Are you ready to jam out to the top rock songs of the ’80s? Grab your axe and read on!
From arena-shaking hair metal to compelling pop grooves, the ’80s were a time of unmatched attitude, along with some of the best guitar playing of all time. Shredders such as Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, and Slash inspired countless fans to seek out easy rock songs to learn on guitar and play these classic riffs for themselves.
Whether you want to relive the power of these immortal tunes, or you’re discovering the best ’80s rock songs for the first time, this list is sure to start you on a rockin’ journey!
The Essential ’80s Rock Songs List
From AC/DC to Guns N’ Roses, these incredible ’80s rock bands stand the test of time.
1. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns N’ Roses
This iconic opening riff is a favorite for intermediate guitarists who want to crank up the volume. It’s a challenge to play this line cleanly at first, but with practice, you’ll be sounding just like Slash in no time. The great thing about this song is that it has guitar parts for beginners, intermediate, and advanced players alike. Ready for a serious challenge? Take a crack at the guitar solo!
2. “Back in Black” – AC/DC
What makes “Back in Black” one of the top ’80s rock songs of all time? Pretty much everything about it! The rock-solid drumbeat, unforgettable vocals, and — you guessed it — epic guitar riff make this an enduring rock favorite. Beginners can work on playing the open chords and chip away at the intro riff, while intermediate players can explore some of the guitar solo licks.
- Are you ready to play? Learn about guitar lessons in your area.
3. “Money for Nothing” – Dire Straits
Not only was this tune one of the best rock songs of the ’80s, but it also ushered in the golden era of MTV music videos. Whether playing rhythm guitar or laying down a solo, Mark Knopfler’s guitar vocabulary is always unique. His tasteful guitar lines are just as fresh today as they were in 1985. Foregoing the pick and playing fingerstyle gives Knopfler a unique touch, which can be heard in his small chord clusters and bluesy licks.
On “Money for Nothing,” Knopfler steps away from his usual Stratocaster tone and picks up a Les Paul. Apparently, he came across this song’s signature tone by accident and was never able to truly replicate it again. You can get close by using guitar pedals, specifically an overdrive pedal and a wah pedal. Instead of moving the wah pedal up and down, leave it wide open or just slightly closed, and let the colorfully compressed tone rip!
4. “Every Breath You Take” – The Police
When this single hit the soft rock scene in 1983, fans in both the U.S. and the U.K. were smitten by the spacious sound, thoughtful lyrics, and tasteful guitar line. “Every Breath You Take” not only dominated the charts in 1983, but it went on to become one of the most-played songs in radio history. The beautiful chord voicings make this a great easy rock song to learn on guitar.
5. “Don’t Stop Believin’” – Journey
With a soaring guitar line and an inspirational message, this song is a favorite for music fans of all ages. Look up the term “rock anthem” in the dictionary, and this song is just what you may find first! The catchy riff is played at a reasonable speed, making this one of the easiest rock songs to learn on guitar. But not so fast — you’ll need some serious skills to pull off the solo. Stick with it and “Don’t Stop Believin’” you can master this tune!
6. “Panama” – Van Halen
At the pinnacle of guitar wizardry lies Eddie Van Halen, whose revolutionary approach to the electric guitar still dazzles rock fans today. An inventor and guitar technician, EVH pushed the boundaries of the instrument further than it had ever gone before. By using techniques such as tapping, he cast forth a flurry of sound, which to this day players are trying to emulate. Learning Van Halen songs on guitar is not for the faint of heart!
How to Master These Classic Songs
If you’re looking to jam along with these songs on guitar, there are plenty of resources to learn them. You can find guitar tabs online to easily determine which notes to play, and you can watch video lessons on YouTube. As much as possible, play these tunes with other musicians to develop your jamming abilities. The power of ’80s rock guitar really shines when you crank up the volume and play with a band!
Let’s face it — we all need guidance to achieve our musical goals. Taking on these rock anthems may seem daunting, but the right guitar teacher can speed up your progress. You can also try an online group guitar class to learn with peers, no matter where you are!
What are your favorite ’80s rock songs? Let us know in the comments below!