One of the beautiful things about learning popular songs on the guitar is they are, by design, easy to remember and play. This is tremendously helpful for beginner guitarists as after just learning a few easy chords and strumming patterns you’re already set up to play thousands of popular songs.
But with so many potential songs at your disposal, what ones do you learn first? Well, we’ve put together a list of 60 famous and easy to play songs that are perfect for a beginner or someone looking for something new to you, so you’ll always have a little direction when thinking about what song to learn next.
- All of Me by John Legend
- Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars
- Photograph by Ed Sheeran
- Ride by Twenty One Pilots
- With or Without You by U2
- Diamonds by Rihanna
- Hey Soul Sister by Train
- Kids by MGMT
- Apologize by OneRepublic
- Love on the Weekend by John Mayer
- Love Yourself by Justin Bieber
- Rolling in the Deep by Adele
- Royals by Lorde
- You Belong with Me by Taylor Swift
- 7 Years by Lukas Graham
- Call Me Maybe by Carly Ray Jepsen
- Die Young by Kesha
- Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden
- What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction
- You’re Beautiful by James Blunt
- All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor
- Blank Space by Taylor Swift
- Counting Stars by OneRepublic
- Fall for You by Secondhand Serenade
- Galway Girl by Ed Sheeran
- Ghost Town by Adam Lambert
- I Have a Dream By ABBA
- I Love It by Icona Pop
- I Took a Pill in Ibiza by Mike Posner
- Memories by Maroon 5
- Our Song by Taylor Swift
- Payphone by Maroon 5
- Perfect by Ed Sheeran
- Señorita by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello
- Watermelon sugar high by Harry Styles
- Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira
- Chandelier by Sia
- Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
- Beautiful Stranger by Madonna
- Blinding lights by the Weeknd
- Hello by Adele
- Let it Be by The Beatles
- Get Lucky by Daft Punk
- Believer by Imagine Dragons
- I won’t give up by Jason Mraz
- Circles by Post Malone
- Waka Waka This Time For Africa by Shakira
- Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake
- Wonderwall by Oasis
- Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish
- Stay with Me by Sam Smith
- Someone Like You by Adele
- Stand By Me by Ben E. King
- Whenever Wherever by Shakira
- We Don’t Talk Anymore by Charlie Puth ft. Selena Gomez
- Fifteen by Taylor Swift
- Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac
- Down Under by Men At Work
- When You Say Nothing at All by Ronan Keating
All of Me by John Legend
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Starting off strong with this incredibly powerful and emotional ballad from John Legend. A striking love song that was inspired by his wife Chrissy Teigen. This is a single released from his fourth studio album titled ‘Love in the Future’ and was massively successful, selling nearly 5 million copies, winning a Grammy Award and the official music video is even sitting at over 2 billion views on YouTube.
Obviously, this is primarily a piano driven song, but as you will quickly learn it’s very easy to take the chords outlined on the piano and translate them to the guitar. Here you’ll be using the chords Em, C, G, and G all in their regular open positions. Strumming wise you’ll be playing a downstroke on the 1, the & of 2, and the 4.
Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars
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This song presents a wonderful cocktail of balladesque piano and vocals, with a little soft rock influence from the drums and guitar which come together to create a feel-good song like no other. This is his first ever single from his first ever album titled ‘Doo-Wops & Hooligans’. Despite mixed reviews from critics it did win a Grammy Award for ‘Best Male Pop Vocal Performance’ and it went thirteen times platinum, fans dubbed it a success regardless.
Although the piano holds the bulk of the harmony here, we can easily put those chords to the guitar using the progression D, Bm7, G, and G. You will need a capo on the second fret of the guitar to make the chords a bit easier to hold.
Photograph by Ed Sheeran
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Ed Sheeran wrote this song during a long distance relationship where he had to be away from his love to play shows. He ended up writing the base of the song in a hotel. A favorite amongst Sheeran fans and originally was just played during live performances, but it was later recorded properly and released as the third single from his album ‘x’.
Although there are multiple instruments present in the song including piano and even a cello, this song started life as a solo acoustic/vocal piece and as such works best when performed this way. You’ll need a capo on the second fret of the guitar and the chords used (in their open positions) are D, Bm, A, and G.
Ride by Twenty One Pilots
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Here we have a great electro-pop song that flirts with alternative genres such as reggae and a little hip-hop. From the innovative American musical Duo Twenty One Pilots, this is a single from their fourth album titled Blurryface. It achieved good commercial success hitting the number 5 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100.
This song has a very interesting and unique vibe to it, and as such it uses some interesting chords which are not easily accessed in standard tuning. So for this song, you’ll tune each string down by 1 half step (making Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb). You’ll use the chords G, Am, Em, C but obviously, they will all be 1 half step down because of the new tuning.
