If you’re looking for a nursing home setlist, you’ve come to the right post!
This post is full of classic old-school tunes you can play on a guitar that older audiences will likely appreciate!
1. Tennessee Waltz
Tennessee Waltz is a classic written all the way back in 1946. Although this country music piece is originally by Pee Wee King, it’s pretty much a standard. So it has the status of a traditional song.
However, the song isn’t that hard to learn. On the other hand, it depends on what kind of an interpretation are you looking for. For this list, I also shared a wonderful instrumental version by Tommy Emmanuel and a few other great guitarists.
2. Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver
Of course, the legendary “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a must for any guitar player. Sure, it’s a bit of an overplayed piece. However, it’s a timeless, nostalgia-inducing song as well. Just imagine the positive reaction of those who actually grew up in West Virginia.
What’s also great is that you can easily turn it into an instrumental. This can work great with two guitars. It might take some practice to express the vocal melody properly on a guitar. But, in my opinion, it’s worth it.
3. Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley
Then we have a piece like “Love Me Tender.” This one works the best as a vocal version. It makes it a great choice if you’re performing solo. You can just do a simple strumming chord version and sing over it.
However, bear in mind that it should have that old-time feel to it to capture that spirit of the song bringing back memories of the good old times.
4. Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are always a great choice for those feel-good vibes. And what better song than the band’s “Good Vibrations”? This is a classic surf and psychedelic rock piece. Not everybody will be into it. But if you know that some of your audience likes this kind of stuff, I’d include it in the nursing home setlist.
This can be especially interesting if you’re playing it on an electric guitar with a vintage tube-driven tone. Otherwise, you can just do your simple chord cover on an acoustic guitar.
5. Going Up the Country by Canned Heat
Canned Heat are easily one of the most underrated bands of the hippie era. Nonetheless, they made their impact with a few of their songs. One of these is “Going Up the Country.” Now, I know that the song has a flute playing the main theme. However, you can still perform it on an acoustic guitar.
Other options also include using a kazoo, having a second guitarist, or even having any accompanying keyboard. Either way, this is one of the best options if you know you’ll be playing in front of people who lived through the hippie movement.
6. Amazing Grace
No matter who you’re playing for, “Amazing Grace” is a classic. There are so many ways to approach this piece. You could just strum along to the chord progression and sing over it. Other options include fingerstyle instrumental arrangements. Whatever you choose to do, this one is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
7. Apache by The Shadows
Speaking of instrumentals, “Apache” by The Shadows can be a great choice for your setlist. First, it’s a pretty simple song to play. Secondly, it’s one of the most important guitar pieces of the 1960s. If you know there’s an old-school rock fan in the audience, they’ll likely enjoy this tune.
8. Hey, Good Lookin’ by Hank Williams
Now let’s go back to some country music. “Hey, Good Lookin'” is sure to bring some smiles and positive reactions. The piece is originally by Hank Williams. However, it didn’t take long for it to become an absolute classic.
No matter what your audience is into, they’ll probably enjoy this one. However, this is one of those songs that should have vocals. Sure, you could also do an instrumental, but it has to be really good. I also shared an additional jazzy version by Joe Pass and Roy Clark if you need inspiration.
9. In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry
If you’re doing a nursery home gig during summer, this one is a must. Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” is an old skiffle that everyone knows. I’m sure that even the younger generations know this tune. And what’s important is that everyone likes it. Furthermore, it’s a really easy one to play and sing at the same time.
10. When the Saints Go Marching In
Over the years, we’ve had so many versions of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The most popular one, of course, is by Louis Armstrong. But since this is a traditional piece, no one stops you from doing your guitar and vocals cover.
Depending on your audience, you can also do an instrumental. However, from my experience, it works the best if you sing it. If you’re not sure what to do, a simple strumming version should be enough.
11. Hear My Train a Comin’ by Jimmy Hendrix
So this one might be a bit tricky. However, if you’re playing in front of an audience that likes blues, I bet that they’ll enjoy it. Yeah, it might be a bit of a deep cut. However, the song has its advantages. For instance, if you play an acoustic guitar, C standard or drop C tuning can sound full. And just imagine how awesome it sounds on a 12-string acoustic. It’s also a great practice for you to get ahold of singing and playing at the same time.
12. Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins
I’m fairly certain that almost everyone will like old-school rock ‘n’ roll like the frequently-covered “Blue Suede Shoes.” And although the original is by Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley’s version is probably the most popular one.
However, even Black Sabbath had its take on it in the early days. Essentially, it’s a 12-bar-blues standard. So you can do your take on it.
13. You Are My Sunshine
Finally, I’d also like to mention “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s one of those classics that’s easy to learn and that most everyone will like. There are, of course, many takes on this piece. But it’s probably the best idea to keep it simple. A good old acoustic guitar and vocals should do the trick.
Conclusion: Things to Consider When Compiling a Nursing Home Setlist
Bear in mind that there’s no perfect nursing home setlist. I shared a pretty diverse list here. There are some safe bets on it, but it’s best to tailor your setlist to your audience as much as you can.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be playing to seniors who are predominantly into 1970s hard rock. So some of the standard oldies won’t necessarily be the best choice all the time.
Another thing to know is the season. For instance, if it’s November or December, get some classic holiday tunes in there. Or, if an old famous singer passed away, you could add a song or two of theirs to the setlist.
And if you need help learning these songs, check out the 9 tips to learning guitar songs quickly and efficiently post here on the blog.