easy guitar songs for beginners

Throwback Thursday: 5 Easy Guitar Songs From The 90’s

easy guitar songs for beginners

Ready for a blast from the past? Guitar teacher Collin K. shares five easy guitar songs for beginners that will take you back to the 90’s…

From grunge to ska punk, the 1990’s were a diverse and exciting time for rock music. Some songs stand out in particular for their highly creative, yet not-so-difficult guitar work. In this article, I will give you the tools you need to get playing five of the most iconic 90’s rock songs!

Before we begin: This article uses chord diagrams and tablature for notation. Tablature is an easy shorthand that shows you which fret on which string to put your finger, but it doesn’t give you any information about rhythm. I recommend listening to the tracks and getting a sense of the rhythm when you sit down to learn. Don’t worry, it’s easy!

1. “Today” by The Smashing Pumpkins

One of The Smashing Pumpkins’ radio hits from Siamese Dream, this track features a powerful wall of guitars and a catchy chorus. It’s also a great way to get accustomed to two guitar techniques that defined 90’s rock: two-string melodies and barre chords.

Two-string melodies, like the intro guitar lick, rely on the player holding his or her fingers down over two strings at the same time so that both continue to ring out after they are plucked. In this case, use your index finger to hold down the eleventh fret on both strings. Then, use your middle finger for the thirteenth fret and your ring finger for the fifteenth fret.

Intro Riff:

Today Intro Riff

 

 

 

Barre chords are based on a movable chord shape, which means you can use the same fingering to play a chord at any fret you want! They also require you to place your index finger down over all strings at the fret you are “barring.” For example, “Today” uses the following chords:
Eb Major, Bb Major, Ab Major, C Minor, F Major, G Major

easy guitar songs for beginners

Eb Bb Ab
Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known
Eb Bb Ab
Can’t live for tomorrow, tomorrow’s much too long
Eb Bb Ab Eb Bb Cm
I’ll burn my eyes out before I get out

F Ab C F Ab Cm
I wanted more than life could ever grant me
F Ab C F Ab G
Bored by the chore of saving face

Eb Bb Ab
Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known
Eb Bb Ab
Can’t wait for tomorrow, I might not have that long
Eb Bb Ab Eb Bb Cm
I’ll tear my heart out before I get out

Eb Bb Eb Ab Eb Bb Eb Ab
Today is.. today is.. today is.. the greatest.
Eb Bb C Ab Eb Bb Cm
Day hee-yay, oo oo ooo ooo ooo…. Day hee-yay-ay, hooo…

Placing your finger down across the entire neck can be tricky at first, but keep practicing, and it will pay off! This technique is very common. If you can’t do it at first (and there’s no shame in doing this!), you can substitute the barre chords for power chords. Power chords are basically just barre chords that omit everything but the first two or three strings, resulting in an “open” sound that goes great with a ton of distortion.

2. “Wonderwall” by Oasis

Everyone’s learned this song at some point – it’s practically THE acoustic guitar song of the 90’s. Central to the song’s playing technique is its exclusive use of G position chords in the verses. These are chords that revolve around the open G Major chord position. Basically, it means that your last two fingers don’t ever have to leave the third fret.
G Major, A7sus4, Dsus4, Em7, Cadd9

easy guitar songs for beginners

This technique sounds really cool, and it makes the song easier to play since you only have to move two fingers!

Oasis plays “Wonderwall” with a capo on the third fret, but this isn’t necessary. Play it wherever you think it sounds good!

Em7 G
Today is gonna be the day
Dsus4 A7sus4
That they’re gonna throw it back to you
Em7 G
By now you should’ve somehow
Dsus4 A7sus4
Realized what you gotta do
Em7 G
I don’t believe that anybody
Dsus4 A7sus4
Feels the way I do
Em7 G Dsus4 A7sus4
About you now

C D Em
And all the roads we have to walk are winding
C D Em
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
C D
There are many things that I
G G/f# Em A7sus4
Would like to say to you but I don’t know how

Cadd9 Em7 G
Because maybe
Em7 Cadd9 Em7 G
You’re gonna be the one that saves me
Cadd9 Em7 G
And after all
Cadd9 Em7 G A7sus4
You’re my wonderwall

3. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

No 90’s list is complete without mentioning this track – it should probably always be number one! “Teen Spirit” is all about power chords. They’re played with heavy distortion during the chorus, punctuated by the simplest possible, two-string melody during the verses.

