Country music is ideal for beginners. Yes, there are your Brad Paisleys who are basically what Eddie Van Halen would have sounded like if he was from Texas, but for every Jerry Donahues there are a hundred Johnny Cashes – simple songs with simple chords and simple strumming patterns – simple for beginners.
We’re going to run through our favourite country songs for beginners, from the 40s right up to modern day. To make things as easy as possible, we’ve included a YouTube video for each song plus a link to either the chords or the tabs (and if you need a primer on how to read tab, we’ve got that too).
- Achy, Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus
- Okie from Muskogee By Merle Haggard
- Boys ‘Round Here by Blake Shelton
- I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash
- King of the Road by Roger Miller
- When You Say Nothing at All by Keith Whitley
- Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton
- The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
- Country Girl (Shake It for Me) By Luke Bryan
- There Was This Girl by Riley Green
- Ocean Front Property by George Strait
- Blown Away by Carrie Underwood
- Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
- Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks
- Jambalaya by Hank Williams
- Jolene By Dolly Parton
- Sixteen Tons by Merle Travis
- Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show
- A Boy Named Sue By Johnny Cash
- Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton
- El Paso by Marty Robbins
- I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
- Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys by Willie Nelson
- On the Road Again by Willie Nelson
- Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver
- Thank God I’m a Country Boy by John Denver
- Act Naturally by Buck Owens
- City of New Orleans by Steven Goodwin
- Cruise by Florida Georgia Line
- Cry! Cry! Cry! by Johnny Cash
- Family Tradition by Hank Williams Jr.
- Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Day) by The Judds
- Guitars, Cadillacs by Dwight Yoakam
- He Didn’t Have to Be by Brad Paisley
- I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink by Merle Haggard
- I’m Gonna Be Somebody by Travis Tritt
- I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams
- It’s Your Love by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
- More of You by Chris Stapleton
- Rockytop by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
- Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter
- The Fightin’ Side of Me by Merle Haggard
- Together Again by Buck Owens
- Waiting on You by Lindsay Ell
- Whiskey River by Willie Nelson
Achy, Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus
Fun fact, the first guitar lesson I took (as a somewhat experienced player) involved Achy Breaky Heart. Some people will say it’s not a real country song, but nobody can deny it’s a simple song for guitar beginners.
While the song does have a single note run, the main verse and chorus sections are two simple chords, A and E, in rotation over and over. Even the single note run at the start is quite easy for beginners.
As a bonus, this song is so well known, you can pull it out of the bag in pretty much any situation and get a sing along going, from a campfire to a house party.
Okie from Muskogee By Merle Haggard
Continuing on with another two chord wonder, this is one of the most well known songs by one of the most popular and successful stars of the genre of all time. This song was so popular that it was a Hot Country Singles number 1 within 3 months of it’s release – not a simple thing to achieve back in 1969 when songs didn’t have the internet to get the word out and send them to number 1 on week 1.
On top of being only two simple chords, this song introduces some very simple guitar fingerpicking for beginners to help you get start getting comfortable with the technique. In addition, the simple melody and storytelling technique within the song is a great pointer for anyone interested in writing their own songs.
Boys ‘Round Here by Blake Shelton
One of the things I like about this country song for beginners is that there are only two chords but there are two different ways to play them in different parts of the songs. Both the A and D can be played as either the simple cowboy chord fashion, or (as with the video above) you can switch it up and take a shot at power chords, or barre chords.
Released in 2013, Boys Round Here was an immediate hit in the country world, and it’s easy to see why. Shelton has always been a witty liricist, and this number is no exception.
In addition to having two simple chords, the strumming pattern is super easy for beginners – you can see why we put this right at the start of our list!
- Chords: A, D
I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash
For many people, I Walk The Line is the first song that comes to mind when you say country music. Even for people who would never listen to country music, Johnny Cash is the one guy they have time for. Cash wasn’t your typical country star, and his hard living on top of his musical genius is what made him a legend, enough to have his own biopic, named – what else – Walk The Line.
