In a world where music charts are largely populated with electric pop songs or rock music, it can be easy to feel that acoustic music doesn’t get its fair share of attention. That’s why in this article, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the best songs of all time that prominently feature acoustic guitar and other acoustic instruments.
This list of the best acoustic guitar songs of all time draws from across several genres: including everything from pop to folk to country to rock to blues to jam bands, bluegrass, and more! I think you’ll find some familiar favorites as well as some new acoustic songs to fall in love with.
For the guitarists among you, I’ve also included chords for each song where possible, so that you can play along if you’d like.
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).
Get ready to discover the 50 Best Acoustic Guitar Songs of All Time:
Ripple – Grateful Dead
Ripple is perhaps the Grateful Dead’s most popular studio acoustic song – and for good reason. The beautiful lyrics and compelling melody continue to attract new listeners to this day.
In addition to the acoustic guitars on the studio version, Jerry’s friend David Grisman also played the mandolin – an acoustic instrument often associated with bluegrass.
Since the chords are relatively simple and the melody is very strong, I think Ripple is a great Grateful Dead tune to start off with learning.
Cinnamon Girl – Neil Young
One of Neil Young’s best songs from his earlier recording days. If you like heavier music, there is also an amazing interpretation of this song by Type O Negative. But for acoustic guitar, nothing beats Neil’s version above.
Jumper – Third Eye Blind
This is my favorite third eye blind tune, and an easy one to learn since it uses just 5 chords.
This is also a song everyone is sure to recognize regardless of their musical taste, so it’s a great all-around crowd-pleaser to play and sing on the electric or acoustic guitar.
Fire and Rain – James Taylor
One of JT’s most loved songs is Fire and Rain – and deservingly so. The song is a deep, moving, classic tribute to a childhood friend who committed suicide.
The song also explores other prominent themes that appear elsewhere in James Taylor’s songs, such as drug addiction, depression, fame, and more.
Old Man – Neil Young
This Neil Young song was written for the caretaker of the Northern California Broken Arrow Ranch, which Young purchased for $350,000 in 1970.
The song compares a young man’s life to an old man’s and shows that the young man has, to some extent, the same needs as the old one.
Layla – Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is most well known for his blazing electric blues and rock guitar playing. However, his Unplugged album shows off his skills with fingerstyle playing on the acoustic guitar. Check it out Layla, above, to see a more mellow soulful side of Clapton’s playing.
Oh Susanna – James Taylor
James Taylor puts a beautiful spin on this traditional folk ballad. His chords used over the song are beautiful, and make for an awesome instrumental even if you don’t want to sing the song.
White Freightliner Blues – J.D. Crowe / Townes Van Zandt
This Townes Van Zandt song went on to be covered by bluegrass legends ranging from JD Crowe to Molly Tuttle. It is a bit tricky to sing because many versions use a falsetto, but a fun one to play on the acoustic guitar.
Age – Jim Croce
This is a beautiful Croce tune, and one of the simpler songs of his to play because there aren’t too many chords required.
I Couldn’t Believe It Was True – Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson is another artist with lots of acoustic outlaw country songs that are great for learning on the guitar. The above song is quite simple but very fun to play and easy to learn on the guitar.
If the Moon Never Sees the Light of Day – Lonesome River Band
I forget how I stumbled on this song but it’s become one of my favorite acoustic songs to play on guitar. Unfortunately, it’s not extremely popular so it’s difficult to find the chords for it online. I had to figure them out myself. But it was worth it!
Into White – Cat Stevens
This is another great Cat Stevens song to learn. He has said that the lyrics were inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings.
Last of My Kind – Jason Isbell
When I moved to a mountain town for college and felt both alone and excited for a new start, this song was always on my mind. It really speaks to anyone who has ever felt misunderstood or lost in life. I was reminded of it recently when it played in the outro of an episode of Yellowstone (the incredible new Kevin Costner show).
I Threw It All Away – Bob Dylan
I Threw It All Away is one of my favorites from the Nashville Skyline album – which went on to become one of Dylan’s best-selling albums. If you haven’t given the whole album a listen, I highly recommend it.
It reveals a different side of Dylan, with many of the songs having more of a country western feel compared to his other work. In my opinion, it’s easily one of Bob Dylan’s best albums.
The Fugitive – Merle Haggard
My favorite Merle Haggard tune. This is an outlaw country classic, yet relatively happy and upbeat in its tone and feel.
Harvest Moon – Neil Young
From Neil Young’s album of the same name, Harvest Moon is one of the singer-songwriters better known tracks. Sound like one of the fathers of folk with this simple 5 chord song.
Better Together – Jack Johnson
Everyone’s got a little Jack Johnson in them. Johnson’s songs are great for a lazy morning or an afternoon on the beach. Embrace his laid back feel with Better Together – one of his easier songs to play and sing on the acoustic guitar.
