Top 20 Songs Every Guitarist Should Learn to Play

As voted by UG community.

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This week's traditional Wednesday Question saw the UG community debating the mater of songs that every guitar player should learn to play.

Your votes were neatly summed up during Thursday evening, the resulting Top 20 rundown awaits below.

20. Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb

Kicking things off with an all-time classic, we have Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." Universally hailed as the tune with the greatest guitar solo of all time, it's quite apparent why this one made the list, or as BlackDeath92 put it, "Let's face it, it's just a great song!" The track was originally released on the band's 1979 record "The Wall."

Check out guitar tab here, or download Guitar Pro tab here.

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19. Green Day - Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

About a year ago, Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" was proclaimed by you folks as one of the best beginner songs for guitarists. Now, it made the list yet again. The tune was originally released on the band's 1997 studio effort "Nimrod."

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18. Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing

Longshanks17 noted: "There is more talent in the first measure of this song than some bands display in their entire career. This song has everything, simple chords, hard chords, sweeps, hammer-ons, pull-offs, finger picking, etc." The boobs dude added that "if you really studied that song, you could learn a lot."

A staple Dire Straits tune, "Sultans of Swing" was originally released on the band's 1978 self-titled debut album.

Check out guitar tab here, or download Guitar Pro tab here.

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17. Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode

As "the song that started guitar rock and rock guitar," (description by 2Ties) Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" is up next at No. 17. As Chuck explained, the tune is partly autobiographical, as it initially featured words "colored boy" in the lyrics, something that was ultimately replaced by "country boy" to secure radio play.

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16. Metallica - Enter Sandman

Fairly easy riff and basic song structure with maximum efficiency, a great starter song and an all-time classic. We're talking about Metallica's "Enter Sandman," the opening track from the iconic 1991 "Black Album."

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15. Oasis - Wonderwall

Needless to say, this one ended up on the list as the ultimate babe magnet. Leopar66 gave an accurate description, saying you should learn "Wonderwall" "to bang b-tches and get swollen... all you need is the chorus and BOOM you need a mop." The track was originally released on the band's 1995 album "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?".

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14. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge

Up next is the Red Hot Chili Peppers' second most performed song ever, "Under the Bridge." Released on the band's monumental 1991 record "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," it's a clever little shuffle, fun to play and even packed with a few nifty tricks.

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13. Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train

Ozzy Osbourne's staple 1980 solo song "Crazy Train" is the lucky 13 this week. We had a few comments regarding the "Blizzard of Ozz" lead single, here's a few:

Abacus11 noted: "It's got a little bit of everything for beginners and somewhat experienced players (intro, verse and chorus riffs) to advanced players (Rhoads' solo). It's also a lot of fun, very recognizable and it's a great feeling once you can finally nail that solo."

Acglee added: "I always use the intro riff from 'Crazy Train' in lessons for beginners - even on acoustic and if they are not metal fans. Simple timing but gets the little finger stretching and developing strength and independence and works on picking accuracy. Really useful workout for hands that aren't used to the guitar yet."

Check out guitar tab here, or download Guitar Pro tab here.

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12. Gary Moore - Over the Hills and Far Away

Nothing like the power of the power chords, and "Over the Hills and Far Away" chorus is perhaps the best example one can find. The tune was released as an opening track of late great Gary Moore's 1985 album "Wild Frontier."

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11. The Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop

Fiend1476 summed it up quite nicely: "It's simple yet catchy, helps build that forearm and finger strength, and helps teach you that you don't need to know all the theory in the world to write a great tune." The track was originally released on The Ramones' 1976 self-titled debut album.

Check out guitar tab here, or download Guitar Pro tab here.

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10. Rage Against the Machine - Killing in the Name

Cracking the Top 10, you voted the crushing power of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name." Released on the band's 1992 self-titled debut album, this one will get you working on killer chops and proper dynamics. What more do you need for an amazing song?

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9. Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine

Sloan7 said this Guns N' Roses 1987 classic ballad off "Appetite for Destruction" is a "a great warm-up exercise and all girls know the song," with retrocasualty further elaborating:

"Very much this. The song begins with a great finger exercise that is highly satisfying to play, contains a jangly open-chords section, a choice of power chord chorus or an alternate finger exercise depending on whether you take rhythm or lead, some nice slow melodic solos in between verses, a couple of more advanced solos at the end, and you have the nice dynamics of that drop-and-build of the 'Where do we go now' section. There's something in there for every standard of player. It's a song that keeps on giving as the player progresses in standard."

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8. ZZ Top - La Grange

Well, there's that riff, what more do ya need? Released on ZZ Top's 1973 album "Tres Hombres." That is all.

