Easy Chord Songs for Beginning Guitarists

unnamed-59Since most people want to play guitar in order to play songs, I teach songs to all of my beginning guitar students right away. For the first month or so, I usually assign one section from, The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume One and a few songs that I teach by ear.

First Assignment

Chords are notated in chord diagrams. Students learn how to read chord diagrams and play each chord clearly. Hint: Use the tips of your fingers so the fretted notes ring clearly and the adjacent strings are not accidentally muffled. To check this, play the chord one string at a time and listen for any muffled notes. If a note isn’t as clear as it should be, adjust your fretting fingers until the problem resolves.

I know that some chords have funny names (we’ll cover that later) so for now, I just ask students to play each chord clearly and memorize the name and fingering for each chord. For a lot of folks, this is enough work for the first week (along with the reading exercises). Some students are ready to try their first song after that, so we use those first chords to play a 12 bar blues with the chords and we may also include a shuffle riff and a scale for soloing.

Second Assignment

The most common issue students raise during their second lesson is that they cannot transition from one chord to the next quick enough to play a song. Because so many students struggle here, I spent a lot of time and energy developing a system that is 100% effective in solving this problem. You’ll have to buy the book to see and use the system (sorry folks, I’ve got to eat, too.) But if this is an issue for you, or if you don’t want it to be an issue for you, take advantage of my hard work and get the book.

It really varies how fast students can memorize the chords, play them clearly, and complete the chord transition exercises. If students practice the exercises each day for about 10 minutes, most students have it down in a week. The biggest reason why people can’t do it in a week is because they don’t practice them every day, and building this kind of muscle memory requires folks practice. every. single. day.

Third Assignment

When students have the chords and transitions down, they are ready for songs. To make a song sound like a song, you need to play the right chords and right strumming pattern. There are many strum patterns written out in the book for beginners to get them started. The biggest hurdle is for a lot of folks is getting their strumming hand to strum down on all the down beats and up on all the upbeats.

Watch Out!!!

Playing with a consistant down and up strum pattern is so important, and it’s also the #1 problem I see in self-taught guitarists. I also should mention that this mistake can take weeks or months to fix. Very well meaning and hard working guitarists who want to learn as much as they can on their own before taking guitar lessons, learn their strum patterns incorrectly from things they see online and it takes a lot of time and energy to fix it. This is why even beginning guitarists need a teacher.

Still Not Convinced?

A bad strumming habit looks like a person trying to get down the street by hopping on one leg then randomly switching to the next leg and hopping on that one. There’s no rhythm. It’s so much more efficient and rhythmic to go consistently from your left foot to your right foot repeatedly.

How do you know if you are doing it correctly? Hire a teacher. You can sign up for one webcam lesson with me and I’ll teach you how to do it correctly and I’ll let you know if you are on track. It’s easy and it could save you a lot of time and energy.

If You’re Ready: The Songs and the Suggested Weekly Lesson Plan!

I picked these songs because most people are familiar with them and the songs help students develop proper strumming (consistent down+up motion), basic soloing and singing while playing. Once these skills are mastered, they can be applied to many other songs.

Week One: Pages 97-101

Concepts: First Chords, Chord Transition Exercises, Shuffle Riff, Minor Pentatonic Scale and Blues Solo

Suggested Songs: Blues in A

Week Two: Pages 101-107

Concepts: Second Group of Chords, Chord Transition Exercises, Chord Jams, Strum Patterns, Major Scale and Solo

Suggested Songs: Wild Thing, Twist and Shout, Amazing Grace, Bad Moon Rising, Pumped Up Kicks, What I Like About You

Week Three: Pages 108-114

Concepts: Third Group of Chords, Chord Transition Exercises, Chord Jams, Strum Patterns and Solo

Suggested Songs: Sweet Home Alabama, Brown Eyed Girl, Hey Joe, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, No Woman No Cry, Learning to Fly, Louie Louie

Week Four: Pages 115-120

Concepts: Fourth Group of Chords, Chord Transition Exercises, Chord Jams, Strum Patterns, Solos and Songwriting Chart

Suggested Songs: Hotel California, House of the Rising Sun, La Bamba, Little Talks, Blues in E, Let it Be

The cool thing about The Guitar Lesson Companion method book series is that they’ve got all the concepts, plenty of progressive exercises, and an included CD that actually sounds good. It was designed specifically for students who are taking guitar lessons because that is the best way to learn how to play the guitar. Contact me for lessons in Seattle or via webcam and reach your goals!



I wrote “The Guitar Lesson Companion” Method Books to help students get more out of their guitar lessons and to help teachers save time and be more effective in their studios. These books offer a clear, flexible, and progressive structure with plenty of good sounding exercises, which help students reach their goals faster than ever before. Fellow Guitar Teachers: Let’s meet via Skype / FaceTime to see if this series is right for your students. Visit: The Teachers’ Lounge

 Which book is right for you? What’s your goal?

The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume One

The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume Two

  • Switch between popular chords fast and clearly
  • Understand college music theory concepts
  • Add new rhythms and grooves
  • Spice up your rhythm guitar with practical triad inversions
  • Get a solid introduction to music theory on guitar
  • Master the chord tones (arpeggios) in all positions, all keys
  • Learn how to read music and develop good technique
  • Use a clear, progressive structure to master the design of the guitar
  • Solo using patterns from the CAGED system (with the jam CD)
  • Play walking bass lines, quartal harmony, altered chords and resolutions
  • Know how to figure out what key a song is in, or write songs in specific keys
  • Train your ears while improvising with 8+ hours of backing tracks

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