Every guitarist knows the feeling of first picking up the instrument and being at a total loss for where to start. While everyone just wants to jam out to their favorite hits, there’s often a learning curve involved. That said, there are plenty of beginner-level songs that you can learn how to play with just a few chords, and 1990s music boasts no shortage of them.
Whether you’re looking to learn new chords altogether or get down some new progressions, why not pair it with some throwbacks? From Nirvana to blink-182, we’ve compiled some relatively simple ’90s hits to get you started.
Here are 10 iconic ’90s songs that are totally easy to learn on the guitar, even if you’re just starting out.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana
Nirvana may be one of the most iconic alternative bands of the 1990s, but that doesn’t mean their progressions are reserved for pro-level performers. In fact, many of their songs are recommended for beginner guitarists. You can get started on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with just the E, A, G and C chords as instructed by Ultimate Guitar. Next step, learn how to sing like Kurt Cobain…
“Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” – Green Day
Given how Green Day are known for pop-punk shreds, you might not expect their guitar parts to be easy to learn. Believe it or not, though, many of their songs are perfectly accessible to beginners. In fact, this writer got her start by learning “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” and used it to capture the hearts of all of her classmates (if only…). Ultimate Guitar provides instructions using the G, Cadd9, D, Em and C chords. However, you can find an even simpler version at Guitar Player Box, which uses C, D, Em and G.
“Wonderwall” – Oasis
You’ll probably be heckled at some point to play Oasis‘ “Wonderwall,” so why not start early? The song’s difficulty ranges from beginner to novice depending on where you look. We recommend taking a stab at the e-chords version, which only utilizes Em, G, D and A. Just note that you’ll need a capo on the second fret for this one.
“Dammit” – blink-182
If you’re looking to impress all of your friends with a ’90s pop-punk jam, consider learning “Dammit” by blink-182. This one may be a little more challenging than the others on this list, if only for the F chord that it calls for. However, if you’re becoming comfortable with barre chords and relatively speedy transitions, it’s a good one to grow with. You can learn it on Ultimate Guitar using only four chords: C, G, Am and F.
“Doll Parts” – Hole
This one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The guitar riffs in Hole‘s “Doll Parts” are relatively simplistic, albeit captivating. Ultimate Guitar calls for the use of A, Cmaj7 and G. However, if you haven’t yet established muscle memory for Cmaj7, you can sub a standard C chord instead. The beauty in the former progression, though, is that your first and second fingers only have to move up a string to fall in line for the G note.
“You Oughta Know” – Alanis Morissette
Upon first hearing all the complex sonic dynamics in Alanis Morissette‘s “You Oughta Know,” it may seem unapproachable. However, with a capo on the second fret, you can implement a pretty simple chord sequence. Ultimate Guitar gives specific instructions, but you’ll want to go in with a working knowledge of the Em, A, G, E and D chords.
“Zombie” – The Cranberries
If you’re going to take the time to learn some ’90s songs, why not master one of the greatest alternative hits of the decade? The Cranberries‘ “Zombie” boasts a relatively easy chord progression and strumming pattern. That said, you may face a bit of a speed bump in the form of a D/F# chord with the Ultimate Guitar version. We’d encourage feeling it out for the purpose of learning, but you can substitute it with a D chord to simplify the process.
“All Star” – Smash Mouth
Chord progressions for “All Star” by Smash Mouth are a bit varied. Don’t let any Google searches discourage you from learning this particular ’90s track. With a capo on the fourth fret, you can master the song with five simple chords: A, C, D, Em and G. Learn the progression over at Guitar Player Box.
“Save Tonight” – Eagle-Eye Cherry
You probably wouldn’t think that such a great tune as Eagle-Eye Cherry‘s “Save Tonight” would be suitable for beginner guitarists. So, let us be the bearer of good news: It totally is. You’re going to have to pull out a barre F for this one, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t have it down yet. These chords directly follow Am in all instances, which has the same chord grip minus the barre. If you want to make the progression super easy, just modify your Am to use your third through fourth fingers and simply move the shape to make the F chord. You can find the full progression at Ultimate Guitar, but don’t worry. The only other chords used are C and G.
“Semi-Charmed Life” – Third Eye Blind
If you’re starting to get your chords down and looking for a bit of variety, try out Third Eye Blind‘s “Semi-Charmed Life.” Like some of the other songs we’ve listed, this one can range in difficulty depending on which chords you use. We’d recommend starting out with the version provided by GuitareTab. It utilizes beginner chords G, D, C and Am but also throws G/B and C# into the mix. If you’re not comfortable with the latter yet, you can also substitute it for a standard C.
Which ’90s songs would you most like to learn on guitar? Let us know in the comments!