Power chords are notated with a “5” because they consist only of the root note and the note 5 scale degrees above it. Most players play these chords with three fingers: the index, middle, and ring, OR the index, middle, and pinky. Some, however, prefer just the index and ring fingers.
F5, Bb5, Ab5, Db5, E5

easy guitar songs for beginners

F5 Bb5
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Ab5 Db5
Here we are now, entertain us
F5 Bb5
I feel stupid and contagious
Ab5 Db5
Here we are now, entertain us
F5 Bb5
A mulatto, an albino
Ab5 Db5
A mosquito, my libido

F5 E5 F5 Ab5
Hey!
F5 E5 Db5 Bb5

F5 E5 F5 Ab5
Hey!
F5 E5 Db5 Bb5

And the verse guitar melody:

Teen Spirit Verse Guitar Melody

 

 

 

It’s actually that simple! Use your index finger to hold down both strings at the same time. Halfway through each verse, Kurt speeds it up into double time, so listen for the rhythm!

Another plus – the guitar solo in this song is the same as the vocal melody! Try to sound it out as you play along. Getting used to hearing melodies as you play them will help you quickly improve your soloing skills.

4. “When I Come Around” by Green Day

Like Nirvana, Green Day takes inspiration from their punk rock predecessors in the 1980’s. This means power chords! “When I Come Around” is a very straightforward song, but it’s still so catchy!

Also important when playing this song – the verses make use of extensive palm muting. Palm muting is a technique where you use the side of your right hand to slightly muffle your strings while you strum. Try to keep your picking hand as relaxed as possible, so that you can keep the mute on when necessary and then take it off to let the chord ring out.
F#5, C#5, D#5, B5, G#5

easy guitar songs for beginners

F#5 C#5 D#5 B5
I heard you crying loud
F#5 C#5 D#5 B5
All the way across town
F#5 C#5 D#5 B5
You’ve been searching for that someone and it’s me out on the prowl
F#5 C#5 D#5 B5
As you sit around feeling sorry for yourself

G#5 B5
No time to search the world around
G#5 B5
Cause you know where I’ll be found
B5
When I come around

5. “Santeria” by Sublime

With equal parts reggae and punk rock, Sublime ruled the SoCal scene in the early 90’s. This song is unbelievably fun to play and reasonably simple, too. However, this last technique may take a little while to get the hang of.

It’s called the “ska upchuck”, and it’s what gives a lot of ska (and reggae) music its characteristic guitar sound. After each time the player strums a chord, the picking hand is brought up quickly on an “upswing” to hit the strings once again. This time, however, the strings are muted with your fretting hand, resulting in a “dead, scratchy” sound.

Try it with any chord you like! Listen to Santeria to get the hang of the rhythm. This technique works especially well on the highest three strings, so try these chord positions first:
E Major, G# Major, C# minor, B Major, A Major

easy guitar songs for beginners

E
I don’t practice santeria
G#
I ain’t got no crystal ball
C#m
I had a million dollars but I’d,
B
I’d spend it all
E
If I could find that Heina
G#
And that Sancho that she’s found
C#5
Well I’d pop a cap in Sancho and I’d
B
Slap her down

A B E Dbm
All I really wanna know my baby
A B E Dbm
All I really wanna say I can’t define
A B E Dbm
It’s love that I need
A B
But my soul will have to wait

You did it!

You’re now a master of five 90’s guitar classics! You also got firsthand experience with some of the techniques that defined a decade of music, including barre chords, two-string melodies, power chords, and the ska upchuck. Keep playing along to these songs, and you’ll quickly notice it becoming second nature!

A guitar teacher can help you discover and learn even more fun songs that are right for your skill level and interests! Search for your guitar teacher now!

Collin Klippel

Collin K. teaches in-person guitar and singing lessons in Brooklyn, N.Y. He studied Music Technology at New York University, plays in an instrumental rock band, and writes music for films. Learn more about Collin here!

 

 

 

 

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