With or Without You by U2
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Moving onto the multi-layered song With or Without You by U2, guitarist ‘Edge’ uses his signature sound design at atmosphere creation to layer ambient guitar tracks across the song. He also used a prototype version of ‘the infinite’ guitar on this song which has a special system installed that allows him to sustain a note indefinitely.
There are a lot of ambient and ‘wet’ effects such as delay and reverb used throughout the song, don’t worry about whether you can emulate these or not, just focus on outlining the chords first and foremost. Then, if you have any effects to hand you can throw on that’s great.
Diamonds by Rihanna
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A striking and popular song from American pop icon Rihanna, this was a single from her album ‘Unapologetic’ released in 2012. Rihanna, when speaking about the meaning behind the song, said that people are afraid of being happy because of what others might think. The song serves as encouragement for them to do what it is they love and to let themselves ‘shine’.
The song just uses a really simple 4 chord progression which is G, Bm, A, F sharp minor, and then turns around back to the G. The original uses piano and other electronic percussion elements, so you are free here to choose a strumming pattern that you think is suitable for the song or style you wish to present it as.
Hey Soul Sister by Train
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A tremendously catchy and upbeat song from the American pop-rock band Train. This was a huge single of 2009 and served as their highest charting song to date. Taken from their fifth studio album ‘Save Me, San Francisco. It went on to sell over 6 million copies and even won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals’.
It’s an acoustically driven song that works great as a single player performance. You’ll be using 5 chords throughout the song while using a capo on the second fret which are C, G, Am, F, and G. But do remember they are used in different sequences between the verse and chorus so you’ll have to learn it section by section.
Kids by MGMT
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Although released in 2008 this is definitely a kind of throwback to a classic style of 80’s synth pop that we don’t get to enjoy that much these days. Fortunately, its catchy and melodic nature allows it to translate to guitar extremely well. This was the third single released from their debut studio album ‘Oracular Spectacular’ from 2007.
If you haven’t been able to try your hand at the fingerpicking technique yet this is a great opportunity to do so as it’s still exceptionally easy to play. Everything you’ll be playing on the left hand is super simple allowing you to allocate all of your thoughts onto the right hand fingerpicking parts.
Apologize by OneRepublic
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Although this was released as a collaborative single between OneRepublic and Timbaland, it was also released on Timbaland’s full studio album ‘Shock Value’. But in addition to that, the song was so successful it was also released on OneRepublic’s debut album ‘Dreaming Out Loud’. But there are a few differences between the versions, with Timbaland opting to remove the guitar solo and instead add some different electronic drum samples.
When playing this song on guitar we will primarily be using fingerpicking and are essentially outlining the chords Am, F, C, and G. But the main difference here is we will always be playing a bassline along with those chords. You’ll need a capo on the 3rd fret so the shapes are nice and easy to hold.
Love on the Weekend by John Mayer
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John Mayer is well known for his guitar virtuosity, high level of technical ability, and incredible phrasing. But he also knows how to step back and write a catchy song. This is a single taken from John’s seventh studio album titled ‘The Search for Everything’. Rolling Stone magazine described it as a return to Mayer’s pop-rock roots while retaining a bit of bluesy flair.
This is a track that can work both great on acoustic or electric guitar, whether you’re just looking to strum some chords or play a bit more of an involved electric finger picked piece, this song will serve you well in both cases. Plus as far as John Mayer songs go this sits much on the easier side of things making it accessible to beginners too!
Love Yourself by Justin Bieber
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From humble beginnings as a small YouTuber to being picked up by a major label and smashing record sales worldwide, thrusting him into a thriving pop career. Justin’s songs are both catchy and easy to play, making them great choices for anyone looking for some simple pop songs to play that your audience is going to want to sing along with.
Love Yourself has a very stripped down feel to it, with just a vocal section and a single guitar. The guitar uses a lot of percussive phrasing in a funky/groovy way where you’ll be hitting down on the strings to create that percussive ‘clink’, much like a snare drum.
Rolling in the Deep by Adele
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One of Adele’s biggest singles ever and does a great job at showcasing her extremely powerful voice and world-class level of vocal control. Described by Adele as a ‘dark blues-y gospel disco tune’, it was unanimously praised by critics for Adele’s stellar vocal performance. The single topped charts the world over and is to date one of the world’s best selling singles of all time.
Despite the technicalities involved with the vocal performance, the guitar section is extremely simple. Just using standard tuning we will be mostly playing simple palm-muted power chords through a progression that builds up to the chorus, where we will be strumming some open barred chords.
