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Acoustic guitar and standard tuning were made for one another.
From intricate picking patterns to soothing chord strumming, let’s look at some excellent songs to play on your acoustic guitar.
This list provides fifteen acoustic-focused songs in standard tuning that you can practice to continue improving your guitar-playing ability.
I have provided links for the tabs for each song for quick and easy access, so you don’t have to waste any time getting started.
If you would rather listen instead of read, you can check out the entire playlist on YouTube here or head over to Spotify and listen to our list:
1. Fleetwood Mac- Landslide
The first song on our list features one of the most widely recognized acoustic fingerpicking intros of all time from one of the most commercially successful bands ever.
Landslide is from the band’s 1975 self-titled album and is one of the band’s most emotionally driven songs ever produced. The lyrics focus on something we can all relate to; life’s many uncertainties and constant changes, as stated by Rick Moore at American Songwriter. According to Alex Hopper at American Songwriter, Fleetwood Mac themselves dealt with their fair share of changes and off-stage controversies among bandmates over the years.
The song is largely just an acoustic guitar and Stevie Nicks singing, which is all that is needed. While in standard tuning, to play the song correctly, a capo is needed at the third fret.
If you are interested in learning Landslide, check out the tabs here.
2. Harry Chapin- Cats In The Cradle
Next on the list is another from the 1970s, this time by folk and pop rock musician and philanthropist Harry Chapin. Chapin, like far too many other musicians, passed away at a young age in an automobile accident, cutting short an exceptional music career.
Cats in the cradle is the first song from the 1974 album, Verities & Balderdash and is his only number-one hit song. Tina Benitez-Eves at American Songwriter states that the lyrics, inspired by his wife’s poem, chronicle a relationship between father and son.
This song has a few interpretations, but most require a capo on the 8th fret. The song is not overly complicated, and the picking style resembles Landside.
Check out the tabs for Cats in the Cradle here.
3. The Lumineers- Ho Hey
Number three on our list comes from the folk-rock/Americana band, The Lumineers, who burst onto the music scene in 2012 and have remained quite popular ever since.
While many of their songs have garnered significant recognition, Ho Hey, from their 2012 debut album, is by far their most well-known, with their official video receiving over 300 million views on YouTube.
Ho Hey is pretty much the same strumming pattern throughout the entirety of the song. It is one of the easier songs on the list and a great song for someone just beginning to learn acoustic guitar.
Follow this link for the tabs to Ho Hey.
4. Jack Johnson- Banana Pancakes
Next on our list is the first of two Jack Johnson tunes. Born in 1975 on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Johnson released his first album in 2001 and has enjoyed a strong career since, releasing a total of nine albums to date, the most recent coming in 2022.
Banana Pancakes is the third track on his third album, which was released in 2005 to generally mixed reviews despite decent commercial success worldwide.
Banana Pancakes features its share of slides and ghost notes, making it a fun but not overly challenging song to play and practice some important guitar techniques.
For the tabs, follow this link.
5. Jack Johnson- Sitting, Waiting, Wishing
The second Jack Johnson song also comes to us from the 2005 release, In Between Dreams.
The sixth song on the album, with a run time of 3:03, is a guitar strummer’s dream. Like Banana Pancakes, Sitting, Waiting, Wishing features a lot of percussive ghost note strumming but also uses a lot of barre chords throughout the song, making it more challenging than the first of his songs.
To get in your barre chord practice, follow the link here to the tabs and get started today!
6. Alanis Morissette- Ironic
Ironic is the tenth song from her third studio album, Jagged Little Pill, released in 1995. Ironic is Morissette’s most commercially successful song, amassing nearly 220 million views on YouTube and over 350 million streams on Spotify.
The entirety of the song is not acoustic, but it begins with acoustic guitar, and it is present throughout the duration of the song. A capo is needed on the 4th fret to play the acoustic portion correctly.
To check out Ironic and get started today, follow this link to the tabs.
7. Chris Cornell- Patience
Best known for his work with the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, Cornell has one of the most unique and distinguishable voices in rock music.
Released after his death in 2017, as reported by Sam Ramsden of The List, his acoustic cover of the Guns N’ Roses song Patience is our eighth song on the list.
The song itself is simple, featuring a lot of strumming sections, but there are several instances where you will need to pluck strings with your fingers as it skips some strings, which is good fingerstyle practice.
To check out the tabs to Cornell’s take on Patience, follow the link here.
