Hundreds of songs you probably should know!
The greatest asset you as a guitarist can acquire is a repertoire.
There will come a day when the singer turns around and shouts to the band – I Feel Good!
You better know this is not a statement, but a James Brown tune called I Got You (I Feel Good). It’s a blues-style song with a horn riff and a bridge section starting on chord IV. It’s in the key of D.
If there is no horn section or even a sax player on the gig, you should probably play that horn line for the bridge!
The question is, do you know it?
Let’s take another example. Respect, the Aretha Franklin version. Do you know the intro? Can you play the chords for the solo? If there is no Sax player on the gig, can you play the solo?
What about if the key is a tone down, can you still play the Sax solo on the guitar? Maybe even develop it or improvise up your own solo?
The deeper you study these songs, the better you’ll get.
Just like jazz musicians play standards and effectively learn how to play that way, today we have rock/pop/soul standards to play in gigs at weddings, pubs, clubs, and events.
Below, many of these songs are listed, songs you simply must know.
If you know most of these, there’s a good chance you won’t have to learn many more when a gig with a new band comes in.
Some of them are featured in my guitar courses. Here you will not just learn the tune, but also from it as we dive deep and play the chords all over the fretboard, maybe even the vocal melody in all positions, and definitely create alternative parts.
I’ve included youtube video playlists for these songs, should you prefer, here they all are on Spotify as well.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
(I’ve Had) Time Of My Life – Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes
(Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding
(They Long To Be) Close To You – Carpenters
Carpenters Close To You was written by Burt Bacharach so we are in for some clever chordal movement here.
Starting off with an Asus2 chord, Bacharach cleverly disguises where the tonal center is since a sus2 chord could be pretty much any of the chords from the key.
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin
(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher – Jackie Wilson
1234 – Feist
Feist’s 1234 is played in drop D tuning, this means that you lower the 6th string from an E to a D.
Because of the drop D tuning, we need to alter the way we fret a G chord, the root will be on fret 5, rather than 3.
Go to 1234 chords.
9 To 5 – Dolly Parton
Go to 9 To 5 chords.
24K Magic – Bruno Mars
Go to 24K Magic chords.
A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
The intro to A Change Is Gonna Come is a guitar version of the string arrangement from the original recording.
Think of this song as if in the key of G. By applying a capo on fret 2 you’ll be in the key of A.
A Night In Tunisia – Dizzie Gilespie
Go to A Night In Tunisia chords.
ABC – The Jackson 5
Go to ABC chords.
Africa – Toto
Go to Africa chords.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell
Ain’t No Stopping Us Now – McFadden & Whitehead
Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
Bill Withers first hit has been covered by so many artists that it has become a modern classic.
This is the only song played finger-picked and is taught as the final song when you take the beginner guitar course.
Go to Ain’t No Sunshine chords.
Ain’t Nobody – Chaka Khan
Go to Ain’t Nobody chords.
All In Love Is Fair – Stevie Wonder
Go to All In Love Is Fair chords.
All My Life – Foo Fighters
The main thing that strikes me when I look deeper into All My Life is that this has, no doubt, been written by a drummer.
It’s almost as if Dave Grohl’s exercise book has come out and been transformed into a monster guitar riff.
Go to All My Life chords.
All Night Long (All Night) – Lionel Richie
Go to All Night Long chords.
All Of Me – Jazz Standard
Go to All Of Me chords.
Alright Now – Free
Go to Alright Now chords.
American Boy – Estelle/Kanye West
Go to American Boy chords.
American Idiot – Green Day
This modern punk classic uses only major chords, which makes the song a bit tricky to harmonically explain.
As with most punk songs, the theory is way more complicated than the execution!
Go to America Idiot chords.
American Pie – Don McLean
American Pie’s chords can be tricky to remember since the same chords seem to be repeated in lots of different ways.
By hearing each chord as a number you can follow the vocal melody and don’t actually have to memorize the progression.
Go to American Pie chords.
Angels – Robbie Williams
This one guitar arrangement of Angels is an example of how to arrange piano parts for the guitar.
For example, the first chord of verse 2, a C-shaped E major chord, uses the low open E to create a big sounding, piano-like chord.
Go to Angels chords.
Angie – The Rolling Stones
Angie’s chord progression constantly strives to go back to Am, which is chord VI. This makes the song in the key of Am.
All chords are very common, open position chords. What’s difficult is the enormous amount of variation we find in the guitar part.
Go to Angie chords.
Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet
Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
Arthur’s Theme – Christopher Cross
This is a feast of chord progressions, extensions, and clever key changes.
To fully understand this masterpiece you have to name each chord as a Roman numeral and keep track of all of those very clever modulations.
Go to Arthur’s Theme chords.
At Last – Etta James
Go to At Last chords.
Autumn Leaves – Jazz Standard
Go to Autumn Leaves chords.