Royals by Lorde
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A very unique and stylized pop song that combined some fantastic vocal harmonies and counter melodies to create a catchy and engaging song. This is the debut single from the Kiwi artist and was also released as part of her EP ‘The Love Club’ in 2013. The song was a huge commercial success and sold over 10 million copies worldwide making it (another) one of the best selling singles of all time.
The instrumentation of the song is largely driven by the percussion and bass synth parts. So when we approach playing this on the guitar we try to accommodate both of these parts by outlining the vocal melodies and bass parts with the notes we play, while also emulating the drums by hitting the guitar strings.
You Belong with Me by Taylor Swift
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Heading back to the earlier days of Taylor Swift with this quintessential modern country-pop track that gives off a fun and carefree feel. Taylor was inspired to write this song after she overheard a male friend of hers having an argument with his girlfriend over the phone. The song received some criticism for its ‘safe’ and slightly by the numbers delivery, but there’s no denying it’s a well written and catchy song that’s a lot of fun to jam to.
In typical pop guitar fashion, we’ll just need to play some simple open chords here, although you will need a capo on the fourth fret to make the shapes as easy to hold as possible. We’ll be using the chords Em, G, D, and A.
7 Years by Lukas Graham
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A thought provoking and challenging soul-pop song from Danish artist Lukas Graham. This is a promotional single from his second album simply titled ‘Lukas Graham’. He’s mentioned that the song is a recollection and reflection of his life so far and what he wants to achieve as he ages. The song’s clocked over a billion views on YouTube and is sure to go down well when played at any social gathering.
There’s a very distinct melody running throughout the song, so rather than simply outline the chords with their open positions, this song is better executed with fingerpicking. This allows you to cover all the major elements, the bassline, the chordal structure, and the melody.
Call Me Maybe by Carly Ray Jepsen
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Next is a light and fun song about a girl who suddenly becomes attracted to someone. It’s a great carefree track and is very well known. Originally released as part of an EP and then (due to its huge commercial success) was later released on her full length album ‘Kiss’. The song dominated the charts the world over and was even nominated for two Grammy Awards.
While this song does fall on the typical open chords structure, the chorus will require you to play them in a staccato way, that is to say, after you have played the chord you will need to mute it quickly to stop it from ringing out. This is easily done by simply placing your right hand over the strings to stop them from vibrating.
Die Young by Kesha
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Die Young is a great party song, not intended to challenge you, just simply provide a great backing for you to dance with. As such it has a very steady beat with thick, and heavy electronics combined with acoustic guitar to make that modern electro-infused style of pop. The song is from her second album ‘Warrior’ and did quite well commercially, although did see some drama due to its use of the term ‘die young’ which was considered taboo after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings of 2012.
For this song, you’ll be using big, bombastic 6 string open barred chords. No need for subtlety or dynamics here just hit the chords loudly and proudly. The energy here is just as important as the notes you hit.
Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden
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It’s with pleasure that we can present some classic 90’s pop here with the Australian pop duo Savage Garden. This is one of their most successful singles ever with a chorus that really makes you want to sing along with it. Taken from their debut album it saw them achieve immediate commercial success winning an Aria award and was the highest selling single of that year.
Not a complicated song at all, it has nice stability to it without any need to memorize many different sections which makes it incredibly accessible for beginners. We’ll be using the chords C, G, and F. There’s no set in stone strumming pattern here so feel free to just play whatever you feel is appropriate!
What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction
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For anyone who was around in 2011 for this song’s release, you were probably sick of hearing it because it received an unbelievable amount of radio play. It hit the number 1 spot all over the world and to date has garnered over 5 million in sales. If you have any younger audience members around this song will probably go down very well with them!
Designed to be as simple and as catchy as possible, this song just uses a 3 chord progression that repeats for the entirety of the song. We’ll be using the chords D, G, and A. If you listen to the original song you’ll hear that sometimes the chords are muted quickly after they are played and other times (particularly during the chorus) they are left to ring out, trying to match the original track with those dynamics.
You’re Beautiful by James Blunt
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A striking song from the charming English songwriter James Blunt, which was released as a promotional single for his debut album ‘Back to Bedlam’. While the song didn’t immediately skyrocket him to worldwide commercial success, it did do extremely well in the UK, and over the decade following the release it slowly amassed sales of over 3 million in the US.
There are two distinct guitar parts to this song, one is a simple, single note lead melody. The second is consistent strummed chords which are a little quiet in the mix, but for a beginner, we suggest following them. The song uses the progression G, D/F sharp, Em7, and Cadd9.
