One of the main reasons anybody picks up a guitar is to learn to play songs. Nobody ever says, “Gee, I want to learn how to play a major scale.” I have, however, heard lots people say, “Wow, I want to learn how to play that.”
The thing is, no song is out of reach if you really want to learn how to play it, but jumping into a Van Halen or Jim Hendrix piece is probably not going to happen right away. Learning to play songs on guitar is like learning to do anything else—you do it in smaller increments. Before you can play complex songs, you need to start with something a bit more realistic.
Easy songs on guitar aren’t hard to find. If you know a few basic first position guitar chords, you’ll be able to play hundreds of easy songs on guitar in almost any musical genre (the exception being jazz standards, which aren’t typically for beginners).
To play easy songs on guitar start with open position major and minor chords. When you’re ready to add some more advanced option, you can add open position suspended and seventh chords to your repertoire.
Before you attempt to play a song, run through these chords and make sure you can form them adequately so that all of the notes sound. You might have to adjust your fingers to make this happen. Place the tips of your right behind the frets (the metal bars on the guitar neck), then bend your wrist out slightly to make sure your fingers don’t touch other strings, which will deaden the sound. See the illustration below.
Once you can form the chords, practice changing from one to another as smoothly as possible. Strum while you’re changing chords. It doesn’t have to be difficult strum patterns. A simple up and down strum will work fine. The key here is to just make sure you can continue strumming the chords as you change between them. You can practice more advanced or fancy strum patterns later.
That’s all the technique and musical knowledge you need to play easy songs on guitar. Here are five easy songs you can play with these chords:
“Hotel California” (The Eagles) Easy version strummed and picked for advanced.
“Against the Wind” (Bob Seger)
“More Than a Feeling (Boston) Sounds great strummed on acoustic guitar.