Learning Songs with Easy Guitar Chords

chord progressions for guitarObviously one of the most common questions among beginning guitar students revolves around their personal repertoire, and what songs they should learn to play first.

While I’m a big believer in choosing songs you like, I also think it’s important to choose songs with common chord progressions.

As you continue to study music, you’ll find that there are a number of very common progressions that surface again and again throughout the repertoire.

Focusing on learning songs that use these progressions does a few things.

You Can Play More Songs

First and foremost, you’ll be able to play more songs. There are literally dozens of songs that use the same four chords, and many of them even have the same order of those chords.

That means that you could learn one of them, then change your tempo or your strumming style, and automatically be able to play another one.

Since most people (non-musicians, at least) will never be able to tell that you’re just playing a different song using the same four chords, its a great way to quickly expand your repertoire and play for your friends, or even string together your first performance set.

Harder Guitar Songs Become Easier

Another reason I recommend learning some of these chord progressions is there are many more difficult songs that, when you look closely, are really based off of the same progression.

These songs might throw an extra chord or two in the middle of the easier progression change, or they might use part of the progression in one area of the song, and a different part of the progression in a different area of the song, but either way, if you’ve learned to deconstruct your songs based on the chord progressions they use, you’ll be able to identify and more quickly master them when they crop up in the context of harder works.

For example, if you learn the Hotel California chords, a standard beginning guitar piece and one that most new guitarists turn to in their first few months of playing, you’ll be able to use an excerpt of that chord progression to play the Alive tab by Pearl Jam, a notoriously far more difficult set of changes to master.

But, because you’ve already learned a part of them with Hotel California, you’ll have less trouble working through Alive.

You’ll Train your Ear to Hear the Chords

Finally, learning songs based on common chord progressions is one of the best ways to train your ear.

You’ll start to hear the progressions show up in other songs, regardless of whether they come up ina different key or as only part of a longer progression.

You’ll also make it easier to learn the art of soloing and improvisation, when the time comes, because you’ll have ingrained the musical progression into your ear so firmly.

A Few Fun Popular Songs to Play

popmusic quoteI think my favorite part about playing music is the never-ending search for great songs and new arrangements of old songs.

Anything you can do to make a song you hear elsewhere, no matter whether its a 40 year old jazz standard or last year’s pop-hit, is going to give you an edge, improve your own musicality, and just make playing that much more fun.

Here are a few ideas for songs I’ve been inspired with lately.

Great Acoustic Music

In another surprising twist, Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself is a radical departure from his earlier pop styles. The song has a nice acoustic arrangement to it, and shows a side of Bieber’s voice maturing that you haven’t heard before!

To be honest, the first time I head this song I thought it was more akin to Ed Sheeran’s work than Bieber’s! Get the sheet music for Love Yourself here.

Another pop-artist you might want to give another listen to is Adam Levine. This lead singer from Maroon 5, and now popular host of NBC’s The Voice, has a new musical side to him!

His solo recordings are absolutely fantastic, and provide some great songs for bands and musicians of all levels to cover! Check out this recording of Lost Stars from his Begin Again album:

Don’t Forget Disney!

Yet another surprising source of fun popular music to throw into the mix isn’t from a band or artist, but rather…Disney!

Known for their movie-musical style of animation, Disney got away from this history with its movies during the early 200s, but with their latest releases, including Frozen and Tangled, they’re back on track, and have some great original popular hits to go along with them. Frozen composers Robert Lopez and Kristin Andersen-Lopez won literally dozens of awards for their themes for the movie, and the songs are now being performed worldwide, independent of the movie itself!

My personal favorite is the catchy “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” which is the opening song of Anna. You can find a great arrangement and download the piano sheet music here.

You can also download the Love is an Open Door pdf, another great tune from the movie.