You have just started playing the guitar. You have learned a few basic chords and maybe you know the names of strings. You want to be a rockstar, or at least pretend to be, but your favorite songs are too hard for you to play right now.
What do you do?
Check out this list of the Top 10 Acoustic Guitar Songs to Learn as a Complete Beginner for some useful chords and riffs to get you going!
“Let It Be” – The Beatles
Easily one of the most iconic songs of all time, “Let It Be” by The Beatles features just 4 basic chords: C major, G major, A minor, F major. These are all chords that every beginner guitarist should learn and master.
- Originally released in March of 1970, it debuted at Number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
“Bad Moon Rising” – Creedence Clearwater Revival or “Wild Thing” – The Troggs
Two of the most classic hits of the 1960s feature the same chord progression. We call it a I-IV-V or one, four, five. Both songs only require 3 chords, D, A and G for “Bad Moon Rising”, and A, D, E for “Wild Thing”.
This is a very common chord progression and should be one every beginner guitarist is familiar with. Originally composed in 1969 by John Fogerty, “Bad Moon Rising” was recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969. Creedence Clearwater are often mentioned as one of the most enduring and influential Rock and Roll bands of their time.
- Originally composed by Chip Taylor and first recorded by the band Wild Ones in 1965, “Wild Thing” took off as a hit for the English band The Troggs in 1966. Like “Louie, Louie”, “Wild Thing”, is often mentioned as one of the most influential songs of Rock and Roll history.
12 Bar Blues
The 12 Bar Blues is one the most important chord progressions of the last 100 years and serves as the basis for all Rock and Roll, R&B, Soul and Funk music. Try learning it first in an easy key like A major or D major.
You only need 3 chords and from there, the progression is infinitely variable. Listen to John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, or Lightning Hopkins for examples.
- Similar to “Bad Moon Rising” and “Wild Thing”, the 12 Bar Blues chord progression commonly uses chords I, IV, and IV.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana
A classic from the 90’s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana launched the Grunge music movement out of Seattle to a worldwide audience.
More recently, the song has been covered by musicians such as Robert Glasper and Casey Benjamin, transforming the original rock anthem into a fresh, neo-soul standard of sorts.
A good introduction to power chords, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” consists of only 1 basic chord progressions and only 4 chords.
- Originally released in 1992 on the band’s second album Nevermind, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is one of the most famous and best selling songs of all time and one every beginning guitarist should know.
“The Sound of Silence” – Simon and Garfunkel
This iconic song from folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel is a great introduction to fingerpicking, minor chords, and arpeggios.
Four basic chords are needed: D minor, C major, F major, and B flat major. The melody essentially consists of the notes of each chord played out in sequence, also called an arpeggio.
- Originally released in 1964, “The Sound of Silence” did not gain any commercial success until 1966 and helped propel the duo to fame.
“Wonderwall” – Oasis
This mega-hit by the British rock band Oasis is a staple of any beginning acoustic guitarists repertoire. 4 simple chords and you only need to move two of your fingers! What could be simpler?
This song is also a good introduction to suspended chords – that is chords that have the 4th scale degree instead of the 3rd. What does that mean … ?
- Originally released in 1995 on the band’s second album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? , “Wonderwall” is a staple of beginning guitar and has been covered and re-imagined by many different artists.
“I Walk the Line” – Johnny Cash
To be honest, we could have just listed 10 Johnny Cash songs here and you would be set. “I Walk the Line” is another great I-IV-V progression and includes some more advanced walking bass elements that are used extensively in country music. A great addition to any beginning acoustic guitarist’s catalog.
- Originally recorded and released in 1956, “I Walk the Line” was a big hit for Cash and has since been covered by many artists.
“Hotel California” – The Eagles
Another classic tune full of useful chords, “Hotel California” is a good song to learn for beginners as it does not follow a standard chord progression like “Louie, Louie” or “I Walk the Line”. An excellent opportunity to practice some fingerpicking as well, “Hotel California” is an instantly recognizable hit and one that you definitely want to add to your repertoire.
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” – Green Day
A more introspective tune than some of the others on this list, “Good Riddance” is another example of some basic open position chords and fingerstyle playing that any beginning guitarist will find useful. G major, E minor, D major, and C major are the only chords you need for this tune.
- “Good Riddance” was released in 1997 on the album Nimrod. The slower tempo and acoustic guitar marks a departure from the otherwise boisterous punk rock of Green Day.
“Heart of Gold” – Neil Young
No list of top acoustic guitar songs for beginners would be complete without a mention of Neil Young, one of the most important songwriters and acoustic guitarists of the last 50 years. All you need to cover this tune are open position E minor, D major, C major, and G major chords.
- Originally released on Young’s 1972 record Harvest, “Heart of Gold” is one of Young’s most popular and famous tunes. It has been covered by many artists and is an easy piece to add to your repertoire.
So, you might not be a full-on rock star after learning these 10 songs, but you will be well on your way.
Use these ideas as a starting block and inspiration to find other songs by these artists or to seek out newer artists you have never heard before.
The world of music is huge and there is no reason to not explore as much of it as possible! So get to work!
Click Here for 6 more Vital and Valuable tips that I wish I’d learned when I first started playing guitar.