Rock is a wildly popular genre for guitarists. If you are a beginner guitarist, you no doubt want to learn to play some rock classics. Many are strenuous and daunting but don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of easy rock guitar songs.
1. TNT – AC/DC
This commanding classic, “TNT,” from AC/DC relies on percussive strumming to convey the song’s signature oomph. Fortunately, you’re only looking at three chords in the whole track. Forceful execution of these chords carries you through most of the song, with just that bit of craziness at the closing to wrap it up.
2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Train – AC/DC
If you learn AC/DC’s “TNT,” you’ve already learned two-thirds of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train” since the chords are similar. This song, however, includes a solo and fills that require more time and experience to get right. The rhythm guitar part plays through the whole track and sticks to three chords for an easy, rocking tune.
3. Highway to Hell – AC/DC
One of AC/DC’s most memorable riffs, “Highway to Hell” involves a bit more intricacy compared to the two previous tracks. However, even with the bridge, the main riff occupies most of the song. Once you master it, you’ve learned most of the song.
4. A Horse with No Name – America
America’s sound falls under the folk-rock genre and a “Horse with No Name” is one of their most famous numbers. Like many folk-style tunes, this one doesn’t rely on complex chords and arrangements. Its power sits in strong lyrical storytelling that is complemented by a simple but effective chord progression.
5. The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
The Animals’ version of “The House of the Rising Sun” is probably the most famous in the world, despite the song’s history of at least a century. The chords themselves are not complex, but the nuance of the tune lies in the arpeggiated chord-playing, which takes some practice. A great song for fingerpicking makes it a great choice for beginner guitarists, too!
6. Feel Like Making Love – Bad Company
Like many rock anthems, Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” has a simple chord structure. Utilizing three chords, the chorus’s catchiness comes from the punchy, rhythmic strumming change.
In contrast to the verse’s soft strumming, the chorus hits hard in a way that makes this tune both dynamic and memorable.
7. Shooting Star – Bad Company
Bad Company’s hit from the same album as “Feel Like Making Love,” “Shooting Star” takes a few pages from the folk-rock handbook. At over 6 minutes long, the track’s straightforward chords underlie four verses relate Johnny’s tale of rising to fame and his subsequent spiral downward.
The song is mainly two major parts that alternate back and forth for quick learning.
8. Day Tripper – The Beatles
Featuring one of the most iconic riffs in music, “Day Tripper” plays this riff with two variations to populate most of the song. There are some fantastic simple Beatles guitar songs out there, and Day Tripper is certainly one of them!
Understanding the riff’s pattern and rhythm is half the battle, as each riff variation plays on a single chord and does not require complex changes. The initial riff alone warrants learning for its catchy melody.
9. Iron Man – Black Sabbath
Speaking of iconic riffs, Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” easily makes the top ten of the most distinctive riffs ever for beginners. While the solo’s portion from the 5:10-mark to the 5:32 point may be beyond a beginner, the rest of the song sticks to the famous, heavy guitar line and is among easy rock guitar songs.
10. Never Say Die – Black Sabbath
This upbeat Black Sabbath number, “Never Say Die,” utilizes numerous chords, but none of them are overly intricate. Although the drums maintain a fast and continuous tempo throughout the track, the guitar lets many of the chords ring, which helps beginners feel less overwhelmed by chord changes.
11. Song 2 – Blur
Blur’s catchy guitar lick on “Song 2” is a little fast-paced, but once you have it down, you’ve learned most of the song. The only exception is an additional chord in the chorus’s second half, with that half being arguably being easier to play than the riff itself.
12. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
Even without a talk box and Jon Bon Jovi’s stellar vocals, the band’s signature song, “Livin’ on a Prayer,” still makes a worthwhile tune to add to your arsenal. Don’t be daunted by the impressive solo or quick fill at the 2-minute mark. The main chord progression will carry you through the whole song.
