Learn to play a number of popular classic rock tunes in only a few minutes. All the songs use simple chords and can be played to impress friends and family.
When learning to play a new instrument, a knowledge of which songs are the easiest to play is important. Someone taking up the guitar will have a nearly limitless song selection from which to choose, but many are complex and require months of practice to play proficiently.
Many take up an instrument with the initial goal of learning a few simple songs which they can play for themselves, their friends and their family. The quickest way to expand a repertoire is to pick songs with simple repeating structures. Each of the sections below lists a number of straightforward songs and provides a link to an article with detailed instructions on how to play them.
Related: Types of guitars
Five Easy Guitar Songs for Beginners
The songs described in this article feature some of the most famous and accomplished artists in rock. All of them, save one, can be regularly heard on radio stations coast to coast. They are some of the easiest rock classics to learn on guitar and can be played with only a few minutes of practice. They are:
- The House of the Rising Sun by The Animals
- Helpless by Neil Young
- Rocky Raccoon by The Beatles
- We Used to Know by Jethro Tull
- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
Learn to play popular songs by Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Neil Young, The Animals and Jethro Tull in only a few minutes.
When learning to play a new instrument, a knowledge of which songs are the easiest to play is important. The quickest way to expand a repertoire is to pick songs with simple repeating structures. The following three songs can be played by anyone with a basic knowledge of guitar chords.
#1. House of the Rising Sun by The Animals
This first song is often one of the first songs taught to new guitar players. The song follows a repeating chord progression and uses arpeggios to drive the song’s catchy rhythm. The chord progression is:
- Am (A Minor), C, D, F, Am, C, E, E, Am, C, D, F, Am, E, Am, E
That might seem like a lot but it’s a very easy to learn. Listen to the song (you can find it on YouTube) for help with the rhythm. The arpeggios don’t need to be learned right away. Screaming the lyrics at the end of the song will require a forceful strumming pattern to maintain an appropriate instrumental decibel level.
#2. Helpless by Neil Young
Young wrote this song about the isolated Canadian locale that played host to his childhood. He has been performing it for 40 years with the likes of Crosby, Stills, and Nash and The Band during their legendary farewell concert, The Last Waltz. The chords for this song are as follows:
- D, A, G
That progression is repeated throughout the entirety of the song. It’s amazing what a songwriting genius can pull out of a few simple chords. Give it a try, and good luck trying to hit those high notes.
#3. Rocky Raccoon by The Beatles
This song off the White Album is a jab at the lyrical style of Bob Dylan. Despite it’s comical roots, it has become a celebrated composition within the Beatles catalog. The progression is:
- Am7, D7, G7, C, C/B
When playing, hit the base note of each chord and then strum a few times before moving on to the next chord. The C/B means a normal C chord with the base note lowered to a B, so just slide the ring finger down to the second fret after playing the C.
#4. We Used to Know by Jethro Tull
This is one of Jethro Tull’s earlier songs recorded before the band’s post-Aqualung, decade-long foray into minstrel tunes. This song, however, is more in the mold of a classic rock song with the obligatory, and in this case fantastic, flute solo. The chords are as follows:
- Em, B, D, A, C, G, F#, B
The lyrics for this tune are some of Jethro Tull’s best. They are also easy to sing withhout losing the strumming pattern. Give it a shot
#5. Knockin’ of Heavens Door by Bob Dylan
This iconic song first on appeared on the soundtrack to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Dylan was contracted to score the entire film and was even offered a small part as a member of Billy’s gang. No one has ever looked more out of place in a Western. This song remains one of the most covered tunes in rock history. It’s chord progression is very simple:
- G, D, C
That is repeated throughout the song with a slow and easy rhythm. Try singing the lyrics while strumming because it doesn’t get much simpler than this.
These songs represent an excellent starting point for those wishing to build a respectable repertoire. There are plenty of online resources devoted to assisting budding musicians with strumming troubles, chord fingerings, and soloing techniques. If these songs come easily, use these resources to expand on the chord progressions in this article and perhaps create some new ones.
Three Easy Songs on Guitar
These songs are slightly more complex than those in the Five Easy Guitar Songs for Beginners. However, they are far from impossible and require only a bit of patience to learn the chord progressions and rythyms. The three songs featured in this article are:
- The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill by The Beatles
- Isis by Bob Dylan
- Dear Mr. Fantasy by Traffic
Of these songs, one is about marriage, one is about hypocrisy, and the other was recorded at 1 o’clock in the morning.
Someone taking up the guitar will have a nearly limitless song selection from which to choose, but many are complex and require months and years of practice to play proficiently. Many take up an instrument with the initial goal of learning a few simple songs which they can play for their friends and family.
The quickest way to expand a repertoire is to pick songs with simple repeating structures. The following three songs can be played by anyone with a basic knowledge of guitar chords.
#1. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill by The Beatles
This quirky song off the White Album contains the only lead vocals sung by a woman in the entire Beatles catalog. Yoko Ono belts out one scratchy line towards the end of the song and is never heard from again (on an album, at least). The song, written by John Lennon, was composed as a mockery of a rich American woman and her son whom he had met at Maharishi Yogi’s ashram in India.