The great thing about this song is it has a very simple chord structure and can be played with a basic strumming pattern for absolute beginners, but for intermediate or advanced beginners, there’s the playful intro line that gives you good practice of playing single notes in an off beat rhythm. In addition, the correct strumming in the verse can provide a light challenge to keep you coming back to this song for more.
King of the Road by Roger Miller
While Roger Miller is generally known purely as a country artist, King Of The Road is a song beloved by fans of all genres – how many country songs do you know have reggae covers? This is another one that is great to have in your back pocket for campfires or any other singalong situation.
Another simple three country chords song, this one kicks it up a little for medium beginners by having a key change mid song. You can play around with the key of this song if you wish to keep it open chords, or you can bust out some simple barre chords and keep on trucking. In addition, there are a ton of ways to approach the strumming, from a simple beginner approach to a more involved almost flamenco intermediate player strumming action. With this one, the balls in your court.
When You Say Nothing at All by Keith Whitley
Originally written in 1998 by Don Schlitz (who also wrote The Gambler) and Paul Overstreet (who also wrote Forever and Ever, Amen), When You Say Nothing At All was a minor hit twice (for Alison Krauss in 1995 and Ronan Keating in 1999), but neither topped the success of Keith Whitley’s chart topping 1988 version.
While this song is only three simple chords, it has a neat strumming pattern and a handful of simple hammer ons that make it perfect for a beginner guitarist who wants a little bit of a challenge. At the same time, the basic song is easy enough that for many, it’s the first song they learn to play. Truly a beginner country song for all guitarists.
Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton
Covered many times since David Allan Coe’s 1981 original, Stapleton put out what may be the definitive cover in 2015, and if you’re a modern country fan, you will probably know this song off by heart. Honestly, you don’t even need to be a little bit country because Tennesse Whiskey even made it into the top quarter of the Billboard Hot 100.
For guitarists, this is a really fun one to learn. The opening bassline is a blast and quite a break from the strum heavy tunes on the rest of this list, and if you’re not super confident with barre chords, you can use a capo to play the A as a G and the Bm as an Am. Simple.
- Chords: A, Bm
- Chords / Tab
The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
If you’re learning country songs for a singalong, boy you need to start with this guy. While the chord changes can be a little tricky for a beginner up to speed, and the B chord barre can be a little challenging, once you get this one under your fingers, you are ready to lead a crowd at a campfire.
Originally written by Don Schlitz (who also wrote When You Say Nothing At All on this list), the song was a hit for Kenny Rogers in 1978 and even made it over to the pop charts. Rogers walked away with multiple Grammys that year, and we all walked away with some of the best chorus lyrics to come out of country music.
Country Girl (Shake It for Me) By Luke Bryan
Country girl is a song that can open a lot of doors for a new guitarist. The chords and strumming pattern are quite simple, but if you’re any further along than an absolute beginner, you’ll want to learn the intro arpeggio, as it is a style that you’ll find yourself using over and over as you learn more songs. Same with he fingerpicking in the song – you can strum but getting the fingerpicking right will open doors for you to many other songs.
As for the song, well it’s hard to say if you could get away with the lyrics of this song in 2021, but Luke Bryan gives the song enough playful energy and catchy melody to make it clear that the song is more tongue in cheek than straight up sexist.
There Was This Girl by Riley Green
Often considered a masterclass in country storytelling, There Was This Girl does a masterful job in combining classic country sounds with some of the nuances of contemporary country music – and good news for you, as far as the guitar in this song, you’re looking at some easy guitar work. Three simple open chords run in a circle through the song, and the strumming patterns are simple enough for anyone – though for intermediate beginners there’s a few fingerpicking riffs and arpeggiated bits to keep you entertained.
- Chords: G, A, D
Ocean Front Property by George Strait
For a song with a somewhat depressing set of lyrics, Ocean Front Property is quite upbeat to play. The chords are simple open chords and the strumming pattern is very much suitable for beginner guitarists looking to learn easy country songs – which is you!
