At its very core, playing music and the guitar is a way to explore emotions. It can provide the perfect outlet for when we face difficult times and feel sad, and through playing music you can also evoke these same emotions in others. So having some beautifully sad and moving songs in your repertoire is a great thing to have as a musician.
That is why we have put together a list of 50 sad songs which you can learn and play on the guitar, and we’ve made sure to include both video lessons and tabs to make learning them as easy as possible.
- Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
- Yesterday by The Beatles
- Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
- Stay With Me by Sam Smith
- The Long And Winding Road by The Beatles
- When the Party’s Over by Billie Eilish
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles
- Wind of Change by The Scorpions
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
- With Or Without You by U2
- Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
- Black by Pearl Jam
- Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day
- Disarm by The Smashing Pumpkins
- Drive by Incubus
- Everybody Hurts by R.E.M
- Fix You by Coldplay
- Hurt by Johnny Cash
- I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams
- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
- Like a Stone by Audioslave
- Gravity by John Mayer
- Blackbird by The Beatles
- Breathe Me by Sia
- Closer by King Of Leon
- Creep by Radiohead
- Cut My Lip by Twenty One Pilots
- Dancing On My Own by Calum Scott
- Fire Escape by Foster The People
- Hey You by Pink Floyd
- How You Remind Me by Nickelback
- I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
- I’ll Never Love Again by Lady Gaga
- Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver
- No Surprises By Radiohead
- Nude by Radiohead
- Nutshell by Alice In Chains
- Pictures of You by The Cure
- Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits
- Self Care by Mac Miller
- She Talks To Angels by The Black Crowes
- Somebody Else by The 1975
- Someone Like You by Adele
- Something In The Way by Nirvana
- Still Loving You by The Scorpions
- Stop This Train by John Mayer
- The Scientist by Coldplay
- Time After Time by Cindy Lauper
- Under The Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers
- When I Was Your Man by Bruno Mars
Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
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This is a song where you can really feel the emotion and difficulty Eric was going through when he wrote this song along with Will Jennings. It’s written about the passing of Eric’s 4 year old son Conor, and despite the tragic story and meaning behind the song, it deeply resonated with his audience becoming one of his best selling singles and was ranked in Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’.
This is a fingerstyle song played in standard E A D G B E tuning. You will be playing a bassline with your thumb while your other finger picks the melody. These two elements combined will clearly outline the emotive chord progression used throughout the song.
Yesterday by The Beatles
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As the best selling band of all time, The Beatles have no shortage of world-class emotional singles to learn. Yesterday just has a solo acoustic guitar with some light orchestral strings behind it. Lyrically it recounts the breakup of a relationship, remembering back on the ‘Yesterday’ when they were together. It’s such an iconic single it has been covered more than 2,200 times and is still regularly performed today.
This song uses a capo on the 5th fret which makes many of the chords easier to hold as they can simply be played using their ‘open’ shapes. But there’s also plenty of renditions around that can be played without one (as detailed in the video lesson) in case you don’t have a capo to hand.
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
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Part of the band’s self-titled album ‘Fleetwood Mac’ released in 1975. Written by Stevie Nicks who recollects that he wrote this after feeling crushed as his record label ‘Polydor Records’ decided to abandon his upcoming album with guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, and he stared out over the Rocky Mountains feeling like a landslide had hit him.
The song follows a simple yet catchy and emotive chord progression of C, G/B, Am7, and back to G/B which you will be fingerpicking, but don’t worry it’s easier than it looks! Once you have the main motif down it essentially repeats for the entirety of the song. You’ll also need a capo on the 3rd fret for this although there are alternate ‘standard tuned’ versions available.
Stay With Me by Sam Smith
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One of the things that lends Sam Smith so well to sad songs is his ability to reach a high falsetto range which really pulls at the heartstrings. Yet he also maintains a richness and tone to his voice which makes him one of the most unique and beloved singers around. The official video for Stay With Me has topped over 1 billion views on YouTube.
