Rock ‘n roll is part of the fabric of Western music. Whether you like blues rock, classic rock, or psychedelic rock, there’s a song for every taste. The good news is that even if you’re a beginner guitarist, you can still learn to play many of the recognizable songs and iconic riffs of rock music. Today, we’ll take a look at some easy rock songs to play on a guitar that just about anyone can learn to play.
Easy Rock Songs To Play On Guitar
Learning modern rock music and new songs from other genres can be fun, but there’s something special about learning classic rock songs. Here are 19 easy guitar rock songs to play:
1. “Cherub Rock” — The Smashing Pumpkins
“Cherub Rock” (Video below left) is one of the more famous songs by the legendary band The Smashing Pumpkins.
As these tabs show you, you don’t necessarily need to use power chords to play “Cherub Rock.” In the chorus, you need D, C, A, and G.
The Smashing Pumpkins use different chords in the verses, but nothing is overly hard to master. If you run these relatively simple chords through a distortion pedal (or other effects if you’d like), you can get a sound that’s pretty close to the original.
This video tutorial (below right) will show you how to play this one. It’s a great song to rock out to.
2. “Bad Moon Rising” — Creedence Clearwater Revival
When you compare this Creedence Clearwater Revival song (Video below left) to the song above, you’ll start to see that rock is a very broad genre. “Bad Moon Rising” sounds good on an acoustic guitar, but it also works well played electrically.
This is one of the easiest songs on the list to play — you only need the chords D, A, and G. If you want, you can play the power chord versions of them (D5, A5, and G5).
This video (below right) takes you through the chords you’ll need. And if you’re up for a challenge, it will talk you through the solo, too.
3. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” — Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan (Video below left) originally wrote “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” but a lot of people are more familiar with the Guns n’ Roses version (Video below center). At least in its original form, this song is a great example of folk rock.
This useful video tutorial (below right) is aimed at acoustic guitar players, but you can just as easily use it to learn to play this catchy tune on an electric guitar. You only need the chords G, D, Am, and C, and the video will show you the strumming pattern, too. How you play your version is up to you — if you prefer folk rock, you might be more inspired by the Dylan version. But if you prefer harder rock, the Guns n’ Roses version may be the better choice.
4. “Sweet Home Alabama” — Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Sweet Home Alabama” (Video below left) is probably one of the most instantly recognizable rock songs out there. It’s no wonder that guitarists of all levels want to learn this Lynyrd Skynyrd classic.
If you’d like a tutorial, this one shows you (Video below center) an easy-to-follow three-chord version. You only need C, D, and G. Like many easy rock songs, you can play this one with power chords if you prefer.
The song kicks into a great guitar solo twice, so if you’re looking to develop your skills as a lead guitarist, it’s worth learning! Here’s a video lesson (below right) covering the first one.
5. “Immigrant Song” — Led Zeppelin
This song (Video below left) is one of the more famous Led Zeppelin tracks (“Whole Lotta Love” is another).
With lyrics that trace back to Norse myth, “Immigrant Song” is a prime example of a song where great lyrics and relatively simple chords come together to make something unforgettable. It enjoyed a resurgence in popularity when it appeared on the Thor: Ragnarök soundtrack.
The chords to this one are a little more complex than some songs on the list: you’ll need A, E, B, C, C7, and C9. This video tutorial (below right) will take you through the tabs, too.
6. “Seven Nation Army” — The White Stripes
Even if you’ve never heard of The White Stripes, you’ve almost certainly heard the intro to “Seven Nation Army” (Video below left) — it’s one of the most iconic riffs in rock history.
Beginner guitarists might want to start out with the chords before working on the riff. This video tutorial (below center) will show you that the chords you need are relatively easy: Em, C, B7, G, and A. And if you want to learn to play the riff, check out this tutorial (below right), too. The original riff uses a guitar pitched down an octave to sound like a bass!