Written by an all star team of Dean Dillon, Hank Cochran and Royce Porter, the song was originally released in 1986 and quickly went on to be a number one hit in both the US and Canada.
Blown Away by Carrie Underwood
One of the most notable things about this song is how well it straddles the line between being a country song and a pop song. The song has a pop melody, but the lyrics have a classic country theme – easy to see why it was such a huge hit on release.
For guitarists, the song can be played in two flavors – either with the simple strumming pattern, or if you’re feeling adventurous, as a fingerpicked song. This makes it a great song to learn when you’re new to the guitar, and then come back to later when you feel like fingerpicking is more within your reach.
Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
If you weren’t a Johnny Cash Fan before you started to learn to play country guitar, you will be by the end of it. There’s a reason the man in black is all over this list – he not only writes songs that are easy to play for beginners, he writes songs so good that everyone knows them, and Ring Of Fire is no exception. Bust this one out for a campfire singalong and hear everyone go nuts on the deep soar of the chorus.
Guitarwise, the song is actually quite straight forward. it has a very simple strum, and uses two almost interchangeable chords as far as fingering (G and C) with the only real change being the D chord, though you can leave the ring finger in place. You may want to start at a slower tempo to make the chord changes easier, but after a few runs you should be up to speed and no longer feel the burn, burn, burn…
Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks
Anyone who was even tangentially aware of music in the early 90s knows this song. I even remember this on the radio on one of the few occasions we were allowed to listen to music before school – Garth Brooks fever caught our household hard, as it did for everyone else.
This is a good song to break out the capo, as we’ve added the below chords with beginners in mind. Again it’s one where you can learn the simple strum of the chorus as a brand new beginner, and then come back later with some fingerpicking experience to take on the arpeggiated verses.
Jambalaya by Hank Williams
When you talk about iconic country songs, Jambalaya has to be top of the list. Sounding not unlike Grand Texas, the song has a catchy tune and simple lyrics that can be remembered by anyone, and more importantly played by anyone, hence it’s cult status among cowboys and the people who want to be cowboys.
For guitarists, the song is a doozy. The song has a simple strumming pattern and only two chords that are almost identical – how could anything be easier?
Jolene By Dolly Parton
Perhaps not one for absolute beginners, Jolene is a good target for someone who wants to get their fingers up to speed as far as changing chords quickly. You will need a capo to pull this one off with open chords (aka cowboy chords), but Am, C and G are just about the easiest chords for beginners, making this much less challenging than you might expect.
The song itself needs no introduction – if you want an example of Dolly’s songwriting prowess, Jolene is your song. Covered by just about every country singer since it’s release, and quite a few non-country singers, the song finally received a Grammy in 2016 when acapella group Pentatonix had their version. About time!
Sixteen Tons by Merle Travis
It’s funny, Merle Travis is one of those guys who people don’t talk about all that much any more, but you go back and listen to his songs and you’ll find yourself surprised at how many of them you know. Sixteen Tons is another one of these – first recorded in 1946 and inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2015, you might not remember all the words but you know the tune.
Playing wise, the song is a little more for the advanced beginners as it does have some pretty complicated fingerpicking, but if you can pick this one up you have a great foundation for both the orientation of your fingers as well as the dexterity required to pull of some more intermediate to advanced songs.
Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show
Wagon Wheel is a fun song to play – pretty simple chords and a strum pattern you’ve probably played a hundred times by now – but the real magic is when you sing over top – what a melody.
The song was originally written in part by Bob Dylan and in part by Old Crow Medicine’s Ketch Scor who came up with the verses. Over the years it’s been covered too many times to remember, with Darius Rucker’s version seeing the most commercial success, and that’s what makes it a great country song for beginner guitarists – everyone knows it when it comes to sing along.
A Boy Named Sue By Johnny Cash
Long an off-beat country favorite, A Boy Name Sue was often Cash’s opportunity to go off script and entertain the audience with an adlib. Originally written by noted American author/satirist/humorist Shel Silverstein (yes, that Shel Silverstein) and recorded at Cash’s famous/infamous San Quentin State Prison concert, the lyrical pattern of AABCCB gave Cash the opportunity to make up his own variations on the lyrics from time to time – which he often did. Cash considered the song a high point in any set he played as some light relief from his more serious material.
