Easy Folk Songs on Guitar

Chords and Audio for Beginner Guitarists

The following songs represent some of the most popular songs in folk music 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.

Just because it's folk doesn't mean it's going to be easy to play. Although in general, the chords in the above songs aren't too hard to tackle, it's often the fingerpicking of these sort of song that presents a challenge to guitarists. This list of top fingerpicking songs can help you practice this technique even more.

01
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Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver)

John Denver

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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)

02
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If I Had a Hammer (Peter, Paul and Mary)

If I had a Hammer

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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 mimic it the best you can.

03
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Suzanne (Leonard Cohen)

Leonard Cohen

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This is a fairly simple guitar part, although you'll need to know just a little bit about both fingerpicking and barre chords. Practice the basic fingerpicking pattern shown in the tab until you've nailed it—after that, things should be relatively straightforward.

04
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The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Gordon Lightfoot

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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.

05
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Alice's Restaurant (Arlo Guthrie)

Arlo Guthrie

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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.