7. “House Of The Rising Sun” — The Animals
“House of the Rising Sun” (Video below left) has been played by a range of artists, but the version by The Animals is probably the most famous.
This is the perfect song for beginner guitarists to work on fingerpicking. With an easy chord progression and a moderate tempo, it’s a great song to use to build your skills. This video tutorial (below center) will take you through it; you just need Am, C, D, E, and F.
Of course, if you aren’t ready to fingerpick (Video below right), this is a great song to practice strumming on, too.
8. “I Love Rock N’ Roll” – Joan Jett
This Joan Jett classic is an essential rock n’ roll song for any new rock guitarist. You’ve almost certainly heard the opening riff from “I Love Rock n’ Roll.” (Video below left)
You can play this song using only three chords — A, E, and B. This tutorial (Video below center) will show you how.
If you’re working on solos, this song has a great one to learn. Not only is it incredibly catchy — it also offers you a chance to really improve your bending techniques. Here’s a lesson (Video below right) to help you get started.
9. “Jailhouse Rock” — Elvis Presley
If you want to hop in a time machine and go back to some of the beginnings of rock music as we know it, you can just listen and play along with the Elvis hit “Jailhouse Rock.” (Video below left) This great song was written for a movie also called Jailhouse Rock.
The chord progression is a relatively simple one, but the version presented in this video (below right) makes it even easier. Put a capo on the first fret, and all you’ll need are G, D, and A.
It’s worth noting that this song generally sounds better with the original major chords. But part of what makes playing rock music so much fun is the fact that you can always try new things. If you want to get more experience with power chords, you can always substitute G5, D5, and A5.
10. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” — Nirvana
Garage rock pioneers Nirvana were known for plenty of hits. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Video below left) is probably one of the most famous (and catchy) songs in their discography.
This song is great to practice using both riffs and strumming patterns. As this video tutorial (below right) will show you, the very first riff only uses two notes! In terms of chording, this version uses power chords F5, Ab5, Bb5, and Db5.
11. Sweet Child O’ Mine — Guns ‘N Roses
Like many of the easy rock songs to play on guitar, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (Video below left) is immediately recognizable to almost anyone! It was the only #1 hit in the United States for Guns n’ Roses.
If you’re looking to learn to play along to this classic with simple chords, this helpful tutorial (Video below center) shows you a beginner’s version that only uses D, C, G, and A.
The lead guitar parts are of course a bit more complicated. But if you want to learn what’s arguably one of the most iconic opening riffs in rock history, this video (below right) can talk you through it!
12. Sharp Dressed Man — ZZ Top
No list of famous rock guitar songs to learn would be complete without “Sharp Dressed Man” (Video below left) by ZZ Top. And of course, in keeping with the song’s theme, the album art for the single shows the band dressed in suits and hats!
This video (below center) can help you play along to the full song in no time — you will just need the chords Bb, C, F, and G. Much of the song is driven by the lead, so if you want to master that, this tutorial (Video below right) will show it to you.
13. “The Joker” — Steve Miller Band
If blues-rock songs are more your speed, you might like “The Joker.” (Video below left) If you don’t recognize the song by the title, you may have heard the famous opening line: “Some people call me the space cowboy, some call me the gangster of love.”
True to its blues roots, this song also uses a slide guitar (even when making wolf whistle sounds!).
This video tutorial (below right) will show you how to play the song using three chords while simultaneously playing out the bassline. If you’re very new to guitar, the bassline part may be hard to include. In this case, you can just work on strumming the chords.
14. “You Shook Me All Night Long” — AC/DC
Australian band AC/DC is responsible for some of the most enduring rock songs in history, and “You Shook Me All Night Long” (Video below left) is one of their true classics. While the song was initially released in 1980, AC/DC still plays it at just about every show.
Though you can of course learn many versions of this track, this beginner tutorial (Video below right) can take you through playing it with basic chords. You just need G, C, and D. Since the song involves relatively quick chord switching, it’ll make practicing chord changes a lot more fun.