As far as a song for beginner guitarists, A Boy Named Sue couldn’t be more straight forward. As long as you can play the three chords and get the strumming pattern down, you’re ready to roll. The chords and strum repeat through the whole song with no modifications, making it a “set it and forget it” country song for beginner guitarists.
Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton
Another song that can be revisited as you get better at the guitar, Coat Of Many Colors can be played with a simple strumming pattern, or as you improve, as a fingerstyle piece. There are also a good handful of embellishments that can be added as your skill level rises to meet the complexity of the song.
While Coat Of Many Colors wasn’t exactly a hit on it’s release, it’s come to be something of a country staple over the years, being both a fixture of Dolly’s own setlists and a favorite for other artists to cover.
El Paso by Marty Robbins
El Paso can be a little more challenging for some players as it’s a quicker song and features a lot of chord changes, but many of the chords at either minor or 7th chords, mkaing them that much easier to play.
Mary Robbins wrote and recorded the song in 1959, first released on his record Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, and the single went quickly to number 1, earning him a Grammy in the process. The song is considered a classic within the genre both for the distinctive tex-mex feel and the nearly prototype gunslinger lyrics.
I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
I Will Always Love You is one of those songs that has a different singer in your head depending on when you were born, but if you’re a country fan, you’re going all the way back to Dolly (as we always do).
That said, one of the great things about this song is the Whitney Houston cover (aka the biggest selling single of all time) is in the same key and arrangement as the original, so learn one and you have both. The song has a very slow and simple strumming pattern that makes it an easy fit for beginner guitarists looking for easy country songs.
Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys by Willie Nelson
Originally written by Ed and Patsy Bruce, the song was orignally recorded by Ed in 1976, but really made a splash when Waylon Jennings and Willing Nelson recorded it for their 1978 duet record Waylong & Willie. The song spent a month on the top of the country charts and even broke the top half of the Billboard Hot 100 – no mean feat in 2978.
For beginner guitarists, the track is a good song to concentrate on your strumming, as the chords only change once every bar, leaving you to focus your energy on getting the strum pattern down – and if you’re this far down the list, you’ll have come across this strumming pattern at least once. The pattern hits the bass note and then a pair of down-up strokes on the treble strings, repeating four times before the chord changes, super straight forward and good practice.
On the Road Again by Willie Nelson
Written by the man himself, On The Road Again is a classic Willie Nelson song that’s made it onto more road trip mix tapes over the years than maybe any other song. However, what’s particularly amazing about the song is how it came about.
Shortly after singing a contract for his first leading role in a movie (Honeysuckle Rose), Nelson was sitting on an airplane when one of the producers came to speak to him and ask him to write a theme song for the movie, which was about an aging musician travelling the US with his family as his band. The producer went back to his seat and Nelson wrote the song there and then, scribbling the lyrics on the back of a barf bag.
Sure enough, as with just about any Willie Nelson song, the tune is quite easy to play on the guitar. Brand new players may take some time to get up to speed with the shuffling strum pattern, but overall this is a fun and easy song to play.
Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver
Some would say this is the greatest country song of all time, and I’m not ashamed to say my own first exposure to this song was when my highschool punk band covered the Me First And The Gimmie Gimmies version (who feature the then little known Chris Schifflet, later of the Foo Fighters). Throw on country radio for a day and even in 2021, you’ll probably hear this song more than once.
The original version of this song has something of a tricky fingerpicking pattern, but for beginners you can approach the song with a straightforward strum. The chords also are simple enough to play that your only challenge as a beginner will be getting the changes done at speed.
Thank God I’m a Country Boy by John Denver
You want to talk about country anthems – step on up “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” by John Denver. it don’t get much more iconic than this!
While the melody of this song can be a little challenging, the guitar is quite simple. The tempo might be a challenge for absolute beginners, but the chord progression is very straight forward, and the strumming pattern isn’t anything to get worried about.
