Starting out on guitar, it can be hard to find a great song that’s easy enough to play right away. A lot of famous songs are virtually impossible to play even for experienced players — take a look at the tab for Paradise City, Stairway to Heaven, or One and you’ll see what I mean. But when you look closer, there are quite a few really easy songs that are also famous and successful. These are some of the best, in no particular order.
The White Stripes — Seven Nation Army:
Jack White’s classic rock hit is one of the easiest rock songs ever written, but it’s also popular. The riff can be played on a single string, and the solo is almost the same. It really only takes one riff to learn the whole song, as the others are just variations on it, but you can do a lot more with it; the possibilities for variations in notes, tones, and styles are unlimited.
Nirvana — Smells Like Teen Spirit:
This is a surprisingly mainstream song for its genre, and really easy to cover for every instrument, which makes it an extremely common song for new bands to cover. Like Seven Nation Army, it’s a song every guitarist should know. The timing gets a little tricky when the main riff repeats in the chorus, but there isn’t much else that’s hard about it; even the solo is simple.
Green Day — Boulevard of Broken Dreams:
Arguably Green Day’s most famous song, Broken Dreams was a punk rock classic right from the start. It’s one of their most famous songs since their early hits like Longview and Welcome to Paradise. It’s easily and instantly recognizable, and like many other bands’ most successful songs, surprisingly easy.
Rage Against the Machine — Killing in the Name:
RATM can be hard to classify as any particular genre, but they do what they do well. This song is easily their most famous, and while it might not be the most popular rock song the world has seen, it’s pretty widely known. It has several riffs that have some slightly complex rhythms, so it might be more difficult than some other songs on this list, but it’s still obtainable.
Black Sabbath — Paranoid:
This heavy metal classic is as old as it is classic, but that’s partially why it’s so famous. It’s easy to play for every instrument, including vocals, so it’s a common song for bands that are just starting up to cover. It can be played in a variety of different styles, from punk to thrash, and the key can be easily changed as well to the vocalist’s preference.
AC/DC — Back in Black:
AC/DC released their first album with their new singer Brian Johnson with some understandable doubt; not many bands survive switching vocalists so late in their career. But it paid off, and Back in Black is their most successful song to date, and one of their most well known. Like so many other bands, their most famous song is also the easiest to play, and while the solos get a little tight, there isn’t much else to the song.
Green Day — American Idiot:
This punk rock hit has some fast power chord transitions, but other than that it’s pretty simple and very catchy. It’s also a very typical Green Day song, so if you know it, you can learn many other Green Day songs without too many new techniques.
Black Sabbath — Iron Man:
The instantly recognizable riff will get every audience’s attention, and although it is cheesy, it’s catchy enough to make up for that. It’s all easy until the solos, but even though they are fast both are pretty easy to learn. It offers quite a few interesting riffs besides the main one, so it’s pretty interesting to learn too. And if you do end up learning the solo, it’s not a bad one to start on.
Marylin Manson — The Beautiful People:
Twiggy Ramirez’s instantly recognizable riff and Manson’s catchy vocal styles paired with their usual radical, extreme, and gory violent lyrics made an instant metal classic when Antichrist Superstar was released in 1996. The song is extremely simple and doesn’t have a solo, but it gets you right in the middle of the 90s metal scene with only a few simple riffs.
Pantera — Walk:
You know the riff. Why not play it? This is another metal classic, this one with some harsher distortion and vocals, though it’s not quite extreme metal. Don’t let the weird tuning scare you off; it can be played just fine in E standard. The actual tuning lowers every string by one and a quarter notes, in a very strange setup that can only be described as C#.25. The solo is fairly difficult, as any of Dimebag’s solos are, but other than that section, it’s a simple classic that takes almost no experience to play.
These are not even close to the only ones; there are lots of others. These are just ideas. If you want more, check out Crazy Train, Come as You Are, almost any old school Green Day song, or nearly every Black Sabbath or Ozzy tune you can find. If you want a challenge that’s still fairly obtainable, try Seek and Destroy or Ace of Spades. In either case, use Songsterr, it’s easily the best free platform out there for tabs you can play along to real-time. Hope that helped you find something you like!