Rock Out at Home: Simple Songs to Strum Along to
Published on 01 May 2020
Bored at home and learning a few new tunes to pass the time? Welcome to the club! We've been putting in plenty of practice over the last few weeks to push ourselves to the limits. In fact, if you're stuck for ideas you can even check out our list of Songs That Will Improve Your Playing!
However, that doesn't mean we've been doing nothing but shredding scales and finger tapping. Sometimes all you need is something basic to have a strum (and sing if you're feeling adventurous) along to. Learning a new tune is always a proud moment, even if it's something simple. Plus, if you're just getting started and need a bit of practice moving between different shapes, nailing some new is always an achievement. That's why we've put together a short list of some of our favourite tunes that are utterly timeless but only use around 5 chords! Put down your Steve Vai songbook and have a strum on these, your fingers will thank you for it...
Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry
As quite possibly Bob's most recognisable track, this bouncy ballad always goes down well at open mics and is an absolute pleasure to play along too. Marley was a master at creating classics using nothing more than a simple chord sequence and the lasting popularity of his music is testament to how much you can do by stringing a few basic chords together.
No Woman No Cry is essentially a simple run down starting on C, followed by a G/B shape, an A, then an F. If you pick out the bass notes on each chord you'll quickly work out the timing which sits right in with the vocal melody. Then, you're just moving to a C, F, C and G to bring yourself back to the start of the part. This runs throughout the full track aside from the bridge which uses the same chords again, this time: C, G/B, Am, F. This song is really simple and once you start playing this pattern you'll see how quickly you start to get into that eternal catchy groove. It's also a great platform for improvising those sweet, 'verby wah tinged solos so get the looper out and get skanking!
The La's - There She Goes
No list of simple songs to strum would be complete without the La's Brit Pop classic. Verses? Who needs them!? Not these cheeky chaps anyway, their catchy chorus saw this track become a total smash and an instantly recognisable anthem that almost anyone can jam along to. With a lovely little picking part on D to kick things off, this track uses G, D, C, G/F# as it's base, forming the eternal loop that makes this track so infectious. The bridge, or hook section (hard to tell when there are no verses...) then switches it up with an Am, G, C, D. Now, watch out because there are a few changes throughout. The guys throw a couple of Em and Cadd9s in here and there in the chorus and bridge to keep things interesting so have a listen through to make sure you're getting it right. This is a total earworm of a track which is really fun to play along with. Have a listen and try it out now!
Green Day - When I Come Around
Speaking of bands who can do a lot with a few simple chords, let's turn our attention to unapologetic pop-punkers Green Day! Billie Joe is a king of crafting killer tracks from just the basics and this song from their unforgettable Dookie album was a huge part of their introduction to the world. Lazy without lacking on attitude, this song is the perfect example of why their no-frills sound made such a huge impact and it's loads of fun to play along with.
When I come Around uses simple power chords and just the right amount of dirt to give you that chunky alternative sound. The main riff is a simple G5, D5, Em, C but make sure that you have a listen for the timing. It's not difficult but it does require a little attention at first, particularly if you're just getting started. Then, all you need is an A5 and a C in the chorus and you're jamming (wait, we did Bob Marley already...). There's a cool and not too challenging solo in the mix here too, so give that a bash once you get the chords down. This is a really satisfying tune to play and sing so make sure you have a bit of fun with it!
Iggy Pop - The Passenger
Before he was in insurance adverts and indeed, this track was in Butlins adverts (or was it Haven?), Iggy Pop was a force of raw punk, rock n roll fury that was simply unstoppable. That said, he did have his more mellow moments and this enduring classic is proof of his ability as a pop star as well as a shirtless punk machine. Crooning over the top of this unforgettable chord sequence, Iggy laid down the perfect pop track which has been covered by pretty much every up and coming band trying to find their timing since. It's great fun to play along with using an Am, F, C and G pattern followed by Am, F, C and E pretty much endlessly, or as long as you want to continue the la part at the end... This tune is always a favourite and is known across so many generations it works with any crowd. Have a strum and you'll instantly have a new go-to track, trust us.
Neil Young - Heart of Gold
Neil Young's chaotic guitar playing has dazzled, amazed and at times bemused players all over the world but no one can dispute his incredible songwriting ability. This track is a favourite of buskers the world over and it ain't hard to see why. Catchy, straightforward and easy to sing along to? Yep, it's ticking all of those boxes and then some. This song never gets old and was totally made to be played along to, so it's only right that you have a go!
Again, this track is really straightforward but sounds amazing. To nail it, simply get the groove going with an Em, C, D, then a G and to be honest, you've pretty much got it! We're pretty sure there's a Cmaj7 lurking before the G in the "I'm getting old" lines but you can have a listen and feel that out for yourself. Who knows, this may even be the time to get the harmonica out and start having a blast on that? We take no responsibility for your family chucking you out if it goes south though...
Learning new songs is a great way to improve not only your playing but also your writing. All of the tracks above are classics in their own right despite being pretty simple to play and it goes to show you how sometimes creativity is all about doing simple things the right way. When you're applying through them, think about the vocal and instrumental arrangements going on as well and consider how you can bring that into your own music. Or, if you're just getting started playing, have a blast trying these out and have a go at some of the solos and trickier parts once you have them down. We hope you enjoy this selection and don't forget to let us know some more simple tracks in the comments below!