21 Easy Guitar Songs Everyone Knows

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“Cocaine” by J.J. Cale

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The song Cocaine is a pretty famous song in the realm of classic rock. While J.J. Cale is credited with original authorship, the song is most famous for Eric Clapton’s version. 

If you’re just learning barre chords, the song Cocaine makes for a prime song to learn. The entire song has a simple composition centered around 1 barre chord shape while playing different chords. 

Furthermore, if you’re a veteran at playing barre chords, learning this song will be a breeze. A few minutes of time is all that’s required for a song you can jam on with others at any time. 

“Autumn Leaves”

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Most of the songs featured on this list have been taken from the repertoire of rock guitarists. What if you wanted to get started playing jazz guitar?

For jazz guitar, you’ll find that the repertoire is mostly built from standards that everyone seems to know. One of the most popular for beginning jazz guitarists is the song, Autumn Leaves.

It’s almost guaranteed that, if you learn this song, you’ll find other jazz musicians who know how to play it. This utilization is part of the reason why it’s such a great number to learn. 

“(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” by Otis Redding

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If you plan on playing gigs at a local establishment, your repertoire needs great consideration. More often than not, it’s preferred to have a catalog of well-known songs that most audiences are familiar with. 

This can be a bit of a challenge if you’re playing by yourself on stage. You might feel a bit limited with regard to the layers you can provide to a song overall.

Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay makes for a great choice in this scenario. Plus, it has a memorable whistling part that just about everybody will help out with.

 “I’d Love To Change The World” by Ten Years After

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Chances are, you might not be familiar with the band, Ten Years After. However, you’ve probably heard their colossal hit, I’d Love To Change The World, a time or two on the radio. 

This is one of those obscure songs that people will definitely recognize. Part of its memorable sound lies in the arpeggiated guitar part centered around basic open chord shapes. 

I’d Love To Change The World is also a prime choice to play with other guitarists. There are plenty of rhythmic accents that can be added for a deep, layered effect.

“House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals

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Speaking of arpeggiated guitar lines, there is perhaps none more famous than in the song, House Of The Rising Sun. This song’s guitar part centers around very basic open chord shapes, with each string plucked individually in a cascading manner. 

Truth be told, it can be a little tricky to play this guitar part cleanly and effortlessly. However, that’s exactly one of the main reasons why you should learn this song, to begin with. 

House Of The Rising Sun is a bit of a traditional standard in its own right. The song’s origins are hazy and could be over 300 years old, with the first recorded instance from the 1930s. 

“Badfish” by Sublime

"Badfish" by Sublime

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Sublime was truly a unique band that managed to blend reggae and ska elements with dub music stylings. In the 1990s, they truly stood out on their own with regard to their unique, original sound. 

The album, 40oz. To Freedom remains culturally significant to a wide audience even today. There is something addictive about Sublime’s sound, which provides enough accessibility without being flat and overly commercialized.

Badfish is a very popular song to come from this album and is one that most guitarists know. It utilizes a folk-style guitar in the intro before erupting into full-on reggae stylings. 

This song is a great choice if you’re primarily used to playing simple rhythms. Reggae requires you to play on the off-beat, which can be a little tricky for some players. 

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses

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If you’re just getting into lead guitar concepts, consider checking out the song, Sweet Child O’ Mine. This tends to be another popular choice for guitarists because of the song’s signature opening guitar line. 

While this isn’t necessarily too difficult, it can be tricky if you aren’t used to playing leads over multiple strings. Take your time and you’ll see that this lick is based on simple triad shapes.

Sweet Child O’ Mine is a great choice if you play with other guitarists. The song has multiple guitar parts throughout, ensuring that everybody has something to play.

“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd

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Whether around a campfire or on a stage, Wish You Were Here is guaranteed to please a crowd. It’s partly the reason why it’s a common variable in the repertoires of guitarists around the world.

This song is one of the best to learn, primarily because it can teach you both rhythm and lead concepts. Plus, the song’s structure is based on multiple guitars, making it great to play with friends. 

Pink Floyd’s music is often regarded as some of the 20th century’s most important. Wish You Were Here is a song that everybody knows, audiences included. 

“Crossroads” by Cream

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By now, you’re probably a little tired of seeing so many references to Eric Clapton’s work. However, one of the biggest staples amongst guitar repertoires is the song, Crossroads.

While the song has origins from Robert Johnson, it is Cream’s that is most widely recognizable today. Most guitarists who play the song will use this version’s musicality as the primary basis of the song. 

This song sounds more difficult than it actually is, partly because of the signature riffs throughout. At its core level, Crossroads is a simple blues progression no different than any other blues progression. 

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

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If you’ve just gotten your very first distortion pedal, you’re probably wondering what you should play. Nirvana’s gigantic hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit, is a perfect candidate for this kind of scenario. 

In fact, it’s almost a bit of a rite of passage for guitarists to learn this song. Most beginners should be able to wrap their hands around this without too much of a problem.

For the most part, simple power chords are going to be used throughout the song. During the verses, you’ll really only have to worry about playing 2 notes.

Easy Guitar Songs Everyone Knows, Final Thoughts

Those are the best guitar songs everyone knows. If you’re ever unsure of your own personal progress on the instrument, take the time to learn these songs. Having these songs learned is a great way to measure your progress to the bigger picture of guitar skills. 

Plus, it never hurts to have a repertoire of depth, as you’ll have more songs to utilize on short notice. These songs are a surefire way to be able to play with others, while also pleasing an audience. 

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