Despite the song just having light drums and piano with very prominent gospel-style backing vocals, there is a very clear and defined vocal melody and chord progression which makes it translate to the guitar exceptionally well. The chord progression is nice and simple yet has just enough spice with that diminished chord to keep things interesting.
The Long And Winding Road by The Beatles
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Another legendary song from The Beatles. This was released in 1970 as a single from their last album ‘Let It Be’, just 1 month after the band broke up. Originally the song was more of a solo piece featuring very stripped-down instrumentation, but their producer for the album (Phil Spector) added additional layers such as vocals and orchestral strings which really helped bring the song to life.
The original rendition prominently features bass and piano, but the chord progression, beat, and strumming patterns can easily be translated to the guitar. The provided video lesson demonstrates this perfectly and shows how the song can be played with just some simple barred and open chords.
When the Party’s Over by Billie Eilish
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Billie blew everyone away with her self-produced debut album ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ and this was the second single from that album. The song was written about Billie’s brother’s experience of having ambiguous feelings towards ending a relationship, yet simultaneously feeling OK about the fact he wasn’t fully invested. Needless to say, the song plays with some complicated and delicate emotions which they noted as being very hard to capture and replicate in the studio.
This is primarily a vocal-driven song that has a very subtle piano and a delicate vocal performance. Nevertheless, it can be played on the guitar very easily with a capo on the 4th fret as the song is in the key of A.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles
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This is an incredibly sad song that serves as a precursor to the band’s breakup, and a commentary about the inner turmoil that began to exist within the band upon their return from playing overseas in 1968. Written by George Harrison who, upon having difficulty getting the other members to contribute to the song, enlisted the help of Eric Clapton to help record some additional layers of instrumentation.
This mixture of apathy, disconnect, and disharmony within the band is reflected through the delivery and chords perfectly. There are two versions of this song available for you to pick, one is a more rock-oriented version (with Eric Clapton’s electric guitar parts) and for the solo singer, there is an original acoustic arrangement performed by George.
Wind of Change by The Scorpions
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Not only is Wind of Change one of The Scorpions’ biggest singles, but it’s also one of the biggest rock songs of all time with sales in the region of 14 million copies. Part of their eleventh studio album ‘Crazy World’, the song charted at the number 1 spot all over the world and hit the number 2 spot on the US Mainstream Rock billboard.
The song’s message of unity during a tumultuous time is represented heavily in the musicality. It has a very emotive chord progression and lush, melodic clean tones that are drenched in reverb and delays. In addition to these clean guitar parts, there’s also some fantastic power ballad-esque lead guitar playing for your enjoyment.
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
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One of the saddest songs around and has a particular way of pulling at your heartstrings between the incredible vocal delivery and some key chord changes. And it gets even sadder once you learn that lyrically the song is a tribute to the founding member Syd Barret who had left the band due to his declining health caused by drug abuse. The song also includes critique towards the harshness of the music industry and the effect it can have on the musicians.
The song is held up by its consistent and repeating chord progression, setting the mood of the song and holding you in its grasp throughout. All you need to do is strum those chords, making it a great song for even a beginner to learn.
With Or Without You by U2
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Unlike a lot of the other songs on this list that are easily playable with nothing but an acoustic guitar. With or Without you from U2’s fifth studio album ‘The Joshua Tree’ is (in typical U2 fashion) drenched in delay and effects creating a very unique sonic landscape. And it’s this unique sonic composition that made their manager, Paul McGuiness almost not release the song as he deemed it too ‘unusual’ sounding.
Obviously, this demands a lot of effects from the player to be able to replicate perfectly, with some unusual ‘infinite’ guitar sustain effects that are not exactly common in a normal player’s guitar setup. The best way to approach this is to not worry about anything you don’t have the equipment to play, just play along and follow the chords, it’ll sound great!
Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
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Amy Winehouse’s tragic story and struggles are already known to many. But this song in particular, which documents her troubled relationship and separation from an ex-partner who left her for another woman is one that resonated with many as these emotions of heartbreak and grief can be felt so clearly in the song. It’s the title track from the album of the same name which won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album.
The song takes a lot of influence from girl groups of the 1960s but nevertheless translated very well as a solo guitar piece. Essentially the chords the piano parts played can simply be replicated on guitar with the strumming pattern provided in the tab.
Black by Pearl Jam
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This is a single from Pearl Jam’s debut album ‘Ten’, but unusually the label decided to release it after the album had already garnered commercial success, rather than as a tool to promote it. Originally the band was against this as lyrically it was personal to them, and tackles the difficult subject of letting love go. But nevertheless, the song did exceptionally well charting at the number 3 position on the US Mainstream Rock chart.
The song uses some very interesting chord voicings and some of the shapes or finger positions might seem a little unusual if you’re only used to playing regular barre chords. The strumming pattern is also quite dynamic, in that sometimes you will play softly and sometimes with a stronger touch, try to be conscious of this as you are learning the song.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day
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Coming an incredibly long way from the alternative and punk roots, Green Day have been able to absolutely smash through into the mainstream market with hits such as ‘Basket Case’ and ‘American Idiot’. However, ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ as more of a ballad is still one of their biggest singles. It documents vocalists Billie Joe’s time in New York and dealing with loneliness.
Obviously, this is a change of pace for Greenday, so you won’t be needing to palm mute fast down picked power chords. All you need is an acoustic guitar tuned to standard tuning with a capo on the 1st fret. For the entire song, you will be playing large 4/5/6 string open chords making it an ideal song for a beginner to learn.
Disarm by The Smashing Pumpkins
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This is a song that singer Billy Corgan wrote to figuratively ‘get back’ at his abusive parents for his rocky and tumultuous childhood. It bared his hatred and desire to kill his parents, yet also sought to anger them with how happy he is now and evoke guilt in them for how badly they treated him. The song was actually banned in the United Kingdom for using phrases like ‘cut that little child’ and verbiage such as ‘killer’. The BBC interpreted it as a reference to abortion meaning the song got very little exposure there.
All the chords on this song are quite easy to hold, the main thing to be conscious of is the strumming pattern as there are some quite fast ‘gallops’ placed on the bar in key places.
Drive by Incubus
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This was the main single that allowed Incubus to break through to a more mainstream audience and has become a pivotal song in both the band’s career and live performances. The song discusses the topic of fear, and how heavily it can influence the decisions we make in life and essentially control us. But it also has a hopeful element to it in that we can choose not to live that way, and take back the control fear took from us.
The song uses some fantastic chord voicings which tread a wonderful balance between being musically interesting and colorful while remaining catchy. There are also some percussive mutes used in the song where you will lay your left hand’s fingers over the strings and strike them with your right to create a kind of clicking sound.
Everybody Hurts by R.E.M
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This song tackles the extremely sad topic of suicide, but it’s one that was intended for a younger audience in its unapologetically direct lyrical approach. It allowed the song to resonate with young children and teens who are having issues with depression or suicidal thoughts. The song was a gargantuan hit that went platinum in the UK and landed in the top 10 chart spots in multiple countries.
This song is essentially a ballad which is at a nice and slow BPM of 94. You’ll mainly be using the chords D G A and Em, but rather than strumming them you’ll be playing them as arpeggios. Fortunately, these arpeggios are also very simple and just ascend (move up the strings) and descend (move down the strings) in a very linear fashion.
Fix You by Coldplay
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Fix You has an incredibly emotive and sorrowful chord progression that does a wonderful job at stirring up one’s emotions. With singer Chris Martin’s haunting voice really adding to the tone and vibe of the song. The song was also written by Chris to comfort his wife at the time whose father had recently passed away from a heart attack.
