Folk music helps connect the past generation to the newer one through the language of music. Several old folk songs get covered by new age musicians that help breathe new life into the songs. You could be one of them, as many of these songs are quite simple to play.
Most folk songs have straightforward chord progressions and transitions, making them reasonably easy songs and an excellent way for beginners to familiarize themselves with the instrument they are playing.
If you’re looking for easy folk guitar songs, then you’re at the right place. In this list, we have compiled 25 easy-to-learn songs that you can quickly learn to play on an acoustic guitar.
Most of the songs we will discuss today in this list don’t require you to be a guitar god. However, some songs use more advanced techniques like barre chords or finger-picking, which may prove to be challenging if you’re an absolute beginner.
To make your learning process more accessible, we have added a guitar tab and a guitar lesson on YouTube for every song.
If you’d like to step out of the realm of folk music, or need a little bit of extra help with the knowledge around learning your first few songs, check out our comprehensive guide and list of easy guitar songs for beginners.
Things You Should Know to Learn Easy Folk Guitar Songs
If you’re an absolute beginner, then some of the songs in this list might be a bit hard for you to play. Before you begin, here are a few things you should have basic knowledge about.
Guitar chords are a fundamental concept that a beginner should learn first to play guitar successfully.
Most easy folk guitar songs use basic open chords, which should come naturally if you’ve played guitar for a few months.
If you’re completely new to guitar, start learning about open chords first and then learn barre chords.
Getting the chord changes right takes time, but luckily, most folk tunes use many of the same chords and chord patterns. So, learning one song will have you on the way to learning many.
If you’re unfamiliar with some of the chords, the ability to read a chord chart will at least help you to learn them on the fly.
It doesn’t matter if you learn chords or not unless you’re able to translate them by playing them on your guitar.
Traditional songs of the folk variety generally use simple strumming patterns, and often single chord strums will do the trick, so you don’t need to be a virtuoso. Yet, having a few strumming patterns under your belt will help immensely.
A swinging rhythm is often used in folk music, so familiarizing yourself with this musical concept will give you a head start.
Music theory is learning the language of music. It teaches you how notes interact to make different chord shapes and understand a song’s rhythm.
Learning music theory allows you to expand upon your guitar knowledge and will enable you to play better in general across your guitar journey.
Guitar Playing and Toe Tapping
Although it’s not an absolute necessity, easy folk guitar songs sound great with a stomp box or an underfoot Tamborine. Playing while tapping your heel or toe in time will really level up your performance.
List of Easy Folk Guitar Songs
Here is a list of 25 classic folk songs that you can play on your guitar.
1) Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver (G, Em, D, C, F, D7)
Let’s start off this list with one of the most classic songs by John Denver.
Written in 1971, Take Me Home, Country Roads is a viral folk song about West Virginia.
The song also became the anthem for West Virginia, making this song iconic all over the region.
This is one of the biggest singalongs in a cover musicians repertoire, so you can be sure that you can bust this song out to pretty much any audience, and they will love it.
The song consists of six basic chords that won’t be hard to learn, and the strumming pattern is also relatively easy with a high tempo. However, there is an F chord in the second verse that can be challenging for beginners. Or, you can use our guide to learn how to work your way around playing different F Chords.
2) Sound Of Silence – Simon And Garfunkel (Am, G, F, C, C/B)
Hello, darkness, my old friend. This soulful song by Simon and Garfunkel has an iconic sound and heartfelt lyrics. It has a recognizable melody, so the chances are that you’re already familiar with the sound, so it can be easier to learn.
They play the original version with arpeggios, but you can just play single strums to simplify it.
If not, this is a great song to practice your fingerpicking. It’s a skill you’ll need to learn anyway if you love folk songs.
The song has five easy-to-learn chords. Like the previous song, this has the F chord though, so be aware.
3) Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley (C, Am, F, G, E7)
This is a cover of the classic song by Leonard Cohen. Hallelujah is a popular slow song with a brilliant chord progression and superb lyrics.