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7. AC/DC - Back in Black

Further on up the road, we have the title track of AC/DC's monumental 1980 effort "Back in Black." Very satisfying and fairly easy to play, this one definitely counts among best starter songs for guitarists.

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6. The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army

The White Stripes' 2003 track "Seven Nation Army" is definitely one of those classy classic riffs perfectly suited for beginners, but Shaico nicely pointed out: "Playing the song without a slide: Beginner; Playing the song with a slide using alternative tuning: Intermediate."

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5. Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Utilizing the chord progression and strumming style of the most used riff in rock, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a song that everyone knows, and a song that's fun to play.

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4. Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven

A great introduction to arpeggios and an all time classic, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" brings us a step closer to the Big 3.

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3. Black Sabbath - Iron Man

Mwp-700 argued that "Sabbath rules and Iommi is god," and we couldn't agree more. A great introduction to metal riffing, "Iron Man" gets the bronze this week.

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2. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

Fetching the silver this week, we have the title track of Pink Floyd's 1975 album "Wish You Were Here." Chadi first noted that the tune "has a little bit of everything and isn't too hard: A little picking, some chord changes, and a solo that isn't too hard to learn," and GabeWang added how the song is "perfect for when you've really started to understand the instrument."

Check out guitar tab here, or download Guitar Pro tab here.

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1. Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water

Interestingly enough, every guitarist in the world probably knows this song. Well, the riff at least. No introduction needed, Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" is at the throne of UG this week. All hail master Blackmore!

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104 comments sorted by best / new / date

