Music is an incredible tool for self-expression. During our darkest moments, singing along with others helps galvanize a feeling of belonging. Through music, we feel less alone, knowing others have felt the same emotions.
We have compiled a list of the top 50 sad guitar songs for beginners to complement our list of easy guitar songs. Taking subject matter and skill range into account, we ensured all you’ll need is a reference guide to look up chords, a little patience, and a box of tissues. Before long, you’ll be playing and singing those blues away.
50 Sad Songs to Play on Guitar
1. Mazzy Star – Fade Into You
Mazzy Star’s shoegaze classic “Fade Into You” is an easy song for beginners because of its repetitive nature. Switching back and forth between the same chords will help players develop their muscle memory for the chords.
The only part of “Fade Into You” that might be tricky is the Bm chord. This chord requires extra strength from the fingers to push down multiple strings. The tempo is slow enough that players will have enough time to shape the chord.
2. Johnny Cash – Hurt
Originally an industrial rock song by Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash turned “Hurt” toward more frail territory. This song is in the key of Am, which gives the chords their melancholy sound. Learning “Hurt” should be easy for beginners already familiar with chords in the key of C, as Am is the relative minor to C.
The slight picking pattern that opens “Hurt” is not necessary to replicate to enjoy the song, though it can serve as a fun challenge for players once they master the song’s chord changes and strumming pattern.
3. Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm
No one captures angsty sadness like Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins. The simple strumming pattern and tortured vocal delivery of “Disarm” make it perfect for beginners to belt out on those particularly tough days.
There are a few exotic chords in “Disarm,” though they aren’t so challenging that they should scare away interested players. The Cadd9 is the same finger shape as a G chord, making the switch very simple. The Dsus and the Dsus/F# are much the same, only the first finger moves.
4. Green Day – Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
This one is for all the sentimental punks out there. The classic and timeless quality of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” is due to its simplicity. Though the recorded version features strumming that hits the bass note of each chord before strumming, this technique is simple to pick up.
Aside from the strumming, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” is a good option for beginners because Green Day utilizes five chords in the song. It might seem intimidating at first, but the tempo is slow enough to accommodate beginners. Once mastering the piece, players will have added a few new chords to their repertoire.
5. Adele – Hello
Adele’s “Hello” is an absolute tear-jerker. Though Adele’s version is on piano, the chords translate easily to guitar and make this a fantastic option for guitar players that want to push their vocal chops.
Some players might find a little difficulty with the Bm barre chord, but it only takes a little practice to master this chord. Adele’s “Hello” is played slowly, allowing for an easier transition to this chord. Once players have the muscle memory down, they’ll be able to play any song with a Bm.
6. Radiohead – Creep
Radiohead rocketed to fame with “Creep,” their anthem of alienation and longing. Though Radiohead would eventually record some of the most acclaimed and artistic rock music of their generation, “Creep” remains a celebrated part of their catalog to this day.
Guitar players that advance in their skills may want to play “Creep” in the arpeggiated style on the record, though this is not a requirement for beginners looking to enjoy playing the basics of the song. No one is going to be worried about exactly how you play it when they’re singing along.
7. Pearl Jam – Last Kiss
Pearl Jam breathed new life into the oldies tune “Last Kiss” at the end of the 20th century. Their simple take on this tale of teen tragedy flew up the charts and became their highest-charting single to date. No doubt that part of this success is due to the pure simplicity of the song.
With its simple chord progression and strumming pattern, songs don’t get easier to play than “Last Kiss.” It is perfect for any beginner that wants to learn guitar basics while playing a sad song.
8. Olivia Rodrigo – Drivers License
With its massive popularity, Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” has become a standard sad song taught to heartbroken musicians. The song is a piano-driven ballad with expert production flourishes on the record, but its devastating narration lends itself to simple guitar accompaniment.
Though the chords to “Drivers License” are a step above entry-level, the tempo is slow enough that the changes between chords allow enough time to make the switches for beginners. Two of the three barre chords are also on the same fret. This proximity makes the transition between Bb and F in chorus reasonably simple.
