The electric guitar rose to popularity in the 50s and hung on for dear life in the decades that followed. Arguably, it’s still one of the most important, most popular instruments today, even though the dominance of EDM can't be denied.
And through the decades, there have been plenty of incredible electric guitar songs that'll have you on the air guitar. In this guide, we look at 37, but it’s honestly just scratching the surface.
Still, we hope you enjoy our list, and maybe even find a few new favorites. Let’s get into it.
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“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
Song year: 1991
Kurt Cobain was beyond self-deprecating when it came to the writing of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And what he probably liked least of all was that the jocks and popular kids who ostracized him in school became the biggest fans of the song.
Regardless of how Cobain felt about it, this “Teen Spirit” stands as a classic. And even though grunge music isn’t exactly in vogue anymore, this song seems to stand the test of time.
The guitar playing on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is simple from top to bottom, though often misplayed by guitarists who don’t have a knack for detail.
Either way, this is one of those songs that calls for that ol' air guitar!
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
Song year: 1988
There are plenty of Guns N’ Roses songs that make you want to pick up an air guitar and jam along with. This power ballad, though, still seems to be the one that’s remembered most fondly.
To be fair, the guitar playing on this song isn’t all that hard, so if you want to take it a step beyond and pick it up on real guitar, with patience and persistence, you can certainly do it.
It’s still kind of funny that the song basically started as Slash’s finger exercise though.
“Layla” by Derek And The Dominos
Song year: 1971
Eric Clapton is known as one of the all-time greats, and his work with Derek And The Dominos, especially “Layla,” is some of his most recognizable.
From the main hook with layered guitars to the big bends, try not to play along on air guitar while listening to this unforgettable classic.
This song, by the way, was originally a tribute to Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s wife. Clapton and Boyd eventually ended up together (for a while). Not as scandalous as it sounds within the context of the era, according to Clapton.
“Eruption” by Van Halen
Song year: 1978
Upon its release, Van Halen’s “Eruption” confounded and shocked guitar players everywhere. The late Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing features the kind of technique and speed never heard before.
Today, it still stands as the template for the modern rock guitarist – a textbook on everything you need to know to become a successful pro guitarist.
The tapped section in the middle is a major air guitar moment too.
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones
Song year: 1965
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” stands as one of The Rolling Stones’ most popular tunes, and even one of the all-time best classic rock tunes.
And what’s kind of crazy about this is that the guitar riff is one of the easiest in rock history.
But is it catchy? Yes. Is it unforgettable? Yes. It is worth miming on air guitar? Yes!
“Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple
Song year: 1973
When Deep Purple came up with “Smoke On The Water,” I wonder if they had any idea how famous and infamous it would ultimately become.
Guitarist Richie Blackmore was incredible at writing simple but memorable guitar hooks, and it’s hard to think of riffs that fit that criteria better than “Smoke On The Water.”
Plus, it’s a lot of fun to play along with on air guitar too.
“Day Tripper” by The Beatles
Song year: 1966
For every Rolling Stones or Beach Boys song, you can probably name a Beatles equivalent that was just as popular, if not more so.
“Day Tripper” is to The Beatles what “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was to The Rolling Stones. Its riff is classic – to put it mildly.
In addition to being an air guitar favorite, this is one of those songs that probably inspired many people to pick up the guitar.
“Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry
Song year: 1958
What would rock and roll be without Chuck Berry? I have no idea. Maybe there would be no such thing as rock and roll without him!
And “Johnny B. Goode” was Chuck Berry’s signature song. It features all the rock and roll clichés. Then again, Berry probably came up with most of them.
Even if you prefer the Back to the Future version, which was also quite good, this song is so contagious, you’ll find it hard not to play air guitar along to it.
“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
Song year: 1969
The band that was supposed to go off like a lead balloon sure made a lot of great music. And “Whole Lotta Love” stands as a classic rocker from their large catalog of brilliant tunes.
