Widely considered one of the best musicians of our times, Bob Dylan has written, composed, and performed unique songs that have permeated our culture in ways unforeseen.
However, if you’re looking to learn Bob Dylan’s best songs on guitar, there’s good news: his profound lyrics and undeniable genius do not mean his songs are all deeply complex tunes. On the contrary, he often uses simple compositions and repetitive basic guitar chords to convey straightforward yet catchy melodies.
The result? Bob Dylan’s easiest songs make excellent beginner-level guitar tunes for those seeking to hone their guitar skills. Take a look at what I consider some of the best—and easiest—Bob Dylan songs to learn on guitar (with chords included, of course!).
One final note before we get started: don’t forget to tune your guitar! These songs won’t sound right if your guitar is out of tune… If you need a great tuner, here’s my favorite clip-on guitar tuner (on Amazon).
Blowin’ in the Wind
One of Bob Dylan’s most emblematic songs, it has become a worldwide icon of protest music and has ascended as a memorable piece of art for the ages. Recognized for its importance, it is part of the Grammy Hall of Fame and often ranks as one of the greatest songs of all time.
And yet, it turns out this legendary track is quite a beginner-friendly song, proving that complexity is not always required for success. The song follows a simple G-C-D chord progression and an easy strumming pattern, making it an excellent choice for newcomers and students.
Mr. Tambourine Man
Released in 1965, Mr. Tambourine Man is the picture-perfect marriage between simplicity and complexity. Featuring surrealist and intellectual imagery in the lyrics, the true meaning behind the song remains a topic of hot debate amongst experts and amateurs.
But if the lyrics display complex layers, the song composition takes care of the simplicity. With a capo on the 3rd fret and a relatively straightforward D, G, and A chord progression, the song remains easy to perform and fun to interpret, making it one of the most covered songs in history.
All Along the Watchtower
Another one of Dylan’s cryptic songs with mysterious yet profound lyrics, All Along the Watchtower is his most performed song in live concerts, yet it no longer feels like wholly his. Nowadays, the track is mainly remembered for Jimi Hendrix’s cover, and not unreasonably so.
This beginner-friendly song has an easygoing strumming pattern and a repetitive Am, G, and F chord progression. The song’s studio version has a C#m key and you’ll require a capo on the 4th fret.
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Another one of Dylan’s more simple songs, it can be defined as just four chords and nine sung lines. However, this is just yet another evidence of his stroke of genius—Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door is a deeply emotional song that remains immensely popular worldwide.
Guitar beginners will be delighted with this one—the simple chord progression only uses G, D, Am, and C and the slow rhythm is easy to follow, making it an exceptionally laidback song to learn and perform.
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright
Released in 1963, Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright is an emblematic post-breakup song that is equal parts bitter and desperate, inspired by Dylan’s real separation from Suze Rotolo.
However, the melody of this song stands out for not being his original composition. It is, instead, based on a traditional folk song called Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone?
Regardless of its origins, the tune remains a beginner-friendly song that plays in C key and requires just seven major chords.
If Not For You
Written by Bob Dylan for his first wife Sara Dylan, the song exceeds in emotion what it lacks in cryptic, complex lyrics. It is a straightforward and honest composition that conveys heartfelt thoughts and warm words.
In 1970 and 1971, the song had multiple releases by various artists. First George Harrison, then Bob Dylan, and finally Olivia Newton-John—each adding their personal interpretation to the composition and performance.
However, I believe Bob Dylan’s version stands above the rest; it is a charming and catchy country song for beginners.
Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)
Described by Dylan as “nothing more than a simple nursery rhyme”, Quinn The Eskimo is a song about nothing and has no meaning—nonsensical, fun, playful, and outright catchy. Of course, this has not stopped people from analyzing the lyrics, searching for a hidden significance that doesn’t seem to be there.
Dylan composed and recorded the song in 1967, yet English band Manfred Mann released it to the public in 1968 and received notorious success for it—Dylan would only release his version a year later, in 1969.
Apt for absolute beginners, Quinn The Eskimo is fun to play, easy to follow, and only requires three chords.
Shelter from the Storm
Released in 1974 in his Blood on the Tracks album, Shelter from the Storm is relatively simple and sounds pleasant and melodious, but the lyrics are as tumultuous as its name may imply.
This folk-rock song is quite beginner-friendly; even those lacking further experience can find it easy to perform. The only chords required are E, B, and A, while the down-down-down-up-down-up strumming pattern is relatively uncomplicated to follow.
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Perhaps one of the best songs from Bob Dylan’s most influential album, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go features complex and layered lyrics that dance between reality, literature, and poetry, making it one of the most over-analyzed Dylan songs.
A folk-rock tune with heavy bluegrass influences, it remains a beginner-friendly tune that, nonetheless, requires a capo on the 4th fret.
Tangled Up In Blue
Undoubtedly one of Bob Dylan’s best songs, Tangled Up In Blue only came to be as the result of a perfect storm—a new musical outlook, an interest in shifted perspectives and time perception, and a broken heart.
The lyrics may be profoundly complex, but the composition is a tad easier and apt for beginners. Tangled Up In Blue is played in A major with seven chords, but keep in mind that the strumming pattern can be pretty tricky, and it also speeds up a bit through the song.
Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You
Initially released in Dylan’s 1969 album Nashville Skyline, Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You is a surprisingly romantic and mellow country song with laidback energy and somewhat simple composition.
However, the song is mainly remembered for its vastly different live performances. When played live on the Rolling Thunder Revue tours, the track acquired a faster rock sound that oozes energy.
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Written and performed originally by Dylan and the Band in 1967, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere went through many changes as a demo, yet it was The Byrds’ version the one that first made it through as a single, released in 1968.
Only three years later, in 1971, Dylan would officially include the track in one of his albums.
Much like Shelter from the Storm, You Ain’t Going Nowhere also follows three simple chords—G, Am, and C—and has no additional complications.
Ready to Get Better at Guitar, Faster?
Whenever you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, check out a few of my favorite resources below:
The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings – A unique polymer coating makes these guitar strings last for months or even years at a time, making for an exceptional value. They provide the perfect mix of boom, range, twang, and brightness that acoustic music is known for. — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
The Best Acoustic Guitar – Beloved by everyone from Paul Simon to Gordon Lightfoot, the Martin D-18 is one of Martin’s most legendary guitars ever… It’s an excellent, premier quality acoustic guitar for bluegrass, country, folk, rock and more. This is also what I play myself — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
Chords, Tabs & Video Lessons for 100 Epic Songs – This free guide that I created for fellow guitarists gives you chords, tabs, and video lessons for the 100 best songs to learn on guitar… I spent many hours putting this guide together to help you get better at guitar, faster. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE
Fingerpicking vs Flatpicking Guitar – Learn which picking style is right for YOU by exploring examples, history, and popular players of each style. Discover essential techniques and pros and cons of each approach. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE