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5 Easy Folk Songs on Guitar

Chords and audio for folk songs aimed at beginner guitarists

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The following songs represent some of the most popular songs in the folk music genre that can be played fairly easily on guitar. The choice of songs was meant to challenge - there are some songs included which may require fingerpicking and other techniques you're unfamiliar with. Try using these songs as the basis for learning a new guitar technique.

1. Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver)

Iron Man tab
Leaving on a Jet Plane (Spotify)

The original version of this song involves a bunch of finger-picking, which is far too complex for the absolute beginner guitarist. Instead, reference the tab, and strum once per bar, to get the hang of basic chord changes... it won't sound like the recording, but you can practice working on your fretting hand fingering. NOTE: to see the guitar part in the tab, select "piano" in the instrument pull down (doesn't make sense, but it's an error in the tab itself)

2. If I Had a Hammer (Peter, Paul and Mary)

peter paul and mary

If I Had a Hammer chords
If I Had a Hammer (Spotify)

This isn't for the absolute beginner - the song requires some barre chords, but there isn't anything too difficult here. Once you've got the chords down, focus on a really rhythmic strum - listen to the recording and ape it the best you can.

3. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen)

songs of leonard cohen

Suzanne chords
Suzanne (Spotify)

This is a fairly simple guitar part, although you'll need to know just a little bit about both fingerpicking and barre chords. Practice getting the basic fingerpicking pattern down - after that, things should be relatively straightforward.

4. The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

gordon lightfoot summertime dream

The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald chords
The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald (Spotify)

This song from the Canadian hero Gordon Lightfoot makes extensive use of a chord you may not have seen before - the Asus2 chord. This is a nice easy one to play - adventurous beginner guitarists can even try their hand at the simple lead guitar part. The song is written in a 6/8 time signature - listen to the audio to replicate the feel and strum.

5. Alice's Restaurant (Arlo Guthrie)

Alice's Restaurant chords
Alice's Restaurant (Spotify)

This epic 19 minute Arlo Guthrie song is actually just a 16-bar guitar pattern that repeats ad nauseum. The guitar part itself is a little bit tricky - it uses fingerpicking extensively. If you're a novice, you'll want to take this very slowly, making sure to play the part accurately.

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