Best Starter Songs for Guitarists

The results for best beginner rock track are just in, and it's a Top 15.

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Ultimate Guitar
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Another Friday, another UG Top 10! As you might remember, for this week's traditional Wednesday Question we asked you guys to name the best beginner song for all the aspiring guitarist out there. You brought up quite a few classics, so the list was extended to a Top 15.

And for all you smartypants, Animals as Leaders also made the list with "CAFO," they even reached No. 4 based on votes, but no, that's not a starter riff. Anyhow, on to the list!

15. Pink Floyd - "Wish You Were Here"

"Good basic chord changes done brilliantly" is what Mr third(-)eye had to say about this one, and we couldn't help but agree. Here's the link to chords or tab.

14. Weezer - "Island in the Sun"

Very basic, yet very effective - Weezer and "Island on the Sun" are up next (chords, tab).

13. Oasis - "Wonderwall"

Not sure you knew this, but "69% of people who learn this song on guitar will only know this song." Thanks to Elegitii for the stats. Learn the tune here - chords, tab.

12. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Californication"

Both the riff and solo are easy to pick up on this one. The lyrical content is not the topic here, but "Californication" actually deals with the dark side of Hollywood, and is not just another laid-back tune as some might think (chords, guitar tab, bass tab).

11. Blink-182 - "All the Small Things"

It's hard to get more basic than this. Works like a charm though, learn to play it here - chords or tab

10. Cream - "Sunshine of Your Love"

Simple, yet very, very tasty. Tasty enough to make rock history books. Tab here, chords here.

9. AC/DC - "Back in Black"

It's worth noting that "TNT" also took a lot of votes, but "Back in Black" it is. In general, AC/DC is just one of those awesome starter bands, whether it's for guitar players or guitar fans. Learn to chug the tune here.

8. Judas Priest - "Breaking the Law"

Simple, melodic, perfect for your first scale rundown. Tabs here

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

Another song that caught a lot of attention was "Brain Stew," but "Time of Your Life" emerged as the Green Day representative. Check out how to play it - chords, tab.

6. Metallica - "Enter Sandman"

Maybe "Nothing Else Matters" would be a better fit, but "Enter Sandman" it is! Check out the tab.

5. Ramones - "Blitzkrieg Bop"

Back to the punk realm, it's the Ramones and "Blitzkrieg Bop." Also, funny how Sex Pistols weren't even suggested in comments. Ramones tab here.

4. Black Sabbath - "Iron Man"

"Paranoid" also fetched quite a few of your votes, but "Iron Man" still emerged as the victorious Sabbath representative. Zappo the UG user nicely pointed out this one: "The main riff yes... but as a whole song I'd recommend 'Paranoid' over 'Iron Man.'" Would you agree with Zappo? Oh yes, tab.

3. The White Stripes - "Seven Nation Army"

Kicking off the Big 3, it's one of those all-time classics that just stun you with simplicity (chords, tab).

2. Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Nirvana were actually the most successful band in the vote, seeing that both "Come as You Are" and "Lithium" also scored a hefty amount of votes. However, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is No. 1 (view tab). 

1. Deep Purple - "Smoke on the Water"

We'd honestly be surprised if this wasn't the No. 1 track for this week. Here's a neat fact - Ritchie Blackmore actually got the inspiration from the opening of Beethoven's "5th Symphony." As the guitarist explained, he just took the intro and played it backwards. Anyway, tab for the songs is here.