As effective and impactful as the song sounds, from a technical perspective, it’s extremely simple. With the primary motif and verse using a simple 4 chord progression of C, Em, Am, and G with an easy strumming pattern which is detailed in the tablature. But if you want a slightly more elaborate version the video lesson had some wonderful arpeggiated lines to learn.
Hurt by Johnny Cash
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You might be surprised to hear, but this song was originally written by Trent Reznor of the iconic industrial/alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails. Johnny Cash decided to cover this in 2002, with his rendition being met with exceptional critical acclaim. Even Trent Reznor himself said “that song isn’t mine anymore” as he felt Johnny’s rendition was so authentic.
The acoustic guitar part to this song is a beautiful example of how careful note choice and space can create a strong atmosphere, and that your song doesn’t need to be jam-packed with notes to carry emotion. The song is at a very calm 90bpm and you’ll just be mostly outlining some very basic chords, but there are a few nice sus2 shapes thrown in which keep things interesting.
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams
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One of the oldest songs on this list and was originally written in 1949. It’s a favorite amongst musicians and has been covered by dozens of legendary artists, including Johnny Cash. But interestingly the song was originally released a B-side as generally speaking faster and more upbeat songs would be more likely to be played on jukeboxes. I doubt they predicted the success the song would have. It was also ranked at 111 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
This is a fingerpicked song that is played at a nice steady pace, with only a few accents that fall outside of the downbeat. The only thing to be conscious of is the single triplet that sits right near the end of the motif. But this is still something that should be very accessible for beginners.
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
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You may already be familiar with this song for its numerous covers by equally legendary bands and artists including Eric Clapton and Guns ‘n’ Roses. It was actually written to be a part of the original soundtrack to the 1973 classic movie ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’. This connection to the movie is what helped it gain such widespread exposure. To date, the song has been covered by over 150 different artists.
The song uses an incredibly simple chord progression of G, D, C, and an Am7, where you will be beginning with a small fingerpicked section before moving on to strumming some simple open chords. But the song is at a very slow BPM of 68 and should be no problem for players of any level!
Like a Stone by Audioslave
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Featuring the haunting, sorrowful and rich vocals of Chris Cornell, a singer who is truly a one of a kind. Audioslave are a supergroup that is composed of members from Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine. Their debut album was a huge success with this single, in particular, becoming their biggest US single. The song has an extremely melancholic and sorrowful tone that is perfect for anyone needing a sad song to learn.
The song is primarily vocal-driven, so by and large the instrumentation keeps out of the way and serves more as a backdrop rather than being the primary focus. This makes the guitar part incredibly easy to play, requiring just some single picked notes and a nice clean tone to fit the vibe of the song.
Gravity by John Mayer
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John Mayer is well known for not only his technique on the guitar and singing ability. But he is also one of the most emotive and soulful players around, with this song, in particular, being well known for its sad blues feel. The song is from his 2006 album Continuum and was released as the third promotional single.
As is typical for John Mayer, there are a lot of small pieces of phrasing and detailed, subtle inflections that really make this come to life. This will definitely be a test of your technique on the guitar! The song is in 12/8, so don’t be afraid to tackle it 1 bar at a time and stitch them together as you feel comfortable.
Blackbird by The Beatles
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Another classic from the Beatles that was released as a single from their double album, also dubbed ‘the White Album’. There have been a couple of conflicting stories about the lyrical meaning behind the song, with writer Paul McCartney once saying he was inspired by the sound of a blackbird while in India, but later would say the song was discussing the topic of racism. Regardless of which one is the real meaning, the song is considered a classic.
At first glance, this might seem like quite a difficult fingerpicking song to play, but once you have the pattern down and notice where the bass notes (lowest notes) fall on the bar it will all fall into place quite easily!
