Discovering the best guitar songs without a capo is a pleasant journey to go on. It’s one that even new guitarists can embark on when looking to learn songs for the first time.
The best guitar songs without a capo follow simple structures and basic chord progressions to allow you to play them on an acoustic guitar with just nothing more than your hands and a pick.
While using a capo gives you a bit more flexibility in how you play acoustic, it isn’t always essential to have when strumming along. Some people prefer to play without it.
Doing this means that some songs can be trickier to play than others. However, some hits were devised naturally without the need to use one altogether. So what are the best guitar songs without a capo?
What Are The Best Guitar Songs Without A Capo?
“Wonderwall” by Oasis
There are few guitar songs from the 1990s that feel as good to play as “Wonderwall”. The defining anthem from the Britpop era hits home with a truly iconic acoustic intro. It can also be played with or without a capo. Although a capo gets you closer to the recorded version, there are still plenty of ways to still nail this without one.
How? Well, a simple alteration of chord placings does just the trick. By combining the Em9#, G, Dsus4 and A7sus4 chords, you can replicate the sound without a capo while staying in standard E tuning. What you get is a simple and easy way to learn one of soft rock’s greatest intros. Now go play and don’t look back in anger!
“Perfect” by Ed Sheeran
No one has brought back the acoustic guitar quite like Ed Sheeran. Sheeran’s ability to craft megahit after megahit with just a few strums shows how simple things work best. Take his 2017 Billboard 100 Number 1 hit “Perfect” as a great example of this. The entire song is made up of just 4 chords – G, Em, C and D. All Sheeran has done is just rearrange their order in different segments to put together a soothing and light ballad.
There’s no real difficulty in the strumming patterns either. Sticking to an easy 4/4 beat and a simple three-strum rhythm and you have the song nailed. The verse and interludes use the same patterns, and there is only a slight change in the chorus with the structure switching to Em, C, G, and D.
“Riptide” by Vance Joy
With a light, breezy tone, Vance Joy’s hit song “Riptide” is one that just calls for lounging on a beach with a drink in hand. You can recreate this feeling too by translating this ukulele hit onto a much bigger instrument. Still delivering a soulful sound, learning Riptide is easy as it just needs three simple chords: Am, G and C.
The mastery of bringing this song to life is by simply nailing the strumming pattern down. And it’s easy to do as the pattern is pretty much the same all the way through. It’s just a down, down, up, down and up and that’s it. You will need to add an Fmaj chord in the bridge but that’s the only change in the entire song.
“Hey Soul Sister” by Train
Chances are that you will barely pass a day by without a radio station playing “Hey Soul Sister” by Train at some point. Even if you are sick to death of hearing it on the airwaves, it’s a great tune to learn on the acoustic guitar. It is simply made up of the same chord structure throughout – Am, G and then C.
Once you find your way into learning the basic down, down, up, down, and up strumming patterns, it won’t be long before you have the song nailed. With everyone on the planet knowing this song, it’s a great first tune to learn and show to friends and family.
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan
When it comes to popular songs, few have constantly been reworked quite like “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”. Originally written by Bob Dylan, it has been covered by the world’s biggest rock stars stretching from Guns & Roses to Avril Lavigne. However, it’s also a song that even a novice can get the hang of just by strumming a few chords.
Played in G tuning, the song possesses just the same 4-chord structure – G, Am, C and D, Once you get the hang of these chords, it makes learning this classic a breeze. You don’t need to go adding Slash-like guitar solos over the top, but nailing this hit gives you the feeling that you are on the way to becoming a megastar.
“T.N.T” by AC/DC
One of AC/DC’s first big hits, “T.N.T” is about as guttural and simple as it gets when picking up a guitar. Although the recorded song has no acoustic parts, transposing this into an acoustic version is extremely simple. It’s a formula that Angus and Malcolm Young have become known for when putting together some of rock’s biggest hits.
For “T.N.T”, it’s all about mixing up just two power chords: E and A. Just tune your guitar into E tuning and you have everything you need to play the two chords that make up the basic structure of the song. With this structure hardly changing between the intro, verse and chorus, it is very easy to get to grips. It’s an explosive way to learn a hard rock classic.
“Times Like These” by The Foo Fighters
When it comes to penning the greatest rock songs, Dave Grohl is never far from consideration. And his 2001 hit “Times Like These” is a great song that works both in standard and acoustic formats. It’s a song that Grohl often plays acoustic at shows and one he does without using a capo when strumming on stage.
