The First 7 Classic Rock Songs Beginner Musicians Can Learn
via The Howard Stern Show/ YouTube
If you’re a beginner musician with a penchant for classic rock, you’re in for a treat. Classic rock music not only offers timeless tunes but also provides an excellent starting point for your musical journey.
In this article, we’ll explore seven classic rock songs that are perfect for novice musicians. Whether you’re in your twenties or your sixties, these songs span generations and promise an enjoyable learning experience. So, grab your guitar, bass, or any instrument of your choice, and let’s dive into the world of classic rock!
Before we get into the song selection, it’s essential to understand why classic rock is an excellent genre for beginners. Classic rock is known for its simple yet catchy chord progressions, making it ideal for those who are just starting.
The songs typically feature memorable melodies, straightforward structures, and a great balance between rhythm and lead elements. Plus, who can resist the allure of those iconic guitar riffs?
1. “Horse with No Name” by America (1971)
“Horse with No Name” by America, released in 1971, is an emblematic classic rock song that embodies the essence of simplicity and musical beauty. Crafted with a mere two chords (Em and D 6/9), this song makes a perfect starting point for beginner musicians.
The song’s repetitive chord progression, reminiscent of an endless desert journey, introduces novices to basic open chords. “Horse with No Name” is significant in classic rock history for its elegant yet straightforward construction.
It’s a gateway to the genre, showcasing how minimalism can create memorable melodies. Its calming, almost meditative atmosphere has resonated with listeners for generations, making it a song of enduring importance.
While the song faced bans on several U.S. radio stations, due to alleged references to drug use, specifically heroin (as “horse” is a common slang term for heroin), it defied these obstacles to reach the number one spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Simultaneously, the album achieved platinum status in record time.
2. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones (1965)
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, unleashed by The Rolling Stones in 1965, is an enduring symbol of rock ‘n’ roll’s rebellious spirit. The song, driven by the unmistakable riff of Keith Richards, is an irreplaceable piece of rock history.
As a beginner, this song is not just a rite of passage but an introduction to the very essence of rock music. Its simplicity, highlighted by a memorable melody and a relentless rhythm, cements its status as a must-learn classic.
Beyond its musical impact, it’s culturally vital, embodying the essence of the 1960s and serving as a symbol of youthful rebellion. In the United Kingdom, the song had a rather unconventional start, as it was exclusively featured on pirate radio stations initially due to its lyrics being deemed excessively sexually suggestive.
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” eventually became the fourth number one hit for the Rolling Stones in the UK, and it’s one of the world’s most beloved songs and was ranked No. 31 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list in 2021.
3. “Wild Thing” by The Troggs (1966)
“Wild Thing,” introduced by The Troggs in 1966, is an unadulterated embodiment of youthful energy and freedom. This timeless classic is celebrated for its simplicity, making it an exhilarating and fun song for beginners to embrace.
Power chords and strumming form the song’s core elements, rendering it an ideal starting point for novices eager to develop their rhythm and chord-switching skills. “Wild Thing” is not just a song; it’s a celebration of the carefree spirit of the ’60s and the boundless energy of rock ‘n’ roll.
The Troggs’ single soared to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and secured the second position on the UK Singles Chart in the year 1966. Their rendition of “Wild Thing” holds the notable distinction of being ranked at number 257 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 compilation of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
Notably, The Jimi Hendrix Experience delivered a captivating rendition of “Wild Thing” during the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. This memorable performance, documented in the film Monterey Pop, culminated with Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar ablaze, creating a dramatic and iconic moment in rock history.
4. “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath (1970)
“Iron Man”, unveiled by Black Sabbath in 1970, is a song that bridges classic rock and the realm of heavy metal. This track is instrumental in the development of heavy metal music.
The iconic heavy metal riffs, delivered by the legendary Tony Iommi, offer a gateway into a genre known for its thunderous power and intensity. Its significance extends beyond learning a song; it’s about embracing a style that reshaped the musical landscape and inspired countless musicians.
The track reached its highest charting position in 1972 when it peaked at number 52 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking their most successful single on that chart. Additionally, it achieved a position of number 68 on the Canadian RPM Magazine Top 100.
“Iron Man” found its place in the pop culture spotlight with its appearance in the end credits of the 2008 film Iron Man. This iconic song was recognized on Rolling Stone‘s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004, securing the 317th spot, and it ranked at number 7 on their “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Songs of All Time” list in March 2023.
5. “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple (1972)
“Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, released in 1972, is a rock anthem that’s etched into the annals of classic rock history. Recognized by its iconic opening riff, this song is a must-learn for any budding musician.
The opening riff, a four-note masterpiece (in blues scale melody in G minor), is one of the first things many aspiring guitarists try to play. It serves as an introduction to palm-muted power chords, a technique that’s fundamental in classic rock.
Beyond its musical significance, “Smoke on the Water” is part of the collective rock consciousness, an anthem that captures the essence of live music and the camaraderie of rock fans.
In a 2004 issue of Rolling Stone, “Smoke on the Water” secured the 434th position on their prestigious compilation of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. Moreover, Total Guitar magazine acknowledged the song’s impact by ranking it as the fourth “Greatest Guitar Riff Ever”.
6. “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks (1964)
“You Really Got Me” by The Kinks, released in 1964, is a testament to the raw energy and innovation of classic rock’s early days. This song is a hallmark of the British Invasion and played a central role in shaping rock music.
It teaches the power of distorted guitars and aggressive riffing, introducing beginners to the grittier side of rock ‘n’ roll. “You Really Got Me” is a cultural touchstone that marked a turning point in rock history, showcasing how simple but powerful guitar riffs could capture the spirit of rebellion and individuality that rock music is known for.
This Kinks classic made its UK debut on August 4, 1964, through Pye Records as the third single by the group. In the following month, it skyrocketed to number one on the Record Retailer chart, maintaining that position for a notable two weeks. On September 2 of the same year, the song hit the US airwaves and became the group’s breakthrough hit.
In 1999, “You Really Got Me” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine celebrated its enduring significance by positioning it at number 82 on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and at a notable fourth position on their compilation of the “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”.
7. “Day Tripper” by The Beatles (1965)
“Day Tripper” by The Beatles, which hit the shelves in 1965, is a classic rock song that seamlessly blends catchiness with rock elements. This song provides an opportunity to explore riff-based playing for beginners.
The song’s opening riff, which is central to its appeal, is a fantastic introduction to the art of crafting memorable hooks on the guitar. Beyond its musical merits, “Day Tripper” showcases the songwriting genius of The Beatles.
The single achieved chart-topping success in multiple countries, including Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway. In the United States, “Day Tripper” reached an impressive peak at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while “We Can Work It Out” claimed the top position.
The Beatles frequently featured “Day Tripper” in their concert setlist until they retired from live performances in late August 1966. Notably, the band’s use of promotional films to promote the single showcased an early precursor to the modern music video.