G Minor, G Maj./ G Min., or, most commonly, G/ Gm. So, if you see a note with a designation, it will be a major chord.

G isn’t the easiest of chords. It’s by no means the hardest, but it can be a bit of a stretch for some beginners. To play G, you’ll need to hold the third fret on the low E string, second fret on the A, and third fret again on the high E, with the B, G, And D strings open. If you like, you can use your pinky finger to hold the high E string down at the third fret, and use your third finger to hold the B string down at the third fret. Up to you, it’s a G Major either way.

D Major Guitar Chord

D major is a nice little triangle shape, and uses only four strings on the guitar.

You’ll hold down the second fret on the G and high E strings, and the third fret on the B string. Strum these three as well as the open D string, making sure to not strum either of the two lowest strings.

C Major Guitar Chord

C uses just five strings, keeping the low E string muted. Use your ring finger to fret the third on the A string, your middle finger to hit the second fret on the D string, and your index finger anchoring the first fret on the B string. The G and high E strings are left open.

A Major Guitar Chord

A major is another 5-string chord, and an easy one to remember as all of the fingers are on the same fret. With the A and high E strings open, hold down the second fret on the D, G, and B strings, ensuring that you only strum the A string down, missing out the low E string altogether.

A Minor Guitar Chord

Once you’ve learned A major, mastering it’s minor variant is pretty straightforward. Simply adjust your fingering so that the note on the B string is on the first fret and not the second. You’ll want to use your index finger to fret this string, with the middle and ring fingers taking up the D and G strings.

E Major Guitar Chord

E major is another easy one, especially if you already know A minor.

Simply move the Am chord shape down a string (to the A, D, and G strings), and there you have it. Make sure you strum all six strings for this one.

B Minor Guitar Chord

This one’s a little bit tougher. You’ll need to barre you index finger across all strings except the low E, at the second fret. It’s important that you get a strong, consistent hold here, especially on the A and high E strings. From there, use your remaining three fingers to form an Am shape.

This one’s tough, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ve opened up a world of opportunities. Move up one fret for a Cm, three frets for a Dm, and so on.

F Major Guitar Chord

Another tough yet versatile chord is the F Major. Barre the first fret with your index finger, and then use the middle, ring and pinky fingers to form an E Major shape. You can then move this around the fretboard as you please. For example, at the third fret you get a G major, and the 6th you get an A#, and so on.

Using A Guitar Capo

A capo is a little peg-like device that clamps onto the neck of the guitar and raises the pitch of the strings. It’s as if you had another six fingers, and they are holding down all the strings at the same fret.

What’s the point then?

The main reason for using a capo is it makes life a whole lot easier. By sticking a capo on the neck, you can still play open chords such as those learned above. These are a lot easier on the fingers than playing barre chords, especially higher up on the neck of an acoustic guitar. In short, it gives you access to more difficult or higher pitched chords, but with the ease of traditional open chords.

Classic Sing-alongs For Beginners

A selection of songs that will get the whole party singing.

Knockin’ On Heavens Door – Bob Dylan

This is one of the simplest songs you can learn to play on the guitar. It was brought firmly into classic rock territory by Guns n Roses when they covered it on their Use Your Illusion II album, and its an absolute classic.

The GNR version is a little bit tougher, and better played on an electric guitar with a blazing Marshall stack. Bob Dylan’s original though, sits nicely on an acoustic. Plus, it’s incredibly simple. Just four chords. G, D, Am, then G, D, C. Rinse, and repeat. The verse and the chorus are exactly the same. I told you it was simple.

 Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond

Ba! Ba! Ba!

If you’re dying to be the life of the party, this song is one to have in your bag of tricks.

You’ll need to know a few more chords for this one, though: A, D, E, C#m, Bm, and F#m. That’s a lot of minor chords for such an upbeat song…

C# Minor Guitar Chord

C# minor is another barre chord, and you’ll notice it’s exactly the same shape as Bm, just moved up two frets.

F# Minor Guitar Chord

F# minor is a tough one. You’ll need to barre your index finger across all six strings at the second fret, and then use your ring and pinky fingers to hold down the fourth free on the A and D strings.

Bm, C#m, and F#m are only used in the verses, though, so, if you just want to learn the bit everyone actually knows, then you can get away with just A, D, and E. That’ll have everyone ba, ba, ba-ing their way back to 1969.

Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams

Speaking of songs that’ll take you back to 1969…

Actually, this one was released in 1984, but you get the point. It’s in the guitar-friendly key of D Major, and has that kind of laid back, backyard summer party feel. This is a good one to whip out while the party is just getting started.

If you’ve already mastered the last two, then you’ll just have to learn three more chords: F, C, and Bb.

Summer of 69 Guitar Chords

Bb Major Guitar Chord

B Flat Major, also know as A Sharp (A#) Major, involves bringing the A Major shape up on fret, and using your index finger to barre the first fret on the top 5 strings.

