If you've ever watched some of the world's best classical guitarists play, getting to be good at classical guitar can seem like a distant dream. But even as a new player, one of the best ways to motivate yourself to get better is mastering new pieces on classical guitar. In this list, we'll take you through some easy classical guitar songs you can master even if you're very new to the instrument.
8 Easy Classical Guitar Songs to Learn
1. Bach's Minuet
This classic minuet (a social dance that's somewhat like a waltz) was once thought to have been written by Bach himself, but music historians now believe it was actually written by composer Christian Petzold. The song was composed for a notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, a professional singer, and Bach's second wife.
If you're ready to get started on this famous easy classical guitar piece, this free PDF shows you both the guitar tabs and the sheet music. Of course, it's always good to hear a song before you start learning to play it. (Sight-reading can be a fun new challenge as you gain experience, but as a beginner, you'll want to focus on learning some classical guitar songs to build your repertoire first.) This video takes you through how to play "Minuet in G."
Of course, while we're going over this simple melody and other easy classical songs, don't feel as though you absolutely have to have a guitar with nylon strings to play. While many of these songs are designed for classical guitar, there's nothing wrong with playing them on a steel-string acoustic guitar.
It can be challenging if you have larger fingers, as the nut width on a steel string tends to be narrower than that on a guitar with nylon strings. But once you get the hang of it, most of these classical guitar songs are perfectly playable regardless of the type of guitar you have.
2. In The Hall Of The Mountain King
"In the Hall of the Mountain King" was written in 1875. And considering its age, it's made an impressive number of appearances in contemporary movies, including The Social Network, Needful Things, Inspector Gadget, and even Trolls. In short, it's one of the most culturally relevant easy classical guitar pieces on the list.
These free PDFs of classical guitar tabs and sheet music will help you get started on this remarkable song. If you want to check out a demo, this is a helpful video tutorial.
While it's on electric guitar, it still gives you a feel for how the song should sound. And even if you don't recognize the name of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (who initially wrote the song for a play), you'll probably recognize the tune as soon as you hear it!
"In the Hall of the Mountain King" is one of the easy classical guitar pieces you should really take your time with. Be sure to slowly go through the guitar tabs -- learning a fast song like this one can be intimidating. But if you master it at a slower tempo first, you can eventually play faster with ease.
3. Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring
Here's another song that most people will immediately recognize. This classic song was also written by J.S. Bach, and it can be adapted for guitarists of all levels. It was written as a part of Bach's 1716 cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, which translates to "heart and mouth and deed and life."
However, the song has become immensely popular in its own right, and it has been adapted for just about every musical instrument. To hear an excellent classical guitar adaptation, check out this video (below - left) featuring classical guitarist Per-Olov Kindgren.
As is the case with learning most classical guitar songs, video lessons can help you get the basics of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." This video (top - right) tutorial takes new guitarists through the song, and it also offers a helpful demo. And if you need classical guitar tabs, this site offers both tabs and sheet music.
The up-tempo nature of this piece might make it a little intimidating for new fingerstyle or classical guitar players. "Bolero" was written by Maurice Ravel, and it was originally meant to be a ballet. It's a fun piece to play, as it was designed to begin very quietly and end very loudly. This video (below - left) tutorial scrolls through the classical guitar tabs and also shows you fingerings on the fretboard.
While the above tutorial covers the easy classical version, you might be interested to see a full arrangement. This video demo (top - right) lets you hear a more advanced version being played. And if you stick with classical guitar, you'll likely be able to play it one day, too!
It's important to remember that while "Bolero" and other guitar songs on our list are described as being easy classical guitar pieces, they still will take considerable time to learn. After all, learning new guitar fingerings is typically more involved than learning to strum basic chords. But if you love playing, you'll almost certainly find the practice rewarding as you see your skills improve.
5. La Cucaracha
"La Cucaracha" is a catchy Mexican folk tune whose name means "The Cockroach." And even though its subject is unappealing, the song is a fun one for beginner classical guitarists to explore.
However, like many enduring songs from past time periods, the lyrics of "La Cucaracha" have some historical significance. Some of them reference the Mexican Revolution. For example, the line "Carranzitas can beat it because Villa's men are coming" references Pancho Villa leading a revolt against Mexican president Venustanio Carranza.
Check out this free PDF guide for classical guitar tabs and sheet music. And if you want to see it played by an experienced guitarist, check out this video demo.