167 comments sorted by best / new / date

    theclassicrock
    Smells Like Teen Spirit gave me a lot of trouble when I was starting out because of the muting.
    TomM96
    Same, Smells Like Teen Spirit is actually quite difficult for starter guitarists to get the song right, as you need a fairly good strumming technique in order to do it properly. It's kinda funny how it's often associated with beginners but I've never ever heard a good full-band cover of it
    triface
    Because nobody focuses on it long enough to really learn it... "Oh awesome my intro sounds exactly like the song [it doesn't]. Time to move on to Metallica!"
    third(-)eye
    One of the first songs I learned was Toxicity by SOAD, had the same issue.
    CJSchecter96
    one of the first I learned was welcome home by coheed and cambria and lets just say there were a lot of issues for a few weeks haha, I eventually mastered it though.
    vikkyvik
    Always thought "About a Girl" was the easiest Nirvana song to learn. Certainly the first one I learned. "Come as You Are" was probably the 2nd.
    RedLabelRecords
    Same here until I heard it on a bootleg an e realized he doesn't worry about them at all. That goes for many songs. Heading them live reminds me not to sweat the small stuff.
    Shreddaboi12
    I remember learning this when I was starting out and I focused more on the chordal movements first before the strumming pattern. I think it's a great starter song to get your hand moving around the neck.
    crazyhorse174
    I learned Bullet with Butterfly Wings last night and it was also a piece of piss. And I'm universally awful on the guitar.
    siamesedream777
    Cherub Rock is pretty hard though
    triface
    When you play it though, it feels pretty bitchin'. Only issue for me is the sound effects (or however he makes his solo sound like that).
    woody182
    As if Dammit by Blink-182 wasn't up there. Every pop punk fan in the world learned that as soon as they started playing guitar
    DanTheHobbit
    Definitely. I worked at a local music shop throughout uni, and that was one of the most-attempted songs.
    seance
    Yeah, a lot of millennials starting playing guitar almost solely because of Blink 182.
    Josh100_3
    Can actually say that throughout my years of Guitar I did indeed learn every damn one of these songs. Well played UG
    KerryKing01
    But do u no angel of deth? u r not a trve gutar player till u hav dat mastered!
    metallideth88
    Angel of death....from the laserated sky!!!!! Bleeding in Orror! Angel of death!!!!! *Plays modem connecting to internet solo*
    chyld fan
    yea ok, whos this Kerry king??? didn't he quit the music seen yrs. ago to go and make Mexican fenders????? What a hack
    azrael667
    Half of these songs have solos that will frustrate every newbie and even slightly advanced players. Sorry UG users, that is not a good list.
    MattHessing
    You're not a good list!
    BlackRose93
    You know,you can always learn the rhythm section and play that during the solo.
    azrael667
    That's a cop out.
    acdcfan34
    You're a cop out.
    azrael667
    You're all just downvoting me because you can't play a single song in full. Oh and remind me, how many guitarists do Deep Purple and Black Sabbath have? Hint: there is no rhythm guitar during the solos.
    BlackRose93
    The highest rated guitar pro tab for Smoke on the Water on UG has a rhythm guitar tabbed out.I'm too bored to search if the actual song has a rhythm guitar recorded,but usually bands with one guitarist record a simple rhythm section during the solo,even if it doesn't end up being played live.And for the record I know how to play a good amount of songs start to finish.We downvote you because you are wrong.
    aerosmithfan95
    Actually, he's right, you know. When learning a FULL song, you learn every part of it. You learn the solo as well as what's played UNDER the solo. If you ever jam with a friend, you'll need to know the rhythm section under the solo. I mean, if two guitarists are playing Sweet Child, I'm sure they won't both be soloing at the same exact time.
    BlackRose93
    I don't disagree completely with that,but sometimes you don't need to learn a full song.Let me explain:In my music school there used to be another guitarist with whom I played with during a portion of my class.We were on about the same level but our music tastes were really different.However when one of us was to learn a solo the other one would learn the rhythm to accompany them.There was no reason for us to learn each other's solos because you know,we had our own material to focus on.And while obviously learning the rhythm isn't as hard as learning the solo it can still teach you very important things. Now back to the topic.Don't forget we are talking about begginers here.A begginer doesn't have to learn a solo because that's way too early for him to do so and can cause more harm than good.He can still learn by playing rhythm.He can always come back later when he has developed better technique to learn the solo and "complete" the song. And as I said earlier what's the difference between learning a "sololess" song and learning one that has,but playing the rhythm instead.You still end up learning the same thing basically.
