Getting started on the acoustic guitar can be intimidating. There is so much incredible music out there. Where do you start? Of course, we all need to learn the fundamentals of the instrument. We need to learn our chord shapes, the names of the strings, how the notes are laid out across the fingerboard, etc. But enough of that. Let’s talk about three songs every player should learn as they embark on their acoustic guitar learning journey.
Wild Thing – The Troggs
“Wild Thing” might be the most played song for guitarists just getting familiar with chord shapes. Its I, IV, V chord progression is so familiar that we’re all guilty of playing the song when we don’t even know it. It’s the same progression at the foundation of the blues and countless other rock and pop songs. On top of that, the chords never change.
That’s what makes it a perfect starter tune. Getting each chord shape down and transitioning between them is difficult when first learning. Songs with complicated progressions and a ton of voicings only complicate the matter. Not “Wild Thing.” The repeating chords and simplicity of its strumming pattern are a starter guitar lesson in a rock song. View the guitar tab here.
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day
Like “Wild Thing,” Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” makes the very most out of a straightforward chord progression. And again, three chords are pretty much all you need. But it’s how Billie Joe Armstrong arpeggiated – or picked out the notes of the chords separately – that makes this one a great song to learn for getting your chops in shape.
The song starts out of the gate with a bouncing, flat-picked pattern while Billie holds a G major chord. He then moves up a string and repeats a similar pattern holding a Csus chord. Finally, he drops into a familiar open-position D chord, continuing the motion.
Note: G, C, D is the same as the I, IV, V progression of “Wild Thing.”
Though the feel is loose throughout, and Armstrong goes into full-on strumming for much of the song, the arpeggiation and string skipping in this song offer the most benefit to a new guitarist. This can be tough when you’re starting, but don’t get frustrated. Just enjoy making music and learning such a fun acoustic guitar song. View guitar tab here.
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
“Wish You Were Here” takes the simple strumming of “Wild Thing,” mixes in the single-string picking of “Good Riddance,” and adds a low-string melody to your playing arsenal. Instead of digging into the chords at full speed, David Gilmour leads into each one with one of the most recognizable acoustic guitar melodies ever. While he’s not officially playing chord melodies (that’s for a more advanced lesson), and he’s not strumming away, he’s kind of playing both the lead and rhythm at the same time.
Luckily, the song isn’t too difficult to play once you learn the melody and chord progression. The key is to keep the tempo slow and consistent as you pick through each low note and balance it with a delicate strum.
This song is great to learn for so many reasons. Bringing your single-note lines and rhythm work together is just one. But the most important reason to learn “Wish You Were Here” is because you’ll have everyone around singing with you at the top of their lungs as soon as you start plucking out its classic melody. View the guitar tab here.