The song features four very easy open chords with a slow strumming pattern. You can also use the finger-picking technique if you’re comfortable with it.
There is that dreaded F again, but you could just follow one of the basic chord shapes as an alternative.
The slow tempo makes this one suitable if your chord changes are still a little sloppy and you have plenty of time to move between the chords.
4) Stand By Me – Ben E. King (G, Em, C, D)
No F chord, what a relief!
This straightforward song is among the most popular tunes in music history.
You can play this song with four chords: G, Em, C, and D. It features a simple strumming pattern that makes it fun and easy to play. Mastering the chords won’t take you too long, and you should already be familiar with the lyrics, which makes this song a great folk song for beginners.
A neat little trick you can do with this song once you get comfortable is to play the bass riff on your way up to the G chord. You just have to play E, F#, G on the bottom E string before making the G chord shape.
It sounds more complicated than it is and will come naturally after a while.
5) Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison (G, C, D, Em, D7)
This rock ballad by Van Morrison is an immensely popular song from the ’60s. It is among the most covered songs of all time and is still played at events and parties due to its catchy melody and simple yet beautiful lyrics.
A reasonably simple chord vocabulary is all that’s necessary to play Brown Eyed Girl, making it one of those easy guitar songs for new players.
You can play this song easily by utilizing five easy-to-play open chords: G, C, D, Em, and D7. The song has a classic strum pattern and has down strums on every beat.
You can also put your own spin on the strumming as long as you feel comfortable playing the chords properly.
6) Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right – Bob Dylan (G, D, Em, C, A7, D7, G7)
This song is widely considered one of the best songs by Bob Dylan (the king of American Folk revival).
The song features seven chords. Feel free to strum the chords or arpeggiate them, depending on your skill level and how comfortable you feel playing the song.
You’ll notice that many of the chords in this Bob Dylan song are 7ths. It’s essential to wrap your head around these as you progress your guitar playing.
They make for more interesting chord transitions when you can sparingly put them into other easy folk guitar songs too.
7) I Walk The Line – Johnny Cash (C, G7, F)
This is one of Johnny Cash’s earliest and most iconic songs. I Walk The Line was released in 1957. Since then, the song defined his sound and was even the basis for his biopic title. It sold around two million copies and is unique folk music as it has heavy influences of country music too.
As a beginner, you can play an easier version of the song by using just three chords: C, G7, and F.
The song has a very easy strumming pattern. If you want to get a sound that resembles the original recording, you can pick the bass note rather than strumming the first beat.
8) Amazing Grace – Elvis Presley (G, G7, C, A7, D, D7, Em)
Amazing Grace is a very popular hymn published in the 18th century. Throughout the years, it has been covered by many artists. However, one version that is adored by many is the one by Elvis Presley.
The version by Elvis Presley has seven chords, out of which three are major 7th chords. This is a great hymn to play if you want to practice different chords and transitions between the chords. The chords are pretty straightforward, making this a desirable tune for beginners.
9) Working Class Hero – John Lennon (Am, G, D)
This fantastic song by John Lennon is an inspiring and heartfelt song that depicts the lives and struggles of millions of people in America. It was released in the 70s and quickly became a hit due to its excellent lyric structure and simple melody.
The song uses only three chords: Am, G, and D. The strumming pattern can be a bit of a challenge, and you have to pick the bass string first and then strum the rest.
If you’re a bit of an advanced player, you can also use hammer-ons that can help you add depth to your song.
10) Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd (G, D, C, F)
This is a famous song by the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s a classic song and is considered the most successful song in their career – despite people constantly screaming “FREE BIRD” at the top of their lungs at all their concerts.
They play the original version in the G key and as there are only four chords, the G, D, C, and F chords. The song is mainly played with the G, D, and C chords but features a tiny part of the F chord. Overall, this song is great for beginners. You can even skip the F altogether if you’d please. Most people wouldn’t even notice.