Breathe Me by Sia
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An extremely delicate, light, and heartfelt song from the Australian pop/indie singer Sia. This is a single from her album ‘Colour the Small One’ which was able to chart throughout Europe and hit the number 24 spot on the Rock Digital Songs chart in the US. There is also an accompanying music video to the song which was filmed in London.
The song is not a guitar-driven song, in fact, the primary instrument is the piano and drums with the guitar just adding some light textural accents in the background. So when approaching this on the guitar it’s better to forgo simply playing the background elements and instead focus on the chords as detailed in the tab and guitar lessons.
Closer by King Of Leon
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The opening track from the alternative rock stars Kings of Leon’s fourth studio album ‘Only By The Night’. Although not a promotional single, the album itself did perform incredibly well selling over 6.2 million copies and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009. The song is about someone who is deeply in love, and despite giving everything for her he is left alone and lost.
The song has a very simple guitar motif that is exceptionally easy to play. If you want the sound to be a little thicker you can also hold the octave underneath the named note. This motif repeats for the entirety of the song, so there’s not a great deal to learn here!
Creep by Radiohead
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A very iconic song where many people will be able to identify it purely from the first chord change. The lyrics are extremely direct and approach the topic of unhealthy sexual desires. And perhaps is different stylistically from what you might associate Radiohead singles with, the song did nevertheless achieve massive commercial success. Although not right away, this is a song that rose to prominence over many years which is quite unusual.
The song has a very striking and iconic chord progression which you’ll begin by outlining with some very simple arpeggios for the intro and verses. Then for the chorus, there are some simple power chords playing or alternatively, there is a very simple lead melody over the top which you can choose to play instead.
Cut My Lip by Twenty One Pilots
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A single from Twenty One Pilots’ fifth studio album titled ‘Trench’. Although not released as a promotional single, the album overall did incredibly well, receiving positive feedback from critics and going platinum in the US. The song tackles the subject of adversity and the ability to continue moving forward in spite of it.
If you have a capo available to play this song it will make holding the chords much easier as they all need some kind of barring over the second fret. The chord progression is simply Em, D, A, and Bm which will repeat for the whole song and is played with an incredibly simple strumming pattern.
Dancing On My Own by Calum Scott
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Unlike some of the other songs on this list which are generally promotional singles released as part of a studio album. This one started life as a cover of the original song from Swedish singer Robyn that Calum performed and posted to his youtube channel. He was later encouraged to record the single properly which was then released in 2016, to somewhat mixed critical reviews, but was well received by fans who streamed the song so much it reached the number 1 spot in 6 different countries.
This is a very simple finger-picked song where you will be just jumping between two notes as they outline the overall chord progression with a few bass notes thrown in here and there. The song is played with a capo on the 1st fret.
Fire Escape by Foster The People
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Since emerging in 2009 Foster The People have been able to garner a dedicated fan base and are considered one of the best Indie/Alternative pop-rock bands around. Fire Escape is a single from their second album titled ‘Supermodel’. Lyrically the song addresses the band’s hometown of Los Angeles and the darker side of life in the city.
The song has an almost dreamlike melancholy to it, with a very sparing and ‘dry’ (without effects) use of the guitar. This is good in that it makes it very easy to play, but also might provide a challenge as you will really need to serve the atmosphere and tone of the song in the dynamics of your playing. A truly wonderful song to learn!
Hey You by Pink Floyd
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This is an iconic track from Pink Floyd’s 1979 album ‘The Wall’. It’s drenched in atmosphere with some very moving chord changes that present an unsettling tonality. The Wall as a whole is a story about a young rock star that feels alienated by society and retreats into isolation. But soon realized this is a mistake and this song represents his attempts to reach back out to the outside world. As the song progresses you will hear the young star’s cries for help become more desperate and anguish-filled.
From a technical perspective, the song uses some very interesting, colorful, and moving chord voicings that you will play as both arpeggios or open chords as the song progresses. But nothing overall challenging!