    HitmanJenkins
    Agreed, if there's two guitarists then they should learn their respective parts, there's not much need to learn everything unless the other guitarist can't play the gig for whatever reason or you're the only guitarist in the band. I'm in a covers band where I play mostly rhythm guitar and the other guy plays lead, but there are some occasions where I do have a lead or two. I actually didn't bother that much with learning how to solo until I started doing my A Levels and even then I can only solo over certain styles. I can't shred or play really complex solos to save my life, but you can count on me when it comes to some Jazz, Blues or a really melodic Rock solo, especially when there's a lot of room for improvisation.
    third(-)eye
    I've always felt like solos were meant to be customizable and individual to the performer. I'd only copy someone else's solo note for note if it was really iconic.
    Izzy-Sweet
    Yes, because all newbie guitarists learn solos right away...
    azrael667
    Umm yes? The worst thing you can teach a newbie is that it's okay not to learn the whole song.
    BlackRose93
    You learn,or better you develop good techique through exercises.And you learn songs to cover the thing exercises can't: Playing music.ANY music that you learn to play is beneficial,newbie or not.Even if it is just two bars it's still better than nothing.
    azrael667
    That way you'll just end up knowing hundreds of riffs but never a full song. Start what you finish. There's nothing worse in music than an unfinished song.
    BlackRose93
    Say's who? And as I said you can always play through the whole song just by playing the rhythm guitar when the solo comes.It is no different than choosing to learn an easy song that doesn't have a solo.
    BlackRose93
    Say's who? And as I said you can always play through the whole song just by playing the rhythm guitar when the solo comes.It is no different than choosing to learn an easy song that doesn't have a solo.
    Izzy-Sweet
    I hope you don't teach guitar, I can't think of anything that would make someone quit more than being forced into solos when learning their first 4-chord song.
    Thrash Addict
    Id like to see a newbie nail the Back in Black solo, I nominated Highway to Hell for a reason lol
    Theophillis
    I agree. Absolute beginners trying to play the bends in the rhythm part of Back In Black,....? THIS is why guitar teachers need training.
    THE BULGE
    I agree, Smoke on the Water is rarely played correctly by anyone I have heard in guitar stores etc. If you listen closely the timing is always out.
    togherjames91
    I think what's more important is that the newbie should be interested in the song and the artist for their first song. That's how I lost interest when I first started playing because I was following typical lists like these, when really I should of been concentrating on the songs I love to listen to as I would be motivated to put in the time to get it right.
    RU486
    The first song I ever learned was Psychosocial by Slipknot. Probably one of the worst ideas for a starter song ever, but hey, I did it.
    1nsomnium
    Did you play it in standard tuning? Oh god I remember first getting into playing guitar, trying to play all those drop B and drop A Slipknot songs, wondering why they sound so dull even though I had my distortion all maxed
    Machineflame
    I understand you're pain. The first song I learned whole was One by Metallica. Poor choice: Took me a year of non-stop practice and my wrist still hurts, but still Worth it.
    DDVazquez
    my very first was electric eye. followed by seek and destroy, kind of weird because of the exception of wish you were here, i havent learned or try any of this songs.
    bradd101
    Good to see Iron Man on here, first song I ever learnt when I was like 11
    third(-)eye
    Doesn't Iron Man have some chord sliding in the main riff?
    entropicxdisson
    but most play it wrong it starts with a B power chord on the E and A string not the A and D string, just watch any video of Iommi playing it. It's D|-----7--| A|--9--5--| E|--7-----| not D|--4--7--| A |--2--5--| E|-----|
    Izzy-Sweet
    I've never played it starting on the A and D strings, though now I think about it, it's probably easier.
    ndrummerc
    I normally go with "About A Girl" by Nirvana if I'm trying to teach someone. A couple of open chords, a few power chords, a tiny splash of muting, an a super easy single-note solo.
    umbrella666
    I did a metal version of Sunshine Of Your Love many years ago when I was early in my playing. That song is a pretty good one for beginners and it definitely sparked my creativity.
    theshadow180
    Definitely agree. With my old band we did a cover of Sunshine too and we had a pretty cool way of doing it: until the first chorus have it just bass and vocals then me and the drummer would crash in as per. Was great fun taking the audience by surprise like that XD. Like you said, certainly a song that allows for and inspires alot of creativity.
    Slayer35
    I don't think Smells like teen spirit is a good starter song, nor is Enter Sandman. For whom the bell tolls and Never too late are ridiculously easy songs.
