So you’ve decided it’s time to start learning guitar and take lessons. Congrats! In your first lesson, your teacher will go through the basics on the instrument such as how to hold it, how to fret notes and how to pluck the strings. After that, it’s time to learn how to play it! Personally, I tend to have more success showing a new student an easy song or tune first before we dive into the technical stuff, such as scales and the notes on the neck. With that in mind, here are my top ten picks of easy guitar songs for beginners, in no particular order. So, whether you’re just starting out and looking for something easy to learn to get you going, or if you’re a teacher looking for some inspiration of what to teach a new student, I hope you find this list beneficial.
“Shape Of You” – Ed Sheeran
I teach a lot of younger students, so this list tends to lean more toward more modern songs, with Ed Sheeran’s huge 2017 hit becoming a favourite in my repertoire to teach to students who are just starting out on their guitar journey. Although I wouldn’t recommend a complete beginner attempt the barre chords that are present in the track, the intro melody does translate to guitar very well, particularly when it is shown starting on the second fret of the B string, with the second note being an open E. Mr Sheeran is also one of those artists who appeals equally to young children as he does to the more mature student, and the intro melody described above is instantly recognisable to most, so this one’s a safe bet for most ages to attempt early in your guitar career.
“She Sells Sanctuary” – The Cult
A great song for those who are starting out and want to learn rock guitar. The original rhythm guitar part to The Cult’s 1985 classic consists of playing the G and D strings simultaneously, keeping the D string open and moving between frets 7, 5 and 12 on the G. It’s actually pretty easy for beginners, and playing along to the original recording using this technique inspires a lot of confidence when the student realises they are playing along in time with the band! Since the whole song is based around the chords D Major, C Major and G Major, this song also makes a great choice to teach those first chords in the open position. It’s also got some great lead guitar sections, if you’ve got a student who’s interested in learning this aspect of the instrument.
“Hold Back The River” – James Bay
Similar to “Shape Of You” this 2015 favourite from James Bay is another great melody for beginners, as it’s instantly recognisable and very catchy! Again, the chords to this one can be saved for a later date, but the intro melody can be simplified and learnt on either the high E string or the B string, giving the beginner a cool melody they can attempt to play along with the original recording, or to a backing track. James Bay is another great artist who seems to appeal to many generations, and you could do worse than show this one to students if you’re a teacher yourself.
“Brown Eyed Girl” – Van Morrison
A favourite of covers band across the country, you can play Van Morrison’s 1967 classic using just four chords (G, D, C, and E minor) throughout the entire song, which makes it a great choice for those just starting out on their guitar journey. I tend to save this one for the more mature students, but the quick changes between the four shapes make it a great one to learn, in order to get into the habit of changing between open chords. The intro and various guitar fills can be a little tricky for those new to the instrument, but you can work up to those parts and maybe revisit them at a later date when you feel advanced enough to handle it.
“Use Somebody” – Kings Of Leon
I’ve lost count of the amount of students I’ve had over the years who have came to me wanting to learn songs by Kings of Leon, and it’s easy to see why. The Nashville rockers have written a number of instant classics over the last ten years or so, with 2008’s “Use Somebody” being right up there with the best of them. Although you might not find this tune on other lists of easy guitar songs for beginners, I personally have had great success in showing it many students in the past, even those who have only been playing a few weeks. The chords throughout most of the song can be shown as either power chords, or in the open position (why not do both?!) and the outro solo makes a great first choice for aspiring lead guitarists to tackle, as its repetitive but melodic nature makes it challenging but manageable for guitar newbies.
“Wonderful Tonight” – Eric Clapton
Another great pick for the beginner whose tastes lean more toward classic rock and pop than the modern stuff, Clapton’s 1977 favourite, similarly to “Brown Eyed Girl”, can be played using just a few open chords, with it’s slow, ballad tempo making it perfect for new students to jam along to. In fact, it even features a similar chord sequence to Van Morrison’s aforementioned tune, meaning that learning one of them almost gives you two for the price of one! I’ve also had a lot of joy in teaching the intro solo to beginners, using it as a way to introduce string bending and sliding techniques into their playing. “Wonderful Tonight” is one of those songs that can learnt by beginners in it’s entirety, making it a great project for new students to undertake in order to learn their first complete song and all of its respective guitar parts.
“Best Day Of My Life” – American Authors
Sometimes you just can’t beat a song that uses only three chords throughout, with this 2013 hit by American Authors being my pick of the bunch, particularly with younger students. The verse alternates between D Major and G Major, making it an ideal song choice for beginners looking to get their first chord changes under their fingers. Although the pre chorus features a B Minor chord, this could be learnt as a power chord at first, or just avoided altogether until the student is comfortable with barre chords. The catchy intro and post-chorus melodies are also straightforward enough that, with a bit of practice, any beginner could get them down. My only gripe with this song, is that it’s so catchy that after showing it to people, it tends to get stuck in my head for the rest of the day afterwards!
“Boom Clap” – Charlie XCX
Another tune that you might not find on other people’s lists of easy guitar songs for beginners, but Charlie XCX’s hit song has been a firm favourite amongst some of my students since it came out in 2014. Don’t be put off by the fact that it features two barre chords in B Major and C# Minor – these are only passing chords, and you can actually sing along and hear the tune by just playing four beats of A Major, followed by four beats of E Major, ignoring those pesky barre chords for the time being! Similarly to “Best Day Of Life” this is another great song for beginners to practice changing between two basic open chords. Furthermore, much like the previous example, I challenge anyone to not get the chorus of this one stuck in their head for the rest of the day after just one listen!
“Smoke On The Water” Deep Purple
I couldn’t put together a list of easy guitar songs without including this one. The intro riff is almost a must for many beginners on the guitar, and even yours truly started his own guitar journey with a transposed version played as single notes on the low E string. However, from my own experience as a teacher, Deep Purple’s 1972 classic isn’t actually as easy for beginners as most make it out to be, since fretting two notes at the same time as demanded by the intro riff, isn’t exactly the ideal thing to learn in your first lesson. Nevertheless, it’s still a technique that most will have to get to grips with at some point, and what better place to start than by rocking out to one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time? Furthermore, if it’s a struggle playing two notes at the same time, then it’s much easier to do what I did and learn it on one string first, before slowly building up to two.
“Love Yourself” – Justin Bieber
Another popular artist amongst my younger students, Justin Bieber’s 2015 hit “Love Yourself” has been an ideal first tune to teach to any beginners on guitar who happen to be fans of his. The melody you hear in the intro can be played just on the B string, omitting the bass notes on the A and low E strings, and the mid tempo feel makes it a good choice for beginners to be able to play along to. Eventually, after some practice, I’d probably be inclined to revisit this one for developing a good fingerstyle technique, but until that time it’s perfectly acceptable to learn a simplified version of that instantly recognisable guitar part.
So there you have it, although a few of these have parts that have to be simplified for beginners at first, both students and teachers still have plenty of material to get their teeth into and have fun with. Finally, I’d love to hear any suggestions for songs that I might have missed from either guitar newbies or teachers alike, so let me know your top picks in the comments.