Act Naturally by Buck Owens
Act Naturally is a great song if you have all your chords under finger. Most of the songs on this list are 2-3 chords, whereas Act Naturally is a whopping five!
Covered by many different artists over the years, the song can be played as a simple strum or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can throw some hammer-ons in there to add some extra rhythm.
City of New Orleans by Steven Goodwin
This song needs different capo positions depending on which cover you’re looking at, but for beginners the easiest is Steve Goodwin’s version with a capo at the 5th fret.
The song does require you to know a good share of chords – it coveres all of them pretty much – but it can be a really good goal song for someone who wants to make sure they have them all learned correctly and can quickly and easily switch between them.
- Chords: G, A, Bm, C, D, Em, F
Cruise by Florida Georgia Line
If you’re a fan of so called “bro country”, you probably already have this song glued to your brain. Florida Georgia Line rose to prominence taking country and adding some of the best parts of many other styles of music, from electronica to hip-hop, and when you listen to Cruise it’s easy to see how their ascent was quite so quick.
While the song in full features a wide range of instrumentation, the main guitar part is quite easy to play, and gives you some great exposure to the varied songwriting techniques the band has incorporated into their music. If you’re looking for a feel good contemporary country song for your next campfire, this is a great place to start.
Cry! Cry! Cry! by Johnny Cash
There he is again, the man himself Johnny Cash. What’s fun about this one is it has both a strumming pattern and, as with many songs by The Man In Black, an arpeggiated line that can be a fun thing to learn for beginner players, and a nice change of pace for more practiced players.
Cash originally wrote the song after his first overture to Sun Records (Hey Porter) was rejected. Sam Phillips told Cash to come back with something he could sell, and from there came Cry Cry Cry.
Family Tradition by Hank Williams Jr.
Hard to believe it now, but Family Tradition was the fourth single from Hank’s 1979 album of the same name, going on to be one of his most well known songs.
The song itself is a doozy for beginner guitarists. The chord progression is simple without any quick changed, and the alternating bassline and treble strumming pattern is both easy and elemental enough to be in a million other songs. You might even say it’s easy to play whnen you find yourself in the family tradition that Hank mentions in the song.
Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Day) by The Judds
This is another one to pull out the capo for, and really the hardest part of this song is putting on the capo! Comprising some very simple chords and a very simple strumming pattern, this is an easy and fun song for beginners, and a soothing one to strum to yourself from your easy chair.
Guitars, Cadillacs by Dwight Yoakam
Anyone familiar with blues progressions will take to this song pretty quickly, the pattern repeats all the way through the song.
As an added bonus, the eclectic picking sections are a lot of fun for people who want to try their hand at something a little more advanced – and once you’re all the way into intermediate playing, there’s a classic country solo in there for you too.
He Didn’t Have to Be by Brad Paisley
Brad Paisley knows how to pull out some pretty amazing guitar playing when it suits him, but He Didn’t Have To Be is a good example of him switching gear and doing smething a little more simple when the song calls for it.
The song comprises some very simple country chords and a true beginner strum pattern, nothing here that should be much of a challenge for anyone – enough to make it a fun one to learn early on and be ready for the next camping trip.
- Chords: G, C, D, Am, Em
- Chords / Tab
I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink by Merle Haggard
The rhythm parts of this song are very straight forward, and for beginners who only have basic chords under their fingers, this song is ideal – all you need is A, D and E and a basica strumming pattern, and you’re ready to roll.
Where this song really shines (as per the video above) is as a background for some killer country picking solos, so if you’re ready to move on to the next level, this one is for you.
I’m Gonna Be Somebody by Travis Tritt
Some songs are complicated, tricky, a real challenge for beginners. I’m Gonna Be Somebody is not one of those songs.
With lyrics about setting aside the doubts others try to sew in you, the chords make it easy for you to be “somebody”, with a simple pleasant melody to play along with, and a simple strumming pattern to get you up and running in no time.
