Who says easy guitar songs are boring? Sometimes, simple songs that are easy to play can sound incredibly good, which is great news for beginning guitarists! In this guide, you will learn how to play basic chords and put them together to play five easy songs on the guitar.
Basic Guitar Chords
Chords are three or more notes that when played together create a harmony. For a beginning guitarist, chords will be the building blocks you need in order to start learning songs. If you haven’t yet mastered reading sheet music for guitar, chord charts are an easier way to learn to play chords.
The chart to the left shows you how to play an A chord. Each of the six vertical lines represents one of the six strings on your guitar. Each horizontal line represents a fret. On chord charts, the line furthest to the left always corresponds to your sixth (or low E) string. The line furthest to the right represents your first (or high E) string. From left to right, the string names are E-A-D-G-B-E.
Your left hand fingers are numbered one through four, starting with your index finger. According to this chart, you should play the A chord by placing your middle finger on the second fret of the D string, your ring finger on the second fret of the G string, and your pinkie finger on the second fret of the B string.
You’ll notice there are also X’s and O’s at the top of the chart. The X represents a string that is not played, so when you strum your A chord, start from the fifth string down. The strings with O’s at the top of the chart are played open, which means you should still strum this string but you do not need to hold down a fret with your left hand.
Now that you know how to read a chord chart, here are a few more basic chords you’ll need to learn in order to start playing songs:
When you’re playing a song, you will need to be able to transition smoothly from one chord to the next. If you would like to practice changing chords before getting started with songs, try playing each chord above for four counts and then transition smoothly to the next chord.
Once you’re comfortable with these basic chords, it’s time to start putting them together and playing some easy guitar songs!
5 Easy Guitar Songs
Although books and sheet music are great resources for seasoned guitarists, beginners often need to watch someone else play in order to really get the hang of it. Studying with a qualified guitar teacher is the best way to learn, however online videos are a great resource to supplement your lessons. Here are five of our favorite YouTube guitar lesson videos for beginners:
1. “Stand By Me”
If you are looking for an easy guitar song to impress your sweetheart, this classic tune should work like a charm. Originally recorded in 1961 by Ben E. King, this classic ballad uses just 4 chords: G, Em, C, and D. In the video below, you will learn how to play the chord progression and R&B strum pattern for “Stand By Me”.
2. “Ho Hey”
Looking for something a little more contemporary? This 2012 hit by The Lumineers should be right up your alley. TakeLessons guitar teacher Dustin B. teaches a slight variation on the C chord for the intro, then shows you the simple chord progressions for the verse and chorus.
3. “Brown Eyed Girl”
Van Morrison’s 1967 song “Brown Eyed Girl” has long been a pop favorite, and has been covered by artists such as Bob Dylan, Adele, and Green Day, just to name a few. In this video tutorial, beginning guitarists can learn just the chord progression and strum pattern in the beginning of the video, while more intermediate or advanced players can stick around to learn the riff toward the end.
Teen pop queen Lorde’s catchy songs have an effortless cool that have generated a lot of buzz around this young artist. Her breakthrough hit, “Royals”, is sure to be a hit with beginning guitarists too, since it contains only three easy chords: D, C, and G.
If you’re ready to plug in your ax and turn your amp up to 11, we’ve got the song for you. “Elevation”, released by U2 in 2000, features two simple chords, E and A, plus an easy guitar riff.
What is Song Structure?
Now that you’ve learned how to play these easy songs on guitar, you have probably noticed that each song is made of distinct but related parts, such as the intro, the verse, and the chorus. The way these parts are arranged constitutes the song’s structure.
Understanding song structures helps you to learn new songs and anticipate the part that is coming next. As you learn new songs, or even as you listen to music, pay attention to how the parts of the song are arranged. You might even want to write down a map for yourself of a song’s structure as you are learning it. A typical pop song might look like this: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, end.
More Tips for Learning Songs
It’s always best to start slow. Use a metronome and practice playing each part of the song slowly and in time. As your playing improves, pick up the pace until you are playing at the same tempo as the song. If you like, you can even play along with a recording of the song to give you a better feel for the rhythm.
For beginners, it is often very helpful to practice each part of the song separately before putting the whole thing together. Start with the verse, and once you feel comfortable playing that chord progression, then move on to the chorus. When you feel confident in playing each part separately, this means it’s time to put the whole song together.
No matter what song you’d like to play, odds are someone has already posted a YouTube video or a chord chart online. One of our favorite sites for free chord charts and guitar tabs is Ultimate Guitar. All of their arrangements are user-submitted, however, so be warned that you might sometimes come across a transcription of a song that doesn’t sound quite right.
Always remember to keep a positive attitude and have fun with your guitar! Learning to play your first guitar songs might take some time, but you will only get better the more you practice. Also, don’t forget to show off what you learn by playing for your family and friends. One of the best things about playing music is sharing a song with someone you care about, and by now you should be well on your way to doing just that.
Photo thumbnail by Rebekka