One string guitar songs are awesome for beginners.
You might have learned guitar riffs already. They are great, but playing the same guitar chords becomes boring after a while.
Playing lead parts is generally harder than strumming basic guitar chords. Especially when you have to navigate various strings. To avoid this, I’ve compiled a list of the most popular one string guitar songs for beginners.
As you’ll find out, you can play some of the best songs on only one string.
So grab your guitar, tune-up, and let’s level up your guitar playing with one string guitar songs.
How to Read Guitar Tabs
Guitar tabs can be daunting for beginners. Yet, you don’t need guitar lessons to learn how to read them. They are easier to understand than they first appear.
The biggest misunderstanding is the string order. The thickest string is the low E string and is at the bottom of the tab, while the top line represents the thinnest high e string.
A 0 prompts to play the string open, other numbers show you what fret number to play. Easy, right?
Guitar tabs have letters such as an ‘h’ or ‘s’. These are abbreviations of hammer and slide respectively and show you need to hammer on a string or slide to a note.
Although, some tabs use a \ to state a slide up or a / for a downward slide. More on these techniques later.
1. Iron Man – Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath released Iron Man in 1970, the main riff inspired heavy rock and unleashed metal on the world. It became the cornerstone of heavy rock. So much so, VH1 crowned it the greatest heavy metal song ever.
Take it step-by-step. Start with the first five notes. Once perfected, try the latter part higher up the fretboard.
The alternating notes on the 8th and 7th fret are faster than the first part, so it’s tougher. When you’ve grasped both sections, put them together. Boom, you’re playing a rock n roll guitar part made for a loud electric guitar.
2. Bad Guy – Billie Eilish
Bad Guy propelled Billie Eilish to superstardom in 2019. It’s a rip-roaring pop masterpiece receiving accolades such as a Grammy for song of the year in 2020.
The minimalist production puts synth bass at the forefront of the mix. Translated to guitar, the bass line grooves with the tempo. So watch the video and tap your foot along to the track to get the vibe.
3. Shape of You – Ed Sheeran
There are six songwriters credited with writing Shape of You. Many hands make light work, as they say. With billions of streams, it’s yet another worldwide hit across the globe for Ed Sheeran.
A great one for beginners to try playing the thinner strings. Moving from the 2nd to the 5th fret is a stretch, so use your index finger on the 2nd and pinky finger on the 5th.
If this is beyond your capabilities, you can slow down the tempo and slide using just your index finger.
4. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – Rolling Stones
Jagger and Richards are famous songwriters penning songs for the Rolling Stones. Since its release in 1967, Satisfaction still resonates today and features in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
All the notes played in Satisfaction are manageable. So try playing the notes on the 4th and 5th fret with your ring finger. This allows your index finger to remain on the 2nd fret.
5. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
Eye of the Tiger is synonymous with the film Rocky. Interesting fact, Survivor released the single a day after the release of Rocky III. Like the film, the popularity of the theme song skyrocketed, earning the number one spot in 1982 for six weeks straight.
In the above tab, you’re seeing common power chords. They’re worth trying when you’re ready because they feature in a lot of rock songs. But for now, as a beginner, just play the notes on the low E string.
6. Thunderstruck – AC/DC
Thunderstruck, with its high impact, recognizable electric guitar work, is as popular as they come. You’ll find the song played in everything from the Dallas Cowboys’ pre-show to Marvel films.
Despite its popularity, it’s only topped the charts in one country. Any guesses? The answer’s Finland.
This is difficult, so don’t despair if you don’t get it on the first try. AC/DC guitarist Angus Young picks the one string riff at ferocious speed so slow it down. This tutorial will help you out.
7. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Green Day
Boulevard of Broken Dreams is a single taken from Green Day’s seventh studio album, American Idiot. Peaking at number two in the charts, Boulevard of Broken Dreams is their most successful song in the USA.
There’s a clever use of guitar pedals in Boulevard of Broken Dreams. A tremolo effect plays the verse chord progression. The above tab is for the riff played over the guitar chords. Try sliding from the 9th to the 13th fret for full effect.
If you have a hard time learning how to slide, here’s a great tutorial that’ll help.
8. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
Smoke on the Water has an iconic riff. So much so, Total Guitar declared it 4th greatest in their Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever. It’s also recognized in Q magazine’s ‘100 Greatest Guitar Tracks’ and VH1’s ‘100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs’.
The original uses power chords but you should try this simple version. Smoke on the Water was the first guitar riff I learned. So if it’s your first time playing lead guitar, it’s a common starting point.
Beginning with an open string and with a few easy to grasp notes, you’ll be playing epic rock n roll in no time.
9. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
The main riff of Seven Nation Army was born in an Australian hotel in 2002. What started, in Jack White’s words, as a “little experiment” became a Grammy-winning worldwide anthem for the White Stripes.
Not only receiving acclaim from the music world but it’s also become entrenched in sports culture. It was the theme song at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and crowds have adopted the lick as a chant.
For guitar players wanting to experiment with a whammy, this is your song. Depress the whammy after the last note of the riff.
But Seven Nation Army is universal and sounds great on acoustic guitar too. Played all on the A string, you’ll want to repeat it over and over.
10. Summer Nights – Grease
Summer Nights is the theme song from Grease the musical. The best-known version is by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Recorded for the big-screen adaptation, the soundtrack has sold around 38 million copies.
This bass riff walks down the fretboard at a playable tempo. It’s a great song to try out a palm mute after the first note on the open string.
11. New York City Cops – The Strokes
The Strokes removed New York City Cops from the 2001 release of Is This It following the September 11th attacks. However, it gained notoriety as it was present on all international versions of the album.
The Strokes are kings of cool. True to form, this easy single string lick oozes swagger. Try adding a small bend to the note on the 3rd fret for more vibe.
All played on the low E string and you can play it with just your index finger.
12. The Man Who Sold The World – Nirvana
The Man Who Sold The World is a creation of the genius that is David Bowie. Recorded in 1970, he released it the same year as the title track of his third studio album. Nirvana’s cover for MTV Unplugged in 1993 further expanded the song’s appeal.
Played solely on the D string, The Man Who Sold The World is a great song for beginners to try out new techniques.
The ‘h’ on the guitar tab tells you to use a hammer-on. You achieve a hammer-on by playing two notes but with one string pluck. Here’s a short hammer-on tutorial to talk you through. It’s a skill worth mastering, as you’ll find out later on.
The \ symbol then means an up slide. Combining these two techniques will sound first class.
13. Heard It Through The Grapevine – Creedence Clearwater Revival
From Gladys Knight & the Pips to The Miracles to Marvin Gaye, I Heard It Through The Grapevine is a Motown classic. But it’s a versatile song, as proved by Creedence Clearwater Revival with their Southern Rock version.
This riff is full of blues-like attitude and is simple to play on a single string. Start with an open D string, then use your middle finger for the notes on the 3rd fret and your index finger for the 2nd fret.
14. Newborn – Muse
With heavy rock outbursts and progressive styling, New Born is a live favorite. First released in 2001, it’s a crucial song in the setlist of Muse live shows.
This guitar tab is for the heavy electric guitar part after the intro piano riff. Try to keep up with the high tempo. Feeling adventurous? Here’s the intro piano tab cracked for guitar.
15. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star has an interesting backstory.
The words are from a 19th-century poem while the melody replicates ‘Ah! vous dirai-je, maman‘ from as far back as 1761. Incidentally, it’s a melody line played by none other than Mozart.
While Twinkle Twinkle Little Star isn’t the most rock n roll to thrash out. You can say you’re playing Mozart and that’s bound to impress.
The above guitar tab cites the entire melody. It’s easy, so fun to play and you’ll have a new song in your repertoire.
16. Titanic Theme
My Heart Will Go On, commonly known as the Titanic Theme, is the 3rd best-selling movie soundtrack of all time.
It started as an instrumental written by James Horner to use in various scenes throughout the film. But he wanted to add lyrics and use a full song version at the end credits. Director James Cameron opposed this idea.
Going against Cameron’s wishes, Horner hired Will Jennings to write lyrics. With the song completed, Cameron felt obliged to include it. As they say, the rest is history.
Here you’ll find the vocal melody. It’s a top party trick to pull out of the hat.
This tab has a slide and hammer-ons to contend with. But your guitar playing is ready for it now.
Pluck the string on the 5th fret and quickly slide to the 7th with the string still vibrating from the initial pluck.
You’ll notice a foray onto the B and G string. So being technical, it isn’t a one string song. But you’ll veer off from the one string for just two notes. So it’s an easy way to incorporate new strings.
For a beginner guitarist, easy one string guitar songs are great. These iconic riffs will push you from the monotony of strumming chords and help learn lead techniques. What’s more, they sound fantastic.
First-time guitar players will find them more difficult. But don’t worry if you don’t grasp them on the first try. Keep going. Remember, it takes patience and practice to develop into an accomplished guitarist.
If you persist, you’ll be blasting these single-string anthems out in no time.
Drawing on over 15 years of experience in the music industry, Neal’s writing specializes in all aspects of music. A self-taught guitarist who’s passionate about words, he’s at peace when songwriting. He finds comfort recording, traveling, and wearing his favorite leather jacket. Keep up to date on Twitter @TheNealSawyer