The best way to motivate yourself to practice guitar is by playing easy guitar songs you love. That’s why beginners with a more eclectic musical taste often hit road bumps.
Music is about self-expression. As simple as strumming a classic pop song might be, it won’t fit every player’s personality. The following list of 30 easy indie guitar songs is suitable for players of all skills who wish to show off their independent spirit and taste.
Top 30 Indie Guitar Songs
1. Beach House – Space Song
The shoegaze sounds of Beach House have been a favorite of indie fans for over a decade. Their catalog runs the gamut from more rock-centric fare to spacey soundscapes, but Beach House never stray too far from their indie ethos.
Though drum machines, keyboards, and slide guitar make Beach House’s “Space Song” sound like an ethereal symphony, the song is simple to play. Players familiar with chord shapes in the key of D will have no trouble with this five-chord masterpiece.
2. Bonny Doon – A Lotta Things
Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, the members of Bonny Doon brought their experiences in the DIY punk scene to their current indie project. Though the word “pastoral” is bandied about frequently to describe acoustic projects, the term is especially applicable to Bonny Doon, who wrote Longwave in the Michigan woods.
Bonny Doon’s memorable melodies over simple chord progressions are perfect for beginning guitarists. Nowhere is this more apparent than the track “A Lotta Things,” which features three open chords and a little attitude. This song never requires more than three fingers, making it accessible to everyone.
3. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
No band captured the bombast and spirit of indie music in the ‘00s, quite like The Arcade Fire. Their live show is legendary and features the ensemble strumming and banging any instrument imaginable. So it might come as a surprise to find that the titular track of their iconic album The Suburbs is a breeze to play.
With a capo on the second fret, “The Suburbs” is played entirely with open chords in the key of C. The finger shapes of the chords Am and E are the same aside from their string placement, so the quick chord changes in the verse aren’t hard to play at all.
4. Sharon Van Etten – Seventeen
No matter their age, everyone can relate to change. Sharon Van Etten’s impassioned song “Seventeen” is an ode to the old times, but with a bite. “Seventeen” is an easy song on guitar despite its quicker tempo, as the chord progressions that lie beneath the beat are in halftime.
“Seventeen” is a fun song to play along with for those that want to rock out. Its slow build progresses to a passionate crescendo, allowing for a big vocal performance. And with its simple open chords, players won’t worry about their fingers while singing.
5. Belle and Sebastian – Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying
Belle and Sebastian’s quirky acoustic songs caught on with music fans immediately. Beginning as a school project in Glasgow, Scotland, the group quickly found success with their literate songwriting and turned the project into a full-fledged band.
“Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying” from Belle and Sebastian’s classic album If You’re Feeling Sinister is one of their most recognizable songs. Fans of the Scottish indie group will love that this is also easy to play. Just capo the first fret, and all you’ll need to know are a few chords in the key of F.
6. Galaxie 500 – Strange
Though Galaxie 500 was only a band for four years, their three albums would help define indie pop, and its subgenre slowcore, for decades to come. While the band had marginal success during their career, new generations continue to find inspiration from their work.
Galaxie 500’s most enduring song is 1989’s “Strange.” The lyrics tell the story of an outsider looking in while a slinky guitar energizes the hazy slowcore tempo. Galaxie 500 hit upon the universal theme of isolation with four simple chords – making it easy for everyone to play along.
7. Cat Power – I Don’t Blame You
Under the moniker Cat Power, singer-songwriter Chan Marshall has helped lay the groundwork for independent female singer-songwriters for two decades. Cat Power’s individualistic approach to music has yielded many memorable songs, from sparse acoustic covers to full blow stabs at Memphis soul.
With 2003’s You Are Free, Cat Power began making her mark in the mainstream. Though tracks like “I Don’t Blame” were still as independently minded as ever. Performed solo on piano, this song is fun for beginners to practice more intermediate rhythms as the chords are simple.