Horse With No Name – America
Horse with No Name is one of America’s classic tracks – one that nearly everyone will recognize from the radio. It’s also a simple song to play, with just 4 chords on the guitar.
I Walk The Line – Johnny Cash
And of course, we’ve gotta have some Johnny Cash on the list. While Cash’s deep baritone is intimidating and hard to recreate, the chord structure and melody of most of his songs are pretty straightforward. Give this one a shot.
Free Fallin – Tom Petty
“Free Fallin’” is the opening track from American musician Tom Petty’s debut solo album, Full Moon Fever (1989).
The song was written by Petty and his writing partner for the album, Jeff Lynne, and features Lynne on backing vocals and bass guitar. The duo wrote and recorded the single in two days, making it the first song completed for Full Moon Fever.
“Free Fallin’” is one of Petty’s most famous tracks as well as his highest- and longest-charting.
More than Words – Extreme
“More Than Words” is a song by American rock band Extreme. It is the fifth track and third single from their 1990 album Pornograffitti.
It is a ballad built around acoustic guitar work by Nuno Bettencourt and the vocals of Gary Cherone (with harmony vocals from Bettencourt).
The song is a detour from the funk metal style that permeates the band’s other records.
Everlong – Foo Fighters
“Everlong” is a song by American rock group Foo Fighters. It was released in August 1997 as the second single from their second studio album, The Colour and the Shape (1997).
The song reached number 3 on the US Billboard Alternative Songs chart and the Canadian (RPM) Rock/Alternative chart.
It remains a signature song for the band.
Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
“Three Little Birds” is a song by Bob Marley and the Wailers.
It is one of Marley’s most popular songs and has been covered by numerous other artists.
The song is often thought to be named “Don’t Worry About a Thing” or “Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right”, because of the prominent and repeated use of these phrases in the chorus.
Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Bad Moon Rising” is a song written by John Fogerty and performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The song has been recorded by at least 20 different artists, in styles ranging from folk to reggae to psychedelic rock.
In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 364 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list.
Let It Be – The Beatles
“Let It Be” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, released on 6 March 1970 as a single, and (in an alternative mix) as the title track of their album Let It Be.
It was written and sung by Paul McCartney, and credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership.
It was the Beatles’ final single before McCartney announced his departure from the band.
Songbird – Oasis
“Songbird” is a song by English rock band Oasis, from their fifth studio album Heathen Chemistry, and is the first single by Oasis written by vocalist Liam Gallagher.
During an interview with The Matt Morgan Podcast, Liam’s brother and bandmate Noel Gallagher called the track a “perfect” song.
Perfect – Ed Sheeran
“Perfect” is a song by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran from his third studio album, ÷ (2017).
The song and its official music video received three nominations at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards.
Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton
“Wonderful Tonight” is a ballad written by Eric Clapton. It was included on Clapton’s 1977 album Slowhand.
Clapton wrote the song about Pattie Boyd.
Let Her Go – Passenger
Let Her Go” is a song recorded by English singer-songwriter Passenger.
The song became a sleeper hit, achieving international success and topping the charts in many countries around the world.
Can’t You See – Marshall Tucker Band
“Can’t You See” is a song written by Toy Caldwell of The Marshall Tucker Band.
The song was originally recorded by the band on their 1973 debut album, The Marshall Tucker Band, and released as the album’s first single.
The song, musically, is a cross between country rock and Southern rock.
The lyrics are noted as being dark, reflecting heartache and “a man running as far away as he can to begin the process of healing himself”.
Stuck in the Middle With You – Stealers Wheel
“Stuck in the Middle with You” (sometimes known as “Stuck in the Middle“) is a song written by Scottish musicians Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan and performed by their band Stealers Wheel.
Give Peace a Chance – John Lennon
“Give Peace a Chance” is an anti-war song written by John Lennon (originally credited to Lennon–McCartney), and performed with Yoko Ono in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
It is the first solo single issued by Lennon, released while he was still a member of the Beatles, and became an anthem of the American anti-war movement during the 1970s.
What I Got – Sublime
“What I Got” is a song from American band Sublime’s self-titled third album (1996).
It was the band’s biggest radio hit, posthumously after singer Bradley Nowell’s death in 1996 from a heroin overdose.
It is ranked on the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine at number 83.
High & Dry – Radiohead
High and Dry” was recorded as a demo during the sessions of Radiohead’s first album, Pablo Honey (1993), and remastered for inclusion on The Bends.
Two music videos were produced for “High and Dry”.
Tom Yorke said the lyrics were about “some loony girl I was going out with”, but became “mixed up with ideas about success and failure”.
