If you’re interested in learning about some great guitar songs in standard tuning, this post is for you!
It can be frustrating looking up lists of popular songs to check out or learn only to realize that some or many of them are in alternate tunings.
So I thought I’d put together this list of standard tuning songs!
Let’s get to it!
1. Yesterday by The Beatles
Of course, it would be hard for me to make a song list without including The Beatles. I think of Yesterday as one of their best songs. Apparently, Paul McCartney came up with it in a dream.
The song is in E standard tuning and it features a relatively simple structure. But composition-wise, it’s a real masterpiece. You don’t often hear such a chord progression. And you have a unique choice of notes for the vocal melodies. This also makes it a great way to get more familiar with good songwriting practices.
2. Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley
Jeff Buckley is one of those extremely talented musicians who, unfortunately, left us too early. Nonetheless, he left his mark on the world of music. I particularly enjoy his amazing cover of Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah.
Released about a decade after the original, Buckley completely reinvented the song. In fact, his version is more popular than the original. Some think that, in some way, the piece belongs to him now.
There are two important things that you can learn from this song. First, it’s the finger-picking basics. Second, it doesn’t have a very strict tempo. You’ll have to learn how to rely on feel, something that’s very important to any guitar player.
3. Creep by Radiohead
You don’t often find a band that’s so popular among fans of different genres. It’s hard to describe Radiohead’s style. So they’re often categorized as alternative rock or art-rock.
From their catalog, most agree that Creep is their most popular piece. Released back in 1992, it’s their debut single. It features a simple chord progression played in different ways.
Creep has some serious grunge vibes. But, most importantly, it’s a great lesson in dynamics. It’s in E standard tuning and it alternates between mellow and heavy parts. You can also learn a lot about the basics of using guitar pedals with Creep.
4. Wonderwall by Oasis
Sure, Wonderwall has to be one of the most overplayed songs in standard tuning of all time. But there’s a good reason for it. It’s just so catchy. To this day, it remains one of the most popular songs to learn on the guitar. And it’s one of the most popular songs in general.
At this point, the song is a landmark piece. Many will joke about guys at parties who come with a guitar and only know to play Wonderwall. Either way, it’s an awesome song.
And it’s also a great way to start learning about chords that aren’t just plain minor or major. The well-known chord progression goes E minor 7, G major, Dsus4, and A7sus4. It also features a steady tempo that’s just below 90 bpm. So it shouldn’t be too hard to learn.
5. Wasted Years by Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden’s discography is filled with true heavy metal masterpieces. However, for this list, I’d single out Wasted Years.
It’s a really fun song to learn. Additionally, it gives beginners an opportunity to practice alternate picking. The intro theme features an open high E string as the pedal note. It’s not that hard but it will make a beginner sound like a real pro.
The song has a mid to fast-paced tempo of around 150 bpm. But it’s in the classic 4/4 time signature, so it shouldn’t be too hard.
Other than that, you have two very easy chord progressions. Verses feature E, D, and C power chords. And choruses have G, C, A, D, and E chords. Some parts, however, use actual D major and G major chords, making it sound fuller.
6. Black Dog by Led Zeppelin
Many consider Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog one of the earliest metal songs. Its main riff is written in the blues scale and is a bit unusual. The song is quite popular among beginners. However, although seemingly simple, it takes a lot of skill to perform it properly.
At first listen, you might think it’s just a regular hard rock song in the key of A. But there’s more to it.
First, most of the song alternates between riffs and vocal-only parts with no set tempo. It’s a bit tricky to know when the instrumental section should kick in. Secondly, one of the riffs in the song is actually pretty challenging.
But I’d say that this is an awesome song for bands to practice playing together. Black Dog teaches you to listen to what everyone else in the band is doing.
7. Fairies Wear Boots by Black Sabbath
Many think of Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi as the inventor of heavy metal. Regardless, he has certainly had an influential effect on the genre.
Although later works have mostly featured lower tunings, Black Sabbath’s first two albums were in E standard. Fairies Wear Boots isn’t always the first song that comes to mind when thinking of Black Sabbath. But it’s a real banger. It’s a bluesy heavy rock tune with plenty of different guitar parts.
The song has rhythm and tempo changes. But most of it is at around 135 bpm. However, what I liked about this song most is its groovy feel. The main riff has that specific triplet feel.
Fairies Wear Boots is in the key of G minor. It also features a few interesting lead parts. They’re not that hard but they require some skill if you want to perform them right.
8. Snow (Hey Oh) by Red Hot Chili Peppers
RHCP’s Snow (Hey Oh) is a bit of a trickier one. Sure, John Frusciante is not regarded as a virtuosic player. But even some experienced guitar players have trouble playing this one properly.
It features a steady tempo, measuring just above 100 bpm. However, the main riff consists of 16th notes. Additionally, it constantly alternates between notes that should ring out freely and short bursts of legato.
This is a pretty weird combination. On top of all that, you need to have fretting hand stamina as the riff repeats throughout most of the song.
Other than that, Snow (Hey Oh) has a simple structure. There’s the same chord progression throughout the song. And we also have regular chord strumming parts.
9. Sailing Ships by Whitesnake
The original version of the song is played on an electric guitar. And the final part of Whitesnake’s Sailing Ships features the entire band kicking in.
However, the song is mostly known for its acoustic renditions. Over the years, it has become a classic among guitar players of all genres. It was composed by David Coverdale and Adrian Vandenberg, although Steve Vai played the guitar on the album.
Sailing Ships is often used as a fingerpicking lesson for beginners and intermediate players. You’ll also have the chance to get familiar with different chord inversions and fingering patterns.
10. Black Magic by Slayer
Now, I wanted to include something a bit different to this list as well. If you like metal and want to get into it, Slayer’s Black Magic is a popular choice.
Composition-wise, it features musical elements that make music sound sinister and heavy. It’s filled with chromatic riffs and some pretty unconventional lead sections. It proves that one doesn’t need to tune low in order to sound heavy.
But it’s also a great guitar lesson, no matter the genres that you’re into. Most of the song features a super-fast tempo of 190 bpm. Along with that, we have fast alternate picking and a lot of palm muting.
Songs in Standard Tuning: Conclusion
I hope this article has helped give you a glimpse of the countless awesome guitar songs in standard tuning!
And if you want to look specifically at songs modern acoustic guitar songs, check out my modern acoustic guitar song post.
Lastly, if you have any questions about this or another guitar-related subject, feel free to let me know in the comments!