There’s plenty of amateur guitar players out there, most of whom could use a little more practice. Here at Goliath, we’ve collected some songs we feel are great introductory tunes to learn the next time you pick up your axe. Whether they’re great for practicing open chords, power chords or just plain picking, these songs should help get you started on your way to rock stardom. We made sure they weren’t too complex, because you’ve gotta walk before you run, folks!
10. Brain Stew – Green Day
Chords Used: G#, F#, F, E, D#
The quintessential song for power chord practice, Green Day’s “Brain Stew” (originally released on their 1996 album Insomniac) is a rocking tune that also lets you practice muting your strings, as that technique makes up the chorus/breakdown of the song. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong is known for making extensive use of power chords (a punk tradition), especially in the band’s early work. While the song isn’t particularly complex, its slow, heavy rhythm is instantly recognizable and easy to practice, especially with a metronome (a recommended purchase or download for every amateur guitar player). When you’re practicing your power chords on this one, be sure to keep your ring finger flat against the bottom three strings in order to mute them; we can’t have them ringing out!
9. Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
Chords Used: C, F, G
A standard 12-bar blues, this hummin’ tune from the King himself is a classic that can be covered at any time in any place. While the above chords are the suggested ones, if the F gives you a bit of trouble (it can be really, really difficult to master those barre chords, but keep at it! The secrets of the instrument are revealed after you master barre chords) you can transpose the chords to A – D – E, which will give you the same progression while being a bit easier on the fingers. That said, there’s merit in practicing and mastering the hard stuff, so it’s up to you! Try practicing this one slowly at first before doubling down on your time signature and putting some real rock ‘n’ roll into it!
8. Louie, Louie – The Kingsmen
Chords Used: A, D, E (m)
Originally written by Richard Berry and later popularized by The Kingsmen, this rocking good tune is a fraternity classic as heard in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and is a must-learn for all the budding guitarists out there. A great song to jam on with band mates, it sounds great on acoustic or electric, although the latter gives it that real rock ‘n’ roll style which the song is known for. Familiarizing yourself with blues chords and rhythms at an early stage is key in developing guitar skills, as the blues informed much of the music that we hear and interact with on a day to day basis. While there’s some small debate as to whether it’s an E Major or E Minor in the song, the best thing about guitar is you can try it with both and decide which you like best!
7. Hey Ya! – Outkast
Chords Used: G, C, D, Em
Alright party people, this one’s for you. If you’ve ever wanted to pick up a guitar at a party and play a song that’ll get the people going, you’re in luck. Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”, originally found on the 2003 album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, is that song. Featuring only four chords and a nifty little two bar turnaround (where you use the Em chord), this is most definitely a tune that’ll get everyone shaking like a polaroid picture! While you probably won’t have as much swagger as the impossibly cool Andre 3000 (Andre Benjamin), it’s hard not to have a good time playing this one. It’s also surprisingly easy to slow down and play a more sombre version (see Obadiah Parker’s YouTube cover, a classic), for those nights when a party tune just isn’t appropriate.
6. La Bamba – Richie Valens
Chords Used: C, F, G
Forget what we said before; this is the song to play at parties, as it’ll have a crowd up and dancing in no time. Another simple, three chord mover and shaker, this classic from Richie Valens has a catchy little riff that isn’t too difficult to learn (you can Google some video lessons or check out the invaluable justinguitar.com to learn how to play it) and is great for practicing your alternate picking when you’re just starting out. It’s a basic, but fun, tune that you should have no trouble locking down. Heck, the hardest part about learning this one is wrapping your head around the Spanish lyrics! That isn’t all that hard either, as there’s a good chance you know them already due to this song’s heavy influence in popular culture. This is one that’s sure to get a good response no matter where you play it.
5. Mr. Jones – The Counting Crows
Chords Used: Am, F, Dm, G, C
This one is a little tougher than some of the other ones mentioned, but if you can settle in and master it it’s a really, really great song by an underrated band. The Dm chord can throw people a bit off, as it’s not a chord typically learned when just picking up the guitar, but operating outside your comfort zone is exactly what will make you a better guitarist come crunch time. Be sure to look up the proper fretting beforehand, as the switch from the barre F to the Dm can be jarring at first, but easy once mastered. This one’s got a unique strumming pattern too, so pay careful attention when listening to the song so as to internalize the appropriate up/down strokes. “Mr. Jones” is a great sing-a-long tune as well, so be sure to bone up on the lyrics before you go and bust it out in front of a prospective lover.
4. Wonderwall – Oasis
Chords Used: Em7, G, Dsus4, A7sus4, Cadd9
Fear not, young grasshoppers. Despite the presence of suspended chords (a chord in which the “third” note is replaced with either the second or fourth, accordingly) in this song, it’s not too tough to learn. If you get a little confused looking at the chord diagrams, there are approximately one million different tutorials on YouTube, as this is one of the most popular songs to learn on the good old acoustic. Everybody knows somebody who can play “Wonderwall”; if the YouTube tutorials don’t work, find a friend and get them to teach you! Jokes aside, it’s a great, affective song that kills with both the ladies and the gents, and is a must-know for the young guitarist looking to go out and break a few hearts.
3. Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones
Chords Used: A5, D5, E5, C5
We’ve jumped back to the realm of punk for one of the all-time great rock ‘n’ roll songs by the pioneers themselves, The Ramones. Stunningly simple in its arrangement, the name of the game with “Blitzkrieg Bop” is speed. While it might take you a while to get there, remember to practice slow at first and speed up gradually, so as to imprint proper muscle memory in those fingers. Once you’ve got it down, you’ll definitely harbor a sincere appreciation for the power chord and the myriad of ways you can use it to produce quality rock. There’s not a note in here that you won’t know, and it’s a song that most people can pick up in an hour or two (at least the mental part of it. Again, getting those fingers where they need to be takes time!).
2. Back in Black – AC/DC
Chords Used: E, D, A
You want rock and roll? I can’t hear you! Do you want rock and roll?!? Because here it is! A classic rock tune consisting of three chords and a lovely little turnaround riff that you should be able to do in no time, this is a perfect example of a song where you crank up the distortion, turn the volume up to 11, and smile while you revel in the awesomeness of the rock at hand. Moreover, the intro gives you an opportunity to practice using your muted strings as a musical tool. Seriously though, this is a classic guitar tune most beginners master before moving on to more complex arrangements; just be sure not to blow your vocal chords trying to sound like Brian Johnson! The man can scream, no doubt about it.
1. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
Chords Used: E, G, C, B, D, A
It’s been called the most recognizable riff in rock, and it’s one you should be able to learn in half an hour. This is what Jack White does; he takes simple things and makes them into extraordinary things. While the odds are good you won’t have the gear to make your guitar sound quite as bass-y as White does (you’d need an octave pedal or a pitch shift, and both are quite pricey), you can most definitely play the main riff and the chords as listed in one of the various tabs located around the internet. This is the ultimate in beginner guitar, as it gives you an opportunity to practice most necessary basic skills and the chance to crank it up a bit when you feel comfortable with where you’re at. There’s not much more to say about this one; it’s really just a matter of picking up your axe, plugging in, and playing until your fingers hurt (they do stop hurting after a while, trust us).