How You Remind Me by Nickelback
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Nickelback has been the subject of much criticism and ridicule over the years for their safe and ‘in the box’ style. But there’s no denying that their songs resonate with fans incredibly well which has garnered them massive commercial success. How You Remind Me is one of their biggest singles ever and was played on the radio over 1.2 million times in the years following its release.
For this song, you will need to drop your lowest string to D giving you a ‘Drop D’ tuning. This makes all the chords much easier to hold as you can simply bar the first two strings to make a power chord. Allowing you to use very similar hand positions for the entirety of the song.
I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
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An incredibly sentimental and heartfelt song from the Queen of Country herself, Dolly Parton. This was written to her business partner as a farewell and thank you for their time together as she had decided to pursue a solo career from then on. Originally released in 1984 from her album ‘Jolene’. Many people will already know the popular Whitney Houston rendition from the movie ‘The Bodyguard’.
This song is played at a nice and slow 60bpm and is essentially a country ballad. This means you’ll just be outlining some easy chord shapes. There are also less chords to learn than the slightly more dramatic Whitney Houston version as there is no key change required.
I’ll Never Love Again by Lady Gaga
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Written as a collaboration between Lady Gaga and filmmaker Bradley Cooper who actually sings ‘in character’ for the final chorus. The song was a huge success, charting very highly across both Europe and the United States and even winning a Grammy Award for best song written for a movie.
The song is primarily piano-driven, but those chords can be easily translated to the guitar using the strumming pattern D-D-D-DU as indicated in the provided video lesson. Once that chord progression and strumming has been mastered it can repeat for the entirety of the song making it very easy to learn fast.
Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver
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This song perfectly sums up the feeling of needing to be on the road and being away from those you love. John wrote this back in 1966, long before he had achieved any commercial success, while in Washington Airport. He described it as striking a lonely and anguished chord for him and will always represent the thought of leaving someone who he cares for very much.
In keeping with the sad and lonely tone of the music, it uses a simple, yet effective chord progression of C, G, C, D. These can all be played in their regular open positions. Over the top of this, you can also play along to the vocal melody which is showcased in the video lesson.
No Surprises By Radiohead
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No Surprises, from their third album titled ‘OK Computer’ which was well received, going gold in the UK and charting at the number 4 spot on the UK Singles Chart. The song also features a striking music video with singer Thom Yorke trying to sing inside a diving helmet as it slowly fills with water.
There are quite a few layers and counter melodies happening in this song. If you wish to take the lead melody there’s a capo on the 15th fret, although this is also perfectly playable without it, you will just need to make sure you are fretting all the 0 notes on the 15th fret. Then behind that are simple strummed chords which can be played with a capo on the 3rd fret.
Nude by Radiohead
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This was a song that, upon first recording, the band didn’t actually like how it originally turned out. So it was withdrawn from their third album and then recorded a second time and released as a promotional single for their seventh studio album titled ‘In Rainbows’. The song would go on to become a fan favorite and reached the number 1 spot on the UK Indie songs chart.
This song holds a great atmosphere and the typical haunting Radiohead vocal style. The guitar parts are used much as an additional ambient and textural element. You’ll need a nice and chimey clean tone, and there are some carefully placed rhythmic mutes that really add a lot of feel to the guitar parts.
Nutshell by Alice In Chains
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An absolutely wonderful and heartfelt tune from Seattle alternative metal titans Alice In Chains. This was part of their 1994 EP ‘Jar of Flies’ and is often played during acoustic sets where singer Jerry Cantrell will dedicate the song to the late members of the band. Bassist Mike Inez also mentioned that this song chokes him up due to reminding him so much of former member Layne Staley who passed away from a drug overdose in 2002.
Although played just using some simple open chords, the chord progression contains within it a lot of emotion, and you can really play with the dynamics of your strumming to really breathe life into the song.