All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor
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With its ludicrously infectious chorus and vocal hook, All About That Bass came smashing into the pop charts in 2014 when it was released as part of Meghan’s debut EP simply titled ‘Title’. The song intends to promote a healthy body image and has a fun-loving and upbeat vibe which is guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face.
Considered ‘bubblegum pop’, this is primarily driven by upbeat and happy sounding melodies and basslines. Our job when transferring this to the guitar is to capture that feel with our energy and strumming pattern. Chord progression wise we’ll be using A, Bm, and E. The strumming pattern is a simple D-DU-UD.
Blank Space by Taylor Swift
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With no shortage of incredibly famous pop songs in her catalog, we’re here again with Taylor Swift’s smash hit single Blank Space. Taken from her fifth album ‘1989’. Taylor has mentioned that the song was supposed to be a satirical look at how the media perceive her, as a slightly unhinged, eccentric, and perhaps a little manipulative. Taylor is clearly taking the media attention in her stride and was able to parody that perception with this song exquisitely.
This is primarily driven by electronic sounds and percussion, but because of its melodic tone and atmosphere, we don’t need to worry too much about perfectly replicating any of that on the guitar. If we just strum the chords and sing the vocal melodies the song still translates very well. We’ll be playing the chords G, Em7, Am, C, and D.
Counting Stars by OneRepublic
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Combining elements of pop, dance, and a little bit of folk, OneRepublic really hit upon something special with this song. After its release in 2013 as a promotional single for their 3rd studio album ‘Native’ it hit the top ten spot in 20 different countries. It was particularly successful in the UK selling 1 million copies, and the accompanying music video has amassed 3.5 billion views on YouTube.
For this song, we’ll need a capo on the 4th fret of the guitar. We’ll be outlining the chords using a fingerpicking technique here, but it’s all very simple and comfortable to play and shouldn’t pose any issue for a beginner. The chords outlined in this song are Am, C, G, and F.
Fall for You by Secondhand Serenade
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Here we have an alternative pop song from solo artist John Vesley who also released albums under the name Secondhand Serenade. The song was quite successful, charting at number 8 on the Billboard Pop 100 charts, and received, in general, a ton of airplay after its release. It’s the first single released from his second album ‘A Twist in My Story’.
To outline the chords here we just have to strum them, but we can use an incredibly simple strumming pattern of simply D-D-D-D, where on each 8th note we just do a single downstroke. If you feel like it you can do a quick upstroke as we move to the next chord.
Galway Girl by Ed Sheeran
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Ed Sheeran always delivers when it comes to catchy, accessible, and easy to play pop songs. Galway Girl is no exception, but this one carries a bit of unique flair with its heavy influence from traditional Irish music. The song was also interestingly announced by Ed as the next single on Saint Patrick’s day in 2017. It charted very well all over Europe and was certified platinum in 13 different countries.
This song has a really good, high-energy vibe to it so the main focus is making sure that comes through in your playing. We only need 3 chords to play this track which are C, G, and G, you can play them using their regular open positions if you have a capo available to put on the second fret. Alternatively, you can use barre variations if you don’t have one to hand.
Ghost Town by Adam Lambert
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Ghost Town is a stripped down and minimalistic arrangement featuring just a vocal section with clean electric guitars behind it until later on when we get to see a smattering of house influence be introduced. This is the lead single from his third studio album ‘The Original High’ and was his first release after falling out with his old record label (RCA records) and moved over to the prestigious Warner Bros.
On the original recording, they are using an electric guitar that has a clean, glassy tone to it with a lot of prominence put on the pick attack. But of course, this is easy enough to translate to the acoustic guitar. Here we can use the chords Am, C, D, Em, and G.
I Have a Dream By ABBA
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No list concerning pop songs would be worth anything if it didn’t include a track from the Swedish pop legends ABBA. Released at the back end of the ’70s as the final single from their sixth studio album ‘Voulez-Vous’. Of course, like everything ABBA, it was a huge hit topping charts the world over during that Christmas. It was also famously covered by the British pop group Westlife in 1999.
The song has a stable, gentle, and consistent acoustic strumming section lining the track, this makes it incredibly easy to learn and perform even if you are a beginner. We’ll be using just 3 chords for this song which are A, E, and D. You can just play them in their open positions.
I Love It by Icona Pop
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Another Swedish song next with the heavily dance/electro influenced pop duo Icona Pop. This was originally released as a solo single purely as a digital download. But because it achieved an unexpected amount of success, hitting the number 2 spot on the singles chart they ended up putting it on their full length studio album ‘Icona Pop’. It’s a great, high-energy, and rebellious song that’s sure to get everyone moving.