    scotticon
    Anyone who can't learn smells like teen spirit...perhaps even the whole nevermind album, should sell their guitar on ebay
    third(-)eye
    Why? For a beginner, it could seem like a tricky strumming pattern with lots of muting.
    Zappo
    wow I read the article and saw my name there...cool! thanks UG!
    christianonbass
    One of the first "songs" we (my brother on guitar, and me on bass) was 2112. Yes, Rush tends to be complex compared to many others, but if you can play the intro riff to Overture, you will know the main riff to Temples of Syrinx. Then you will discover that many riffs on that "song" are re-used in different places on that album side. It is kinda like The Wall, many riffs are used as recurring themes throughout the album. I thought that was a great way for beginners to learn how songs are put together, and how the same riffs can be made to sound different. My brother learned just the rhythm track to a bunch of songs before knowing how to solo. Then, with some instruction, and practice, we were happy that all of a sudden he did solos. The best thing a beginner can do to keep him motivated to keep learning is to learn some riffs...then he will experience the awesome joy of making music. I agree with bunnyhopz. This should be called "starter riffs". Great list actually. It always pissed me off that people think the bass line on Smoke on the Water is 0 3 5, 0 3 6 5. It doesn't double the guitar riff!
    Zaqq
    Actually the bass line in Smoke on the Water is harder and more interesting than its guitar part (except the solo).
    braindamage828
    My first few songs, hmmmmm. Smoke on the Water - Deep Purple Goodbye Blue Sky - Pink Floyd Hey Joe - Jimi Hendrix Got You Where I Want You - The Flys The Joker - Steve Miller Band No Woman, No Cry - Bob Marley or Sublime Don't fear the Reaper - B.O.C. Set the Controls for the Heart of The Sun - PF Money - PF Hells Bells - AC/DC Midnight Rider - Allman Bros. Heart Shaped Box - Nirvana Icky Thump - White Stripes Wonderwall - Oasis Drive (Acoustic) - Incubus I Miss You (MTV Unplugged) - Incubus My Michelle - Guns N Roses Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton Break on Through - The Doors Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie American Women - The Guess Who Sweet Home Alabama or Simple Man - Lynyrd Skynyrd Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne Every Rose Has its Thorn - Poison Free Fallin' - Tom Petty Dear Mr. Fantasy - Traffic Iron Man - Black Sabbath Say it Ain't So - Weezer La Grange - ZZ Top Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry Just to name a few songs that helped me my first year at guitar.
    bunnyh0pz
    This should say "starter riffs" instead. No beginner can play a solo like there are in some of these songs.
    Jazzmandtk
    The first song I ever tried learning was "Interstate Love Song" by STP...I don't recommend that approach
    Shadow914
    You think that's bad, I tried to learn Rain Forest by Batio after only playing for a month or 2... Very bad idea.
    owen556
    I found Metallica's Seek and Destroy to be a very good starting riff, I remember playing it for hours when I first got my guitar. Probably wasn't the first song I ever learned, but it was the first song that made me feel like I had made progress on the guitar. Also the opening riff to Megadeth's Tornado of Souls was a great introduction to the B minor scale with an added blues note. Sounds really impressive if you can nail it after only playing for a few months.
    jaegerd
    Sorry, but some of the songs listed I wouldn't consider "beginner" songs. Although I guess nobody ever qualified what "beginner" means.
    Holoogamooga
    I started with the theme to the Peter Gunn TV show. I barely knew how to hold a guitar, so a nice single-string riff was a good place...followed by Come As You Are, Smoke on the Water, and my teacher tried to get me to do House of the Rising Sun. That didn't happen.
    JBTheLefty
    I learned Turn the Page for my first song. The chords were easy but the finger-picking is what got me. Especially since I was playing it all upside down.
    satansnachos
    I'm just curious, how many of you have experience teaching beginners? and for those who do have experience, do you think any of these songs make a good first lesson? I still think (from experience) Happy Birthday is the best first song
    BlackLabel5150
    I've give lessons from time to time on request, and to be honest I never have and wouldn't "suggest" learning a song first. Lesson one typically consists of getting to know the students interest and type of music they listen to. Tuning IE why the guitar is tuned the way it is, (speaking standard tuning of course) the notes as they relate to the fret board and the major scale. Songs are a byproduct and come later. In my opinion the self gratification of learning the opening riff to "One" is instant success yes, but that can lead to the next opening riff of X and Y and in some cases not fully understanding the whys and hows. Not saying its wrong but the basics should come first so you have a solid foundation.
    satansnachos
