One of the most fun things about learning to play guitar is how quickly and easily you can pick up new songs. Using guitar tabs, a simplified form of musical notation, guitarists are able to share compositions and learn new songs relatively quickly. Whether you’re just starting out on guitar or you want to learn some new songs fast, these are some of our favorite easy guitar tabs that are sure to have you playing your guitar today.
How to Read Guitar Tabs
Just in case, we’ll start with a little review. Guitar tabs are written out as six lines, each line corresponding to a string on your guitar, E-B-G-D-A-E from the top down as in the diagram on the right. Guitar tabs show you which note needs to be played on each string by placing a fret number on the corresponding line, but they do not tell you which finger to use or the timing of the piece.
Read guitar tabs from left to right and use your ear to determine the timing of each note. If you’re struggling with a tab, it’s always a good idea to listen to a recording or consult a guitar teacher for extra help.
Easy Guitar Tabs
To get you started playing tunes, we’ve picked out a few familiar favorites that are also easy to play. Try out this tab for “Happy Birthday”:
As you can see, “Happy Birthday” is a melody that can be played just on one string and is composed of four short phrases. The tricky part of this guitar tab is deciding on the right fingering. We recommend starting with your index finger on the second fret, your pinkie on the fifth fret, and your ring finger on the fourth fret. You can play the first phrase with your left hand in this position.
To play the note on the seventh fret in the second phrase, you will need to slide your pinkie up to reach. You can then play the fifth fret with your middle finger. In the third phrase, you will have to slide your pinkie up again to reach the ninth fret, and then slide back down to play the fourth fret with your ring finger and the second fret with your index.
For the final phrase, use your pinkie to play the tenth fret and your ring finger to play the ninth fret. Then, slide your hand down to play the fifth fret with your index finger and the seventh fret with your ring finger. Following this guide to the fingering of this piece enables you to hit all the notes while making minimal movements with your hand up and down the neck of the guitar, which helps you to play quickly and efficiently.
You can also play a wide range of notes without sliding all over the neck by playing across strings, as in “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”:
For this tab, keep your left hand in what is known as first position. Your index finger will play all notes on the first fret, your middle finger plays all notes on the second fret, your ring finger plays the third fret, and your pinkie plays the fourth fret. Keeping your left hand still and using this fingering will help you build better speed and coordination as you learn to play guitar. You can also play “Three Blind Mice” in the same position:
Easy Guitar Riffs
A guitar riff is a short, catchy series of notes, usually repeated a few times in a song. Guitar riffs are typically pretty simple to play and easily recognizable. Rock and pop music are full of great riffs that you can learn to play quickly using these easy guitar tabs.
One of the most-loved riffs in rock and roll comes from the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”. Check out the tab below:
This awesome, rockin’ guitar riff can be played all on one string! To practice the correct fingering and play with better speed, use your index finger to play the second fret, your ring finger on the fourth fret, and your pinkie on the fifth fret.
Another popular guitar riff comes from Deep Purple’s classic song “Smoke on the Water”.
You’ll notice that you need to play two notes on the same fret at the same time in order to play this riff. One easy way to accomplish this is to lay your index finger across multiple strings in a partial barre chord and only strum the G and D strings. Hold the partial barre shape with your left hand and move your hand from the third fret to the fifth and sixth frets as needed.
This riff from Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” is quick and easy to learn, and it always sounds great too:
To use the proper fingering on this riff, start with your ring finger on the twelfth fret and your index finger on the tenth. Now, this is a little bit tricky. When you play the first 10th fret note on your E string, slide your hand slightly up the neck to play the 10th fret with your ring finger. Now you can easily reach the 8th fret note that is coming up next.
You’ll notice that this riff calls for a bent string, as indicated by the “b” on the eighth fret of the A string. To bend this note, push the string up the neck of the guitar as you play. Bending a note creates a distinctive, bluesy tone.
Free Guitar Tabs
Keep in mind as you browse tabs, most of what you see online was submitted by other guitarists just like you. If a tab doesn’t sound quite right, somebody may have heard the song differently or made a mistake when transcribing. The guitar tabs you find online aren’t necessarily going to be perfect, note for note.
Online guitar tabs are a great place to get started, but if you’re looking for detailed instruction, nothing beats private guitar lessons! A qualified guitar teacher can give you personal attention and show you exactly how to play the songs that you want to learn. TakeLessons teachers are available to teach private lessons in-person and online via Skype. Search for your perfect teacher and book lessons today!
-Megan L. TakeLessons Staff Member and Blogger