If you’re looking for R&B guitar songs to learn, this post is for you!
1. Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
So let’s start things off with a classic. While it’s hard to pigeonhole Michael Jackson into one genre, Billie Jean can still qualify as an R&B song.
And sure, it’s not a guitar-centric song. And there’s no acoustic guitar in it. But the song itself is such a great one for different interpretations. And it can work with an acoustic guitar.
Now, there are different levels to a potential acoustic cover. You can just strum its chord progression and sing to it. And it can go all the way to a full-on instrumental interpretation that covers its bass lines, chord progressions, and vocal melodies. But no matter what kind of cover you’re doing, Billie Jean will teach you a lot about how to feel a song’s groove.
2. Crazy in Love by Beyoncé
Sure, most guitar players aren’t exactly into Beyoncé’s music. But with a proper arrangement, Crazy in Love can be a great guitar lesson. In particular, we’re looking at picking hand flow and form.
But the best option, in my opinion, is a smoother fingerpicking arrangement. This allows you to practice singing and fingerpicking at the same time. Bonus points if you add some percussive elements to your playing.
3. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston
Once again, we have a song that can teach you more percussive playing. The video that I shared above is a great example of that. There are just some subtle percussive parts that spice things up.
But, most importantly, you should pay attention to your picking hand form and motion. It’s important if you want to follow the song’s specific rhythm pattern. And it’s important to end every bar with an accentuated hit of ghost notes.
4. No Diggity by Blackstreet
For the most part, No Diggity is a static song. There’s the root chord throughout most of it. Although you might think that this makes it simple, that’s far from the truth. Keeping one chord with a steady groove and timing for a whole verse.
What’s incredible about No Diggity is that it’s so open to interpretation. You can add a chromatic bass line leading into the next bar. You could come up with a simple riff to serve as the static chord progression.
The cover that I shared does that so subtly yet sounds perfect. Once again, it’s an incredible lesson on rhythm. But the main challenge here is to keep a consistent tempo and dynamics with a static progression.
5. Survivor by Destiny’s Child
Sure, this is yet another song that you wouldn’t associate with guitars. But somehow, it just works so well in an acoustic guitar arrangement.
The chord progression isn’t difficult at all. At the same time, the song leaves a lot for the performer to come up with on their own. However, you should still pay attention to its groove and feel. The dynamics of the song are also important. Keep the chorus louder than the verse. And make sure that you accentuate every second beat.
6. You Remind Me by Usher
You Remind Me is a pretty straightforward song. There’s just one chord progression that goes throughout the whole piece. So you won’t have any hard time learning it.
But as you might already assume by now, we need to focus on the groove. After all, this is an important part of every R&B song. I would suggest that you add some percussive elements to it as well. But keep it subtle.
And similar to No Diggity, you can add in an occasional bass line or a riff. Of course, these songs have a completely different feel. Just don’t overdo it on the fills.
7. No One by Alicia Keys
Released in 2007, Alicia Keys’ No One became an instant classic. Needless to say, it’s also a pretty popular one to cover. While it’s not a guitar-oriented song, you can do some incredible stuff with it.
There are a few ways to approach this song. Most covers focus on finger-picking arrangements. This is probably the best way to go about it. Such an arrangement will keep the song’s original vibe. However, you can also do a simple chord-strumming version as well.
The one that I shared here is an instrumental cover. This is a more challenging approach as you have to cover the progression and the vocal melody at the same time. But it can also be a very fun way to improve your guitar skills.
8. I’d Rather Go Blind by Etta James
I’d Rather Go Blind takes us back to 1967. Now, you should be very careful with this Etta James classic. The song has been covered so many times. And not many people know how to replicate Etta’s deep emotional performance in it.
Things get even more challenging if you’re doing an acoustic cover. You’ll need to handle dynamics pretty well. Learning the chords and the arrangement won’t be much of an issue. But if you want to do it justice, you’ll really need to feel this one.
9. Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers
Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine should be in every guitar player’s repertoire. This early ’70s classic has a pretty simple chord progression. For the most part, you’re using A minor, E minor, and G major. Then there are a few parts where you’ll play E minor and D minor, before going back to A minor.
What’s important to know about this song is its steady tempo. If you’re not used to such songs, you might end up speeding it up. Always have its overall melancholic feel in mind when you’re playing it. Although it’s not a difficult song, plenty of performers make some mistakes playing Ain’t No Sunshine.
10. Get Gone by Ideal
Another one that I’d like to feature here is Get Gone by Ideal. Sure, we’re looking at a short-lived band that could have achieved much more. But their debut self-titled album, which is their only one, deserves more praise.
The original recording of Get Gone features an acoustic guitar. There’s a serious jazzy feel to these parts which fits perfectly with the song’s arrangement. But overall, it shouldn’t be that difficult to memorize and perform.
It may be a bit tricky to sing it and play it properly at the same time. Unless you’re planning to do a simpler version where you’re just strumming along to the chord progression. Either way, this is an underrated gem of R&B.
R&B Guitar Songs: Conclusion
I hope this article has helped you think through R&B guitar songs that you may want to learn!
And if you want to read more about great songs to learn on this blog, then check out:
- Awesome Guitar Hero 3 Songs to Learn
- The Best Dark Acoustic Guitar Songs
- The Best Solo Acoustic Guitar Songs
- The Best Nursing Home Setlist for the Guitar (2023 Edition)
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!