9. Tom Petty – Free Fallin’
It is surprising how nostalgic and melancholy Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” sounds since it’s written in a major key. Petty is a master at getting the most from simple chords, and “Free Fallin’” is a great song for beginners to get used to quick chord changes.
To play the song in the key of F like the record, players will need to use a capo on the 8th fret. Playing this high on the neck could prove difficult for players with big fingers, as the frets get a little smaller further up the neck. The good news is you can play the song in any key by moving the capo. This change can also help singers, as some of the notes Petty hits at the end are pretty high.
10. The Head and the Heart – Rivers and Roads
All The Head and the Heart needed were three chords and the truth with their melancholy “Rivers and Roads.” While lightly strumming and singing of friends moving away and family members in different states, The Head and the Heart manage to maximize three easy chords in the key of C into a beautifully sad anthem.
Beginning guitarists will love the repetitive and simple chord structures here. “Rivers and Roads” is a good option for groups to sing as it builds to a climax with vocal harmonies and background vocals.
11. Sufjan Stevens – Casimir Pulaski Day
Sufjan Stevens’ tale of coming-of-age with a young person fighting cancer captures a genuine sincerity that was often missing in the teen tragedy tales of the 50s and 60s. The simple chords and pure vocal delivery make this accessible for all, adding to the song’s power.
On record, listeners will notice that Stevens plays hammer-ons while he strums. This technique is not difficult to learn and makes simple-sounding songs seem more impressive. However, hammer-ons are not essential to the performance of the song. As players advance in skill, they can choose to pursue hammer-ons.
12. Leon Bridges – River
Leon Bridges captured something truly remarkable with his song “River.” The song captures the best of soul, gospel, and folk music rolled into one. It evokes the struggles of the civil rights movement and the struggle of personal spirituality. The result of this nostalgically truthful song is powerful melancholia.
Players will love “River”’s simple strumming pattern and open chords. For all of its emotional power, the song is one of the easiest to play on the list. Beginning guitarists will be learning their instruments with this song for decades to come.
13. Joan Osborne – One of Us
Joan Osborne became synonymous with the growing throngs of female singers in the late 20th century. Her hit “One of Us” showed a nuanced reading of mortality and religion through a modern lens, and by taking a look at the state of the world surrounding us, Osborne shed light on the human condition.
Though its subject matter is heavy, “One of Us” is a simple song to play. Be wary of versions that forgo the use of a capo, as these require advanced chords. Place a capo on the second fret to play the song with the open chords.
14. Bob Dylan – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Only Bob Dylan could take a song about mortality and turn it into a beautiful sentiment. The narrator of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is at the end of their rope, but with a sing-along chorus that utilizes the imagery of Heaven, Dylan makes the sadness beautiful.
Like Dylan’s best work, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is simple to play. Its five chords are open, and its tempo is slow. Add to the mix that this song is incredibly recognizable after being covered many times through the years, and this song is a great addition to a beginning guitarist’s songbook.
15. Nirvana – Dumb
Kurt Cobain became the voice of a generation with the unexpected success of grunge act Nirvana. Though known for throat-shredding rock songs, the Nirvana catalog has several mellow, sad songs. “Dumb” is a perfect example of the self-effacing style typified by the rock music of the era, and it is an easy one to play, too.
Do not be intimidated by charts that show the song needing upwards of nine chords. The E5 chord is only used as the very last chord of the song and is unnecessary. The Esus4, intimidating as it sounds, is merely an A without the pointer finger. “Dumb” can be played by a beginning guitarist as long as they take it slow and be patient.
16. Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
While most listeners will remember the slinky lead guitar lines of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” the song has simple chords. It’s in a minor key that, matched with lyrics that speak of the dangers of love, give “Wicked Game” a sadly creepy feeling.
The most challenging chord here is the Bm — a barre chord that requires some finger strength. Fortunately, there are only three chords that make up the song. With “Wicked Game”‘s repetitive nature, players will build up their finger strength in no time.
17. The Bangles – Manic Monday
While it might be surprising to see the peppy “Manic Monday” on a list of sad songs, all one has to do is pay attention to the lyrics to see that this is a song that finds the singer swept away by the maddening mundaneness of life. The Bangles do a great job of injecting this song with popstar level pep, but just beneath that shiny surface is a sadness lurking.