15. “Smoke On The Water” — Deep Purple
The song was inspired by a true story. It’s written about a fire that destroyed a casino in Switzerland, completely derailing Deep Purple’s plan to record and release an album.
You can effectively play the iconic riff from this Deep Purple song while playing power chords. And as is the case with many rock songs, the power of “Smoke on the Water” doesn’t come from its complexity. If anything, it’s the song’s catchy yet relatively simple tune (Video below left) that’s given it enduring popularity.
In fact, the song is so popular that its main riff is probably one of the most played among casual guitarists. But if you want to learn more than just that famous riff, this tutorial (Video below right) will take you through the whole song.
16. “Free Fallin'” — Tom Petty
This Tom Petty song was a radio mainstay in its heyday. But “Free Fallin'” (Video below left) is still popular among guitarists — especially those who want a less “heavy” sound than you get with hard rock.
The simple yet beautiful rhythm portion of the song sounds great on acoustic guitar or on an electric guitar with a little chorus. This video resource (below right) shows you an easy version — with a capo at the third fret, you will just need G, D, and A.
And since the strumming pattern more or less repeats throughout the song, you’ll probably be able to learn it relatively quickly. If you primarily play acoustic rock or want to work on playing and singing at the same time, this unforgettable Tom Petty song is a great choice to start with.
17.”You Really Got Me” — Van Halen
Van Halen is a band that has more than earned itself a place in rock history. Part of that success is due to The abilities of Eddie Van Halen, the band’s lead guitarist — he has often been described as one of the best players in the world.
The Van Halen track “You Really Got Me” (Video below left) is one of the best easy rock songs for beginners to learn, too. This tutorial (Video below right) takes you through a beginner-friendly version of the song. Since it’s not quite as complex as so many other Van Halen songs, it’s ideal for beginner rockers who want to start honing their style and power chord techniques.
18. “Dead Flowers” — The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are practically synonymous with rock music. And though some Rolling Stones songs can be somewhat complex to play, “Dead Flowers” (Video below left) is one of the easier ones to master.
This resource (Video below center) lets you view chords and lyrics and play along. And as you can see, you’ll only need three chords: D, A, and G.
Of course, to play in true Rolling Stones style, you might want to substitute D5, A5, and G5. If you feel inclined to venture into soloing, here’s a demonstration (Video below right) with tablature so you can follow along.
19. “It’s So Easy” — Buddy Holly
It’s only fitting that the last on our easy rock songs list is by Buddy Holly, one of the most pivotal figures in the shaping of rock as a genre. “It’s So Easy” (Video below left) might not sound exactly like a rock as we know it today, but in hearing the song, it’s easy to see how Buddy Holly’s music gave way to modern rock.
Luckily, this Buddy Holly song is easy to learn just like its name. In terms of chords, you’ll just need A, E, D, and B7. This play-along tutorial (Video below right) shows you the chords and offers an example strumming pattern. Of course, as you shape your own style, feel free to experiment with different patterns to put your own twist on the song.
Ready To Learn More?
Whether you want to jump into Rolling Stones-style rock ‘n roll, learn to play like Eric Clapton, explore alternative rock music, or even start recording your debut album, an online learning program for guitar can help. If you’re a beginner guitarist, you can get a solid foundation as you learn how to play guitar.
If you’re more advanced, there are seemingly endless courses and lessons focused on different genres, power chords, lead techniques, and countless other tools to improve your guitar playing. Plus, you get access to advice from hundreds of instructors for much less than the cost of in-person lessons!
Hopefully, these easy guitar rock songs are enough to get you started. Whether you’re learning power chords, just trying to improve your repertoire of guitar songs, or are new to guitar playing altogether, familiar songs can be a great tool for learning something new. Is there one song you’d recommend playing first? Let us know in the comments, and please don’t forget to like and share if you found this article useful!