Don’t let that put you off though, they’re only used for the interlude, so if you want to just stick to D, A, Bm, and G, simply play through the first two verses and choruses and end the song there. My math teacher always told me the best mathematicians are lazy, and I kind of feel like this can be applied in music as well.

Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers

And one for when the sun goes down…

This song is dead simple. It’s pretty much just a verse, and interlude (I know, I know, I know), and another verse. You already know Am and G, add in a Dm and an Em, and you’re away.

D Minor Guitar Chord

D Minor is very much the same as D Major, except you’re playing the first fret on the high E string, rather than the second.

E Minor Guitar Chord

It’s a very similar situation with E Minor, simply remove your first finger from the E Major shape, and there you have it.

If you struggle to sing along while you’re playing (it’s not as easy as it seems), then this could be a good option. It’s super easy to sing along with as most of the chord changes actually happen in between the vocal melody: “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,” Am, Em, G, Am. Nice and easy.

Modern Classics You Can Master In 5 Minutes

Lazy Song – Bruno Mars

A song about being lazy, lazily written with just three chords. This song is an easy learn if you know D, A, and G and have a capo. Okay, there’s an Em in there twice, but short of that, it’s pretty straight-forward.

You’ll need to put your capo on the fifth fret, then you’re away. Both the verse and chorus follow the same pattern, D, A, G, then repeat. The pre-chorus switches it up slightly with an Em on the line “Yes, I said it,” followed by D, G, then A, before returning to your D-A-G chord progression.

Done!

Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People

Politically relevant with just four chords, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a punk song. Pumped Up Kicks is another nice and easy modern classic, using just Em, G, D, A. Yes, literally the same chords as before, but with your capo on the first fret this time.

It follows the “Verse is the same as the chorus” ethos as well: Em-G-D-A. Rinse and repeat. And then rinse, and then repeat. The song structure is pretty simple, too: Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Instrumental-Chorus (a capella)-Chorus.

I’m Yours – Jason Mraz

With a capo in one hand and that old acoustic in the other, all you need now is four chords. Take the chords from the last two songs and swap out that A for a C chord, and you’re there.

Again, the verse and chorus share the same progression: G-D-Em-C. For this one, you’ll want to spend a bit of time getting the swing feel right. A big part of the vibe of this song is the sort of ‘laid back on the beach with a ukelele’ feeling, so you’ll want to nail that before you pull this one out in front of your friends.

Rockstar – Nickelback

Nickelback tends to get a bit of flack, but you can’t say they don’t have some damn catchy tunes. Rockstar is one of them, and in true rockstar style, it actually uses more than four chords!

The verses are pretty simple, using just G, C, and F. You’ll then learn to add a Bb during the pre-chorus, “I’m gonna trade this life for fortune and fame” and again in the chorus, “And live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars.” The Eb enters as your fourth chord during the chorus, “We’ll all stay skinny.”

The post-chorus (Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar.) follows a Bb-C-G chord progression. Run that all through again, and then play Eb-Bb-Eb-C-F for the bridge. From there, it’s straight back into the final chorus, finishing on the post-chorus with a G chord.

Eb Major Guitar Chord

To play Eb, simply moved the Bb shape up to the sixth fret.

Three Chord Songs

Despite an abundance of chord variations, songwriters, again and again, return to a simple three-chord approach. There’s something in the simplicity that makes these songs shine. That works in our favor, the less to learn, the easier!

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

A classic sing-along tune from the Florida band (no, not Alabama), Sweet Home Alabama features an instantly recognizable arpeggiated intro riff. You can simplify that down to just a few chords though: D, C, and G. The verses follow that exact progression, D-C-G, with the chorus literally just being D and G.

Ring Of Fire – Johnny Cash

I’ll give you three guesses which three chords this song uses. Yep, G, C, and D. The chord progression is a little more complicated though, but nothing terribly difficult to get your head around. The chorus follows a D-C-G progression (same as the verse for Sweet Home Alabama), playing that twice before moving into C-G-D-G (“the ring of fire” x2).

Love Me Do – The Beatles

Yes, even The Beatles were in on the three-chord trope; the same ones too.

The verse alternates between G and C for the first three lines, and stays on the C for the fourth, “so please love me do.” The chorus is exactly the same as Ring Of Fire: D-C-G.

Achy Breaky Heart – Billy Ray Cyrus

How’s this for easy – just two chords! And none of them are D, C, or G!

Achy Breaky Heart is a simple little tune using just A and E. To really nail this one, you’ll want to focus on the strumming pattern: 1 2 and 3 4 and. Downstrokes on the beat, upstrokes on the ‘ands.’

Electric Guitar Riffs

Had enough of strumming the same old chords on your acoustic? Time to whip out the Les Paul, crank up that amp, and slay some heavy riffs. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a total shredder to learn a few recognizable licks.

One technique you’ll need to master though, is the power chord. The power chord is a classic technique used in rock and heavy metal tunes, and it is made up of just two notes: the root and the fifth.

Anchor your first finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string and your ring finger on the 5th fret on the A string. That’s a G power chord. Once you’ve learned that, you’ve mastered the technique entirely. All you need to do is move that shape around on the fretboard. 7 on the E and 9 on the A, that’s a B. Open E and 2nd on the A string, that’s an E.

