Nobody likes trudging through difficult music that they don’t like. If a song is too hard, it’s not going to sound good. And if you don’t like the song, why bother putting in the effort?
To solve this problem for you, here’s a very eclectic list of easy songs to play on your acoustic guitar.
DISCLAIMER: Making music is tricky business. There’s a lot of multitasking and it takes time to get things flowing the way that you want to hear them. Additionally, guitarists all have different strengths and weaknesses, so a song that your friend told you was easy, might be really difficult for you. Don’t get discouraged!
My hope is that this list includes enough styles and techniques that you’ll be able to find something that you enjoy and something that is easy for you.
Ventura Highway – America
This is a cool old song with great, simple harmonies and a fun lead lick, that’s a little more challenging. If you’re looking for an easy song to start with, you’ll want to focus on the chords first.
You can get through the whole song using just two chords: Fmaj7 and Cmaj7. If you play the two chords as shown in the link below, the switch between them should be fairly easy.
If you’re still having any difficulty, try keeping the first finger in the Fmaj7 chord down so that you’re playing the standard C chord shape. If you’re playing this along with the recording, you’ll want to capo at the 2nd fret, to make the chords Gmaj7 and Dmaj7 (played using the same shapes and fingerings).
Get the chords: Ventura Highway
Bend the Bracket – Chevelle
A little heavier of a song, but still great. Originally played on an acoustic, “Bend the Bracket” uses almost exclusively power chords, which you can just slide around on the fifth string. One tricky bit of business is that Chevelle plays this on a guitar tuned down one half-step.
If you’d rather not worry about retuning but still want to play with the CD, just move everything down one fret. There are no open strings, so you won’t have to worry about that. The one thing that could become difficult with the wrong fingering is the intro. If you play the power chord on the fifth string at the seventh fret (or 6th if you’re moving down a fret), you can reach the sixth string at the eighth fret with your middle finger without having to lift the power chord.
Get the chords: Bend the Bracket
Heroin – Velvet Underground
Despite the length of this song, there are only two chords in it, and one can be played with only one hand. How’s that for easy? Similar to the song by Chevelle, Lou Reed also has his guitar tuned down a half step. If you already retuned for the last song, then don’t tune back up yet!
If you can form a D chord with your left hand, you’re already well on your way to playing this entire song. Essentially, he bounces between a D chord in the usually formation and a G which can be played using the open 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings. Of course if you’re already comfortable with a six-string G chord, feel free to mix it in as you think sounds good.
These chords are generally played whole and then picked with the notes separately while the left hand stays unmoved on the chord. The only other part to the song is the ending.
Okay, I sort of lied when I said only two chords, but mostly only two chords. Besides, the chords at the end are played using the same D shape that you’ve already mastered, just slide up to the 7th and 9th frets.
Get the chords: Heroin
Bard’s Song – Blind Guardian
Metal you say? On an acoustic you say? Yes, and it can still be EPIC! Now, I may get some pushback on this being an “easy” song, but like I mentioned before; everyone has their own strengths.
I’ve personally had students for whom this would be less difficult than previous songs on this list. That being said, if fingerpicking isn’t one of your strengths, use this as an easy introduction to improve!
Get the chords: Bard’s Song
Disarm – Smashing Pumpkins
This song remains a favorite of mine. You may see versions of the chords of this song listed as G-Em-C-D. While you could play these chords along with the song with no trouble, it would lack some of the sound of the original, and, not to mention, be more difficult.
So in the same vein of keeping it easy and sounding better anyway, let’s look at the real chords. G-Em7-Cadd9-Dsus. If those look more complicated, don’t worry. While they’re more complicated from a music theory standpoint, they allow us guitarists to keep two fingers down for the WHOLE SONG!
Go ahead and plant your ring and pinky fingers on the 2nd and 1st strings at the 3rd fret. The rest of the chords can be formed as follows:
Get the chords: Disarm
Dumb (acoustic) – Nirvana
Another song that is all power chords, also known as 5th chords (A5 ). Like some others here, Kurt often played his guitar tuned down a half step. As with the Chevelle song, the power chords make it easy to play a fret lower if you’re in standard tuning.
Get the chords: Dumb
One Less Addiction – Embodyment
This is a hauntingly beautiful song that I’m guessing many of you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing before. I’m guess that it’ll also be a breeze for most of you to play.
The majority of the song just switches between these two chords in the seventh position. I like to keep my middle finger planted on the third string at the eighth fret as an anchor between these two chords.
Get the chords: Embodyment
Moorish Dance – Aaron Shearer
Another one will be really easy for the left hand, but if you have a hard time playing without a pick, it could be tricky. If you have trouble stretching for chords and getting all the notes to ring, this song will give your left hand a break. You’ll only need it for six, yes six, different notes.
Beyond that, your right hand will alternate between playing the tune with the thumb and playing some higher accompanying notes with the index and/or middle fingers.
Fun story: I was recently talking with a friend and fellow guitar teacher who had broken a bone in a right hand that connected his ring and pinky fingers to his wrist. He mentioned that some of his older students weren’t convinced he could still be a good teacher without all his fingers. He used “Moorish Dance” as his “show-off piece” to prove otherwise.
Get the chords: Moorish Dance
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Crosby, Stills & Nash
Technically speaking, this is actually a set of four songs, but they’re all played as a complete piece of music and they all use the same tricks to keep it easy on the fingers. This is one of the more complicated songs on this list, but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard!
If you look at a bare and accurate chord chart of this song, you’d see a whole bunch of complicated looking chord symbols with ‘sus’s and numbers and slashes. While you’re all smart players and probably know what those mean, it’s still more information to process and send to our fingers.
The key here, rather than dealing with all of these complicated and frequently difficult to change between chords, is to make sure you’ve got the tuning right. We’ve already covered songs in this list using an alternate tuning (Eb or half step down tuning), but this is a bit more radical. We’ll leave the highest two strings alone, so they’ll remain at E and B, going down from there, we’ll tune the 3rd string down to E, the 4th string **up** to E (always use caution when tuning higher than standard), and finally the 5th string down to E, to match the 6th string.
If you’ve been keeping track, that leaves us with, from low to high, EEEEBE. From there, follow the tab, since your sense of where chords usually are will be totally out of whack. It’s a whole bunch of open and straight barre chords with a few little licks sliding down the first two strings.
Get the chords: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Cruise – Florida Georgia Line
Were you worried there wouldn’t be any country on here? What good is an easy acoustic list without a little twang! Remember the chords from “Disarm”? Same deal here! If you prefer the sound on the Dsus chord, you can play a standard D shape, but keep that 3rd finger planted! The order is G-Dsus(or D)-Em7-Cadd9. Have fun!
Get the chords: Cruise
Hopefully you found a few new things on this list, even just something you can enjoy listening to. With a list like this you’re bound to find a song that suits your strengths and weaknesses.
If you haven’t, this list isn’t exhaustive, so don’t give up! A well versed guitar teacher is a great resource to find the right songs for you. You’ve got a knack for guitar (everyone does in one way or another) and you just have to figure out what it is.
Once you get some traction with that, then go after your weaknesses! There’s no problem in your guitar playing that can’t be fixed.