Like many guitar songs for nylon string instruments, this one can be made as simple or as difficult as it needs to be. It's a good song to work on gradually building speed while honing basic techniques. Be sure to start slow. It can be tempting for a beginner to start playing quickly, but speed follows good technique.
Make sure your right hand and left hand are working together and that you can play each note without mistakes. Then, you can build speed -- this is one of the classical guitar songs that's especially fun to play fast. Practicing with a metronome can be especially helpful -- as you build your speed, you can gradually master playing in time, too.
6. Ode To Joy
"Ode to Joy" is easily one of the most famous songs by Ludwig van Beethoven. And while it's especially memorable when played as a swelling orchestra piece, it's one of the easier classical guitar songs to play when distilled to just the melody. In fact, "Ode to Joy" should probably be one of the first classical guitar songs you learn. It's played one note at a time, so you don't have to coordinate playing bass notes and treble notes at the same time.
To help you learn this song, we've found two video tutorials that are especially helpful. This one (below - left) uses two video angles to show you how to play the melody from this iconic song. Especially when you're first starting out, watching an instructor play guitar songs from multiple angles can help you make sure you're playing is on the right track.
If you enjoy playing while you can also follow classical guitar tabs, video tutorials like this one (top - right) might be a better choice. This one scrolls through classical guitar tabs in time with the music.
7. No. 1 In C Major
Any serious classical guitarist is familiar with Fernando Sor, a legendary instructor, and composer. And while Sor is famous for creating incredible pieces for classical guitar (including this beautiful piece [below - left] played by Tatyana Ryzhkova), he also composed a number of classical guitar songs for beginner players.
An excellent one to study is Op. 60 No. 1 in C Major. This video lesson (top - right) takes you through how to play it. The lesson comes with a sheet music scroll, but not tablature.
If you prefer classical guitar tabs to the more traditional sheet music, this page has helpful classical guitar tabs to help you play the melody.
8. Spanish Romance
This is one of the more complex classical guitar songs on the list, but it's well worth learning. It's a good one to move into once you've mastered some of the classical guitar songs that only require one note at a time. "Spanish Romance" (which is also sometimes called "Romance de Amor") starts with using your thumb and ring finger at the same time.
This is a great introduction to one of the key skills you'll need to play classical guitar -- using your thumb to play bass notes while using your other fingers to play treble notes. "Spanish Romance" also might be the first classical guitar song you play that requires string bends.
Even if you've practiced string bending on an acoustic guitar with steel strings, learning to bend on a classical guitar can feel a lot different at first. Bending strings is a great way to play with more expression, and it's a fun tool to use once you get the hang of it.
This video tutorial takes you through "Spanish Romance". Since this is one of the more complex classical guitar songs, it's a good idea to break it into smaller parts. "Spanish Romance" is a highly emotional piece, and it's a great song to practice playing each note with feeling. You can also check out these free PDFs for printable sheet music and classical guitar tabs.
This last easy song is another highly emotional piece that's a common one for beginners. "Lagrima" was written by Franceso Tarrega, a master composer considered to be the "father of classical guitar." This song will help you master some of the techniques you'll need to succeed at playing guitar. For one, it's an excellent piece to help you master the right-hand picking technique. You'll also need to slide your left hand up and down the neck. If you're used to steel-stringed acoustic guitar, this might be harder than it looks -- while a steel-string acoustic guitar usually will have fretboard markers, classical guitars traditionally do not.
You can find the sheet music and classical guitar tabs for "Lagrima" here. However, since this is one of the more complicated classical guitar songs on the list, it can be tough to teach yourself from guitar tabs alone. This video tutorial will take you through the song and show you the classical guitar tabs too.
Want to Learn More?
Classical guitar is an especially complex instrument to learn. In particular, beginning classical guitarists may have trouble learning techniques like the snare drum effect or rasgueado. And while watching individual free video tutorials can be of some help, most new classical guitar players aren't always sure what they should learn next.
That's where structured video tutorials and other online guitar courses come in. Even watching a skilled guitar teacher demonstrate classical guitar technique can save you time down the line -- you'll likely master playing in less time, and you reduce your risk of developing bad habits that can take considerable effort to correct. Plus, you get to learn at your own pace, so you can focus on your trouble spots and breeze through what you find easy.
As you can see, classical guitar music doesn't always have to be incredibly complex. With these songs, you can develop your skills and build your confidence while you grow as a player. But what do you think? Did we leave out any good classical guitar songs for beginners? Please let us know in the comments, and don't forget to like and share if you found it useful!