A beginner walks up to you and asks... what 5 songs should I learn?


I Bleed Orange
Apr 9, 2014
Lol, how about songs that aren't 50+ years old.

White Stripes Seven Nation Army seems to be very popular as a newer song. It's only about 20 years old. OK that really makes me feel old.


Country Gent
Mar 12, 2012
Learning theory and inversions of chord shapes needs to come after learning some simple riffs and or songs. Since I am (nearly) ancient, I don't know what would float the boat of some kid today but for me it was:

Last Train to Clarksville (at least a simplistic version of that famous riff that I managed to work out on my own)
Gloria by The Shadows of Knight
House of the Rising Sun
(Can't Get No) Satisfaction
I'm Not Your Stepping Stone

After you've mastered the basic Cowboy Chords (those F and B7 chords can be difficult when starting out), then you can move on to the Bar Chords, Inversions and other theory stuff.


I Bleed Orange
Apr 9, 2014
I wouldn’t tell them to learn songs. I’d tell them to learn theory and focus on chord shapes. Once you learn chords and inversions and some theory, you can play any song you want.
Absolutely agree but even the strictest classical teacher (like mine) will give you songs to play that exercise the theory you are learning.


Gold Supporting Member
Dec 22, 2018
Down in the Valley and Wildwood Flower were the first pieces of sheet music my guitar teacher started me on when I was 7 years old. Laid a good foundation for the major chords. I think I still have that sheet music stashed around here somewhere.


Country Gent
Double Platinum Member
Jul 23, 2019
From the Sound of Music: Do-Re-Mi, just pick it out by ear.

Once you

know the

notes to


you can

play most



First song in the Suzuki method book is Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Anything you know by heart and can whistle along to, pick it out by ear on the guitar.

Other than that: Smoke on the Water!


Country Gent
Double Platinum Member
Oct 27, 2010
Whittier, Ca
What 5 songs would you recommend to a just-starting-out player? Which are your picks that help teach basic techniques and theory, creating a foundation for growth?

1. The Ramones : Blitzkrieg Bop - introduces you to the 1:4:5 structure, punk rock, and simple song construction.
2. Misfits : Astro Zombies - plays around with that 1:4:5: structure and is SUPER fun to play.
3. Freddie King : Hide Away - teaches blues structure and verse soloing.
4. Guns N Roses : Sweet Child O' Mine - teaches string skipping and pentatonic scale.
5. Arpeggios from hell : not so much a song as an arpeggio practice piece.


Friend of Fred
Gold Supporting Member
Jun 5, 2012
All guitar players should know that one song that goes 'do do do dah, do do do, do do do dah dooooo....


Nov 10, 2021
Eastern Tennessee
Songs that you love.
If you love the song you will want to practice and get it right. If you dont care about the song you might not care to put the hours in.
Doesn't matter if you simplify every chord, every riff, whatever...if it's what you like, you'll be hooked. No offense, but if someone told me to learn "Pink Houses", "Heart of Gold", "House of the Rising Son", or anything by Oasis I would have quit playing.


Country Gent
Aug 8, 2016
Everett wa
Dust in the wind-it was created for the purpose of teaching beginning finger picking

Dead leaves and the dirty ground-nice easy song with a cool beginning intro and learn to switch back and forth from dirty to clean

Rip it up-learn a shuffle, 1,4,5 pattern and a fun solo

Crimson and clover-a lot of song in those 3 chords

Specimen 19- it’s on the four chord progression that 80% of popular songs use and I wrote it so if you’re going to learn that progression it might as well be with one of my songs.


Country Gent
Apr 14, 2020
I wouldn’t tell them to learn songs. I’d tell them to learn theory and focus on chord shapes. Once you learn chords and inversions and some theory, you can play any song you want.
Not that I play at anywhere near your level, but I disagree. Learning the theory and shapes is important, and should come early, but not first IMHO.

I think it’s important to learn a few complete songs (not just riffs and snippets), and that includes the words. I would also advise singing, and LOUDLY. Singing badly is fine, and slowly is helpful, but loud is important. Loud puts your mind in a different, fully-committed gear.

Singing softly allows you to to be tentative. Sing sing sing, pause to change chords, strum the chord softly to see if it sounds right, sing some more, etc. it allows us to be our own worst critic with every note.

Several points to this: How many people only learn the cool parts, or never learn to sing and play at the same time. How many learn the shapes, but can’t do anything with them?

Building a repertoire builds confidence, and maintains the fun.

Once you start learning shapes, I think it’s helpful to learn those same songs without using an open strings, moving the shapes around and so on.


Jan 12, 2023
Dayton Ohio
I had a student who wanted to learn Achey Breaky Heart. Two chords. But, that was her favorite song, and once she learned the chords, she worked on the rythm, once she had that, she had learned her first entire song and she was properly motivated to continue learning. My preference for a first song to learn would have been something with at least three chords, and a slightly more complex rhythm, like Twist and Shout, but ol' Billy Ray was what she liked.

So I think asking something like "what five songs" is all well and good, but ultimately the songs you pick should be based on what you like to listen to, songs you are familiar with and songs that YOU want to learn, not what some crusty old guy like me thinks are good ones.

But because you asked, and I'm a crusty old guy,,,,
Twist And Shout
That's Alright Mama
Fulsom Prison Blues
I'll Follow The Sun


Mar 15, 2012
And here's a third vote for that -- it was my first song, too. Although my preacher father taught it to me as "Amazing Grace," then kind of whispered on the sly that it was actually "House of the Rising Sun!" ("Amazing Grace" works perfectly with that melody. As does "Gilligan's Island.")

"Louie, Louie" Kingsmen (hey, it's ridiculous, but you can play a song! Then change the key, even!)
"Sweet Jane" Velvet Underground
"Ziggy Stardust" David Bowie

But really, assuming rock and roll, country, or folk -- learn what I-IV-V means, 12-bar blues, a handful of basic chord shapes and simple ideas to go with I-IV-V like the minor VI and minor II, then try to figure stuff out by listening. I think that gets you farthest, fastest.
Sweet Jane can do double duty, same chords as Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benetar.