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Learning Easy Songs on Guitar

Updated on September 11, 2022

Easy Guitar songs

Many songs, especially folk-based songs from the Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen songbooks, Irish songs and country songs by Hank Williams, only use 3 or 4 chords.

In the key of G these would be G, C, D or D7. You could also find one or more of the minor chords: in this key these would be Em, Bm and Am.

The good news is - once you have mastered these chords you will be able to use them to play literally hundreds of songs. A major reason guitar is such a popular instrument, you can be playing in literally days or weeks to some degree.

Harmonised scales - see my other hubs for details, but the chords in G would be:

G Am Bm C D Em F♯m7b5 G (following the notes of the G major scale)

Notes of the G major scale: G A B C D E F♯ G. Each note of the scale can have a chord built on it, and the scale will fit all the chords.

Try singing along, as this will really help your playing develop fast. If the song is difficult to sing, you can use a capo to change the key. Don't expect to find the recorded or written key of a song is right for your voice, it probably won't be ideal.

Whiskey in the Jar

Playing Guitar Songs

Mistake on the chord grid pictures - last chord is D, not G!

The chord pictures show the strings as six vertical lines, the frets as the horizontal lines. o = open string.

Each bar in the chart is 4 beats long, or four strums at the most basic level. The ./. sign is ditto, same as the last bar. You can write out any simple song in this way - it makes it very easy to learn new songs quickly. In this traditional Irish song, there are only 4 chords - you can find the lyrics easily through a google search - Whiskeyin the Jar lyrics.

You might notice that the G chord picture is slightly different - this is a good way to play G for extra ring and is used widely in country and bluegrass songs.

Right - hand stuff: this style of song works best on a steel-string guitar, strumming with a pick. The pick should not be too heavy - Jim Dunlop 73mm are ideal for this. There is nothing wrong with counting the beats as you play, it should help.

Playing solos

Em pentatonic scale ideas are shown too - you can use all these notes to solo over these chords. Any other song in the same key (G) will use the same scale. Don't forget the open strings.

Double stops - you can play the notes on strings 1 and 2 together, from frets 3 and 5, and also those on strings 2 and 3.

Quick theory - if a song is the key of G, you can play solos with either the G major scale or the Em pentatonic scale, which is almost the same thing, but with 2 notes removed. Taking out these two notes makes improvisation much easier, and it will also sound more like rock, blues and bluegrass. The combination of both scales also works well.

Regardless of theory, just ask yourself if it sounds good!


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