8. Tracy Chapman- Fast Car
Fast Car is from Chapman’s 1988 self-titled debut album and has become her most successful song, with over 650 million streams on Spotify and millions more views on YouTube.
The 4:57 song is pretty challenging on the guitar, with most of the playing done while skipping strings during the verse, making it challenging for beginner players. However, as with any of these songs, there are chord options where you can simply strum the chords as you develop your skills.
Fast Car requires a capo on the second fret to be played correctly. You can check out the tabs here.
9. Oasis- Wonderwall
Yes, I put Wonderwall on this list. Yes, it might be one of the most mocked and overplayed songs of all time (amassing over 1.5 billion streams on Spotify). However, despite all of that, it is still a well-written song.
Released in 1995 on their second studio album, Wonderwall was, without a doubt, the band’s most commercially successful song.
The song is simple enough, with basic strumming patterns throughout, it makes for an excellent song for beginners just getting started playing the acoustic guitar.
A capo on the second fret is required to play the song correctly.
Check out the tabs to Wonderwall here.
10. Kansas- Dust In The Wind
The hauntingly beautiful song is from the band’s fifth studio album, Point of Know Return, released in 1977 and peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
It is one of the band’s most famous songs, along with Carry On Wayward Son, but where the latter is more rocking, Dust in the Wind is very subdued and almost entirely vocals and acoustic guitar.
Dust in the wind has a nearly identical picking structure to Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide, so if you learn one, you should be able to play the other.
To start learning Dust in the Wind, follow the link here to the tabs.
11. Heart- Crazy On You
Crazy on you is featured in another article I wrote about 20-guitar-driven rock songs in standard tuning, but it is too iconic of an acoustic song not to put on this list.
The song is another on this list that is not entirely acoustic, but the introduction is all acoustic and one of the best intros ever. The acoustic guitar is present throughout the entire song. It features a lot of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides, along with regular strumming, allowing you to practice multiple guitar techniques in one song.
Released on their 1975 debut album, it has stood the test of time. To get practicing with Crazy On You today, follow the link here to the tabs.
12. The Doobie Brothers- Listen To The Music
The Doobie Brothers have cemented themselves as one of the classic rock icons with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. Founded in 1970, Listen To The Music comes from their second album released in 1972 and has become one of their most popular songs.
Listen To The Music is a strumming-heavy song that is fun and relatively easy to learn and play. The basic pattern stays consistent throughout the song, so once you have it down, you can play the whole song with ease.
Check out the tabs here.
13. James Taylor- Fire and Rain
The 3:23 emotionally charged and most famous of James Taylor’s songs, according to Paul Zollo of American Songwriter, makes our list at number thirteen. Written for his second album, released in 1970, Fire and Rain was the song that first gave Taylor a wide audience.
Fire and Rain has a complex plucking pattern with several hammer-ons and slides, making it one of the more difficult songs on this list. To play it correctly, you will need a capo on the third fret.
If you are interested in learning Fire and Rain, follow the link here to the tabs.
14. Ed Sheeran- Photograph
Ed Sheeran is currently one of the most popular music artists in the industry, having several of his songs reached one billion streams on Spotify. However, this fame has not come without controversy, with Sheeran facing several copyright lawsuits, as reported by Mark Savage at BBC News.
In fact, this song was involved in a lawsuit stating the chorus was nearly identical to that of the song amazing by Matt Cardle. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.
Photograph is from Sheeran’s second album, multiply, released in 2014, and features some palm-muted notes during the verses and pre-chorus, along with some more traditional strumming during the chorus. A capo is needed on the second fret to play this song correctly.
Overall, it is a relatively easy song to learn and play. If you are interested in learning Photograph, follow the link here.
15. Simon & Garfunkel- Mrs. Robinson
To round out our list of fifteen, we head back to the late 1960s with Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson.
Despite a seemingly near-career-long feud, as stated by Mark Jefferies of the Mirror, the duo created some pretty good music.
Mrs. Robinson features two distinct acoustic guitar parts, both of which are fun to learn and play. The lead part features some cool finger-style patterns, while the rhythm is all about strumming.
Overall, the song is not extremely difficult and one that beginners could likely tackle.
Check out the tabs for Mrs. Robinson here.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will get you started on your acoustic playing journey. There are literally tens of thousands of songs, if not more, in standard tuning either created explicitly for the acoustic guitar or that can be easily played with it.
Until next time, happy playing!