Stir it Up – Bob Marley
“Stir It Up” was the first Bob Marley-written song that became successful outside of Jamaica.
Teach Your Children – Crosby Stills and Nash
“Teach Your Children” is a song by Graham Nash.
The song first appeared on the album Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released in 1970.
The recording features Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar.
Working Class Hero – John Lennon
Lennon said of this song:
“I think it’s a revolutionary song – it’s really just revolutionary. I hope it’s about what Give Peace a Chance was about. But I don’t know – on the other hand, it might just be ignored. I think it’s for the people like me who are working class, who are supposed to be processed into the middle classes, or into the machinery. It’s my experience, and I hope it’s just a warning to people, Working Class Hero.”
Hotel California – The Eagles
“Hotel California” is the title track from the Eagles’ album of the same name and was released as a single in February 1977. Writing credits for the song are shared by Don Felder (music), Don Henley, and Glenn Frey (lyrics).
Joe Walsh came up with the dual-guitar descending arpeggio part that ends the song: he didn’t, however, get writing credits.
The Eagles’ original recording of the song features Henley singing the lead vocals and concludes with an extended section of electric guitar interplay between Felder and Walsh.
The song is considered the most famous recording by the band, and in 1998 its long guitar coda was voted the best guitar solo of all time by readers of Guitarist.
The Eagles have performed “Hotel California” 1,038 times live, the third most out of all their songs, after “Desperado” and “Take it Easy”.
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
David Gilmour and Roger Waters have praised “Wish You Were Here” as one of Pink Floyd’s finest.
Roger Waters has noted that the collaboration between himself and David Gilmour on the song was “really good. All bits of it are really, really good. I’m very happy about it.”
David Gilmour has playfully called “Wish You Were Here” “a very simple country song” and stated that “because of its resonance and the emotional weight it carries, it is one of our best songs.”
Closer To The Heart – Rush
Rush’s Closer to the Heart is a classic song that sounds a lot harder than it really is. Acoustic guitarists will be happy to learn that the verse and chorus of this classic rock favorite use only the A, G, and D chords.
They do throw a C chord in for the guitar solo section… but if you’re playing by yourself you’ll probably cut that section out anyways.
Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett
Everyone’s favorite Jimmy Buffet song.
But did you know: Margaritaville also only uses 3 chords as its foundation: D, G, and A.
Jimmy spices it up at some points by playing a D7 or A7 instead of just the regular D and A chords, but this is optional. It gives you something to work up to as you’re practicing this easy 3 chord guitar song.
Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
One of Johnny Cash’s most famous songs, Folsom Prison Blues is also deceptively simple.
This is not only one of Cash’s legendary classics, but it’s also a great song for newer acoustic guitar players to start out with, because Folsom Prison Blues uses just E, A, and B chords.
Unknown Legend – Neil Young
This acoustic song is about a young woman with a free spirit and the magic of the open road.
One of Neil Young’s easiest songs, Unknown Legend requires only two simple chords.
Mr. Tambourine Man – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is a master acoustic songwriter, but many of his songs are easier to learn on the guitar than you might think. Mr. Tambourine Man is a great example.
Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
This is one of Dylan’s acoustic “protest” songs and as such, peace is a strong recurring theme throughout the lyrics.
One of Dylan’s most famous songs ever, Blowin’ In the Wind is also one of his easiest songs to play.
I Saw The Light – Hank Williams – G, C and D chords
Perhaps the most famous country gospel song of all time, I Saw the Light has been covered by dozens of artists over the years. One of my favorite versions is Hank Williams, because of it’s simplicity. All you need to know to play this acoustic guitar gospel classic is G, C, and D chords.
Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
Ring of Fire is another Johnny Cash song that only uses three chords: G, C, and D. The song is easy to play on guitar… the harder part is matching Johnny’s famous baritone voice.
Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver
Another G, C, D guitar masterpiece. Leaving on a Jet Plane is one of John Denver’s most famous songs and one of his easiest to play on the guitar.
You’ve Got a Friend – James Taylor
You’ve Got a Friend was actually written by Carole King, but James Taylor went on to win a Grammy for it. Dozens of famous artists through the years have gone on to cover the song, but James Taylor’s version remains a classic.
Something in the Way She Moves – James Taylor
This is one of my absolute favorite James Taylor songs. It is pure JT – just his voice and an acoustic guitar. No frills necessary. In this way, it captures the simplicity and grace of his music, in my opinion.
Something in the Way She Moves is a romantic song, with a certain transcendence and beauty that is inspiring:
There’s something in the way she movesJames Taylor, Something in the Way She Moves
Or looks my way, or calls my name
That seems to leave this troubled world behind
I’m not the only one who thinks so. The opening line of the song alone inspired George Harrison to write the Beatles’ #1 song Something.
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