Have you ever wondered which are the absolute hardest acoustic guitar songs to master?
Well, you’re in for a treat!
We have scoured the musical universe to find those jaw-dropping tracks that make even the most seasoned guitarists sweat.
- Mind-bending fingerpicking patterns,
- Astounding chord transitions,
- And riffs that seem almost otherworldly.
Dive deep with us as we count down these challenging tunes.
Whether you’re just starting your guitar journey or have been strumming for years, these tracks are bound to push your limits.
So, are you ready to challenge yourself and step up your guitar game?
If so, check out these tracks.
Explore more great songs from this book.
It has notes-and-tab transcriptions of 35 classic acoustic hits from the 1960s to today!
And if you are looking for a Spotify playlist of these songs, we’ve got it for you:
Mastering the Challenge: 60 Hardest Acoustic Guitar Songs to Conquer
1. “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams
“Classical Gas” by Mason Williams is a complex and vibrant instrumental piece that combines classical and folk influences.
The song includes a complicated arpeggio and picking patterns but helps create a dynamic and melodic character.
2. “Anji” by Davy Graham
Among the hardest acoustic guitar songs, this tune stands out.
Using hammer-ons and pull-offs ensures seamless note transitions.
While tricky, mastering these techniques boosts the melody’s flow and captivates listeners.
3. “Samba Pa Ti” by Santana
Delving into the hardest acoustic guitar songs, this track stands out.
This piece beautifully blends Santana’s electric style with acoustic sensibilities, testing melody and rhythm.
Though complex, tackling this song is undeniably rewarding and enjoyable.
4. “Ocean” by John Butler
“Ocean” is typically played in an alternate complicated tuning called DADGAD.
This tuning allows for unique chord voicings and resonant open strings contributing to the song’s sound.
5. “Dee” by Randy Rhoads
Starting off, the chords in this song are beautifully picked in an arpeggio style.
The melody dances mainly on the higher strings.
Additionally, you’ll notice elegant slides ensuring seamless transitions, giving the piece a fluid and cohesive feel.
6. “Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac
Lindsey sometimes uses hard muted strums or palm slaps on the strings to add percussive elements to the arrangement.
It also adds rhythmic interest and can help emphasize specific beats.
7. “Mood for a Day” by Steve Howe
A staple among the hardest acoustic guitar songs, “Mood for a Day” incorporates shifts in time signatures, adding to the piece’s complexity.
Being comfortable with counting and playing in irregular time signatures is essential.
8. “The Clap” by Steve Howe
Steve Howe incorporates percussive effects by tapping the guitar’s body and strings with his right hand.
This adds a rhythmic and percussive dimension to the composition.
Learning “The Clap” requires careful practice due to its intricate fingerstyle patterns and rapid transitions.
9. “Embryonic Journey” by Jefferson Airplane
“Embryonic Journey” by Jefferson Airplane is a fingerstyle classic whose detailed picking patterns challenge even seasoned players.
The alternating bass line played by the thumb provides a consistent rhythm and foundation for the melody.
This technique is hard and is often found in folk and blues fingerpicking styles.
10. “Bron-Yr-Aur” by Led Zeppelin
Jimmy Page occasionally uses hybrid picking, using a pick for specific notes and his fingers for others.
This complex technique provides additional flexibility and allows for rapid note changes.
11. “Canarios” by Gaspar Sanz
Rasgueado is a flamenco complicated strumming technique involving quick and controlled strumming with the fingers.
In “Canarios,” rasgueado often emphasizes specific beats and adds a flamenco flair.
12. “Tears in the Rain” by Joe Satriani
Satriani often uses controlled vibrato, a complicated technique to add character to sustained notes.
Experimenting with vibrato speed and depth takes a lot of work to match the song’s mood.
Legato techniques, such as hammer-ons and pull-offs, contribute to the flowing and smooth nature of the melody.
13. “Spanish Caravan” by The Doors
The song’s main riff is hard-played using fingerpicking.
The riff involves an intricate repeating pattern played on the top three strings while incorporating open strings for a flamenco-like sound.
14. “Horizons” by Genesis
“Horizons” is one of the hardest pieces to play.
It involves dynamic changes, from softer passages to intense moments.