13. For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield
Our earliest folk-rock release on the list, “For What It’s Worth,” is a groovy and understated track known for its protest-oriented content. The verses’ two chords alternate until the chorus, and this simple pattern continues for the bulk of the tune.
The manageable chord changes make this a great introductory tune and one of the great ‘60s easy rock guitar songs.
14. Just What I Needed – The Cars
This New Wave hit from The Cars, “Just What I Needed,” does not require much in the way of funky chord knowledge. Consistent rhythm and a bit of stamina play heavily into executing this power-pop classic well. The famous riff is an imitation of the Bubblegum Pop hit “Yummy Yummy Yummy” by the Ohio Express, and both have influenced various artists in multiple genres.
15. Cocaine – Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is a widely-heralded guitarist whose bluesy guitar-playing style has been cited as some of the greatest in rock music. Fortunately, “Cocaine” doesn’t throw anything too wild out there. With few chords and a repetitive riff, this Clapton tune is likely to be the first of his you learn.
16. Zombie – The Cranberries
The Cranberries’ alternative rock song “Zombie” follows the same four-chord progression through its entirety, making it a reasonably uncomplicated tune to learn. The song’s forceful weight comes from the heavy distortion and alternating fashion in which a guitarist strums the chords.
You could argue it’s harder to successfully imitate Dolores O’Riordan’s yodeling techniques than it is to play this tune.
17. Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash
“Should I Stay or Should I Go” is one of the Clash’s best-known songs and a manageable starting point for beginner guitarists. The signature riff permeates the tune’s mass and keeps a steady pace throughout.
The song’s accelerated B-part owes its speediness more so to the drumming rather than the guitar, keeping the piece continuously manageable.
18. Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
This list contains tons of famous and memorable riffs, but Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” sits pretty high on that list. Learning the primary riff takes up most of the song’s content other than the chorus.
19. Have You Ever Seen the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Unlike several songs on this list that take a riff through a full song, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival boasts a distinct chord progression for both the verses and chorus.
At under three minutes, this poignant track applies simple strumming methods that sound great even without an accompanying band.
20. Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
Although touting a similar vibe as Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” this classic Deep Purple track, “Smoke on the Water,” utilizes different parts outside of the iconic main lick. Fortunately, the riff’s changes are quicker than those in the verses and chorus, making it smooth-sailing after you learn it.
21. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
In classic Dylan style, “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” invests his song’s potential for emotive power in a simple chord progression and thoughtful lyrics. With only four chords and uncharacteristically short running time, this track is one of Bob Dylan’s best-loved tunes from the 70s. This song makes a great easy guitar duet song, too!
22. Take It Easy – The Eagles
The Eagles’ “Take It Easy” utilizes straightforward chords throughout the track. The only flare is at the beginning, which is short and not too challenging. With its unpresuming strumming patterns, this Eagles classic is a satisfying acoustic guitar song to learn.
23. Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” garners interest for its full, one-minute intro that doesn’t repeat at any other point in the song. Even if you do away with the solo and fills, this song incorporates a handful of different chords, so it may take some practice in your guitar routine to get this one down.
24. All Right Now – Free
“All Right Now” by Free is another tune that maintains a distinctive riff throughout most of the track. Learning it means you’ve mastered the tune’s majority, leaving you plenty of energy to take on that solo if you’re up for it.
25. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
A huge rock anthem, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts works on three chords, with its forceful energy coming from the strong vocals and heavy drumbeat. Although best with a full band, this tune is fantastic and compelling on guitar without being too hard to play.
26. All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers
The Killers have numerous popular songs, like “Mr. Brightside” but many are tricky to play. “All These Things That I’ve Done” is from the same album as “Mr. Brightside” and is a doable Killers track, even if you don’t have a lot of guitar-playing experience.
27. You Really Got Me – The Kinks
The Kinks’ 1964 hit “You Really Got Me” is an early milestone in rock music’s history. It’s surprisingly gritty for the mid-’60s, and capturing that unrefined punch is key to conveying this otherwise elementary rock song.
28. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin
“Easy” and “Led Zeppelin” don’t generally fit in the same sentence together, but the guitar part for “Whole Lotta Love” is primarily the same riff repeated. Success lies in nailing the rhythm and being able to play it accurately and consistently.
29. Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
“Immigrant Song” is another great Zeppelin tune with a repeating riff. It requires the right timing to keep that signature chugging sound going. This song is rather short, falling under three minutes in length, and contains no solo. It’s one of the best beginner songs for guitarists.
30. Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
“Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz is a ‘90s rock staple featuring an unmistakable riff that, for the most part, the song sticks to throughout the song. The chords are standard but effective once you’ve perfected the riff.
31. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Lynyrd Skynrd’s iconic Southern blues song, “Sweet Home Alabama,” features a lick that almost every American knows. The riff comprises most of the song, deviating for a short interlude and the solo. Small details and flourishing fill flesh out the song and give it its signature personality. Overall, a great easy guitar song to play regardless of genre!
32. Enter Sandman – Metallica
You can start your dive into playing metal rock by taking on this ‘90s masterpiece, “Enter Sandman.” Be sure to turn up the distortion on this one, as much of the song’s essence owes itself to the rough and deep guitar sound.
33. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” rocked a generation and forever changed the music world with its 1991 release. Music historians credit Nirvana with bringing grunge into the mainstream with this single. This number reworks the same riff with different attitudes to give it a strong dynamic. Learn to play the chords for Smells Like Teen Spirit here.
34. Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty
“Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty utilizes the contrast of a quick-paced and short lick against powerful, ringing chords in the verses. Although from the same album as the more widely-known “Free Fallin’,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream” holds up better as a straightforward rock song than its more famous counterpart.
35. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
The title track from Pink Floyd’s 1975 album, “Wish You Were Here,” is the most digestible track on the album and one of the group’s biggest hits. The song centers around the main chord progression that runs throughout the verses and chorus, with the intro serving as the iconic riff.
This classic also features beautiful solos that are doable even for a beginner.
36. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley
This early Elvis hit, “Jailhouse Rock,” is a simple blues tune that alternates between the two-chord intro and verses, and the boogie-woogie chorus that plays similar to a bassline. The solo is reminiscent of typical blues style with its slightly off-kilter rhythm that strays from the song’s melody.
37. Californication – Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ “Californication” is a solid beginner’s choice with its slower guitar part that moves through the intro and verses. The song’s clear and discernable solo is also excellent for starters as its notes come slowly in a way that adds to the tune’s groove.
38. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
Here we have yet another iconic mid-’60s guitar riff from one of the biggest bands of all time. The Rolling Stones’ distorted riff in “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” occupies most of the song, putting it aside only for some light bluesy strumming in the verses and the iconic and simple drum break.
39. The Last Time – The Rolling Stones
“The Last Time” is from the same album as “Satisfaction” but didn’t reach the same popular heights. The song only uses three chords but incorporates a handful of bluesy fills that adds fun and interest to its performance.
40. Start Me Up – The Rolling Stones
This ‘70s Rolling Stones hit, “Start Me Up,” uses open G tuning to achieve the song’s signature sound. With a riff that relies on strumming chords with a distinctive rhythm, adjusting the tuning is what will make the whole tune come together.
Like many Rolling Stones songs, “Start Me Up” has a strong blues influence that comes through in the guitar-playing style.
41. Rock You Like a Hurricane – Scorpions
Next we have another metal rock track for your arsenal, this time from the glam metal band Scorpions. The distinctive intro and riff from “Rock You Like a Hurricane” use 5th major chords. These power chords return in the chorus, though not in their 5th form, adding some nice variation to the song’s structure.
42. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
The famous opening alternate-picking riff continues through Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” even after the heavy chords come in. Since it’s difficult to attempt both simultaneously, you can play the picking part until the song kicks in and return to it when it’s the main focus.