Pictures of You by The Cure
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This song has a unique set of elements that create that signature Cure sound, while still presenting a contemplative and nostalgic feeling through their music. The song was originally written after a fire had broken out in singer Robert Smith’s home, and as he went through the remains of the fire he found a picture of his wife, Mary. It was also voted as one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stones magazine, reaching the number 283 spot.
So The Cure uses their instrumentation in a slightly more rock and roll way compared to a typical acoustic ballad. So for the majority of this song, you will be playing single notes on the guitar with a fairly tight slapback delay. Most of it is alternate picked making it a great exercise while still not being very technically demanding.
Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits
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Originally written by singer Mark Knopfler for the 1980 Dire Straits album titled ‘Making Movies’. Obviously, the song bears a connection to the original William Shakespeare play but is a little more playful in the story where Juliet instead abandons Romeo after finding fame and fortune. The song has also been featured on numerous other albums including the Dire Straits live albums and Knopfler’s duet with Emmylou Harris.
The song was originally played on a resonator guitar, now these aren’t exactly common guitars that sit in everyone’s home. So there are plenty of renditions, covers, and interpretations around that work perfectly fine on a standard acoustic guitar. But you will need to tune your guitar to open D major tuning as well as use a capo on the 3rd fret.
Self Care by Mac Miller
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Here’s one a little bit different, originally recorded for Mac Miller’s fifth studio album titled ‘Swimming’. This is one part of a 2 part concept in which this song is also paired with the track ‘Oblivion’ and documents Mac’s process of rehabilitation and taking care of himself. Unfortunately, Mac passed away in September 2018, the song went on to be his highest charting single to date. It also has an accompanying music video that references the scene in the movie ‘Kill Bill’ where Kiddo has to escape after being buried alive.
The track is primarily driven by electronic drums and synthesizer pads. However, there is a clearly discernible chord progression that translates very well to the guitar, in terms of how you outline these chords, whether by strumming or making a finger-picked arrangement, is entirely up to your own creativity. It’s a great song you can have a lot of fun with!
She Talks To Angels by The Black Crowes
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She Talks To Angels is a song featured on The Black Crowes’ first album ‘Shake Your Money Maker’. The band’s lead singer Chris Robinson has said that it is loosely based on an old acquaintance of his who was into drugs and alternative culture. But the song nevertheless carries a great deal of emotion and power in its delivery and is well worth learning if you are looking for an effective yet moving song to learn.
The first thing to note about this song is that it uses an alternate tuning which is E B E G# B E. This allows you to play all of the most common sections without fretting any notes at all on the guitar! Making this the easiest song to play on this list.
Somebody Else by The 1975
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This is a difficult song to listen to, that recollects the experience of finding that your former lover has moved on, yet as you go through the same process you are not able to move on creating a great deal of isolation and loneliness. The song uses a lot of synthwave, synthpop, and 80’s influence which makes it ideal to transfer over to the guitar.
In order to effectively play this on guitar, you simply need to take the chords outlined in the song and play them. You don’t have to get too crazy with the strumming pattern as the song covers themes of isolation and loneliness, so it’s a good time to make use of ‘musical empty space’ to reinforce the song’s meaning.
Someone Like You by Adele
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This is one of Adele’s biggest singles, originally written by Adele in collaboration with singer/songwriter Dan Wilson. It was released as a promotional single for her second album 21 and was greeted with almost universal praise from both fans and critics alike. The song has sold over 17 million copies worldwide and went 5x platinum in the UK, making it one of the best selling singles of all time.
Because of the open and sparse nature of the song it’s incredibly easy to play, needing you to just remember the chords and play them in a simple strummed fashion. For the more advanced player there are also fingerstyle arrangements that have been made which will test your technical ability a little more.
Something In The Way by Nirvana
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This song presented a slightly different side of Nirvana that the other members had to adjust and move out of their comfort zone to accommodate. Originally, songwriter Kurt had to record the vocal and acoustic guitar first due to difficulties recording with the whole band. But because his tempo naturally shifted and the guitar wasn’t completely in tune the other members had a great deal of trouble tracking their parts of his slightly rough track.