Dynamics help convey the song’s emotion.
Slides between specific notes create smooth transitions, and hammer-ons and pull-offs add expressiveness to the melody.
15. “To Be Over” by Yes
It is a delicate piece with soaring melodies and intricate fingerstyle patterns that beautifully demonstrates Steve Howe’s versatility.
The song includes a series of chord progressions and arpeggios.
Steve Howe often uses arpeggios to create a flowing and melodic texture.
Familiarize yourself with the chord changes and the corresponding arpeggios.
16. “Drifting” by Andy McKee
Andy McKee is renowned for his complex guitar methods, often blending percussive elements by tapping and slapping the guitar’s body and strings.
Many regard this particular track as one of his repertoire’s hardest acoustic guitar songs.
17. “Ebon Coast” by Andy McKee
The composition features rich chord progressions and arpeggios.
Arpeggios involve playing the individual notes of a chord in sequence, often using tapping and fingerpicking.
Learning “Ebon Coast” is a rewarding but challenging endeavor.
Due to its complexity, it’s recommended to approach the piece gradually.
18. “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin
The essence of “The Entertainer” lies in its syncopated rhythm, where accents fall on off-beats and unexpected places, and it is one of the hardest guitar songs to play.
Adapt this rhythmic complexity to fingerpicking by emphasizing specific notes in a pattern.
19. “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith
The fingerpicking pattern is hard to play but often incorporates melody notes, giving the song a distinct sound.
The melody usually emerges from the higher strings while the thumb maintains the bass line.
20. “Guaranteed” by Eddie Vedder
While seemingly straightforward, its alternate tuning and fingerpicking pattern make it a tricky piece to master.
The song combines strumming and fingerpicking.
The verses are often fingerpicked, and the chorus may involve strumming for emphasis. The combination adds dynamics to the music.
21. “Vaseline Machine Gun” by Leo Kottke
Demonstrating Kottke’s 12-string prowess, it’s filled with rapid fingerpicking and slide techniques.
The song features various chord progressions, often involving unconventional chord shapes.
Familiarize yourself with the chord changes and transitions.
22. “Breezin'” by George Benson
This jazz classic has a smooth melody, but the underlying chordal structures pose a real challenge.
“Breezin'” requires a combination of technical proficiency and the ability to capture the song’s jazzy and smooth atmosphere.
23. “Take On Me – A-ha” by Sungha Jung
Sungha’s take on this 80s hit involves intricate fingerstyle techniques that challenge even advanced players.
He often incorporates complicated natural harmonics to add a sparkling and ethereal quality to his arrangements.
Practice producing harmonics by lightly touching the strings while plucking.
24. “Serrana” by Jason Becker
Indeed, ‘Serrana’ is a testament to Jason Becker’s prowess.
Famed for his jaw-dropping technical skills, this flamenco-inspired instrumental perfectly captures his innovative approach and unmatched technique.
25. “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin
The guitar adaptation of “The Entertainer” often combines complicated melody and chords.
Play the melody notes on the higher strings while incorporating the underlying chords.
26. “Mister Sandman” by Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins frequently used a fingerpicking technique called the hard “Travis picking.”
A steady alternating bass pattern is played with the thumb while the other fingers play melody and chords.
This technique adds a rhythmic foundation to the arrangement.
27. “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix often used hammer-ons and pull-offs to create a challenging but smooth transition between notes.
These techniques add a fluid and melodic quality to the playing.
28. “Cannonball Rag” by Merle Travis
The song’s lively feel is achieved through syncopated rhythm, where accents fall on off-beats and create a bouncy groove.
Learning “Cannonball Rag” is challenging and requires dedicated practice to master the Travis picking technique and execute the syncopated rhythm.
29. “Air Tap!” by Erik Mongrain
Effective palm muting techniques control the sustain and create a rhythmic quality in the percussive sections.
It is an intricate technique where harmonics are produced by slapping the strings while touching them lightly at specific points on the fretboard.
30. “The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin
Open tunings and lush chord progressions make this a delightful challenge.
31. “Manha De Carnaval” by Luiz Bonfa
Play arpeggios to outline the underlying harmony of the chords.
Arpeggios are hard, but they provide a flowing and melodic quality to the piece.