43. Bang a Gong (Get It On) – T. Rex
T. Rex’s 1971 hit “Bang a Gong (Get it On)” follows a similar pattern to other songs on the list by injecting a refrain throughout the song, changing only for the short chorus. The other guitar part plays a modified rhythm of the same chord through most of the song. A short, uncomplicated solo at the end is the final flare.
44. 20th Century Boy – T. Rex
This later T. Rex single, “20th Century Boy,” uses its main riff intermittently, playing it at the beginning and as interludes in between the verses. Marc Bolon uses a bit more distortion on this track than “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” adding to the song overall having a heavier and grittier feel.
45. I Will Follow – U2
The Edge’s guitar sound, especially in “I Will Follow,” is probably among the most prominent in rock. Capturing his signature delayed guitar sound requires some engineering, and getting the tone doesn’t matter if you don’t know the music! The Edge uses many two-string chords in this early U2 masterpiece.
46. Creep – Radiohead
Radiohead’s haunting and arguably best-known tune, “Creep,” keeps the same four-chord progression throughout the song. It alternates between an arpeggiated execution and the loud, distorted full chords riddled with feedback.
Incorporating the contrast between the soft electric picking in the verses and the harsh chorus plays heavily into capturing this song’s essence.
47. Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen
How many chords does it take to write a renowned American anthem? The Boss says two. Bruce Springsteen’s title track from his 1984 album “Born in the U.S.A.” is simple and relies on its gutsy power to be memorable.
You can play this song with a capo to get around the barre chord. Either way, you’re two chords closer to arena-worthy Americana.
48. Wild Thing – The Troggs
The Troggs’ “Wild Thing” is a rough and rugged mid-’60s rock hit that uses four chords and strictly plays down-strumming, making it a great starter song. This song features no guitar solo, as that raucous affair is commandeered by an ocarina, of all things. This is one of the best electric guitar songs to learn, so try it today!
49. Runnin’ with the Devil – Van Halen
As far as Van Halen goes, “Runnin’ with the Devil” isn’t too over-the-top for inexperienced guitarists. The sound owes much of its grit to its non-standard tuning. Even the solo, which is still decidedly Eddie van Halen’s style, isn’t that crazy compared to a lot of his other ones.
50. Beverly Hills – Weezer
If you’re a Weezer fan but haven’t mastered the art of intentional feedback, “Beverly Hills” is a great choice. Four chords primarily drive the main refrain and, consequently, the entire track. The wah-wah solo isn’t too complex either; most of the interest comes from the sound effect.
51. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
At the 47-second mark of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” the guitar joins in with this famous sports’ anthem’s memorable bassline. The bass part gets a lot of attention, but this is a fun guitar song, as well. The riff and solo are both doable and enjoyable for beginner guitarists.
52. My Generation – The Who
The Who’s “My Generation” involves somewhat more complex chords, including a handful of barre chords. The strumming pattern and rhythm are fairly easy, though, and nothing is too intricate or fast, except for Keith Moon’s wild drum solo at the end. Fortunately, that is none of your concern.
53. Rumble – Link Wray
This distorted, bluesy instrumental, “Rumble,” by Link Wray influenced generations of rock guitarists, especially coming into the ‘60s. The three chords are simple ones, but there are several fills, fast and slow, plus a solo, that add to this late ‘50s classic’s legacy.
54. Sharp Dressed Man – ZZ Top
“Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top is similar to “My Generation” in that it uses somewhat advanced chords without containing overly-complex strumming patterns. The solo that starts at one minute and seventeen seconds keeps a moderate pace and isn’t too demanding for new guitarists.
55. La Grange – ZZ Top
The riff in ZZ Top’s “La Grange” doesn’t feature complicated chords, but the intro and breaks require some finesse to convey its unforgettable soft groove. Once the song kicks in, it’s a matter of keeping the riff going at a consistent beat without losing any funky vibes.