Confidence Building Songs For New Guitarists And Bassists

What I needed in the beginning were some simple songs that I could rock along with, but weren't too demanding when it comes to technical skill.

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The first Christmas after I bought my bass, my brother decided to help me with my new hobby by getting me a book: the transcribed tablature of Metallica's self-titled black album. Although I appreciated the gift, I very quickly realized that the book was completely wrong for me. I had at that point completed a three month beginner bass course (half an hour every Thursday night, that type of thing) and I was able to read music, but generally only well enough to play 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' and other introductory songs like that.

Whatever you might say about Metallica, I don't think anyone can deny that they are a very technical band, and I wasn't anywhere near capable of playing the songs in that book. Not only that, but by trying to fumble through the complexities of "Unforgiven" instead of finding a simple groove to jam out, I was holding myself back in a big way. The frustration of trying to learn such complicated material smashed my confidence like an empty whiskey bottle. It's a good thing my brother didn't pick me up a Red Hot Chili Peppers book. Trying to play along with Flea might have made me give up for good.

What I needed (but didn't know that I needed-isn't that always the way?) were some simple songs that I could rock along with, but weren't too demanding when it comes to technical skill. To help those other new guitar or bass players out there, I would like to give a short list of easy songs that are fun to play, and will let a new player build some chops before moving no to more complicated stuff. Tabs or chords for all of these tunes are available right here on Ultimate-guitar.com.

  • Teenage Wasteland

    This rocker from The Who is simple but allows a certain measure of head-banging. It's about as easy as you can get. The song consists of a single three note progression: F, C, B flat, played with signature Pete Townsend flair. The bling-bling-blang sound is classic. And the song has definite credibility as a learning tune: in Spike Lee's film Summer Of Sam, Adrian Brody's character rocks along with Teenage Wasteland before going on to play New York's famous CBGB's.

  • Roadrunner

    This now-obscure pop rock song from Jonathon Richman was immortalized by The Sex Pistols in their jam version on The Great Rock'n'roll Swindle album. It's a fun, bouncy number, that requires intimate knowledge of only two notes: D and A. As an added bonus, young players can work on their backing vocals skills, making sure they shout "Radio on!" at the appropriate time.

  • Blitzkrieg Bop

    The Ramones have taught more guitarists how to play then every guitar teacher in the history of guitar teachers. It's possible to learn how to play a good dozen Ramones songs from memory before learning to play any other song. Blitzkrieg Bop is a four chord powerhouse, features the instantly recognizable "Hey Ho, Let's Go!" chant, and is a must-know for players of every level. Remember, the crap pop-punk bands that make millions today learned how to play by listening to Green Day, and Green Day learned from The Ramones.

  • All Along The Watchtower

    This is probably one of the most-played songs in rock and roll's history, and every time another artist covers it, Bob Dylan gets just a bit richer. Jimi Hendrix's version is doubtlessly the most famous, but is almost impossible to play (due to Hendrix being a super-being who didn't die, but simply returned to heaven from whence he came). The song is actually very simple-a direct progression back and forth through A, G and F. Bass players don't even need to change what string they play. The U2 version would be pretty simple to use as a model.

  • I Wanna Be Your Dog

    This classic from The Stooges' first album is still the only song we want to hear Iggy Pop sing. It's raw as hell, provides a great introduction to the use of distortion and is quintessential early punk rock. It's also based on a simple progression, and unlike a few of the songs listed above will require the new player to actually learn a chorus that is different from the verse, although not much. Once again, this is an easy song to play, but it's one that every guitar or bass player should know. This is rock. Play it.

    These songs will let you rock and have a good time without worrying too much about what you sound like. The simpler the song, the fewer mistakes you're likely to make, and your confidence will grow as you play. Remember, there's no point in playing if it's not fun, so try and have fun, even if you're just learning.