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams
Covering this song on his Aloha from Hawaii TV-Special, Elvis introduced the song as “probably the saddest song I’ve ever heard”, and many would agree. Written and recorded all the way back in 1949, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry has been covered so many times you could almost consider it a country standard.
As with many of the songs here, I’m So Lonesome I Could cry has a simple strumming pattern and uses a handful of easy chords to create a classic tune for a singalong. As a bonus for new guitarists, the chord changes are few and far between, making this a simple song for the very earliest beginners.
It’s Your Love by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
It’s Your Love is a great song for beginners to learn on guitar because, once you get the basics down, you’re ready to roll. It doesn’t have any difficult chords – just simple G, C, Em and D cowboy chords – and the progression is very straight forward. Really one to get under your fingers quickly and then pull out for the next singalong.
And sing along people will. McGraw is of course a country boy, but this song had major crossover potential as a country pop song, even launching itself out of the country charts and into the Hot 100. Definitely one you know you won’t be leaving anyone behind by playing.
More of You by Chris Stapleton
More Of You is a “deep cut” from Stapleton’s 2015 album Traveller that has since become something of a fan favourite. Lucky for you, it’s also quite easy to play.
Based on a very traditional country chord progression, you may find yourself surprised at how familiar the song feels to play. The strumming pattern is the classic alternating bass with two downstrokes on the treble pattern – really nothing here should be too challenging other than that pesky F#m chord for some beginners.
- Chords: E, B, F#m, A, E7
Rockytop by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The thing I like about this song for beginners is that it has something for every skill level. Beginners can do a simple strum to get up and running, more advanced beginners can take on the walking aspect of the bass line, and intermediate players can tackle some of the hammer on and pull off parts that add a little spice on top.
While most of the bands on this list are pure country, the often forgotten Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were that more complicated beast, the country rock band. Formed in Long Beach California in 1966, the band have had a changing lineup over the years enough to where the list itself has a separate wikipedia page. Even so, the band are often credited for moving country music along over the years, encouraging other artists to always try new things.
Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter
Originally written by Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison (the duo behind songs from the likes of Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Chesney and Billy Ray Cyris), Strawberry Wine gave Deana Carter her first number 1 on the Billboard Hot Country chart, and remains her signature songs to this day.
Guitar wise, the songs has a simple open chord pattern and a simple strum that make it a no brainer for beginner players, while more advanced beginners can throw in a few hammer ons here and there to give it a more rythmic feel.
The Fightin’ Side of Me by Merle Haggard
Released as the lead single to the album of the same name, The Fightin Side Of Me is one of Merle’s most famous songs, with Toby Keith describing it as “the original Angry American song”. While these days we would see the lyrics as on the wrong side of history, for beginner guitarists, it’s a short and simple song to get under your fingers.
Together Again by Buck Owens
Together again was originally the B side to Owen’s hit song My Heart Skips A Beat, but after a spell the song became so popular on it’s own that it knocked that song off the top of the charts. In fact, the solo in the song inspired Jerry Garcia to learn to play the guitar!
However, for beginner guitarists the song is a very straight forward one. The strumming pattern is a classic country bass-down-up-down up strum, and the chords are your usual cowboy chords. For more advanced beginners there are a few short arpeggiated pieces, giving you reason to revisit the song again as your playing improves.
- Chords: C, F, G7, C7, G
Waiting on You by Lindsay Ell
Waiting On You is another one of those songs that can be played a number of ways depending on which stage of beginner you are. You can play it as a straight strum, or when you get a little better you can add in the arpeggiated connecting parts in the intro and chorus. You will also want to add a capo on the 1st fret to match the album version if that’s what you’re going for.
- Chords: G, Am, C, C7
Whiskey River by Willie Nelson
Rounding out our list, we’re back to Willie once again. Originally written by Paul Stroud and Johnny Bush, the song has a number of different feels and up to four different strumming patterns depending on how you want to play it, but across the whole song there’s really nothing too difficult for beginners, allowing you to sit back and enjoy playing the song without sweating too much.