8. Father John Misty – Real Love Baby
As a drummer and vocalist, Josh Tillman contributed to the complex vocal harmonies and song structures of the successful indie-folk group Fleet Foxes. Going solo as Father John Misty, Tillman played more with classic American song structures, and the result was some of the most resonant songwriting of the 2010s.
Taking a less is more approach, Father John Misty’s “Real Love Baby” is a three-chord exercise in masterful songwriting. This song is easy enough for any beginner to tackle, but the catchy melody about love is universal enough to resonate with any audience.
9. Wilco – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
From pioneering alt-country to dabbling in sound collage, Wilco has spent their career marrying classic pop with experimental sounds. Nowhere is this more evident than their classic 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which Rolling Stone named one of the greatest albums of all time.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot starts with the percussively dense “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” an opening salvo fit for the record to come. Novice guitar players will be surprised to learn that the song is only three chords. Just play A, Em, and D throughout to play along with this classic track.
10. Real Estate – Talking Backwards
Breezy indie-pop outfit Real Estate has made a career out of their subtle yet muscular guitar heroics. Their fluid lead guitar lines and reverb-drenched backing tracks make for the type of melancholy tunes perfect for a walk around the block or a coffee at the neighborhood cafe.
Guitarists looking for an accessible but intricate indie song need to look no further than Real Estate’s “Talking Backwards.” This song is perfect for beginners looking to practice quick chord changes while maintaining simple finger shapes. The song’s lead guitar line will offer a challenge for guitarists as they continue to improve their skills.
11. Jenny Lewis – Just One of the Guys
As a childhood actor turned frontwoman for indie darlings Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has spent most of her life in the spotlight. Lewis calls upon this experience in her solo song “Just One of the Guys,” creating a devastating account of a female reconciling her existence in traditionally male-dominated spaces.
Jenny Lewis takes the D, A, and E chords to their snarling limit on “Just One of the Guys,” playing with a slightly stilted rhythm that drives the song. “Just One of the Guys” is a simple song that translates particularly well to electric guitar.
12. The Shins – New Slang
After Natalie Portman’s Garden State character claimed the song would “change your life,” The Shins’ “New Slang” became one of the biggest indie songs of its era. From its success in film to the legion of twee indie bands that sprung up in its wake, “New Slang” paved the way for a mainstream reckoning with the independent.
The song sounds as fresh today as it did twenty years ago, thanks in no small part to the classic nature of its composition. This classic indie track is a simple open chord progression in the key of Am, giving it a timeless feeling and making it accessible to beginning guitarists.
13. Bright Eyes – Devil Town
Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst was championed as the “next Bob Dylan” by the music press at the dawn of the new Millenium. It’s easy to see why – his literate lyrics and nasally voice make for easy comparison. Though the similarities are present, Oberst’s commitment to independent music set him on a path much less traveled than Dylan.
Bright Eyes’ cover of outsider artist Daniel Johnston’s acapella song “Devil Town” shows Oberst’s independent ethos in one three-minute burst. “Devil Town” is a captivating song about the evil in the world and the darkness inherent in oneself. With only four chords, it’s great for beginners looking to exercise their demons.
14. The Gun Club – Mother of Earth
As the late 70s LA punk scene splintered between hardcore and rockabilly, The Gun Club insisted on a back-to-basics approach to their already raw sound. Taking from traditional American blues and folk, the band forged ahead with the groundwork for the eventual Americana genre.
The final track on their seminal 1982 album Miami, “Mother of Earth,” is as easy to play as they come. Four open chords in the key of Em tell this tale of sadness on the open road. Once players conquer the chords, they’ll be in for an additional challenge by tackling the lead guitar lines.
15. The Lumineers – Ho Hey
The Lumineers are one of the most successful acts to emerge from the folk revival of the 2010s. Throughout their critically acclaimed and commercially successful career, the band has stayed true to its roots, topping the charts while remaining independent.
