You may have purchased that old acoustic guitar sitting in the corner of your living room at a garage sale, sold to you by a guy who promises that Hendrix once blessed the steel strings with voodoo, but, for whatever reason, never had the nerve to pick it up. Or maybe you hid it away in a closet after you were sick of the rhythmic pentatonic scales that somehow still echo in your dreams.
Either way, now is a better time than ever to pick the ole steed up, and strum a few chords. Now, we know there is a different strum for every bum, and thus we created a list of some basic songs, ranging from rock to classic rock (depending on your emotional stirrings at the time) that you can rip over and over again by the campfire, or by yourself). We’ll try to keep it a little more, I don’t want to say interesting so I’ll use the phrase: out there then Wonderwall or Smoke On the Water (the latter of which is a great song to learn power chords), but certainly no promises. Also given my affinity for jam bands, I will try to limit myself to just a few songs from the genre.
Grateful Dead — Fire on the Mountain
Ah, the song that is always led into so beautifully by Scarlet Begonias. This is a Dead song that most everyone knows and loves, and with only a two chord progression, going back and forth, all you really need to master is the strumming pattern. This song is also great to practice palm muting, and you really can make the B → A sound so much more interesting than it seems at face value.
Beatles — Eight Days a Week
^ This is also just an awesome video
This song’s intro is so catchy, and really a breeze to play. The rest of the song follows a basic chord progression of your fundamental C’s, F’s and D’s. It’s such a fun song to start up in the other room, and as you hit the first verse all of your fellow quarantine pals (humans or otherwise) will step into line and start singing along. A lot of tabs call for a capo, but the below does not, and think it sounds just as groovy.
Fleetwood Mac — Landslide
This is an ideal song to start up with finger picking and is very easy to catch onto. The only other that is a great intro to using the ole dedos is Blackbird, but wanted to limit this list to one song per artist. It’s such a pretty song, and generally everyone knows it. The verses and the chorus follow the same progression, so while it’s not overly nuanced, it can certainly sound it. Moreover, if you want to get funky, the solo is pretty basic and is lots of fun to play. You can also transition seamlessly into 59th Street Bridge Song… with the capo on the same fret (not that you’d want to, but it’s the same chord progression and might be cool for a covershow)!
Phish — Waste
Now this song can seem a little daunting when looking at the tab, but it really is basic once you get the hang of it. You are really just altering an F to bend to the whim of wasting time. It’s an iconic Phish song that everyone knows and loves, whether or not they’re the type to get amped about Chalk Dust Torture, or Carini (the latter of which I do not fall into the camp of being psyched about). It’s also one of the few Phish songs that are good to play when trying to have a nice romantic dinner, or when settling down for the evening. And what better time to waste time with the ones you love?
Goo Goo Dolls — Iris
Does your heart ever wane for eye shadow, popped collars, gelled hair, and chunky metal teeth? Perhaps not, but Iris is a song that always gets the nostalgic heart strings singing their tune, and places you back in a time where things seemed to be challenging but, of course, they weren’t (but naturally, they were). This song is real, and it will never not be. It is also a song that introduces you to a different tuning of the guitar: Drop-D. This one isn’t nearly as much of a pain as some others, as it only requires you to drop the two E strings (you can match the tone to the D string if you don’t have a special tuner handy).
Allman Brothers — Jessica
This was actually one of the first songs I ever learned, and it remains a staple in my arsenal when I pick up to play and am drawing a blank. It’s a fairly easy fingerpicking song, and aside from the bridge can be learned quickly. It’s also an iconic rhythm that almost everyone knows and can down with. While it doesn’t sound nearly as good as it does on a Les Paul (a guitar Duane Allman is known for shredding), it can sound pretty damn good on any sort of acoustic.
James Taylor — Something in the Way She Moves
Whenever I am hanging with my parents, or the sort from their generation, I love to play JT. His music transgresses through generations, and a lot of them are played in a similar manner. These songs are very fun to play as they tend to combine fingerpicking and strumming in a way that sounds far more engaging than if you were to binary play on or the other. The song follows a similar progression and utilizes the same capo location as Fire and Rain, so either one is a good place to start.
Dave Matthews — Satellite
Am I showing my roots too much? In honor of my high school self, this is a fantastic song to get your fret hand more used to moving up and down the board without having to take pauses. If you have a larger hand, this song becomes easier, but regardless once mastered any looking eye will easily be impressed. It apparently was a song Dave wrote when he was doing fretboard exercises… So what better place to begin? It’s also an awesome music video, and will have you feel the 90s.