    jonathan.keeler
    It was a good question, but it didnt exactly make for the most interesting list.
    Wiencon
    It was basically same question as "best beginner songs for guitarists"
    benthegrunge
    that's not what was asked though, everyone just automatically interpreted it that way. The nominations page would have been really interesting if everyone just thought of something they recently enjoyed learning, or the riffs you find yourself playing every time you pick up a guitar. My recent conquests: Bambaleo by Gypsy Kings, Lovely Day by Bill Withers, pink panther theme tune lol, I think you'll enjoy learning at least one of those, now give me yours- agree that conversation could escalate more interestingly than 'teen spirit, smoke on the water' etc? F*ck the top 20 list, the nominations page is always the valuable bit, and this week was a flop
    CurlOfTheBurl
    Johnny B. Goode is hard to play correctly, as is Sultans of Swing.
    Quiffmiester
    You forgot - everyone on the internet is the best guitarist on the planet.... I'm surprised more people thought a song by 'The White Stripes' was worth learning over anything by Hendrix.
    Xomar
    Right...because Jack White is the one that should be picked on in this list. Did you see the note about Green Day?
    Anjohl
    I have only met one other person who plays Smoke on the Water correctly.
    boschrz
    I don't think most of these songs are for beginners though...
    benthegrunge
    Some aren't but most of them are, certainly if we're talking rhythm parts only. A good example of the attitude is that REM Everybody Hurts and The Beatles Blackbird were both nominated- both well-known songs, both songs I like, both picking, arpeggio-type numbers, one is fun for the intermediate player, one is boring as hell for the intermediate and interchangeable with other songs- guess which one gets a few upvotes and which one gets about 40+? Look at the reason for Comfortably Numb ''its just a great song''- well why not Money, that was nominated and the reason offered was it has different time signatures but still easy. Popular songs got nominated on Wednesday and upvoted to hell, I doubt many of the list were nominated after Wednesday
    ToNtUz
    an interesting question is, can lil wayne play any of these songs
    theogonia777
    I think the biggest problem is that, since this is mainly a rock guitar site, the results were highly skewed towards the "'everybody' knows them" classic rock hits while completely ignoring every other popular guitar based genres such as country, blues, jazz, bluegrass, funk, classical, reggae, etc.
    wyldelife
    This list seems more like top songs a new guitar player should learn. However, I guess that is appropriate given the fact that we all develop different tastes as we mature in our playing.
    redisni
    These songs are good examples of songs that, no no matter what your skill level is, you can get something good out of them.
    flameguitarcody
    some songs maybe... but blitzkreig bop, smells like teen spirit? lol not much to learn from pounding out some power chords and there were a few others in that category as well.
    Maxim1110
    I would file Wonderwall under the "Songs Every Guitarist Should Avoid PLaying" section, actually.
    Iceman10129
    This list is one Whitesnake song away from "How to be 'that' douchebag at your college party".
    loungeact88
    I clicked on that link about "the most used riff in rock" mentioned in the Smells Like Teen Spirit entry. Besides Louie Louie and Wild Thing, none of the songs mentioned in that article use the exact same chord progression/riff, and that article had like 80% down votes.
    subhumanste
    Wrong Nirvana Choice in my opinion ,go out on a limb eg. "Spank thru" or maybe "Aneurysm"far more fun & diverse to play,but I'd killed Teen Spirit for myself before the end of 1991(overplayed).The high end of the list is a bit textbook too!(predictable)personally I think you should play what appeals to you as an individual & not be one of the robot army of guitarists all playing the same shite,Only an opinion,last word Oasis-seriously?
    benthegrunge
    Everyone answered the wrong question this week, the question was 'songs every guitarist should learn to play'- now, I appreciate that the question is impossibly broad, but reducing it to 'well-known songs that are easy enough to play' was the lamest possible interpretation guys. I saw very few songs with rnb-type chords, I saw very little blues, ok its not everyone's bag but you don't have to be a big blues guy to have a few in your arsenal, rude mood is more fun than any of these. If we're talking easy, but popular and cool songs, Fools Gold and Personal Jesus are pretty addictive and instantly recognisable- but you don't hear every tom dick and harry playing them. It was 'songs every guitarist SHOULD learn', not 'songs every guitarist DOES learn' lol...sorry for rant but this Wednesday question was the biggest waste yet
    IncubusBen
    Am i the only one who hates oasis?
    rcanders
    nuff said.
    jimmy/jimi
    CAN THE NEXT WEDNESDAY QUESTION BE: What questions do you, the UG readers want asked as Wednesday questions?
    Baby Joel
    I would like to see a question about miley cyrus sings "songs for the deaf" with lars on the drums, and there's a voice over the whole time about Gene Simmons telling everyone that rock is dead and miley left the fooking back and now chad kroeger is on the vocals and nicki minaj and rhianna are doing the harmonies and dancing in the background, old school style.
    DEG_III
    Yes! I've been wanting to see a 'Top 10 Biggest Douchebags in Rock' Wednesday question for a while. Although, it would probably just be a landslide of votes for Lars.
    acglee
    Axl Rose on vocals, Lars on drums, Mustaine on guitar, Simmons on bass. Supported by Geoff Tate on vocals, Malmsteen on guitar, Necrobutcher on bass and Portnoy on drums. Backing singers to include Paul DiAnno and Bono.
    Wermund
    They forgot to mention Texas Flood Such a great tune for beginners
    Funnyname99
    We all agree that wonderwall is the ultimate babe magnet, but if it's a girl playing... What is the ultimate guy magnet? I assume Battery, by Metallica...? Question for next week... Top 10 songs that girls would play if they want to seduce guys....
    steve.peasey
    Number 5 is a complete joke. It completely disgust me that Kurt Cobain's talents as a guitarist are gushed over like he was Jimi Hendrix or something. Speaking of which how did he not even make this list. Surely foxy lady or Wind cries Mary qualifies. Nope, he got bumped out by Kurt Cobain. What a slap in face.
    benthegrunge
    teen spirit is only good as a beginner song, there's other nirvana songs that are still fun to strum acoustically on your own as an intermediate player, but teen spirit isn't one of them. And what band is tacky enough to cover teen spirit in front of an audience?