Comedian Michael Winslow even created his own rendition of his song, and considering he’s basically beat-boxing the whole thing, it’s quite amazing.
Good enough for air guitar? Is there really any doubt?
“Enter Sandman” by Metallica
Song year: 1991
Metallic has more than a handful of heavy, powerful electric guitar riffs. But “Enter Sandman” was a bit of a crossover hit, and probably has the most pop appeal of any tune in their catalog.
The main hook is recognizable to put it mildly, and there’s little doubt it makes you want to pick up that air guitar and mime along.
From top to bottom, there are plenty of great guitar riffs in this tune.
“La Grange” by ZZ Top
Song year: 1973
This blues-rock classic is probably remembered for its repeated calls of “A haw, haw, haw, haw, a haw” as much as it’s remembered for its guitar riffs and solos.
But the amazing thing about “La Grange” is that the rhythm is a hook as much as anything else, and that’s a rare trait in a song, even if phrasing or rhythm sometimes plays a minor role in a hook.
For those about to air guitar, have fun!
“Get The Funk Out” by Extreme, A Metal Electric Guitar Song
Song year: 1990
Extreme may have become known for gentle acoustic ballads like “More Than Words,” but their mainstay, in their own words, was always “funk metal.” Some might call it “groove rock.” Either way, it was awesome.
And “Get The Funk Out” is one of their catchiest songs in this vein. It even features some incredible guitar work throughout.
The appeal may not be immediately obvious unless you play a bit of guitar, but we feel it’s still deserving of a place on this list. And air guitar is always an option!
“Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne – An Easy Electric Guitar Song To Learn
Song year: 1980
Guitarist Randy Rhoads is still revered one of the all-time greats in hard rock and metal, even though his life was cut short.
“Crazy Train” may be a bit of a cliché 40 years later, but upon its release, it was brilliant. It was catchy. It was innovative. And it highlighted the genius and magic of Rhoads and Osbourne.
Even if it’s just air guitar, be sure to play along with this one.
“No Justice” by Harem Scarem
Song year: 1993
You can’t talk about guitar bands proper without bringing up Canada’s own Harem Scarem. In their early days, they were obviously inspired by the likes of Journey, but they soon started tackling heavier subject matter, and when they did, their music grew in sophistication too.
“No Justice” is an excellent example of what the band could do when they put their mind to it. And constant musical reinvention became the band’s wont thereafter.
Anyway, this is a great guitar song, which also makes it a great air guitar song. Have a listen and see for yourself.
“Highway To Hell” by AC/DC
Song year: 1979
As with many other bands on this list, AC/DC has got more than a handful of songs people like to rock out to. “Highway To Hell,” though, captures that rock and roll spirit perfectly. It doesn’t hurt that it’s got a catchy guitar riff either.
If you’re going to play air guitar along to this classic, just see what guitarist Angus Young would do in your mind’s eye and follow suit.
“More Than A Feeling” by Boston, One Of The Best Electric Guitar Songs Even
Song year: 1976
Boston was notorious for taking long breaks between albums. But in the 70s, listeners were graced with two. And on their first, self-titled album was this gem – “More Than A Feeling.”
The song starts kind of slow, sure, but it explodes into a big, catchy chorus, and the layered guitar work of Tom Scholz. It’s pure ecstasy.
Air guitar fodder? We think so.
“Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi
Song year: 1986
Bon Jovi sometimes gets labelled as “shlock rock,” which is somewhat understandable, but the band’s longevity and extensive catalog finds them as a unicorn, a survivor from the so-called “hair metal” era.
Well, “Livin’ On A Prayer” is still on high rotation on radio today, and there’s a good reason for it. It’s catchy, it’s fun, and its huge vocals and guitars are in your face and unapologetic.
It’s okay if this is a bit of a guilty pleasure. We get it. You can air guitar away in privacy.
“Beat It” by Michael Jackson
Song year: 1982
What happens when you put King Of Pop Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Steve Lukather, and Eddie Van Halen in a blender? You get “Beat It.”
