If you’re looking for dark acoustic guitar songs to learn, you’ve come to the right post!
Here they are in no particular order!
1. Dazed and Confused by Jake Holmes
If you’re a hard rock and metal fan, you’ve most likely heard of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused.” However, this song was a cover. The song is actually by Jake Holmes. It’s a dark-sounding acoustic folk-rock piece.
Sure, the original recording features an overdubbed electric guitar. These add a more haunting vibe to it. Most importantly, this original has that recognizable chromatic bass line. In combination with the main vocal melodies, it makes for a haunting piece.
2. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground by Blind Willie Johnson
Blind Willie Johnson is easily one of the most influential but underrated guitar players of all time. He also had an incredibly tragic life. Losing his eyesight at a young age, he eventually died abandoned and alone in what remained of his burnt-down home.
“Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” is a deep, honest emotional piece. It perfectly paints this grim picture, and it eventually became one of the staple blues pieces. The original recording is also on Voyager Records sent into outer space.
The song is played with a slide. In fact, it’s one of the most famous slide pieces. It also features humming vocals with no distinguishable lyrics. But it all fits so perfectly, especially knowing Johnson’s tragic story.
3. Trapezium by Al Marconi
Al Marconi is a solo contemporary classical guitarist. Although not as big as other names here, there’s some stuff worthy of our attention. One such example is his “Trapezium,” a melancholic and dark piece performed on a classical guitar.
Nonetheless, you can still play it on a regular steel-string guitar. For the most part, it’s like an etude. We have an interesting chord progression performed with a specific fingerpicking pattern. And over that, we have another guitar playing the lead parts.
Although it’s not that famous, the piece could be an interesting addition to your repertoire. It’s also a great choice for any guitar duo.
4. Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash Version
Johnny Cash made “Hurt” much more famous than its original. In fact, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor even said that the feels like the song belonged to Johnny Cash.
“Hurt” may not be super dark, but it’s pretty melancholic, with the music and lyrics complementing one another. Additionally, it isn’t that hard to learn. However, it may be a bit challenging to fully capture the song’s vibe. It’s a great way to practice playing dynamics and how to combine that with singing.
5. Heron Blue by Sun Kil Moon
“Heron Blue” is a very melancholic piece by Mark Kozelek, best-known as Sun Kil Moon. The song is minimalistic and somewhat monotonous. However, this just adds to its dark feel. The music is accompanied by gloomy lyrics and the musician’s almost hum-like singing.
What I love about the song is that it’s a great way to practice fingerpicking. Initially, the pattern might seem a bit tricky. But once you get the hang of it, it’s incredibly catchy to play.
There’s also a brief lead part in the first half of the song. It breaks the monotony but is brief enough not to change the song’s feel.
6. Diamonds and Rust by Joan Baez
Joan Baez dedicated “Diamonds and Rust” to Bob Dylan. And a song dedicated to Dylan simply must be nothing short of impressive.
Although its chord progressions aren’t complicated, it has a very interesting arrangement. It combines open strings with other notes building chord progressions and serving as melodies at the same time.
The original version is performed with a band. However, it can also work as a solo piece. It’s just a classic singer-songwriter piece with a very melancholic feel.
7. Mosquito Song by Queens of the Stone Age
We usually remember Queens of the Stone Age as a desert rock band. However, Josh Homme doesn’t shy away from making acoustic songs. And if you want a darker one, check out “Mosquito Song.”
This was a hidden track on the “Songs for the Deaf” album. Homme sings with a more tender voice, showing his different side. The chord progression isn’t that difficult. However, there are some fills in between the chords that you have to figure out. It’s originally on a 12-string, but you can also play it on a 6-string guitar. Also, bear in mind that you have to down tune to C standard tuning. That’s 4 semitones below E standard.
8. River Take Me by Darrell Scott
Country musician Darrell Scott shows that one guitar and voice can do a lot. In his song “River Take Me,” he uses a simple arrangement but makes it so powerful.
It’s far from a difficult song to play. However, there are a couple of things to bear in mind. First, there are some fills in between the chords. Secondly, when you perform it, you have to convincingly convey its emotion. Getting ahold of dynamics is crucial here.
9. Nutshell by Alice in Chains
This is one song brings us back to the 1990s. And it immediately brings memories of Layne Staley.
“Nutshell” is, by far, one of the most emotionally-charged songs in rock music. It’s not uncommon for fans to get teary-eyed with this one.
The song shouldn’t be too difficult to play. However, you’ll have to learn a little about different chords. For instance, you have E minor 7 and C add 9. For more inspiration, I suggest that you check out their famous live version at MTV Unplugged from 1996.
10. Into Dust by Mazzy Star
Mazzy Star’s “Into Dust” is a pretty easy choice for this list. The song’s mellow acoustic guitar and Hope Sandoval’s vocals are accompanied by strings.
All of these elements serve the full picture that the song is painting. It’s fairly straightforward and minimalistic. However, you need to keep the dynamics steady throughout its length. That may be more challenging than it seems.
11. Goodbye Blue Sky by Pink Floyd
Coming from “The Wall” album, “Goodbye Blue Sky” is one of Pink Floyd’s most emotionally-charged songs. Its lyrics tell a story about the air raids in the UK during WW2. This is all accompanied by music that alternates between dark and lighter parts.
The song also features other instruments. However, you can easily perform it as an entirely acoustic piece. Just make sure to emphasize the chord progression and vocals in verses. These give out some pretty haunting vibes.
12. Ghost of the Mountain by Justin Johnson
Justin Johnson is one of those younger musicians who keep the flame of old-school blues burning. Going through his work, “Ghost of the Mountain” is a dark and haunting one.
For the most part, Justin uses a slide. It’s written with open D tuning in mind, so it goes D-A-D-F-A-D from bottom to top. He also uses a relatively simple picking pattern. However, you have to combine it with the slide and be very precise with what you’re doing.
Dark Acoustic Guitar Songs: Conclusion
I hope this article has given you some ideas of dark acoustic guitar songs to learn!
And if you like this post, you’ll probably like our Halloween guitar songs post too!
Also, if you want to read about other song lists on this blog, check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related subject!