Easy Classic Rock Songs to Play on Guitar

Jim Josselyn
guitarist playing in a concert

It can't get more classic than the Doors and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, two quite different and completely iconic bands of the 1960's classic rock period that have come to symbolize the sound of a timeless and wonderful age in popular music. One thing these two terrific tunes have in common is they both feature simple chord patterns and bass lines that repeat many times. The excellence in this music comes from what these great artists do with that simplicity.

The Storm Is Coming

The first easy classic rock guitar song, Riders On The Storm, is a musical tour de force and shows the Doors at the height of their creative musical powers. The structure of the song is simple and brings you back to the genesis of most great American music: the blues. Riders is a simple minor blues with a unique turnaround, or last section, that brings the form back to the top. An interesting fact is the genesis of this song was cowboy crooner Vaughn Monroe's Ghost Riders In The Sky, a song the Doors were jamming on as they recorded the L.A. Woman album that contains this song.

If you are or want to be an improvisor, try jamming on this song. Use the E minor - E F# G A B C# D E - scale or the E blues - E G A A# B D E - scale. To download either piece below, simply click on the image. Click here for help with the following two printables.

When playing this iconic classic rock song work on:

  • The bass line: Riders On The Storm is a classic example of a jazz walking bass line. Make sure you pick the notes cleanly and play the eighth-note rhythm evenly with a slight accent on the second and fourth beats of each measure. Swing it!
  • The chords: This tune features mostly straight ahead basic chords. The middle section of the song utilizes what is referred to as poly or slash chords. In this case the Bm/A, C/A and D/A chords. Listen to how adding a unique bass note under a standard chord "lifts" up the sound and opens up the chord.

Where You Going With That Guitar in Your Hand?

California-based folk rock guitarist and song writer Billy Roberts penned Hey Joe, and Jimi Hendrix's rendition became a huge hit from his first recording. With its easy gospel rhythm and haunting background vocals, interesting chord changes, startling lyric about a man finding the woman he loves with another man, and Jimi's virtuoso guitar work, it has all the requirements of a timeless classic.

This song has three main parts to explore:

  • The introduction showcases Jimi's wonderful rhythm and phrasing. Use the arrangement here as a guide and listen to how he plays it. Emulating great musicians is always a good idea.
  • The chord progression to Hey Joe is a classic. Start with even quarter notes on every beat strumming, then augment that with variations. Play along with the recording for ideas.
  • Hey Joe also features a jazz tinged walking bass line. Again, play it evenly and smoothly and emphasize two and four. For fun, play the bass line fast and jam on it. The E blues scale will work for soloing.

Other Places to Find Easy Classic Rock Songs

If you like playing these two songs, you might also enjoy working on some of the following:

  • Come Together is an easy classic by The Beatles.
  • Breathe is a well known classic by Pink Floyd.
  • Paranoid by Black Sabbath has a driving beat and heavy guitar lines.
  • The Rolling Stones' Satisfaction is one of their most enduring and recognizable hits.
  • Cream's Sunshine of Your Love has an easygoing feel.
  • Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple is one of the first songs many guitarists learn.
  • Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival is instantly recognizable.
  • Cold Shot is the great Stevie Ray Vaughan at his bluesy best.

Rock On

These easy classic rock tabs can immerse you in some of the greatest music in rock and roll history. Play this wonderful music to keep the flame of classic rock alive and well!

Easy Classic Rock Songs to Play on Guitar