The 29 best songs to learn on guitar

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Let’s face it, there are certain songs that everyone expects you to know when you play guitar. There are certain staple songs that people are taught. Guitar riffs that everyone learns, even if they have no idea where it originated–I’m looking at you Smoke on the Water. Because of that, I’ve put together this list of the best songs to learn on guitar.

Some of these classic guitar songs are in this list. There may be a few you’ve never heard before.

Depending on your age.

Here they are, in no particular order, the 50 songs every guitar player needs to know.

29. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah

This is one of my favorite songs to play completely incorrectly. Seriously, the original, to me, is too slow for the words being said. I jam out to this songs with a tempo increase, and focusing on just the basic chords.

For Hallelujah, the entire song can be played with a capo on the first fret, and using these chords: C, Am, F, G, E7. I find the song perfectly acceptable when you swap E7 with Em, but that’s a personal taste thing. Also, you can drop the capo out of it if you want to drop the pitch.

So why is Hallelujah on my list of best songs to learn on guitar? Because even if you don’t know the name, I’ve never met a person that didn’t know at least some of the lyrics once they heard it. It’s a sing-along song that will bring joy to your friends, and that is the real key.

28. John Legend – All of me

This is a piano song.

There. I said it out loud, and we have come face to face with the enemy.

Honestly though, this is a great song, and if you’re in a relationship — or want to be — learn it. It’ll help.

And, shit, if he can land Chrissy Teigen, maybe you can too.

Probably not, though.

27. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

Ahhh, the Forbidden Riff.

It was an obvious choice for this list, so why bother waiting. Stairway to Heaven has been mired in controversy basically since the day it was recorded, and it doesn’t look like that’s going anywhere anytime soon.

But people freaking love this song. And basically you’re not a guitar player unless you at least play the forbidden riff terribly.

26. Metallica – Nothing Else Matters

Back in the days of the power ballad, Metallica came out with what is arguably their best slow song ever. Nothing Else Matters is as powerful lyrically as it is subdued musically.

That makes it the perfect entry-level Metallica song for guitar players. With it’s simple guitar riff, and basic chords, you can master this song quickly, and use it as a confidence booster to learn the rest of that album.

25. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Believe it or not, Pink Floyd were sober when they sang this song. Which makes the fact that I feel like I’m on acid whenever I hear it all the more strange.

I’ve never even done acid.

This song is great, and I love to play it on my acoustic. It’s a basic progression, with a simple strum pattern, but an odd meter. It’s worth learning, again, because everyone knows it. Even if they’ve never heard it before, the repetition in the song makes it easy to sing along to.

Even the first time around.

24. Eagles – Peaceful Easy Feeling

Is there a more classic rock band than the Eagles? And of their songs, is there a more chill-out ready tune than Peaceful Easy Feeling? I don’t think so.

The fact of the matter is, this is a simple song, that is hugely recognizable, and fun to play. If you’re looking for a good song to learn for your guitar, this is one that I would highly suggest any day of the week.

23. The Beatles – Let It Be

Can you really call yourself a musician these days if you don’t know at least one Beatles song? Why not let it be Let it be? Let it be, let it be. Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

I’ll see myself out.

22. Green Day – Good Riddance (Time of your life)

This is a song that has been stuck in my head since I was a kid. Green Day is a great punk band, with lyrics that tell stories, and chords that you can learn to actually play. Time of your life is a great song to learn on your acoustic guitar, and it’s even fun to add in the screw up that they included in the recording.

21. The Animals – House of the Rising Sun

 

20. John Lennon – Imagine

Okay, so this is yet another piano song that we’re playing on guitar. But, frankly, this isn’t just one of the best songs to learn on guitar, it’s one of the best songs to learn period.

19. Eric Clapton – Cocaine

God, I love Eric Clapton. He was such a fucking coke head that he literally put out a power ballad love song to his addiction.

And we all not only let him record it, but we made it a fucking hit.

It may have only it top 30 in the US, but the absolute party animals up in Canada set this bitch up to number 3 on their charts.

I bet nobody remembers it, either.

18. Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water

I swear, every guitar player that I know learned this iconic riff the second day they ever picked up a guitar. But I have one thing to tell you, and it’s going to be hard for you to hear.

You’re playing…

The bass line.

The real riff is played on power chords further down the neck, not up at the third and fifth frets on the low E string.

Sorry, but someone had to break the news to you.

17. Don McLean – American Pie

Filled with a bunch of nonsense lyrics that say a lot without saying anything at all, this is an extremely fun song to sing and play. It’s also the song that makes me honestly believe that Don McLean was the precursor to most modern rap.

16. Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box

Let’s be honest here. We’ve all wanted to sing about Courtney Love’s vagina before, right?

No?

Well, if you learn this epic Nirvana song, you will be!

Heart Shaped Box is a great song to learn when you first get into power chords and want to hate yourself. Honestly though, it’s a solid song to teach you pick control, and power chords that you can then take into the rest of their music catalog.

15. Bob Dylan – Knockin’ On Heavens Door

Okay, I’m going to tell you a secret.

This is the time you’re ever going to see me say this, but…

I like the Guns ‘n Roses version better than the Bob Dylan original.

I know, blasphemy, right? But shit if Guns ‘n Roses wasn’t just an absolutely jam session I don’t know what is. I’ve linked the original here, because you can learn the original, and tell all your friends that you’re playing the original.

But we both know you’re hearing GnR in your head.

Don’t fucking lie to me, Jared.

14. Ben E. King – Stand By Me

This song is both a very simple song to learn, and also the name of one of the greatest movies of all time.

Because of that, though, it is also one of the most recognizable songs in human history. Just this side of “Happy Birthday” and “Macarena.”

