17 Easy Hard Rock Songs on Guitar

The face of the popular music scene used to look a lot different with guys with long hair standing in front of full Marshall stacks.

It was a time of excess and changes in amplification were driving top musicians to compete with each other. 

Bigger, faster, louder… Who could “rock” harder than the other guys?

Though the Hard Rock scene has mostly gone underground these days, many of these classic songs are still ingrained in our memories.

Especially for guitar players… This is the music that inspired many musicians to pick up an instrument for the first time. 

And luckily, there are many Hard Rock songs that aren’t as complex as they may seem. 

Instead, a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the overdrive and distortion tones, sometimes with extra effects added in too.

So not only are the songs we’re going to check out today easy to learn, but if you make a mistake it probably won’t be that noticeable!

Of course, I’m not encouraging sloppy playing, but I think the old adage “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” applies here. 

So crank up the gain and let’s explore some Hard Rock songs that won’t have you pulling your hair out in frustration. 

1. Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do) – Van Halen

This song isn’t as well known as many earlier Van Halen songs, but it was one of the singles off of their album Balance in the mid-1990s. 

You might be surprised just how simple Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing on this song really is, relying more on its punishing tone (and probably layered guitar tracks) than his usual complex style.

And over the years there has also been a lot of debate about who the better singer for Van Halen was: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar. 

Personally, I enjoy both of them, but this song really showcases what Sammy Hagar was capable of and he absolutely crushes it on the vocal performance.

Here is how the song goes.

Tune to drop D tuning for this one. 

Intro: F# D E (played mostly on the top string with palm muting and scraping the pick along the string)

Verse: F#(m) D power chords repeated and end on E before entering the chorus

Just add in the other strings of the chords as needed to beef it up. 

Chorus: D A …

For the second verse you can arpeggiate the chords to polish it up and also add in riff fills during the choruses. 

But at its heart, this is a very easy song!

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

2. Helter Skelter – The Beatles

This song was probably a punch in the gut for a lot of the flower power generation. 

Because it’s definitely one of the heaviest Beatles songs in their catalog: not just the guitar but the screamed vocals too!

You can add in the scales and riffs to the best of your ability or just use the basic chords and flail away with abandon. 

Here is how to play the song.

Intro: play the bottom two strings with downstrokes starting by fretting the 2nd string at the 3rd fret, then the 2nd fret, then the 1st, and finally playing a G chord. 

Verse 1: E G A G E

Pre Chorus: E G A E

Chorus: A E (two times)

Verse 2: E G A E

Verse 3: same as verse 1

Outro: A

Just listen to the song a few times and you’ll hear the chord changes. 

And if you’re like me, you may just consider “helter skelter” to mean going in various directions.

But in Great Britain it also refers to a tall slide that spirals around a tower, thus the reference to going down a slide in the lyrics.

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

3. Blow Up the Outside World – Soundgarden

This is a great Rock song from Soundgarden’s later years that has all of the classic angst and alienation of 90s music and still sounds great today.

It uses the structure of quiet verses versus loud aggressive choruses that was very popular in Rock music at the time.

And it later became a popular song for Soundgarden’s singer Chris Cornell to perform with an acoustic guitar during his solo career. 

So you can do it with an electric or acoustic guitar and it should sound amazing either way.

I admit that there are a lot of chords to the verses, but they aren’t difficult chords to play.

And if you know the vocal melody it should be easy to remember. Plus, there are no riffs or complex strumming patterns to master!

Here is a breakdown of the song.

Intro: E C

Verse 1: E C E C E E7 D C G F# B G C Am7 F# B A F#

Verses 2 and 3: E C E C E E7 D C G F# B G C Am7 F# A

Chorus: A C B G C# A C F# 

E C (three times) then E D

Solo backing chords: just repeat E C

Outro: A C A Dsus2 (two times)


A Dsus2 A E C (three times)


Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

4. I Love Rock ‘N Roll – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

If Blow Up the Outside World is a bit too complex for your taste, this one is really simple. 

Joan Jett was part of the female Punk / Rock group The Runaways before embarking on a successful solo career.

And she still remains one of the first names that comes to mind when people talk about women in Rock music. 

This song (that was originally by a band called the Arrows) is probably the biggest reason why!

There are only three chords that you need for the song and you can flesh it out with some simple fill riffs.

Just check out the video lesson if you need help with the fills.

Here is the breakdown of the song.

Intro: E A B E A B E

Verse: E B A B E A B

Chorus: same as the intro

Bridge A B E A

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

5. The Seeker – The Who

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6. I Wanna Be Your Dog – The Stooges

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7. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC

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8. Dude Looks Like a Lady – Aerosmith

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9. It’s My Life – Bon Jovi

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10. If You Only Knew – Shinedown

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11. Violet – Hole

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12. Joker and the Thief – Wolfmother

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13. Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple

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14. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

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15. Barracuda – Heart

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16. On A Plain – Nirvana

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17. November Rain – Guns N’ Roses

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