The woman and her son came to the ashram seeking spiritual enlightenment but took a brief sabatical to hunt and kill a few tigers in the surrounding jungle. Lennon was abhorred by the hypocrisy of slaughtering animals while simultaneously seeking the meaning of life and the song’s lyrics echo his resentment. The song has two separate chord progressions for the verses and the chorus. The chorus follows this progression:
- On First “Hey….”: C, G, C, Fm, C, Fm, G
- On Second “Hey…”: A, E7, A, Dm, A, Dm, E7
The verses go as follows:
- First and Second Lines: Am, C, F, G
- Third Line: E, G, Am, Fm
#2. Isis by Bob Dylan
This is a song about marriage which originally appeard on the album Desire. Isis has largely been overshadowed by the song that immediately precedes it on the album, Hurricane. However, it is still a surrealistic classic and is very easy to learn.
There is no chorus and no bridge, just 13 verses which all follow the same chord progression. As with many of Dylan’s songs, the most difficult part of playing Isis is remembering all the lyrics. This one can be played with a number of chord combinations, but the easiest is:
- A, G, D, A (repeat through the whole song)
#3. Dear Mr. Fantasy by Traffic
Traffic’s most recognizable tune features one of rock’s easiest licks and simplest chord combinations. The bridge and the solo can be ignored while learning the basics of the song’s chords:
- A, G, D, A, lick
The lick is played by barring the index finger across the bottom four strings of the second fret to form an A chord and using the middle finger to hammer-on the open base E string once, then the open A string twice. It sounds great when played smoothly.
These songs will allow for a new player to quickly assemble a respectable repertoire. If these songs come easily, try using other online resources to expand on the chord progressions in this article. Assistance with chord fingerings and soloing technqiues is widely available on and offline and will help a new player develop the skills necessary to play at least a few songs like a pro.
Learn to Play Three Easy Guitar Songs
Three more classics are included in this article. Two are original compositions by two of rock’s most prolific creative geniuses. The other is a cover of a century-old folk song that has its roots in the hopeless despair and hardship endured by prison inmates in the American south. The songs laid out in this article are:
- The Midnight Special by Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Working Class Hero by John Lennon
- Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right by Bob Dylan
To learn the chord progressions to these songs and the stories behind them, check out these guitar songs.
When learning to play a new instrument, a knowledge of which songs are the easiest to play is important. Using the trial and error method to find songs with simple chord progressions can be time consuming and will rarely yield great results.
This article takes the guess work out of the equation. The following three songs can be played by anyone with a basic knowledge of guitar chords. Unless otherwise specified, all these songs should be played in standard tuning (EADGBE).
#1. The Midnight Special by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Originally a folk song sung by prison inmates in the American South, this tune has been covered by a wide range of artists, including Little Richard, Leadbelly, The Kingston Trio, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Johnny Rivers, and Sir Paul McCartney. The most famous version of the song, however, is the one recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival on their 1969 album Willy and the Poor Boys, the same album on which Down on the Corner and Fortunate Son first appear.
This song should be played in dropped D tuning (tune the base E string down to D). Apart from a single D chord played at the beginning of the song, the same chord progression is followed throughout. It is:
- G, D, A7, D
The cool sound at the end of the intro is achieved by plucking and slightly bending the base D string (normall E) repeatedly while holding down the third fret. The D chord is played the same way as it would be in standard tuning, except the base string can now be strummed without skewing the sound. The G and A7 chords must be modified because of the alternate tuning. The fingerings for these chords are:
- G: 550003
- A7: 202020 (use thumb to hold the base string)
Playing along with the recording is the best and easiest way to pick up the rythym. This song can also be played in standard tuning (with standard chord fingerings) but this style, with practice, will sound closer to the studio version.
#2. Working Class Hero by John Lennon
After listening to the lyrics of this song, anyone who questions the genius of John Lennon will find it difficult to deny that the man was operating on a level beyond what most of us are capable of comprehending. The lyrics are uncompromising and their implications are frightening, yet for all the complexity and depth on display in the vocals, the accompanying guitar part is extremely simple to learn. It follows this:
- Am, G, Am
Those chords are played during each lyric. In between lyrics , strike the open A string then strum the Am chord a few times. Then hammer-on to the second fret of the D string and strum the Am chord a few more times. That gives the songs its haunting feel.
#3. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right by Bob Dylan
Dylan wrote this song in 1962 and since then it has been covered by a myriad of artists. The song first appeared on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. On that version, the vocals were backed by a fingerstyle guitar accompaniment. However, during live performances, Dylan often strummed the chords instead of fingerpicking. It is much easier to learn the song by using the strumming method. The verses all use the same series of chords. They are:
- First Line (“Well it ain’t no use…”): G, D, Em, C, G, D
- Second Line (“Well it ain’t no use…”): G, D, Em, A7, D7
- Third Line (“When your rooster crows…”): G, G7, C, A7
- Fourth Line (“You’re the reason…”): G, D, Em, C
- Fifth Line (“So don’t think twice…”): G, D, G
Dylan often played this song at wildly different tempos throughout his career so don’t be afraid to experiment at multiple speeds. Check out the version on Before the Flood for a good example of the song being performed at a rapid pace.
Knowing the chords to these songs is only the first step toward playing them proficiently. There are plenty of online resources devoted to assisting budding musicians with strumming troubles, chord fingerings, and soloing techniques. Use these resources to expand on the chord progressions in this article.
All the songs require no advanced knowledge of 12-tone theory or the intricacies of the circle of fiths. They are all classics that anyone can play using only a few simple chords.
The titles and lyrics to many of these songs have been a part of the pop culture lexicon for decades. Learning to play these famous tunes is a great first step for someone new to the guitar. They will help build confidence and allow for impressive demonstrations of skill in front of friends and family.