The song is exceptionally easy to play, only ever needing you to bar 3 strings and play them together essentially making a power chord with the additional octave on the top because of the dropped C tuning (C G C F A D).
Still Loving You by The Scorpions
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This is a quintessential ‘love power ballad’ from German heavy metal legends, Scorpions. Released as a promotional single for their ninth studio album titled ‘Love at First Sting’. It has everything you’d expect from a moving power ballad, emotive and soaring vocal lines, clean guitar hooks, and exceptionally overproduced drums. Glorious!
Guitar wise there’s quite a bit going on, you’ll begin playing some simple chords as arpeggios, and then on the chorus, there are some big distorted chords following a classic, emotive guitar solo. So some way to utilize both a clean and distorted sound is best for this song!
Stop This Train by John Mayer
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This is an incredibly moving song that tackles the daunting prospect of life’s unstoppable journey forward, much like a train that cannot be stopped. We are destined to face aging and our own mortality. Quite an existential topic but it’s one that is, nevertheless, moving and is complemented by a wonderful guitar arrangement as you would expect from someone as prestigious as John.
This would be considered an advanced song to play on guitar, there is a lot going on from the phrasing involved, the percussive hits from your palm that act as the kick drum, to some quite fast moving chord positions that require quite a bit of dexterity to execute. A great song to learn if you need a challenge!
The Scientist by Coldplay
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What could be considered a typical piano ballad, but with Coldplay’s signature haunting style that always leaves a lasting impact. The song was described as simply being ‘about girls’ and ‘the thing that always gets you the most is when you fancy someone’. The song’s accompanying music video which was famously filmed in reverse is sitting at over 1 billion views on youtube.
As a piano ballad, it’s then incredibly easy to bring over into the guitar world. You’ll just be outlining the exact same chords as the piano but using more ‘full’ sounding open chords. You’ll also need a capo on the 3rd fret which will help make the chord positions more comfortable to hold.
Time After Time by Cindy Lauper
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From Cindy’s iconic first album ‘She’s So Unreal’, Time After Time was written along with producer Rob Hyman. This is a quintessential love song, and has been called ‘the best love song of all time’ by multiple outlets. Cindy commented that she is a difficult person to love and is quick to shut people out, but her boyfriend who loves her dearly is willing to push through this in spite of her troublesome nature.
This has a loving but also slightly sad tonality to the song. The guitar is mainly used as a layer rather than a leading instrument. This requires quite a bright and sparkly clean tone to execute so you can move to your bridge pickup and turn the treble up a bit for this song.
Under The Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers
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The Red Hot Chili Peppers have spanned many a genre during their career, from upbeat punk to alternative rock, and have even flirted with elements of psychedelia. But when they choose to tackle a more lonely and heartfelt song like Under The Bridge they really knock it out of the park. This song discusses singer Anthony Kiedis’s experience with loneliness when he had a girl who was willing to give him all of her love, but he didn’t embrace it due to his all-consuming drug addiction.
The song uses some wonderful finger-picked passages and some great strummed chords which you can play with a pick. A very rich and thick sounding clean tone with just the tiniest bit of ‘pop’ when you pluck hard is going to really bring this song to life.
When I Was Your Man by Bruno Mars
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This is a ballad that tackles Bruno’s feelings of regret after not fully loving a woman which pushed her to leave him, and how he hopes another man can provide her with all the love he wasn’t able to. It’s a beautiful song from his second album ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ and as a single has sold over 8 million copies.
Like most piano-driven ballads those chords can be taken and easily replicated on the guitar. You can take the strumming pattern detailed in the attached video lesson and apply that to the chord progression outlined in the song. There are a lot of cool 7th chords and interesting inversions which makes it a great song to learn if you also want to expand your chordal vocabulary on the guitar.