Learning Manha De Carnaval can be challenging due to its complexity and his unique approach to fingerstyle guitar.
32. “To B or Not To B” by Tommy Emmanuel
Tommy Emmanuel is known for using percussive effects such as tapping, slapping, and hitting the guitar body.
It is hard to play, but it creates rhythmic accents and percussive textures.
33. “Victory Rag” by Doc Watson
“Victory Rag” by Doc Watson Is a bluegrass challenge involving fingerpicking speed and precision.
This song includes rapid and intricate picking patterns.
Practice these patterns slowly, gradually increasing your speed while maintaining accuracy.
34. “Neon (Live) by John Mayer”
The song incorporates quick hammer-ons and pull-offs to create melodic runs and flourishes.
Mayer’s precise execution of these techniques contributes to the song’s complexity.
“Neon” is a popular fingerstyle guitar song by John Mayer known for its intricate and challenging guitar technique.
35. “Silent Night Chet Atkins Style”
Chet Atkins often combined a hard-to-play melody and chords to create a full-sounding arrangement.
Play the melody notes on the higher strings while incorporating the underlying chords.
36. “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by Francisco Tárrega
The tremolo technique involves a complex and rapid alternation of the fingers to create a sustained melody note while the other fingers repeatedly pluck the adjacent strings.
In “Recuerdos de la Alhambra,” the thumb (p) plucks the melody note while the three other fingers (i, m, a) rapidly pluck the strings in a controlled pattern.
37. “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
The “Under the Bridge” verses often involve complicated strumming patterns.
Use a combination of downstrokes and upstrokes to create a rhythmic groove.
Focus on the timing and feel of the strumming.
John Frusciante’s chord voicings and fingerpicking patterns are nuanced and intricate.
38. “Crazy On You” by Heart
The song starts with an intricate fingerpicking intro on acoustic guitar.
The technique involves plucking individual strings with your fingers (thumb, index, middle, and ring), which is hard but will create a flowing and melodic pattern.
Practice the fingerpicking pattern slowly at first and gradually build up speed.
39. “A Day in November” by Leo Brouwer
40. “Angie” by Bert Jansch
“Angie” by Bert Jansch is a traditional piece with complex fingerpicking patterns requiring precision and speed.
The alternating bass pattern played by the thumb gives a rhythmic foundation to the music.
Work on keeping the bass notes steady and consistent.
41. “They’re Red Hot” by Robert Johnson
The song’s rhythm includes syncopated accents on the off-beats, giving it a tough but bouncy and infectious feel.
Emphasize these off-beat accents to capture the song’s essence.
Strumming chords drive the song’s rhythm at a brisk tempo.
Use a combination of downstrokes and upstrokes to create a lively and swinging groove.
42. “Nine Pound Hammer” by Merle Travis
“Nine Pound Hammer” is a classic country and folk song with various renditions by artists, including Merle Travis.
It features a mix of complicated strumming, picking, and rhythmic techniques commonly found in country and folk guitar playing.
43. “Etude No. 1” by Villa-Lobos
Villa-Lobos’ Etude No. 1 is a renowned classical guitar piece in his collection of twelve studies, “Estudos,” which are essential repertoire for classical guitarists.
This piece is known for its intricate fingerpicking patterns and technical demands.
44. “Angeles” by Elliott Smith
“Angeles” by Elliott Smith is a haunting and intricate folk song that features delicate fingerpicking and introspective lyrics.
The piece includes complex arpeggios, where the notes of chords are played individually, and picking patterns that create a flowing and melodic texture.
45. “Jerry’s Breakdown” by Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed were also known for their tough hybrid picking, combining a flat pick with the fingers.
This technique allows for a fast and precise selection of individual strings and multiple-note passages.
Rapid fingerstyle patterns and playful harmonics make this a delightful challenge.
46. “Mediterranean Sundance” by Al Di Meola
The piece features complicated, rapid alternate picking and sweep-picking techniques to achieve lightning-fast passages.
Practice both single-note lines and arpeggios with precision and speed.
“Mediterranean Sundance” blends flamenco, jazz, and fusion styles.
