15 Easiest Popular Guitar Songs

If you tell someone that you’re learning to play the guitar, there is one question that you can anticipate.

“Well, what songs can you play”?

Because when you’re talking to non-musicians, they don’t care what kind of guitar or amp you have, what gauge of strings you use, etc. 

So it’s usually best to have a few songs already under your belt before you open your big fat mouth!

And not just any songs either, but ones that people are likely to recognize or request. 

Because no matter how great that underground Emocore band that you recently discovered may be, most people won’t know any of their songs. 

So unless you’re stranded on a desert island, I recommend having some easy Rock and Pop songs ready to go.

Of course, there are way too many contenders to list here, and I wish there were more songs by female artists to feature, but there are a few included!

Anyway, many of the following tunes are ones that I have learned along my own musical journey and they’ve served me well through the years.

So grab your trusty six-string and let’s take a look at some crowd-pleasing compositions that are tried and true.

1. House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

Though it tells a tale of gambling and rotten luck for “many a poor boy”, this folk song brought great success and a number-one spot on the UK singles chart to The Animals in the 1960s.

The song itself is quite a bit older, although no one is exactly sure who originally wrote it or when.

What is important is that it’s a perfect song for beginners to learn and can be done with an acoustic or electric guitar. 

To play the song you only need five chords and though there is an F chord, it’s only played on the four bottom strings so it is appropriate if your barre chord skills aren’t up to snuff yet. 

Here is how to play the song.

Am C D F

Am C E E

Am C D F

Am E Am E

To arpeggiate the chords you can use a guitar pick or finger pick them if you have started learning that skill already. 

And the song will sound decent if you just play the strings in 4/4 time, but eventually, you should try the more interesting rhythm of resting on the root note before plucking the arpeggio. 

And finally, the last note of the arpeggiated chords can be played as an open string, mercifully giving you extra time to switch between chords:






So this song is a great way to improve your playing by starting simple and adding more complexity as your skill level progresses. 

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

2. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan was the face and voice of a much older generation than mine, but his music and lyrics still have the power to touch hearts and minds today.

And a lot of his popular songs are pretty simple to play although Dylan often used his harmonica to polish up the sound.

But luckily it sounds great with just an acoustic guitar and vocals and one of the best things about trying to sing Bob Dylan songs is that you can rest assured that there won’t be any high notes!

The rhythm is important here though, so if you can’t get it to sound right, check out the video tutorial so you can master the 3/4 strumming pattern that gives the song its momentum. 

Here is how to play the song.

G Em C G

G Em C D

G Em C G

G Am D

(D) D7 D6 D (D7 adds the 5th string fretted at the 3rd fret and 2nd fret for D6 – see below)


That’s it!

The chords for the “D chord walk down” are played like this.

D7 x30230

D6 x20032

Link to tab 

And here’s a lesson:

3. Don’t Look Back in Anger – Oasis

Wonderwall may be the song that everyone jokes about playing on guitar but it’s another single from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? that I think is the real winner when it comes to Oasis.

There are more chords to remember than Wonderwall, but most of the song is played quite similarly, except for the Pre-Chorus.

And there are a couple of tricky chords depending on the size of your hands but they can be simplified if needed. 

Here are the parts of the song.

Intro: C F C F

Verse: C G Am

E7 F G C 

Am G (played quickly as a fill – these can be omitted without ruining the song)

Pre Chorus: F Fm6 C (repeat three times)

G E7/G#

Am G F G

The chorus is just the same as the verse!

If the E7/G# chord is difficult for you, you can get away with just playing the top three strings so you don’t have to stretch your pinky finger so far.

Also, I always play this song using Fm7 instead of Fm6 and it sounds just fine.

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

4. Canon in D Major – Johann Pachelbel

Even if you don’t know the name or composer of this song, I’m sure you have heard it at least once in your lifetime.

Because it has somehow become a staple to play at wedding ceremonies and it also used to be a popular midi file that came with Microsoft Windows. 

But regardless of the setting, it’s a beautiful song from the Baroque period and a perfect way to dip your toes into the world of Classical guitar without developing arthritis in your fingers. 

Now the measures that you play each chord for change towards the end of the song but the progression remains the same throughout.

Here are the chords.

D A Bm F#m G D G A

And though it starts off simple, the arrangement becomes more complex as the song progresses, making this a wonderful long-term “project” to work on as your playing improves.

There’s actually a term in Classical music called “etude” (study) for pieces written for students to develop their skills with (this is a more recent idea than Pachabel’s Canon but I find this song works perfectly for it).

So for absolute beginners, you can just take it slow and play the arpeggios while working on switching chords.

Then when you are comfortable, you can start plucking the root note with the high E string as the song builds up and increases the speed and complexity of the arpeggios. 

Personally, I also find it easier to play the G chords as barre chords and the second D chord in the progression as a C chord shape with a barre (like the chord in Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under the Bridge). 

Just experiment and find what works best for you while continuing to challenge yourself. You’ll be playing at weddings before you know it!

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

5. You Were Meant for Me – Jewel

Link to tab

6. You Really Got Me – The Kinks / Van Halen

Link to tab (The Kinks version)

Link to tab (more advanced Van Halen version)

7. Despacito – Luis Fonsi feat. Daddy Yankee (simplified version)

Link to tab

8. Wild Thing – The Troggs

Link to tab

9. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Link to tab

10. You Belong with Me – Taylor Swift

Link to tab

11. Every Rose Has Its Thorn – Poison

Link to tab

12. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran

Link to tab

13. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan / Guns N’ Roses

Link to tab (Guns N’ Roses version)

Link to tab (Bob Dylan version)

14. Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple

Link to tab

15. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

Link to tab