Power chords are typically played on the E and A strings, or using the same shape on the A and D strings. You can also use that shape across the D and G strings, though it’s less common to see this in rock music.

Now you’ve got that little trick under your belt, let’s get into it.

Guitar Tab

As if learning guitar wasn’t difficult enough, there are a number of ways to write out how to play a song. One common technique is using chord diagrams and strumming patterns (for chord based songs), and you’ll see many pieces for guitar written in standard music notation.

There is also a third common type of guitar music which is called tablature, or tab for short. Tab is designed specifically for guitar and bass, and rather than using a 5-line staff to represent musical notes, it uses a 6 line layout, with each of the lines representing one of the strings on your guitar.

e|---------------0-----------------|
B|------------1--------------------|
G|--------2------------------------|
D|----2----------------------------|
A|-0-------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------|

The specific notes to play are then displayed on each string as numbers, which represent which fret to play and on which string. For example, in the above image, the first note is the open A string, followed by 2nd fret on the D string, and so on.

Bear in mind that guitar tab doesn’t include any kind of timing information, so you’ll need to be confident that you know the rhythm and structure of the song before you start learning it.

Iron Man – Black Sabbath

A classic rock tune with an instantly recognizable melody, Iron Man is an easy one to add to your repertoire of power chord songs.

Most of the riff is played on the A and D strings, with the first chord (B) played on the A and E. You could also play this as 2 and 4 on the A and strings, respectively. The slides are essential on this one; notice where the chord slides up from a D to an E, and down from a G to and F#. Get that technique down pat, and you’re sorted!

e|---------------------------------|--------------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------|--------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------|--------------------------------------|
D|---------7-------7--/9---9-------|-12\11-12\11-12-\-7---7--/9---9-------|
A|-9-------5-------5--/7---7-------|-10\9--10\9--10-\-5---5--/7---7-------|
E|-7-------------------------------|--------------------------------------|

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Another simple tune using power chords, the tab below demonstrates how to play this classic riff. Note that the chords here actually use three notes as opposed to two. That last note adds an extra octave to the power chord, giving it a bit more weight and depth. If you struggle to get a third finger going, just play the lowest two strings.

e|----------------------|----------------------|
B|----------------------|----------------------|
G|----------------3-3-0-|----------------6-6-6-|
D|-3--3-3-x-x-x-x-3-3-0-|-6--6-6-x-x-x-x-6-6-6-|
A|-3--3-3-x-x-x-x-1-1-0-|-6--6-6-x-x-x-x-4-4-4-|
E|-1--1-1-x-x-x-x-------|-4--4-4-x-x-x-x-------|

e|----------------------|----------------------|
B|----------------------|----------------------|
G|----------------3-3-0-|----------------6-6-6-|
D|-3--3-3-x-x-x-x-3-3-0-|-6--6-6-x-x-x-x-6-6-6-|
A|-3--3-3-x-x-x-x-1-1-0-|-6--6-6-x-x-x-x-4-4-4-|
E|-1--1-1-x-x-x-x-------|-4--4-4-x-x-x-x-------|

Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple

Smoke On The Water doesn’t use power chords, instead implementing the double stop technique commonly found in jazz and blues licks. Double stops are simply playing two notes at once, which is exactly what this classic riff does.

Played on the D and G strings, you can either use your middle and ring fingers to fret the notes, or barre both strings with one finger.

e|-----------------|---------------|----------------|------------------|
B|-----------------|---------------|----------------|------------------|
G|--0---3---5----0-|---3---6-5-----|-0---3---5----3-|---0----(0)-------|(x5)
D|--0---3---5----0-|---3---6-5-----|-0---3---5----3-|---0----(0)-------|
A|-----------------|---------------|----------------|------------------|
E|-----------------|---------------|----------------|------------------|

Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

Keeping it even simpler is the well-known riff by The White Stripes, Seven Nation Army. This basic riff is played on the A and D strings, though you could switch out the 5 on the D string for a 10 on the A, which would give you the same G note.

For a beefier version of the riff, turn these notes into power chords by also fretting the D string two frets higher all the way through.

e|-----------------|-----------------|
B|-----------------|-----------------|
G|-----------------|-----------------| x12
D|---------5-------|-----------------|
A|-7-----7----7--5-|-3-------2-------|
E|-----------------|-----------------|

Conclusion

There you have it, 16 of our favorite easy guitar songs for beginners. Whether you’re an acoustic or electric player, or both, there’s something simple and easy to learn in here for you.

Once you’re done learning these easy tracks, try pushing yourself a bit further by studying some more difficult chords, techniques, and riffs. Playing guitar is all about learning and developing. That doesn’t have to mean endless hours of practice in your bedroom, though it’s a great start. Get out and play with other musicians, find friends who are more advanced guitarists than you and jam with them.

You’ll learn and develop simply by being in the presence of those that have something to teach you, as long as, of course, you’re open to learning it.

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