There isn’t much going on in the song harmonically, it’s mostly single-note lines where the emphasis is placed more on tone than pitch. This makes our jobs extremely easy when it comes to reproducing this on the guitar as we can just use simple intervals such as power chords to play along.
I Took a Pill in Ibiza by Mike Posner
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You might also know this song for its alternative, and more family friendly title, ‘I Took a Plane to Ibiza’. This is an acoustically driven folk-pop song that has mostly risen to prominence through its various adaptations by notable electronic artists including the Norwegian group SeeB. Because of this additional exposure, the song got through its remixes it became Mike Posner’s biggest single ever and was even nominated for a Grammy Award as Song of the Year.
What’s nice about this song is although we are using fairly regular open chord shapes, we get to do some nice little picking inflections to kind of ‘spice up’ the progression a bit. Chord shape wise it’s super easy just using G, D, and Em. To play in key with the original song we also need to use a capo on the third fret of the guitar.
Memories by Maroon 5
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Maroon 5 did a great job at combining a little bit of reggae influence in this song along with their signature pop charm. Released in 2019 as part of their album ‘Jordi’. Critics actually disliked the song a great deal for its inauthentic use of reggae influence and out of context lyrical content about remembering a loved one has passed. But ultimately the fans considered it a hit as we can see from the official music video which has nearly a billion views on YouTube.
The provided video lesson details a version in which you can play this with fingerpicking and no capo, but this requires a fair bit of technique and a generally good ability to hold and move chord shapes around the fretboard at speed. So if that’s too challenging there is also a simple ‘strummed open chord’ version in which you can just use a capo and play simple shapes around that.
Our Song by Taylor Swift
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Heading back to some earlier Taylor Swift music next with a song that still features a heavy amount of country influence combined with her signature catchy pop style. She wrote this song for a talent competition during her first year of high school, a testament to her level of musicianship to write such a competent song at such a young age. Critics praised the song for its catchy hook and mass appeal.
The majority of the energy of the song comes through its upbeat and lively strumming pattern, it involves some careful accents and it’s well worth reviewing the provided video lesson to get this correct. Chord wise there’s nothing complex going on and we’ll just be playing the chords D, Em, G, and A in their regular open positions, no capo required.
Payphone by Maroon 5
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Featuring guest vocals by American rapper Wiz Khalifa, this song’s accompanying music video which is stylized as a classic action movie much like Die Hard is exceptionally well shot and has amassed over 738 million views. The song itself was the lead single from their fourth studio album ‘Overexposed’ and peaked at the number 2 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Although presented as a dance/R&B/pop crossover, oftentimes when they perform this song live they will do so as a stripped down version where the acoustic guitar replaces all of the electronic elements, proving that it works just as well as a traditional singer/songwriter piece of music than an electronic one.
Perfect by Ed Sheeran
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Another perfect, catchy, and emotion filled pop song that anyone can play as a solo guitar player and singer. This is a single taken from his fourth album titled ‘÷’. Of course, as with everything Ed does, it achieved great commercial success hitting the number 1 spot on both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard 100. There was a second version of the song released in which he performs alongside American superstar Beyonce.
This involves a little bit of staccato picking but also doesn’t require much finger independence meaning you can pluck every string at the same time. You’ll need a capo on the first fret and will be using the chords G, Em7, Cadd9, and finally a D.
Señorita by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello
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With a nice smattering of Latin influence, this pop song is a collaboration between Canadian singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello. It’s from Shawn’s third studio album ‘Romance’. The single smashed its way to the number 1 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 and went multi-platinum in thirteen countries. To date, the single has amassed a combined sales (including digital) of 16.1million units globally.
So depending on whether you want to take the lead on the electric guitar or hang back and play some Latin inspired finger picked chords, this song has you covered. You’ll be primarily playing barre chords quite high up the neck, it’s not too difficult to hold and is a good opportunity for any beginners to work a little on their forearm dexterity as some of those chords need a good amount of pressure to hold down.
Watermelon sugar high by Harry Styles
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After his time in One Direction, Harry has been able to go from success to success with his solo career. This is from his second studio album ‘Fine Line’ The song is very playful, mashing together some funky clean guitar playing with his signature catchy pop/indie style. It was inspired by the 1968 novel also titled ‘Watermelon Sugar’.
As we mentioned there’s a good bit of funk influence in this, so you’ll be doing a lot of chordal hammer-ons with your left hand and smooth strumming with your right. Most of the chords are barred but it’s high enough up the neck (where the frets are closer together) that it’s perfectly comfortable to play for a beginner.
Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira
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Some more Latin influence here with this great collaboration between Shakira and rapper Wyclef Jean. Released back in 2006 as a promotional single for the re-release of her album ‘Oral Fixation, Vol 2’. After the single’s release, it received a plethora of awards including a People’s Choice Award and an MTV Latin America music award. It also hit the number 1 spot in over 18 countries making it a bonafide worldwide success.
There’s a fair bit of Latin-styled layering going on in this song and as such, it can be challenging to distill it down and cover all the bases on a single guitar. This is why we have provided a great video lesson that details how to play this just using simple open chords. You’ll need a capo on the first fret to make the chords easier to hold.
Chandelier by Sia
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This is a pop song from Australian singer/songwriter Sia and was a promotional single from her sixth album ‘1000 Forms of Fear. The accompanying music video features the incredibly talented American dancer Maddie Ziegler and has amassed over 2 billion views on YouTube which has contributed massively to the song’s commercial success.
When it comes to playing this on guitar, it’s important to understand that the original song was heavily rhythm driven and not so much instrumentally/pitch driven. For that reason, we can use a strumming pattern that complements the pace and tempo of the song without needing to worry about any intricacies. You’ll also need a capo on the first fret to keep it in key with the original song.
Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
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Lady Gaga is always able to pull off that signature blend of striking imagery and off the wall performances while maintaining her pop-centric accessibility with catchy vocal hooks and sing-along choruses. Bad Romance is the perfect example of this, with its quirky spoken-word style verse with a soaring chorus that is both anthemic and timeless.
Instrumentally Lady Gaga’s music is heavily synth driven with that classic, almost 80’s kind of synthpop style. So the main thing we use to mimic that here is in the strumming pattern, where we do a very light percussive kind of ‘chic’ sound before striking the full chord which gives it its groovy and rhythmic feel.
Beautiful Stranger by Madonna
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Although Madonna was already a very well known pop star at the time, the song received a huge boost in exposure as it was used as part of the soundtrack for the movie ‘Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me’. Which was designed to be a spoof of classic spy movies such as James bond. Following suit, the official music for this also spoofs the style of music video that would accompany the James Bond movies.
This is one of the rare opportunities in pop music where we get to crank the gain a little bit. Although we are just playing a fairly regular chord progression while just striking the chords one at a time and letting them ring out, it’s still nice to be able to just turn things up and rock out a little.
Blinding lights by the Weeknd
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A song you have no doubt already heard a few hundred times already, released in 2019 from the Canadian Singers’ fourth album ‘After hours’, but it could have easily been released in the 80’s for all the classic analog synth sounds it uses. It was a massive commercial success, charting the world over and being ranked as the number 1 greatest Hot 100 Hit of All Time by Billboard.
Depending on your mood you can choose to play along to the lead section which is just a single note melody, or alternatively, you can outline the chord progression which is a better choice if you plan to sing along at the same time. You’ll need a capo on the third fret to make the chords a little easier to hold. The provided tab also details a slightly more complicated finger picked version which combines both the chords and melody together in case you are looking for something a little more technically challenging.
Hello by Adele
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Not only one of Adele’s biggest selling singles, but this is one of the biggest selling songs of all time. Released in October of 2015 as part of her album ‘25’, by the end of that year just 2 months later it had already amassed a whopping 12.3 million in sales. It’s a deeply moving song that touches on themes of regret and nostalgia.
For this song, we’ll need just 5 chords which can all be played in their open positions if you use a capo on the first fret of your guitar. The chords are Em, C, G, D, and Bm. These are maintained throughout the song but the strumming and chord order will change from intro to verse to chorus.
Let it Be by The Beatles
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Few bands have impacted the world of pop music quite like the Beatles, influencing and inspiring an entire generation with their unique spin and take on the pop and rock formulas. This song was conceptualized after songwriter Paul McCartney had a dream about his mother who had previously died of cancer when he was young. This, in tandem with the tumultuous internal relationship inside the band, came together to create this song.
This is a nice and simple song that any beginner can jump in and learn, and what’s better is if you master this you are already a long way towards learning not only other songs from The Beatles but many other pop songs in general that flirt with this general formula. The chords we’ll be using are C, G, Am, and F.
Get Lucky by Daft Punk
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This song presents a great marriage between funk, electro, and a smattering of disco all under the pop umbrella with its catchy and memorable vocal section. The great thing about this song is that due to its huge popularity, everyone’s familiar with it which makes it an ideal song to put into your catalog.
As is often the case when there’s a bit of funk influence, we’ll be playing some fairly standard barre chords, but all the interesting stuff will be happening on our left hand. By ensuring the strumming movement comes from the wrist we can capture that groove and feel that makes the original so good.