    -Nolan Whyte

  • 114 comments sorted by best / new / date

      darkstar9814
      not a bad riff, teen spirit was my first song. but after 3 months you only got up to twinkle twinkle little star???? cmon after my first 3 i was playing arpegios and all the scales, and slapping.
      liquidsnake6
      Good article, but there are easier songs dat you can learn, like rammstein "Du hast" and the undertones "teenage kicks". thats the two songs i learnt when i started
      xenophon
      You are so right about "all along the watchtower". Focus on the song and not Jimi. Trying to play Jimi first can *** your confidence all up!
      lexfortres
      Dude, if you're talking about easy songs, youshould include AC/DC's Higway to hell
      kh203
      I dont know about the res of u guys, but i never really found metallica riffs that hard. the first song i learned was unforgiven (minus the solo, mind you) and then...well, i dont remember.
      altronataku
      nirvana basslines aint very tough. REM bass parts are a little more fun. all along the watchtower isnt impossible but it does take a lot of time to make it sound good.
      Lymbe
      Just learn nothin else matters and u'r covered. picking will then just come natural
      JL2085
      ya all i can say for guitar is powerchord songs. it makes you actually be able to play a song that you like. Of course you dont realize how easy it was until after your on to harder stuff.
      kirk_rules!
      that is incredibly funny, because the first music book I got was the Black Album. hahaha the first song i ever played was Enter Sandman.
      unknownalone
      if you want to get used to picking and strumming both, then start out with "good riddance" it is a really easy song to play, and 'basketcase' is a great beginner song, also it ***in rocks
      the_cheat22
      the ramones! yeah that brings back memories from when I was a beginner *thinks back and smiles*
      funeral thirst
      first song i learned on bass was my vagina by nofx. first song i learned on electric was spirit crusher by death. by the way, good article
      Thinking182
      If any one is looking for easy songs that sound cool try All the small things and Story of a lonely guy by Blink. Took me no time at all and i'm a beginner.
      Dankka
      COME AS YOU ARE, SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT and IRON MAN are great beginner songs.
      Don't forget californication... The firs song I could compleatly play
      AdamJonesWanabe
      G-Dizzle I hate when people call that song Teenage Wasteland...lol...any Blink 182 bass is simple
      LedZepplin64
      basically most Nirvana, Stooges , Ramones, and some Green Day songs are power chords. I learned songs like Polly by Nirvana, Good Riddance by Green Day, and Rock 'n' Roll highschool by Ramones and it taught me most power chords and i recomend it to beginners
      bob45132
      cool article COME AS YOU ARE, SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT and IRON MAN are great beginner songs.
      DeathBeyondLife
      depends how often u play, i can play stuff that people who have been playing for 2 years cant do like the first ONE solo
      Jason144
      The first song i learned was Brain Damage from Pink Flyod and Come As You Are by Nirvana. If you want to try fingerpicking Dust in the Wind by Kansas is a good start.
      BarneyBus
      Neil Young - Rockin' in the Free World and many others - good for beginners
      HairierThanPwn
      Jimi Hendrix's version is doubtlessly the most famous, but is almost impossible to play
      I hope you were kidding-his version is easy too. Its easy lead guitar. I learned it playing for 5 months or so.
      acdc101
      Best thing if you really wanna learn to play guitar well, Black Sabbath. I miss Randy Rhodes every day
      Too bad Randy Rhoads was never in Sabbath.
      pitiful_lies
      smoke on the water was the 1st song i learned.... but never EVER play it in public lol actually no, the 1st song i learned was the jaws theme tune *cringes* 2 notes and i ***ed it up lol
      dial-a-death
      first thing i learned was the James Bond theme tune, followed by Come as you are by Nirvana, both are really easy. If you want something different to learn other than Nothing Else Matters, why not Come Clartity by In Flames? Its one of their easiest songs. Pallar Anders Visa or Acoustic Medley (both In Flames) are also good and quite easy
      warlockking
      The first songs i learned were Great Big White World and THe Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson if you like his stuff, it's easy for the most part. then Iron Man (minus the solo) I learned alot of Marilyn Manson and Black Sabbath at first.
      masterohumans
      the first song i learned was some sum41 song, then because for some reason i love doing the impossible i learned back in black then stopped playing for like over a year so i sucked then spent 2 months learning fcpremix by the fall of troy and now a few months later i think i may have some talent.
      ikarian-pride
      the first song i learned was a metallica song (enter sandman) even though i cant play the solo but then again its a metallica solo damn hard but i guess i should of started with somthing like smells like teen spirit at least i didnt learn a dragonforce song-that would give me a phobia of the guitar
      Slaytanic1993
      Though I must say you calling Metallica a technical band is rather hilarious, I think that playing stuff that is like a margin above your playing level always increases skill. Play something that is a bit of a challenge and then come back to it, but anyways Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden was my first, metal on
      Copius
      Yeah my first song was Iron Man, followed closely by Seven Nation Army and Smoke on the Water.
      my_last_hero
      axeslinger01 wrote: first song i ever learned was Stairway to Heaven, is sumthin wrong here?
      Yeah me too, apparently that's socially unacceptable here. But I learned Brain Stew at about the same time, so I guess it's all relative.
      Ranger01
      The song is actually very simple-a direct progression back and forth through A, G and F. um actually the Progression more commonly used is Bm, A, G,and A. not A, G, and F
      rockforever1989
      breakin the law by judas priest was the first i learned. then theres i'm 18 by alice cooper, simple man by lynyrd skynyrd, electric funeral by sabbath, and rebel rebel by david bowie. not sure if thats the order i learned them in but those were my first few songs
      Metallica12_12
      Ya All Along isn't all that hard, alot og hendrix's stuff is just kinda random not really together with any "Method" but i started on Metallica and would like to think that helped me become a better player... I would start easy but still I like to play stuff by Billy Talent because it's some what challenging, yet at the same time easy enough that you could jam with it.
      jimmcs2000
      Yo, nice article If the ramones were't around when i started playing i probably would have quit. nothing motivates a young guitarist more than being able to play some cool songs. makes you feel like you're getting somewhere and then learn more as you grow. Green Day would be one that i recommend. Gotta learn the fif's
      Bluejay451
      Its a good article, but I disagree with the method of learning. I think before you learn ANY songs you need to actually learn how to play. A lot of people just read the tab and memorize the fingerings of songs, which is fine if you are learning to play just to play other people's songs, but I think you would benefit more in the long run by learning chords and scales independently of songs instead of picking them up as you learn new songs. I doubt that made any sense at all, but hey, whatever. It is a good article though.
      chaospunxunite
      yeah... i first learned come as you are by nirvana... but another great song to start off with is "for the punx" by the casualties... most of their stuff is really easy to play, with the exception of a few newer songs
      mrdeetag
      There has to be balance. Some new players give up because they can't play their fav sun in a few days. The samples in the artical, as well as many other allow the newbie to get something going quickly. But as they are playing the easy ones, they have to at all times be working on something that is challenging to them. The gradification of working for weeks on a tune and finally getting it down is immence....more so then the easy ones.