Why not go dress up as a young Wil Wheaton, and pull out the ol’ acoustic and start belting this beauty out?

No?

Just me, then? Suit yourself.

13. Tracy Chapman – Fast Car

Tracy Chapman is someone who it has been unfortunately too easy to pass over all these years. She’s such a powerful lyricist, but half the people will know her songs but not her name.

Become one of the people that knows both, and you’ll have an absolute fortune to talk about at parties, while you jam out to Fast Car, and Give Me One Reason.

12. Chris Isaak – Wicked Game

I have to admit that I prefer the Stone Sour version of Wicked Game. Nothing against Chris Isaak, but I feel like Corey Taylor just put more feeling behind the lyrics.

Lucky for us, Corey Taylor also didn’t modify the chords very much, so we can learn from the original chords, and modify as need be.

11. Patsy Cline – Crazy

Did you know that Crazy was written by Willy Nelson? No? Well, now you do, and you can pull that little tidbit out whenever you start playing this to the drunk girl at the party who you’re trying to bring home.

It’s not my place to judge if you also decide to tell her that you’re his son.

Though, unless you smoke weed like the chimney in a DEA safe house, my money is on her not believing you.

10. America – Sister Golden Hair

Sister Golden Hair has some of the simplest chords you can play, but learning the strumming pattern can be challenging. That’s why I suggest it! For anything to qualify as one of the best songs to learn on guitar, it should challenge how you play.

That’s exactly what will happen learning this song.

9. Poison – Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Another classic 80s power ballad. Brett Michael’s at his best, which kind of sucks since he’s still playing music, and it’s been like 40 years now or so.

But, shoot, if you could coast off a love song in a style you didn’t normally play for 40-odd years, wouldn’t you?

8. Eagles – Take It Easy

Eagles again! Take It Easy has been used by everyone from truckers to musicians to describe their lives. The Eagles are great to learn because they are a band that are able to take simple guitar chords, and play them in ways that make them sound new and interesting.

7. Eagle-Eye Cherry – Save Tonight

Save Tonight was a favorite of mine since the time that I was a kid. I used to sing along with this song on the school bus, top of my lungs.

Wow.

Finally realizing why I got bullied in school.

Anyway, it’s a simple progression, with lyrics that tell a story. It’s a story song that you can sing while staring your woman in the eye.

Make her swoon.

Make. Her. Swoon.

6. Shania Twain – You’re Still The One

My wife made me put this song on the list.

No, honestly, it’s a great song. It’s a love song that ages well, and is great when sung from either gender’s point of view.

It’s a song that I sing to the wife every time that I remember it exists, and she swoons the same as she did the first time I sang it to her.

5. 3 Doors Down – Kryptonite

Even for an era of music video where comprehension was replaced with confusion, the music video for this song was one big ball of “what the fuck?”

But, frankly, it’s still one of the best songs to learn on guitar. Why? Because it’s just that good, that’s why.

Powerful imagery, a symbol that we all know, and a chorus that is fun to belt out with so much force you think you’re going to bust a vein in your forehead while shitting your pants.

That’s when you know you’ve got a great song on your hands.

4. Third Eye Blind – Jumper

You tell me that you remember this song for any other reason then that one scene in Yes Man, and I’ll call you a liar, right to your face.

Because that’s a damn lie, and you know it Jared.

Or maybe you’re that one Third Eye Blind super fan. I’m sure they exist. But I’ve never met them.

Though they should exist, because Third Eye Blind rocked. But, like, not hard enough to remember.

Who were we talking about again?

3. Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline

Every drunk white girls favorite song!

Seriously, are the lyrics to this song stored inside White Claw cans?

But if you’re trying to impress the ladies, learn this song, and pull it out whenever you see high heels migrate to the top of the table, and hair start to get messy.

That’s the perfect time to pull out Sweet Caroline.

Bonus points if there is an actual Caroline that you can lock eyes with during the chorus.

Bonus bonus points if she’s single.

2. The Who – Behind Blue Eyes

Don’t get this confused with the Limp Bizkit version. These two songs might have the same name, but they’re not the same song. One of them is good. The other one was played by a wet pastry.

You can’t get much better than classic Who. Really any of their songs are great to add to your songbook, but this one is my favorite.

What is the #1 in the best songs to learn on guitar?

You’ve been waiting long enough. You’ve been expecting this song at every slot. You know it’s here, you’re just biding your time before you shout at me.

So what is the #1 song on the list of best songs to learn on guitar?

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Proud Mary

What, you expected something else? Proud Mary is a got-dang classic!

If you want to see your drunk parents up and dancing, get this down. They can’t help it. It’s a symptom of all the acid they took as kids.

All jokes aside, Proud Mary is a classic that can be played on any style guitar, and still sounds just as good.

Proud Mary is played with mostly basic chords: C, A, G, F, F6, D, and Bm. I tend to skip F6 when I’m playing. If you have enough people singing along with you, nobody notices.

So that’s it!

That’s all!

I swear!

Stop scrolling.

Wait, you expected something else?

Oh…

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall

You knew it was here. I tried to bury it at the end, but you just had to keep looking for it, didn’t you. You did this to yourself, honestly. I don’t even feel bad.

Oasis put this party herpes out in the mid 90s, and it has been the favorite of acoustic guitar players ever since.

And it’s easy to see why this is one of the best songs to learn on guitar

You can play it easily with just basic chords, but if you’re really jamming out, this parasitic earworm can be played with Em7, G, Dsus4, A7sus4, Cadd9, C, D, Em, and G/F#.

That’s a shit ton of different chords, but like I said, you can modify it down to basically just Em, G, D, and C. Though it sounds worse that way, you won’t be able to tell over all the people groaning.