In terms of playing “Times Like These”, the best part to focus on is the rhythm parts usually played by Grohl or Pat Smear. All you need to know when playing is to master the C, Em7 and Dadd4 chords and you are good to go. There are a couple of sections of the song that do switch time signatures from 4/4 to 3/4 in some parts so watch out for that. Otherwise, enjoy mastering one of the Foo’s best singalong songs.
“The Tide is High” by Blondie
Ska and Rocksteady songs are always simple and easy to learn thanks to their laid-back sound and rather basic song structures. It’s no surprise then that learning Blondie’s version of “The Tide Is High” is one that you can easily get to grips this. What makes this 1980 hit such fun to learn is that anyone can play it in just a few hours.
Containing just 3 chords, all you need to know is A major, C major and D major and that’s the entire song covered. Even the strumming pattern is easy to learn as everything is played in singular down or up strokes. Just learn where to rest in each bar and you have this song dialed in. So no matter if it’s the Blondie version or the original by The Paragons, learning this jam is fun to bust out at any party.
“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
If you’re a fan of modern pop music, then learning Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2012 iconic single “Call Me Maybe” is a must-do. This bouncy pop number only ever uses the four chords that you find in many hits – G, Em, C and D – so don’t expect anything too complex. Putting this all together will quickly help you learn a song that topped charts across the globe.
What makes it even easier to learn is that the chords stay roughly the same between the verse, chorus and bridge meaning that the variation isn’t too hard to pick up on. On top of that, you only ever have to strum downwards making it that much easier to play. It makes it one of the best guitar songs without a capo for kids to learn and bust out at their first school concert.
Heroes by David Bowie
David Bowie’s hit “Heroes” is much simpler to learn than you might think. Focusing on the rhythmic guitar parts, this 1977 hit is a song that works thanks to its soothing nature and almost melodic rhythm, making it easy to follow along.
So what makes it soeasy to play?
Well, it does shift around 5 chords but they are all standard and easy to learn. These are D, G, C, Am and Em. Furthermore, there’s only a need to strum downwards making it easy to find your rhythm and focus on nailing chord transitions. Once you put these all together, you will soon learn a song that appears everywhere decades after its initial release.
“Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons
“Radioactive” was the song that launched Imagine Dragons to superstardom. Love or hate the success the band has found, their pop-rock nature makes their songs great to learn when looking for new material to jam along to, and this 2012 hit is solid proof of why that is.
The first reason it’s easy to play is the use of four conventional chords – Am, C, D and G. Furthermore, there’s very little variation throughout each section of the song, making each part easy to learn before putting it all together. Lastly, the strumming pattern is straightforward to learn as it is just three downstrokes before switching to one upstroke. Master all this and you will pick the song up in a matter of moments. It’s time to begin….
“Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
Few country songs have the staying power that “Ring of Fire” has. Johnny Cash’s signature 1963 hit works thanks to its catchy hooks and simple melodies that build no matter how you play it. All these factors mean that you will find the song played on radio stations to this very day. Why is it easy to learn though?
Well, it only actually uses three chords. So as long as you set your guitar to be in a G tuning, you only have to play the G, C and D open chords to learn the entire song. It’s not a particularly long song either meaning that you can learn the entire thing in a few hours should you wish. Cash was a master at making simplicity work, and “Ring of Fire” is proof of this.
“Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol
No matter where you may have been in the 2000s, you are bound to know the 2007 hit “Chasing Cars” by the British band Snow Patrol. One of the most-played songs on the radio in the 21st century, it is a slow ballad that never strays too far from a basic rhythmic pattern. It’s why this song is something that any guitarist will look to learn when busking on the street.
The song uses 3 open chords – A, Dsus2 and E6 – which are all easy to get to grips with. Once you have these knuckled down, picking up the rhythms and strumming patterns won’t be a problem with the song’s gradual build and progression. A great way to learn a song that everyone knows.
All in all, there are plenty of songs that you can learn without needing to use a capo. All it takes is the knowledge of some basic chords and knowing the strumming patterns to get you on your way.
It doesn’t matter if you are learning classic hits or viral songs from today’s biggest hits, they are all fun to strum along to on your guitar. It’s why learning this without any additional tools helps you grasp all the fundamentals of playing the guitar.