Easy Guitar Songs Lesson
Learn to Play these Popular Open Chord Songs..and a Little Chord Theory Too!
Being able to play easy guitar songs with simple open chords is an early goal for most guitar players.
For a total beginner, making sense of all the different chord progressions you need to know to play your favorite songs can be tough. But for a lot of guitar players, at some point, a light turns on when they realize, “Hey, a lot of these songs sound kind of similar.”
I’ve chosen four songs that will help the new guitar player start to understand how their favorite songs are put together. Having this basic understanding of how the chord progressions are structured will speed your learning. And these four songs have been covered countless times, so you should know them!
Note: We'll just be talking about rhythm guitar and open chords and open chords in this lesson.
Twist and Shout
This ultimate song about how to dance was penned by Medley and Russell, popularized by the Isley Brothers, and shot into the stratosphere by The Beatles. Most of the song is just three chords: D, G, A. If you need help getting the rhythm you can watch a very good free guitar lesson at:
Twist and Shout Video Lesson
What you have when you play these chords is an example of a I IV V progression. Now it’s good to know about chord theory, but what I want you to get is that these chords have a relationship with each other.
When you go from a D chord to a G chord in the key of D, you’ve got the same sound that you get when you go from a C chord to an F chord in C, or from a B chord to an E chord in B. So all chords have relationships with each other that depend on what key the song is in.
It may sound like work to learn these relationships, but you’re going to find out two things. One: you can’t avoid them. Two: they’ll be easy to learn because they just sound natural. When you get a feel for how these changes sound you’ll start to recognize them in other songs.
If you imagine how “Wild Thing” sounds in your head, you’ll realize it sounds a lot like “Twist and Shout.” But where “Twist and Shout” would just go D, G, A, “Wild Thing” would go D, G, A, and back to G. I’ll give you another example with the next song.
Gloria is an easy song to play. Here's the chord progression:
That's it! Just E - D -A. Nothing comes more easily to a new guitar player than “Gloria.” It’s an easy song to rock out to, and every rocker out there has covered it. So learn it and have fun with it.
This is an example of a I-VII-IV progression. You’ll see this one a lot.
Gloria song video lesson
Knocking on Heavens Door
You might know the Bob Dylan original, the Guns ‘n’ Roses cover, or Clapton’s reggae take on the song. Probably all three. You’ll be getting requests for this one.
Knocking on Heavens Door video lesson
This one has two different three chord progressions that start with G and D (or the I and the IV). One goes to A minor, the other goes to C. These two chords have a very special relationship because the A minor scale and the C major scale all have the same notes. Am is called the relative minor of C.
So what does “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” give us? The world’s simplest chord substitution. Taking a chord progression you know, playing it again but swapping out one chord for another is incredibly common. When you see this, you’ll start picking up new songs faster, because one song you have learned may not be as different from another you want to learn as you think.
“Hallelujah” is a great Leonard Cohen song that John Cale made cool to cover with his version on piano, but Jeff Buckley perfected for guitar fans everywhere.
Hallelujah song video lesson
(this lesson is in a different key from what I’ve put above, but it’s the best lesson on youtube)
Why did I put this song last? Because it ties together what you took away from the other songs and makes it easier to remember. The first verse describes the chord progression. Let me put it this way:
So I hope that helps tie things together for you.
A basic understanding of the I-IV-VI concept will help you learn songs easier and faster, and even be able to start writing your own songs.
Get a crash course in I-IV-V basic guitar theory here.
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