In true folk tradition, four chords in the key of C was all it took for The Lumineers to take over the world with their hit single “Ho Hey.” This song is simple enough for beginners to play while featuring quick chord changes in each verse to develop players’ agility.
16. Beck – Golden Age
Though Beck is a musical chameleon, his work has always remained true to an independent spirit. Whether it’s electro-pop, anti-folk, or traditional singer-songwriter fare, Beck approaches every project with creativity that surpasses most artists who have come before.
“The Golden Age” kicks off Beck’s Sea Change with an organic take on his usual spacey sound. Instead of samples, drum machines, and synthesizers, Beck reflects on heartbreak with four chords on acoustic guitar and a reverb-drenched slide guitar. For the heartbroken indie guitarist, it doesn’t get any easier.
17. Marlon Williams – Dark Child
It would be too simple to classify Marlon Williams as a country artist, though some have tried as much. The reality is that Williams draws inspiration from classic genres while taking a fresh approach to songwriting. His gothic, atmospheric acoustic songs are wholly unique and ear-catching.
Like the best of roots music, Marlon Williams’ “Dark Child” is a simple chord progression with a lot to say. Any guitarist that knows a few open chords will be able to tackle this brooding indie song immediately.
18. Feist – 1234
Leslie Feist became an international sensation with her single “1234,” though the success didn’t come overnight. As a solo artist and a member of the Broken Social Scene’s collective of like-minded Canadian artists, Feist had toiled away in the underground years before catapulting up the charts.
It’s hard to deny the immediately catchy “1234.” With its handclaps, banjos, and sing-along chorus, the song is a shot of pure joy. It’s also a great indie song for beginners. All you need are a few chords in the key of D, and you’ll be counting along in no time.
19. Wreckless Eric – Whole Wide World
As part of the 70s UK punk label Stiff Records‘ roster, Wreckless Eric embodied the spirit of new wave before it became fashionable across the pond. With his ragged voice and wry lyricism, Wreckless Eric’s records were as energetic and carefree as his time spent playing in pubs.
Though he never broke big, Wreckless Eric had a sleeper hit with his single “Whole Wide World.” Considered by many to be one of the best punk singles ever released, the song caught on with Millenials after its inclusion in the movie Stranger Than Fiction. Beginners will love strumming away to this two-chord punk anthem.
20. Whitney – No Woman
Chicago, Illinois’ Whitney combines folk, soul, and classic pop to create their uniquely 21st-century indie pop blend. While the results are easy on the ears, Whitney’s eclecticism remains steadfastly independent as they push their sonic palette with each album.
“No Woman,” the standout track from their 2016 debut Light on the Lake, shows the band mix strings, keyboards, horns, and non-rock percussion over five simple acoustic chords. The inclusion of an Fm7 chord needn’t worry novice players as it’s merely an A with the F# played on the low E string.
21. The Breeders – Drivin’ on 9
By the time college rock darlings the Pixies broke up, bassist Kim Deal was already at work with her new project, The Breeders. The group scored a surprise hit with their single “Cannonball,” thanks to the massive success of grunge bands like Nirvana.
For all their distortion, The Breeders could write something sweet, too. Near the end of their breakout album, Last Splash, Deal and company show their softer side with the beautifully simple “Drivin’ on 9.” Using just four chords in the key of G, this is the quintessential easy indie song.
22. Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Perhaps no group has come to embody indie music like Neutral Milk Hotel. Their landmark album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, continues to find new audiences through playlists and word of mouth twenty years after its initial release.
Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” encapsulates everything songwriter Jeff Mangum does well, with obtusely dense lyrics bolstering klezmer-inspired strings and horns. But at its root, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” shares the most common elements of classic songs: four open chords and a story.
23. The War on Drugs – Red Eyes
The War on Drugs make the type of indie rock you can wrap yourself in. That’s not to say that their music is cozy – more appropriately, it’s densely layered. Their washed-out, wall-of-sound approach to recording lends their shoegaze songs a classic feeling.