    jtkguitar
    Who picks these songs? That Gary Moore song sucked!
    TragicBronson
    I think people meant the Led Zeppelin song Over the Hills and Far Away and UG made a mistake and thought they were talking about Gary Moore.
    vrhovnichoban
    My gang was cursed with crazy train , the trooper and keep on rockin in the free world, we played and smoked weed and drank moonshine. Good days
    Chanceypants13
    How about songs you should learn to help make a living? Celebration - Kool and the Gang Uptown Funk - Mark Ronson Don't Know Why - Norah Jones Landslide - Fleetwood Mac Just about every jazz standard in the real book. Plus, learning these songs helps expand your playing knowledge and can eventually help with writing.
    joyryd
    More like Top 20 songs that everyone has heard a million times
    Dynamight
    This question is dumb. People should play what they like and what they want to sound like, not be dictated what tunes to play.
    TheGroundZero
    Spoken like a man who's never played with random groups of musicians or ever had an impromptu jam session. It's nice to know some "common" songs to jam with people, along with the stuff YOU want to play.
    TheMaddestHaTT3
    Funny Ive played with many people, in many settings and not a single one of these songs ever came up. I guess if you play BS pop radio rock, then maybe you will hear some of these. When was the last time you had an impromptu jam including Comfortably numb and if you are playing an impromptu jam of Enter Sandman then thats all the needs said.... But no your the professional with the right opinion....Now go get a bowl of D*** and get pro on that. Dick.
    Dynamight
    Spoken like a man who's musically bankrupt, never been in a band, and only ever plays pop covers.
    benthegrunge
    Yeh, but a little garage band isn't going to cover Comfortably Numb and Stairway to Heaven are they lol, similarly it feels a bit egotistical to give Teen Spirit or Wonderwall a go, unless you were going to change them significantly to appear creative. If its best jam songs then I'd rather have a list like Hideaway, All Day and all of the night, I Shot the Sheriff, Big-Bop-a-Lula, good jam songs I know and like but might FORGET! Then you could look down the nominations and say 'ahhh, good thinking, I'll learn this tonight, thanks UG community!'
    pepisick
    There are a few songs that MUST be played in a first jam, just to get to know the people you're playing with. And one of those songs is Smoke on the Water, 'cause everyone knows it, and if they don't, they can basically learn it in a really short period of time. Everytime I get to play with musicians I don't know, the first three songs that comes to my mind are Smoke, Ironman and Don't Fear the Reaper... And it always works.
    benthegrunge
    There's loads of songs like that though, and there's never realistically a situation where you're with a random bunch of musicians and you can't TALK to each other to discern what music you like. When I was 15, could barely play and was jamming with others who could barely play, then Smoke On the Water, Enter Sandman etc were pretty important, not now. Even then, its funny what riffs you teach other quickly because they're easy, I remember covering Electric 6's Gay Bar at one of my first jams lol, never thought i'd play that
    Sevenchappels
    Okey, don't know what happened, I'm in my account now, just lost my avatar. I signed in again, this time using my mail and not my Facebook (that's linked to the same mail account btw)... What I was about to say is that this list is more about songs that you could learn and play queuing at the entrance to a concert or in the park with friends, no matter what the genre of concert is. If you know all the songs in the list, you always will look cool.
    HollowPoint423
    Nope, terrible list. Minus RATM and Ozzy, the rest of the songs are for faggots that wish they could play. Far better songs to be played by the bands listed.
    WheelsOfSteel
    I agree with most, except Green Day, Oasis, ratm, White Stripes (i hate that song), and would have put other song by Gary Moore like Still Got the Blues or Parisienne Walkways... I think guitar players can learn these songs by ear: purple: black night zepp: heartbreaker sabbath: paranoid aerosmith: walk this way cream: sunshine of your love hendrix: voodoo child floyd: money the doors: roadhouse blues megadeth: symphony of destruction van halen: ain't talkin' bout love
    Sleaze Disease
    Anybody saying they get tons of women by playing 'Wonderwall' is a liar. That song sucks, Oasis sucks, and nobody is impressed by that lame-ass song.
    smittyanthrax
    About a year ago, Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" was proclaimed by you folks as one of the best beginner songs for guitarists. Now, it made the list yet again. The tune was originally released on the band's 1997 studio effort "Nimrod This was actually released as a bside on the brain stew single.
    TheMaddestHaTT3
    Wow a list of radio favorites one can play at a party and people will recognize. Learn these songs so you can be popular with the party critics.....Enter Sandman? Of all the GOOD Met songs, you should learn this overrated piece of pop metal trash? I guess if you looking for easy and trite, these are good choices. I'm not.
    iommi600
    Love how the entire top 5 consists of songs I have never heard before.
    TaV0
    It's great to discover new bands, wonder if any of those are relesing any new albums soon.
    izzybuck
    wow what's wrong with UG? I connected my old account from FB, and when (after years) I decided to post a comment I realize my nickname is "izzybuck", what the ****? I'm Sevenchappels (?) and my avatar is Bad Relligion's Empire Strikes First cover (?)
    Maiden95
    As someone who teaches (drum) lessons at a music shop, the top 10 is almost spot on.
    Napalm7
    Green Day's Good Riddance as actually released not on 1997's Nimrod, but as a B-side in 1995 from on the Brainstew/Jaded CD single
    st3WasHere
    I will always stand by this statement: Crazy Train is the best song for learning (almost) every technique there is. Alternate picking, palm mutes, various harmonics, scales, switching chord formations quickly, power chords, pull off, hammer on, etc. So much going on throughout that jam! If you can master it, you're on the road to become an awesome player!
    Music Dials
    Great blog post on the noted (initial) top 20 guitar tunes to learn with associated tabs... Appreciations for your time and energy to supply this info!- Ron btw, I found your post interesting enough to include your info and link on one of my latest blog updates at my Musicians' Blog...http://themusiciansblog.org/songs-every-...
    Jazz1992
    It would have been nice to see Man on the Silver Mountain up there, but still an OK list.