“Beat It” became a huge hit, along with the album it was on, Thriller.
And if you want to find a song that you can look cool air guitaring to, you’ve found it. Look no further.
“Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie – An Easy Electric Guitar Song
Song year: 1974
David Bowie probably would never have told anyone that he was the best anything… the best singer, saxophonist, or for that matter, guitarist. But he did what he did well.
And, if called upon, he could write an insanely catchy guitar riff. And he did. That’s what “Rebel Rebel” is. And this song still has legs to stand on based on the guitar riff alone.
It’s great for air guitar. No doubt.
“Rock You Like A Hurricane” by The Scorpions
Song year: 1984
“Rock You Like A Hurricane” has instant appeal to beginner guitarists. And no doubt, despite being simple, the main riff sounds great. And the lead guitar work, that floats on top of it all is quite stellar too.
All these factors, along with the instantly recognizable chorus make this song great fodder for air guitar.
“You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” by Judas Priest
Song year: 1982
Here’s a song from the hair metal era with some serious attitude. Even though it’s simple, it seems to ring true every time you hear it.
My recommendation – put on your favorite pair of sunglasses and leather jacket on before air guitaring to this rocker.
“Lost In Germany” by King’s X
Song year: 1992
King’s X never quite hit their stride with mainstream success. That said, their body of work is impressive to say the least, and some even say they were single-handedly responsible for ushering in the grunge era of the early to mid-90s.
“Lost In Germany” is a song about just that – finding yourself lost in a foreign country where you don’t even understand the language – in this case, Germany.
The X have more than a few great choices for this list but based on its popularity “Lost In Germany” felt right. And when you hear just how catchy it us, we think you’ll agree.
“Iron Man” by Black Sabbath
Song year: 1970
Ozzy Osbourne is of one of few artists who has the honor of making this list twice (Clapton and Van Halen made it too).
Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi was genius when it came to the writing of classic rock riffs, and on “Iron Man” we find him in top form.
“Iron Man” has got a bit of a slow groove, but that’s part of what makes it so heavy. You’ll love it for air guitar.
“Sunshine Of Your Love” by Cream
Song year: 1967
Not sure how you can have a best electric guitar song list without “Sunshine Of Your Love.” You could do it, but it just wouldn’t be right.
And while it features a riff that might seem a little obvious now, you could probably say the same for “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Day Tripper,” and “Smoke On The Water” too.
A little psychedelic rock never hurt anyone, right?
“Walk This Way” by Aerosmith
Song year: 1986
Aerosmith may have stolen plenty of great riffs… The good news is, they knew where to steal from. And we all won, because we ended up with a lot of great music to talk about!
The significance of “Walk This Way” is a little difficult to overstate, especially as it eventually helped create a crossover hip hop hit with Run-DMC. It’s a catchy, funky riff with blues-rock as its base.
Play along on the air guitar and you’ll soon see why it’s on this list.
“Killing In The Name” by Rage Against The Machine
Song year: 1991
In Rage Against The Machine, guitarist Tom Morello acted as if a DJ. And he wrote some great riffs, even if writing a song wasn’t the focus within the context of the band.
Anybody who knows RATM’s catalog will remember “Killing In The Name” and know that it strings together killer blues rock riff after killer blues rock riff to slam its political message home.
How could it not be a great air guitar song?
“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by Jimi Hendrix
Song year: 1968
The late and great Jimi Hendrix had to be on this list. Of course, as with several other artists mentioned here, it was hard to know exactly which song to highlight. Not that you could go wrong with any of Hendrix’ guitar wizardry.
For our list, we chose “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” Its liberal use of wah certainly makes it an attractive choice, but it has great guitar playing throughout. It doesn’t matter which part of the song you pick.
If you need an air guitar example to follow, watch Hendrix’ wild performance at Monterey. You’ll see how it’s done.