47. “Scarified” Acoustic version by Paul Gilbert
“Scarified” is a technically demanding instrumental piece originally played by Racer X and later recorded in an acoustic version by Paul Gilbert.
The acoustic version presents a unique challenge due to the song’s speed and intricate guitar work being adapted for an acoustic guitar.
48. “Aerial Boundaries” by Michael Hedges
“Aerial Boundaries” by Michael Hedges is a groundbreaking acoustic guitar instrumental known for its innovative techniques and unique tuning.
Hedges used natural and artificial harmonics to add complicated, ethereal, and bell-like tones to his music.
49. “Vincent” by Don McLean
While melodically simple, the intricate fingerstyle patterns challenge players to maintain a delicate touch.
The song includes arpeggios and picking patterns, giving it a flowing and melodic character.
50. “Song for George” by Eric Johnson
“Song for George” is one of the hardest acoustic guitar songs, showcasing Eric Johnson’s distinctive style.
He melds intricate fingerpicking with hybrid techniques, often blending flatpicking and fingerpicking, to craft his iconic sound.
Diving into this piece, you’ll encounter alternate tunings and complex fingerstyle techniques, making it one of the hardest acoustic guitar songs to master.
However, the sense of accomplishment after conquering it is truly unparalleled.
51. “The Fisherman” by Leo Kottke
Learning “The Fisherman” requires dedicated practice and attention to detail.
Leo Kottke often incorporates complicated harmonics into his playing.
This 12-string piece has complex fingerpicking patterns, making it a challenging endeavor.
52. “Drive Home” by Steven Wilson
The acoustic parts often involve fingerpicking with a delicate touch.
Pay attention to the dynamics and rhythm of your fingerpicking.
In some sections, strumming is used to add intensity.
53. “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith
Steve Winwood’s intricate fingerstyle in open tunings presents a delightful challenge.
The song primarily uses a complicated strumming pattern: downstrokes and upstrokes.
Focus on the rhythm and feel of the strumming to match the song’s laid-back vibe.
54. “Julia” by The Beatles
Lennon’s unique fingerpicking pattern makes this a nuanced piece to master.
It features arpeggios and picking ways that create a gentle and flowing character.
55. “Chaconne” by J.S. Bach
Originally written for solo violin (BWV 1004).
It has been transcribed for the classical guitar by various guitarists and is considered one of the pinnacle pieces in the classical guitar repertoire.
It requires intricate fingerstyle and deep emotional engagement.
56. “Mountains Made of Steam” by A Silver Mt. Zion
Diving into this piece, you’ll encounter alternate tunings and intricate fingerstyle techniques, making it one of the hardest acoustic guitar songs to master.
However, the sense of accomplishment after conquering it is truly unparalleled.
57. “Silent Night, Bodom Night” by Children of Bodom
A metal song at heart, its acoustic arrangement challenges guitarists with fast-paced, complex melodic lines.
Incorporate very complicated slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs for added flair and dynamics in your playing.
58. “Asturias” by Isaac Albeniz
“Asturias” is one of the hardest acoustic guitar songs, celebrated for its intricate arpeggios and Spanish flair.
This demanding piece calls for both profound emotional expression and flawless technique.
59. “Like Everyone She Knows” by James Taylor
This is a prime example of James Taylor’s intricate and sophisticated approach to acoustic guitar playing.
Indeed, the song stands out due to its fingerstyle technique, unique chord voicings, and rhythmic touches.
Add some melodic nuances, and you have a challenging treat for guitarists.
Malagueña’ is one of the hardest acoustic guitar songs, embodying the rich essence of traditional Spanish folk.
Many classical guitarists see mastering this piece as a rite of passage, thanks to its swift and intricate fingerwork.
Delving into ‘Malagueña’ demands technical expertise and a profound appreciation for the traditional Spanish musical lexicon.
If you want to practice your skills using a classical guitar, you can check out the Lucero LC230S Classical Guitar from Guitar Center:
Conquering the Peaks: Final Notes on the Hardest Acoustic Guitar Songs
Tackling the hardest acoustic guitar songs is no small feat.
But getting the hang of these complex fingerstyle patterns, intricate harmonies, and relentless rhythms can be really rewarding.
Did we miss a song that absolutely needs to be added to this list?
Let us know in the comments below!