All in Essentials

Songs Worth Learning - 22

Down On The Corner - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Many Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) songs are worth learning. John Fogerty has a real talent for writing catchy songs with cool guitar parts. New guitar players will find a lot to like in their songs. They typically featured relatively easy guitar rhythms and cool guitar riffs and solos.

Songs Worth Learning - 21

The Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy was an anomaly. An Irish hard rock band (often verging on metal) with two lead guitarists and a black singer/bass player who wrote engaging poetic lyrics about various characters and every day life. They were huge in the U.K. but only had a couple of hits in the U.S in the 70s. Their biggest hit over here was The Boys Are Back In Town. It is worth learning for several reasons. 

Songs Worth Learning - 20

Walk Don't Run - The Ventures

This classic surf song was actually first written and released as a jazz song by the great jazz guitarist Johnny Smith in 1954. It was later recorded by Chet Atkins and played fingerstyle. The Ventures heard the Chet Atkins version, which had a slightly “country” breakdown but was still overall on the jazzy side.

Songs Worth Learning - 19

Amie -  Pure Prairie League

Pure Prairie League was one of the earlier bands to earn the title of “country rock” band. They initially had limited success selling albums and were dropped by RCA Records after two albums. But they continued to tour. Which paid off when radio stations began playing their song Amie and it became a radio hit.

Songs Worth Learning - 18

Bridge Of Sighs - Robin Trower

Robin Trower initially achieved fame and success in the band Procol Harum (Whiter Shade Of Pale.) Then he launched a successful solo career in the early 1970s. In an era when originality in music was actually prized and encouraged, Robin Trower was often unfairly criticized for sounding too much like Jimi Hendrix. Imagine that happening today.

Songs Worth Learning - 17

Dust In The Wind - Kansas

In the 1970s guitarist Kerry Livgren was mainly an electric guitar player playing in the progressive rock band Kansas. He decided he wanted to learn to play fingerstyle guitar and he create an exercise to practice. That exercise was the chords in “Dust In The Wind.” His wife heard him playing it and said “That’s really pretty, you should put words to it.” Livgren said “No it’s just an exercise.” But his wife didn’t relent and eventually Livgren wrote lyrics for it. 

Songs Worth Learning - 16

Rock Around The Clock - Bill Haley & His Comets

In 1954 rock and roll was in its infancy. Bill Haley & His Comets had gone into the studio to record a new song (Thirteen Women) their record label, Decca, wanted them to record as a single. This was before multi-track recording so the band all played together and did take after take until they got a good one.

Songs Worth Learning - 15

Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love - Van Halen

When Van Halen’s first album came out in 1978 most guitar players I knew (me included) were stunned by the instrumental guitar solo “Eruption", wondering how Eddie Van Halen could play so crazy fast. Later, thanks to guitar magazines (there was no YouTube back then to learn licks off of), we found out that he was “tapping.” He wasn’t the first to use this technique (I won’t jump into that argument of who was) but he certainly popularized it.

Tips For New Guitar Players 9

Start Writing Songs

Song writing, like guitar playing, is a skill that takes time to learn but brings great benefits. Once you have the ability to play a few chords, you should try writing songs. You don’t need to be a great player or singer to write songs. Start with a simple three-chord progression, or a cool guitar riff, and try coming up with a melody line.

Songs Worth Learning - 14

The Girl From Ipanema - Getz/Gilberto

This song started a Bossa Nova craze in the U.S. in 1962 and in turn brought considerable latin influence to American music, especially jazz. It was also the last dying gasp of “jazz” as popular music before The Beatles changed what popular music meant. 

Tips For New Guitar Players 8

Get Good Tone

Basically, tone is the audio quality and musical characteristics of sound. Some guitars are said to have good tone, and without a doubt some guitars (and amplifiers, effects, etc.) sound “better” than others. The trick is to know your instrument and play it in a way that brings out its best tone for each song. If you own an electric guitar, learn what each pickup sounds like and use the correct pickup or combination of pickups for the song you are playing.

Songs Worth Learning - 13

All Right Now - Free

If you are fan of “classic rock” (a music industry label, not mine) you might recognize the singer as Paul Rodgers who went on to international fame with the band Bad Company. But the guitar playing of Paul Kossoff is the real star in this song. The ambiguous chords in the verse have stymied beginning guitarists since the song’s release. They are actually two different chord voicings overdubbed. I will have mercy on you and show a way to play them with only one guitar.

Songs Worth Learning - 12

(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay - Otis Redding

Otis Redding started writing this song while living on a rented houseboat in California. He finished the song with the help of STAX producer and guitar player Steve Cropper in Memphis just days before his death in an airplane crash in 1967. Cropper’s unique, soulful style of playing makes this song a masterclass in how to use riffs/fills (hammer-ons, double stops, slides, etc.)

Tips For New Guitar Players 7

Play Time

They don’t call it “playing” guitar for nothing. Practicing is essential if you want to improve, but practicing is just repetition. Anything you want to learn will eventually come with repetition. But don’t spend all your playing time just practicing. Every time you pick up your guitar you should play at least one thing for pure enjoyment.

Tone Tips For Playing Electric Guitar In A Band

Many guitar player spend countless hours perfecting their tone at home and then when they get in a band setting their tone seems weak or their guitar is hard to hear when the band is playing. This is the hard reality of guitar tone. A great solo guitar tone is not always a great band guitar tone. It’s really all about tonal balance and interaction with the other instruments in the band. Here are some general tips to help you improve your “band” tone.

Tips For New Guitar Players 6

Memorize Music

You should try to memorize songs you like. Memorizing is just a matter of playing the same thing over and over (repetition) until you can remember it. It is a great skill to develop, and every musician should have numerous songs they can play without the aid of written music.

Songs Worth Learning - 11

Blackbird - The Beatles (Paul McCartney)

This Paul McCartney written song flies up and down the guitar neck like a bird, making it a fingerstyle classic perfect for solo performing. Paul McCartney has said it was inspired by J.S. Bach's Bourrée in E minor, a well known lute piece that he and George Harrison tried to learn as teenagers.

Tips For New Guitar Players 5

Be Open To Different Musical Styles

People often have very rigid views of what “good” music is. While there is nothing wrong with only liking one style of music, you should try listening to styles of music you aren’t familiar with. Listen to the guitar players in other styles of music. You may not care for that particular style of music, but you should be able to appreciate good guitar playing.