1st Guitar Lesson Easy Songs

Contortionist on Guitar

A typical dilemma that guitar instructors immediately encounter upon entering the teaching profession has to do with the material that should be taught to beginner students during their first few lessons. The initial subject matter that each teacher covers should excite and motivate his or her students. Most people are familiar with popular rock songs and traditional American music so I usually teach them a few of these standards during our first lessons, but before covering songs, I quickly review proper posture and technique with my students.

Basic Concepts, Posture, and Technique:

  • Posture and Placement of the Guitar on the Right or Left Leg
  • Holding the Guitar Pick
  • Placement of the Right Hand Against the Guitar
  • Placement of the Left Fingers on the Fretboard
  • Pressing Hard with the Left Hand
  • Gently Striking the String with the Right Hand
  • Using a Guitar Tuner
  • Reading Guitar Tablature
  • Labeling Each Student’s Guitar with Fret Number Stickers

Keep in mind….. I do not force my students to use the “correct” method when playing their instruments during the first few lessons. I often allow young or disabled students to use their thumb to play notes on the low ‘E’ string. In other words, I remind my students of the proper technique, but I don’t force it on them.

I have computer software in my studio that slows music down and changes it’s pitch. I use the Amazing Slow Downer, but there are many products available that serve this function. With this software, students can play along with recordings that would otherwise be too fast for them to keep up with. They can also play along with songs that are not tuned to standard tuning.

It took me years of trial and error to discover what arrangements students enjoyed and which songs are easy enough for them to learn in only a few lessons. Here is a list of some songs that my students have an easy time understanding.

For the absolutely uncoordinated student (or very young student):

  • The Theme Song from the Movie Jaws
  • Green Day – Brain Stew
    • Using only the low ‘E’ string.
    • Change the pitch up a half step with software.
  • Chicago – 25 or 6 to 4
    • Using only the low ‘E’ string.
    • The same as Brain Stew, but slightly more difficult.
  • Metallica – Nothing Else Matters (Intro)
    • Uses only open strings.
  • Led Zeppelin – Dazed and Confused
  • Taps
    • Using all open strings except for a ‘D’ note on the 2nd string.

For the student who appears to be more coordinated:

  • Black Sabbath – Electric Funeral
    • Played only on the open ‘E’ string.
  • Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water (Intro)
    • Played only on the open ‘E’ string.
    • Change the pitch down three half steps with software.
  • The Stray Cats – The Stray Cat Strut
  • The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army (Verses and Choruses)
  • Hot Cross Buns
    • Played only on the high ‘E’ string
Click The Image Below – PDF Transcription of Easy Songs


A typical first guitar lesson with a beginner student will have me review proper posture and technique for the first five minutes. We then review “Jaws” and “Nothing Else Matters” or “Taps” for about ten minutes. In the last ten minutes of our lesson, we cover “Brain Stew” or “25 or 6 to 4” until the student can play along with a slowed down version of the recording. Most students really get into the fact that in one lesson they can play a few popular rock songs. It takes us five minutes to pack up the guitar at the end of our lesson while I explain my payment policy.

There are many things that I do not teach during the first guitar lesson with a beginner student. My students usually take lessons with me for months or years, and I realize that we will have plenty of time to get into more advanced challenges as time goes on. Our first lesson should be fun. Keeping things simple gives my students a chance to see how it really feels to play the guitar.

Guitar Lessons in NH
www.guitarstyles.org