The picking and riffs in this song can be a little tricky, especially for a beginner. Yet, this is still a fun song to play without them, and you can learn them later on.
11) Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash (G, G7, C, D7, D)
This iconic song by the legendary Johnny Cash is a mix of folk, blues, and country music. It was composed in 1955 and has influenced the musical culture worldwide. Its upbeat melody with contradictory murderous lyrics sets this up to be an all-time classic.
It has five chords that you need to learn and has finger-picked bass notes, followed by strummed chords that give it an upbeat rhythm.
It is also a great song if you want to get familiar with major 7th chords and the song has two of the chords, G7 and D7, in it.
It also uses a standard swung shuffle beat. Very important for playing a bunch of other folk, country, and blues songs.
12) Just Breathe – Willie Nelson (C, G, Am, F, Dm7)
This is a cover of the original Just Breathe by Pearl Jam and is a great folk song to learn to play as a beginner. Who’d have ever thought Pearl Jam could be Folk music, right?
The song has five simple and easy-to-learn chords: C, G, F, Dm7, and Am. All the chords have fairly easy finger positions (except F) and allow easy switching from one to the other as this is a midtempo song.
13) Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver (D, G, C)
This song by the legendary songwriter John Denver is a great folk song about a traveling musician who often has to go away for his partner to do his shows.
It’s only three chords. And, each major chord is one of the easiest to play. Perfect for beginners with a limited chord vocabulary.
The strumming pattern is also very straightforward, making this song an excellent choice for newbies.
This American folk song is sure to impress and may only take a few hours to learn.
14) Suzanne – Leonard Cohen (D, Em, F#m, G)
After its release, Suzanne became a classic folk song covered by multiple singers and featured in many movies. Suzanne by musician Leonard Cohen has a slow rhythm, making it great for beginners.
The song has four very simple chords: D, Em, F#m, and G chord.
The F# is a barre chord which makes this song a great choice if your want to learn how to play the barre chords as you will have a lot of time to adjust your fingers due to its slow tempo.
If you can’t play the F#, you can substitute it for an F#/D, and it will still sound close to the original.
15) Donna Donna – Joan Baez (Am, E, Dm, G, C)
This song has a lot of history behind it, like this cover of the original Yiddish folk tune by Joan Baez was used in the civil rights movement in the 60s. This song became very iconic for the new generation and is still widely popular.
You can play this song with five easy-to-learn chords, including Am, Dm, E, C, and G. The strumming is also reasonably easy to grasp, and the song is played in mid-tempo.
Learning the riff and fingerpicking is a different story, but an intermediate player should be able to master it with some practice. It will give you something to strive for if you can’t quite play it yet.
16) The Rising Of The Moon – Misc. Traditional (D, A, G)
This popular Irish ballad is about the battle between the British Army and the United Irishmen in 1798 during the Irish Rebellion, meaning it has a lot of historical value.
It is taught in Irish schools and is a very widely recognized tune in Ireland. Since its inception almost two centuries ago, it has been covered by many musicians like the Dubliners, the Clancy Brothers, and the High Kings.
You need to learn only three elementary chords for this tune which are A, D, and G chords. These chords are widely considered as some of the easiest and have a very easy strumming pattern which is the down-down-up-down-up pattern which makes this one of the simplest easy folk guitar songs to learn as a beginner.
17) Drunken Sailor – Misc. Traditional (Em, D)
Who doesn’t love a good sea shanty? This is another classic Irish tune and like The Rising Of The Moon, it has been covered by many artists globally and is sung at events and parties alike.
With only two chords to learn, this song is just about as straightforward as possible. You just have to change between the D and the Em chords. The strumming is effortless, and this is a great song to sing along as the song is very entertaining and easy to learn.
This is an exceptionally easy guitar song and is recommended to learn as a beginner guitarist. There are hardly any lyrics to master too.