Many novice guitarists might hear The War on Drugs and think that the songs are impossible to play. Upon further inspection, players find most of their songs build upon simple chord progressions. With their track “Red Eyes,” five open chords are all it takes to play along to this indie epic.
24. Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me
Angel Olsen’s arrival on the indie rock scene signaled a fresh songwriting voice with attitude to boot. Olsen’s fiercely independent style is unapologetically personal. The resulting songs are as confessional as they are cathartic.
Singing “Shut Up Kiss Me,” Olsen refuses to lose her lover without a fight. The aggressive nature of her appeal stands apart from the usual love lost narrative and makes the song’s four open chords resonate as she sings, “Shut up, kiss me, hold me tight.”
25. Daniel Johnston – True Love Will Find You in the End
Daniel Johnston became an indie darling in the 80s when he passed along homemade cassettes while he worked as a McDonald’s janitor. Though mainstream success eluded Johnston, his work continues to inspire each new generation of indie musicians.
Johnston’s signature track, “True Love Will Find You in the End,” is a heartbreaking yet hopeful declaration of the power and importance of love. These universal themes pair nicely with their simple open chord treatment, making “True Love Will Find You in the End” an essential indie song to learn on guitar.
26. The Magnetic Fields – I Don’t Believe You
The Magnetic Fields are the main outlet of the amazingly prolific songwriter Stephin Merritt. For three decades, The Magnetic Fields have produced a literate brand of ennui-inspired indie-pop, inspiring countless acts along the way.
“I Don’t Believe You” is a classic Merritt tale of a narrator that refuses to believe his partner loves him despite their claims. The song will prove a workout for a beginning guitarist with seven chords, but they’re all simple shapes in the key of D.
27. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Like Honey
The Jesus and Mary Chain’s dense layers of electric guitar would go unnoticed during their initial run in the 80s, but their influence on the next decade of shoegaze and indie rock proved tremendous.
Beginning indie guitar players that like cranking the volume on their amps or twisting the knobs on their fuzz pedals will no doubt love The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey.” Songs don’t get any simpler than this G to C chord progression. By the time players throw in one of the song’s few D chords, they’ll feel like a pro.
28. The Jam – That’s Entertainment
Mixing mod with punk, The Jam was a uniquely British group. Though they would find mainstream success with their 1982 album The Gift, The Jam always embodied the energy and politics of punk. Incorporating soul and Motown into their later work, The Jam would pave the way for more soulful interpretations of indie-rock.
One of The Jam’s catchiest tunes is “That’s Entertainment.” This song is a good choice for punks just starting to learn with only an acoustic guitar. The song is in the key of Am, which is the relative minor of C, making the four chords here are all the easy shapes from the key of C.
29. The Cure – Friday I’m in Love
For a pioneering goth band, The Cure wrote some very catchy songs. Their tuneful songwriting helped elevate their profile from the 80s underground to international stardom.
Far from goth, “Friday I’m in Love” has more in common with the indie-pop sounds of modern-day groups with its jangling guitar line. The root chords of the songs will be easy for players familiar with the key of D, making this cheery goth anthem accessible for most.
30. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Gold Lion
As part of the iconic indie scene that defined New York in the 00s, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ scrappy, punk-infused pop songs were the soundtrack for America’s biggest city at the turn of the Millenium. The band would stumble upon a hit with their ballad “Maps,” but they never lost their independent streak.
“Gold Lion” is Yeah Yeah Yeahs taking punk song structure and layers it with classic pop sounds. The organ and electric guitar are aggressive in the mix, and the drum pattern is reminiscent of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” The result is an acoustic adjacent three-chord anthem fun for anyone to play.
The Final Word on Easy Indie Guitar Songs
With four decades of independent music to pull from, it’s time these indie classics make their way into the canon of beginning guitar instruction. Strumming away with these indie songs will satisfy those with even the most discerning taste, ensuring that practice is fun.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.