Believer by Imagine Dragons
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Believer is an anthemic and powerful song that blends a little bit of that rock influence with catchy pop vocals to create a striking song. It was the first single from their third studio album ‘Evolve’ released in 2017. Of course, it performed exceptionally well commercially. But more importantly, the official music video features boxing scenes between singer Dan Reynolds and legendary actor Dolph Lundgren which has amassed over 2 billion views on YouTube.
For all its vocal harmonic complexity, playing this on guitar is very easy! We’ll be using a capo on the first fret to make the chords easy to hold. The progression just uses 3 easy chords which are Am, E, and F, each one is held for 4 counts each. Super simple!
I won’t give up by Jason Mraz
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Taking a break from the high-energy music for a second and slowing things down with Jason Mraz’s fantastic blues/folk pop single I Won’t Give Up, which is a promotional single from this fourth album ‘Love Is a Four Letter Word’. This was written by Jason during his activist period and touches upon the broad idea of not giving up on love, whether that’s love for someone else or yourself.
As this is quite a stripped down song the acoustic guitar really plays a big role here, but fortunately it won’t pose any technical challenge for a beginner. The only other unusual thing going on is that we’ll need to put our guitar into ‘Drop D’ tuning, to do that we simply take any standard tuned guitar and lower that first (thickest) string down to a D allowing you to hit a power chord with all open notes.
Circles by Post Malone
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Post Malone has come a long way over his relatively short career, both maturing in songwriting and performance ability. Starting from mumble rap and progressing all the way to very high level soft pop rock songs seeing him both sing and play guitar at the same time. This is a single from his third album ‘Hollywood’s Bleeding’ and impressed both fans and critics alike with its mature and professional execution.
What makes this such a great song for beginners to learn is the fact the chord voicings are quite interesting and colorful when compared to your regular old open chords. So you can explore these new chord voicings with a super simple UDUD strumming pattern.
Waka Waka This Time For Africa by Shakira
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This single is a collaboration between South African band Freshlyground and Shakira, although it was written between Shakira and John Hill and was famously made the official song of the 2010 FIFA world cup. The whole song focuses on the theme of Africa and African culture. Although there was some controversy over the fact a Colombian singer was chosen to sing the song and not a native African.
This song uses the same 4 chords throughout which are D, A, Bm, and G, and each chord is played for 4 beats each. It’s exceptionally simple and catchy by design and could easily serve as someone’s first ever song they learn on the instrument.
Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake
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After finishing up his time in the popular American pop group NSYNC, Justin came out with a bang for his first solo outing with the single Cry Me A River. Inspired by his previous relationship with Britney Spears and with its heavy R&B influence it was almost universally praised by critics and fans alike for its high-level production and vocal delivery.
This song has a great groove and rhythm to it that we need to focus on emulating on the guitar. Chordally it’s all very simple just using the chords Em, B7, C, and Am. The main thing that will sell this song and carry the motif is how you arpeggiate those chords using a downward motion, letting each note ring out into each other.
Wonderwall by Oasis
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Next, we have an absolute classic from the British band Oasis, this is a favorite amongst beginners as it’s so easy to learn and sing to at the same time. To date, this is one of Oasis’s most well-known songs and was incidentally the first ever single to hit 1 billion streams on the popular music platform ‘Spotify’.
Where Oasis’s strength lies is in their ability to marry interesting note choice and chord voicings with great accessibility. So both the song and music is still digestible but there’s always something a little interesting happening that will perk your ear up, for example, the chords in this song might sound simple but they have some ‘extra’ notes thrown in for some spice which are Em7, G, Dsus4 and A7sus4.
Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish
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Billie Eilish continues to wow everyone with her unique style and quirky personality. The song was (as are many of her songs) written by her brother/producer Finneas O’Connell for his own project. But after finding out that it suited Billie’s voice so well he gave the track to her and it was released as a promotional single for her debut EP ‘Don’t Smile at Me’.
Although the song starts off acapella, which means there are only vocals playing, the layering and almost pad like synthesis of her voice is clearly outlining chords which we can then grab and put onto the guitar. The chord progression used in the song is C, Dsus2, Em, G, and G, no capo is needed for the song.
Stay with Me by Sam Smith
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Stay with Me was a huge single for the English singer, released as part of his first studio album ‘Lonely Hour’ and immediately garnered near universal praise from fans and critics alike. The song was inspired by a one night stand where the protagonist is asking them not to leave him. There’s also a version from American rapper Darkchild which won two Grammys for both record and song of the year.
This song is ideal for beginners because of its stripped back and slower pace, where we can just use some nice and easy chords to outline the movement in the song. We’ll be using the progression Am, F, C, and finally, there’s an E7 at some specific parts which add that little bit of spice to keep things interesting.