18) Big Rock Candy Mountain – Johnny Cash (C, G7, F)
This is one of the more easy-to-play folk songs. The original song is from 1928 and has been covered by many singers, including Johnny Cash. We recommend learning the version by Johnny Cash as it is excellent for beginners.
It has three easy-to-learn chords and can be easily played as the song has a basic strumming pattern.
This version is also great as it leaves a lot of room for improvisation, so you can also put your own spin on it. You could even experiment with an electric guitar if you wanted to.
19) I Saw The Light – Hank Williams (G, D, C)
This song is a fantastic country-folk song that is very easy to play and has elements of country music in it that make it a great choice if you’re looking to play a country/folk song.
You cna play this song by using the simple and easy-to-learn G, C, and D chords, making it one of the most accessible guitar songs for beginners.
You can also try the country-style finger-picking variation of this song if you want to achieve a sound that resembles closely to the original or if you’re looking for a challenge.
20) St. James Infirmary Blues – Misc. Originals (Am, E7, F, C)
The original folk song’s origin is unknown, but it rose in popularity with the version by Louis Armstrong. It’s a folk-blues song that is also fun to play when translated onto a guitar.
This song only requires four open chords: Am, F, E7, and C. The strum pattern is also very basic, so this song is also a great choice if you’re a beginner.
If you want to practice the barring technique using the F chord, this is a fantastic song to pick.
21) Scarborough Fair – Misc. Traditional (C, D, G, Em, Am)
This is an English folk ballad about the life of a person who lives in Scarborough and has to face a few impossible things to do in their life.
Like many other folk ballads in this list, this song has been performed by many musical artists. The ballad rose to fame again when it got covered by Simon and Garfunkel.
The tune is played in Dorian and uses the C, D, G, Em, and Am chords. When playing the Am chord, you can also lift your middle finger, which can help you create a sound close to the original version.
This is another one that you can ramp up the difficulty by playing the guitar’s melody, like the Simon and Garfunkel version.
It’s an awesome one to sing and play with a partner. The two voices really set this one off.
22) Where Have All The Flowers Gone – Peter, Paul, and Mary (G, Em, C, D)
Pete Seeger first wrote this modern folk tune in 1955, but the version performed by Peter, Paul, and Mary is better suited if you’re a beginner guitarist. That version is much more simplified and is easier to learn and perform.
This version features four very easy-to-learn chords: Em, C, D, and G. The strumming pattern is classic, and the tempo is moderate, meaning this is an excellent choice of song to start learning as a beginner.
23) Down In The Valley – Johnny Cash (G, D, D7)
This traditional folk ballad has its origin dating back to the early 1900s. Since then, many artists have had their take on the tune, but one beloved version by many is Johnny Cash’s. It can be a bit trickier to play for beginner guitarists due to its different structure.
The song is in 3/4 time signature, and you can play it with three easy chords. The main thing you need to keep in mind when learning to play is the time signature which can confuse some beginner guitarists. Try not to overthink it, and play along with the song to help you nail it.
24) Will The Circle Be Unbroken – Traditional Hymn (C, D, G)
This hymn was originally written by an English hymnist Ada Habershon in 1907. Many musicians later covered it, including The Doors and Carter Family.
You can play this tune using just C, D, and G chords. You can learn the chord progression quickly, and the strumming pattern is easy to learn and play as this hymn features a slow tempo.
If your interests overlap with video games, you may be familiar with this song from Bioshock infinite.
25) Nine Pound Hammer – Flatt & Scruggs (C, D, G)
This is an amazing folk song performed by the American duo Flatt & Scruggs. It is a short, easy-to-learn tune that is great if you’re looking to learn as a beginner.
The short tune features the same chord progressions over the song’s entirety. The chord progression in the song is C, D, and G.
If you feel comfortable with the initial playing, you can also learn to play the tune with finger-picking, which sounds much better and closer to the original song.