“Monkey Wrench” by Foo Fighters, One Of The Best Electric Guitar Songs In The World
Song year: 1997
The spirit of Nirvana lives on in the person of Dave Grohl, who started Foo Fighters, which was basically a solo project upon its founding.
“Monkey Wrench” is the song representing an entire era of alt-rock music, and while the guitar playing may be relatively simplistic, it’s still quite effective.
The song has got a lot of attitude, too, which is what makes it great for air guitar.
“Basket Case” by Green Day – Good For Beginners
Song year: 1994
Punk rock may have shifted shapes or evolved through the decades, but truth be known, it rarely if ever lost its voice or rebellious spirit in the pop musicscape.
Green Day has long stood as a giant in punk rock/pop punk land, and among their most recognizable and memorable guitar tunes is “Basket Case,” whose chord progression bears some resemblance to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.”
The average listener will appreciate the catchiness of the song and won’t mind rocking along to it at all.
“Gel” by Collective Soul
Song year: 1995
Collective Soul often doesn’t make lists like these, and we think it’s a shame. Even if it’s just for bridging the gap between grunge music and nu metal, they deserve some credit.
“Gel” is off their otherwise stellar self-titled album, which features one hit after the next. It’s rare for a band to pull this off, especially in their early days.
This alt-rock tune also has groove. And that makes it super fun to jam along with.
“Addicted To That Rush” by Mr. Big
Song year: 1989
Mr. Big was (and still is) a band of consummate prodigies. And among them are bassist Billy Sheehan and long-fingered, lanky guitarist Paul Gilbert. Together, they created some fiery guitar soundscapes.
“Addicted To That Rush” features some of the speedy fretwork these masters became known for, and even though it’s expected, it doesn’t make it any less satisfying.
If you’re looking for the perfect air guitar song, trust us – you’ll love this one.
“Surrender” by Cheap Trick
Song year: 1978
From the opening notes, there’s no question that “Surrender” is a guitar tune. If we’re being 100% honest, the guitar parts are all incredibly simple, but as we’ve already seen, sometimes simple works.
This song exists for its harmonies more than anything. Because it’s really the harmonies that make it – and they’re super catchy to boot.
This is a great song to air guitar to.
“Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Song year: 1974
Sure, we could have put “Free Bird” here. And it would have been a solid choice. But if you’re going to air guitar, waiting several minutes to get to the “good part” is simply unacceptable.
“Sweet Home Alabama” seems like a better choice, at least when it comes to representing air guitarists. The song is just as recognizable, if not more than “Free Bird,” and it’s still got some great guitar playing on it. It just does.
If you love the Skynyrd, you’ll love “Sweet Home Alabama.” There’s just no way around it.
“My Generation” by The Who
Song year: 1965
Was Pete Townshend, with all his windmilling, single-handedly responsible for inventing the air guitar? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that air guitarists everywhere pay tribute to Townshend when they windmill.
That goes a long way towards explaining the inclusion of “My Generation.” There’s no denying it’s a simple song, but it’s also timeless. And it’s great for air guitaring too.
“Game On” by Disciple, Another Popular Electric Guitar Song
Song year: 2006
To top off this list, I chose Disciple’s “Game On.” If you’re having trouble placing it, then you might remember it as HHH’s entrance theme on WWE.
Disciple may not be the most known band to begin with, but “Game On” is just one of those songs that only seems to come around once in a band’s career, and they’ve been trying to recapture its magic ever since.
Which isn’t to say they haven’t come close. The rest of their catalog is certainly worth a look too.
But when it comes to air guitar, this is a fun one!
Best Easy Electric Guitar Songs Of All Time, Final Thoughts
The electric guitar is a cool instrument. It’s a lot of fun to play, too.
There have been so many great songs through the decades that have elevated and paid tribute to the electric guitar. And we think it’s awesome. We look forward to seeing more in the coming decades.
What are your favorite air guitar songs? Are there other electric guitar songs that should have been on this list?
We hope you enjoyed our list, and we’ll see you again soon.