Someone Like You by Adele
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As Adele moved into her second album cycle she consistently blew everyone away once again with her stellar vocal performances that showcased her powerful yet emotive delivery. The song was universally praised by both critics and fans and was the best selling single of 2011 and to date has sold over 17 million copies.
For anyone who wants a change from simply strumming chords, this is a great one to learn. It uses what we might call an ‘ostinato’ which is a small, arpeggiated phrase of notes that is repeated as a lower bassline, or bass note, moves around it. This gives you the opportunity to play a single note arpeggiated lines but because it’s all kept in a nice small area with very little movement it’s incredibly easy for a beginner to play.
Stand By Me by Ben E. King
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Heading back in time a bit to the early 60s which is an absolute classic from American singer-songwriter Ben E. King. The track was featured as part of the soundtrack to the hit movie of the same name. But the thing that really makes this song stand out is the fact it’s been covered/re-recorded and used in so many commercial promotions that through the royalties of the song alone the song has been able to garner over 22.8 million USD in revenue.
The song, while primarily using some easy and regular chord shapes, has a quite interesting strumming pattern that will require you to do some small palm mutes and quick little upstrokes to hold the groove of the song down. This is ideal to learn if you’ve got some basic chords down already but are looking to work on your strumming a little.
Whenever Wherever by Shakira
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It might come as a surprise to many as this is really the song that brought Shakira to the forefront, but this is a single from her fifth studio album released through Epic records. It has a wonderful combination of Latin and African influence in tonality and percussion and was generally praised by critics for its high-quality production.
This song has a nice balance of lead guitar and single note melodies played on an electric guitar with just a smattering of that slightly overdriven single-coil tone. But then behind that are some strummed chords that complement the percussion section perfectly. So you can pick and choose which part you want to play in this case.
We Don’t Talk Anymore by Charlie Puth ft. Selena Gomez
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A great collaboration for Charlie’s debut album featuring the superstar singer Selena Gomez, needless to say, it was an instant hit. Peaking at number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Puth mentioned he wrote the song while traveling around Asia, having written the guitar line in Japan and the percussion section in the Philippines before finally recording the vocals back in America. A true testament to what modern music technology can allow us to do.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the arpeggiated lines in this song are quite fast, if this is something you feel you can handle it’s a great chance to work on that picking precision and accuracy. But as this list is all about being easy to play we’ve also provided a simpler ‘chordified’ version in the supplied video lesson.
Fifteen by Taylor Swift
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Back with another classic Taylor Swift song which has a perfect blend of country-influenced singer-songwriter flair combined with her signature catchy pop hooks that compel you to sing along. This was a single from her second studio album ‘Fearless’, it has a simple concept of discussing the journey that most young girls will go through as they move into high school at fifteen.
While this is primarily played just using the good old simple open chords, there are a few small inflections (thanks to its country influence) thrown in that make it a little more interesting than it might first appear. You’ll be using some techniques such as hammer-ons to get notes playing before you’ve had a chance to strum them.
Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac
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Next up we have a classic from the 70s which presents a wonderful blend of pop-rock and a little bit of blues. It’s a ton of fun to play and works great on both electric and acoustic guitar. The song was written after Christine’s separation from the band’s bass player John McVie after eight years of marriage. It’s a long standing hit that still enjoys a good amount of airplay even today.
There’s a good mixture of the bluesy rhythm and old school lead guitar parts to keep you busy, you can really just choose which section you want to play along with. However, if you’re using an acoustic guitar we recommend leaving the lead parts for the time being and instead focussing on the rhythms.
Down Under by Men At Work
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We didn’t get to put too many Australian artists on this list, so it’s with great pleasure we can include a timeless classic from the Australian pop rock band Men at Work. Most well known for their hit single ‘Down Under’ which was released as part of their album ‘Business as Usual’. It’s a ton of fun to play and is sure to get everyone in the room singing along.
Guitar wise we’ll primarily be using barre chords, the challenge in this song comes from the strumming pattern where you’ll be required to quickly mute the chord after you’ve hit it a second time. It’s a good idea to get used to the motion of returning your hand to the string straight after strumming so you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice when you need to mute the chord.
When You Say Nothing at All by Ronan Keating
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Although this is one of Ronan’s most well known songs, it was originally a country song written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz. It’s been covered by numerous artists and always yields them a good amount of success, and Ronan’s version here is no exception. It was his first solo single and went straight to the number 1 spot in the United Kingdom.
The song follows a simple chord progression that you’ll be outlining as arpeggios (single notes). It follows a very simple linear pattern except for the low bass note which requires you to skip over 1 string to hit the next note. This technique is called ‘string skipping’ and this is the perfect song to ease you into it.