    yup, you nailed it my first lesson usually consists of how to hold a pick, and how to pluck one note at a time, hence why I choose Happy Birthday instead of a song where you are strumming chords
    HitmanJenkins
    When I first started playing the guitar (and then quit, only to start again) I learnt really basic stuff like that. I also learnt how to read tablature and a few simple tunes like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I never got taught how to hold a pick though, I think it was mostly fingerstyle, but I can't remember too well. Going on a bit of a tangent here (mildly related), but when I started playing the electric guitar and started to get lessons again, we did songs almost exclusively (well, it was pretty much riffs and licks), especially when it came to techniques like hammer ons/pull offs (which I just learnt by playing the intro lead for The Trooper) and tapping, because then you see how the techniques work in a musical context. I somehow managed to get through my A Level in Music at about grade 7 standard without even knowing guitar exercises (not that you really need to as there is no focus on a specific instrument). When I started doing my BTEC (I failed to get into uni the first time around, but I digress) at college and there was a lot more focus on specific instruments and we would have a timeslot for guitar/drum/singing/bass lessons, one day we were going through different guitar excercises that both the teacher and the other guitarists knew, and I had no idea what the hell they were on about half the time, what the hell was the Caterpillar? Spider? I didn't know, I just learnt via playing songs. I don't know what point I'm trying to make here, but I'm sure I can find one in that rambling somewhere. I guess it's just an anecdote of my experiences more than anything.
    satansnachos
    check out the video titled "why you suck at guitar, sweep arpeggios" I'm not saying you suck or anything, just in that video the guy really goes in depth on how to hold a pick (and he has a sense of humor about it also)
    N7Crazy
    I've teached quite a handful of beginners - I voted for "About a girl" by Nirvana, as it gets all the basics (chords, strumming rythm, power chords, solo/scales) done from point one in a very easy way. From my own experience, it's good to start on, and because it's actually a very fun song to play, it motivates the player to continue practicing. When they're good at it, I often change a few things - Some of the power chords get replaced by bar-chords, or I add some alterations to the solo so it includes one or more bends, slides, hammer-on's/pull-off's, all the basic lead-techniques that make playing more enjoyable. It's also useful for basic theory, both with scales, chordal functions (here under circle of fifths), key/time signatures, intervals, and so on.
    third(-)eye
    I taught my friend how to play, but I don't consider myself a great teacher or anything.
    satansnachos
    Just wondering, what was the first thing that you taught your friend?
    third(-)eye
    I think the main riff from Crazy Train was one of the first things, but I slowed it way down of course.
    kevinmcdonald94
    Enter sandman aint that easy, sure the first acoustic part yes, but when the distorted part kicks in it's pretty hard to get it right as a beginner. Best beginner song from Metallica would be "One" or "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)". But that's just what I think
    HitmanJenkins
    I think even better Metallica tune would be one someone has mentioned below; Seek & Destroy, that or For Whom The Bell Tolls, I remember One being quite tricky for me..
    Pactorn
    Sweet child of mine?
    rcm93
    anything by john petricisdvn that guys playing is so simple and boring
    anttown
    I probobly would have said Born in the USA. Bm and E during the whole song. Two chords... not even the magical number 4
    me_llamo_juan
    I believe my first full song was Glycerin by Bush. Pretty much the same idea as the rest.
    iommi600
    This song actually made me pick up the guitar, in my early teenage years. 3 chords, easy as hell.
    Also, Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones.
    kmath2220
    Rock you like a hurricane would have been a good one. The solos are definitely tricky for a beginner but the chords are easy, its an iconic song and it would be fun to play along to even if you cant play the solos
    isaac.yim.31
    one of the first song ive learned was "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden, not a good choice, but the intro is fairly easy
    munkybusiness
    id have said come as you are instead of teen spirit cus a proper day one, self taught , complete beginner wouldnt be able to play powerchords, they'd go for the one string melody.
    tffan92
    Wow can't believe they didn't put Anything Anything by Dramarama. You can learn that song in 2 minutes.
    JoeHuman35
    i would like to add "Let It Be" (The Beatles), "National Anthem", "High & "Dry and "Dollars & Cents" (Radiohead). mostly because of their repetitive nature.
    agentguerry
    I think its a good list for starters, as far as not playing solos. They should do a list of Top starter Solos also.