“Manic Monday” is an easy song to play, and an audience will most likely recognize it and sing along. If you’re looking to up the ante on the sadness, you can play “Manic Monday” at a slightly slower tempo. The effect chills the song and catches listeners off guard. Plus, it makes the chord changes a little easier to handle.
18. T. Rex – Cosmic Dancer
Glam rock superstar Marc Bolan always had a knack for writing effortlessly cool songs. “Cosmic Dancer” is no exception, though it’s a much less rocking affair than a song like “Bang a Gong (Get it On).” This mellow tone makes it perfect for rock-inclined beginning guitar players.
The strumming pattern can be a little tricky if sticking to the recorded version, but that isn’t going to make or break this song. With its simple open chords and repetitive structure, “Cosmic Dancer” is a great melancholy song to help teach guitar.
19. Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Follow You into the Dark
Death Cab for Cutie helped usher in an era of mainstream acceptance of indie rock with their heartbreakingly sincere ballad “I Will Follow You into the Dark.” The song straddles the line between folk and emo effortlessly and makes sadness as comfortable as an oversized sweater.
Guitarist Ben Gibbard hits bass notes before his strums, though beginners can skip this step to simplify the song. There are a few more difficult chord transitions in this one, so it will take a little patience. Considering how great you’ll feel playing it, though, it will be well worth the additional effort.
20. Blink 182 – Adam’s Song
Somewhat of an anomaly for prankster pop-punk’s Blink 182, “Adam’s Song” packs an emotional wallop. The song follows a narrator struggling with mental health and mortality and sheds light on issues often overlooked in traditional pop music.
Though the band recorded “Adam’s Song” as a rocking ballad, it translates well to a solo guitar with chords in the beginner-friendly key of C. Very green players might want to practice the song at a slower tempo first.
21. Third Eye Blind – Jumper
If you lived through the late 90s, you heard “Jumper.” Third Eye Blind was poised to take over the world with the song, even with its serious subject matter of suicide.
“Jumper” is one of the more challenging songs to make our list, though it isn’t so hard that a bit of practice won’t conquer the song. The D11 chord will take a little time to master as it requires a barre with three fingers shaping the chord. However, the agility earned from mastering this chord will go a long way in any guitar player’s journey.
22. The Rolling Stones – Ruby Tuesday
Many beginning guitarists might be surprised to see that “Ruby Tuesday” is a simple song. Keith Richards has quite the reputation among guitar players, but that doesn’t mean that his songwriting is overly complicated.
“Ruby Tuesday” features quick changes between simple chords, making this song accessible to beginners while also providing great practice at chord changes. Singing the iconically wistful song is sure to feel good regardless of your mood.
23. The Cranberries – Zombie
The Cranberries’ “Zombie” is a rocking protest song written about a terrorist bombing that killed two children in the UK in 1993. With the song’s background and lyrics like, “Another mother’s breaking heart is taking over,” The Cranberries turned their grief into artistic expression.
“Zombie” is a straightforward four-chord song that shouldn’t be too difficult for a beginner to tackle. The D/F# might cause a slight issue as it is a barre chord, but the shape is similar to the C, so it won’t take long to commit it to memory.
24. Neil Young – Heart of Gold
Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” is another example of a simple song written by a guitar master. All it took was five simple chords in a minor key, and Young was off to the races writing a mellow ballad about searching for goodness in the world.
Beginning guitarists will have no problem with the simple open chords of “Heart of Gold,” though the strumming could be challenging to master. It’s always okay to simplify strumming patterns while mastering chord changes. Eventually, the muscle memory will kick in, allowing players to focus more on strumming patterns.
25. Brandi Carlile – The Story
Longing for one specific lover, Brandi Carlile tells the story of a love destined to be in “The Story.” What makes this song feel particularly sad is the passionate vocal delivery of Carlile, making this a great sad song for guitarists that also want to showcase their singing.
The majority of “The Story” relies on simple open chords. The only exception comes in the form of an F#m, but this transition is slow enough that beginners will find their way to it.
26. John Denver – Leaving on a Jet Plane
John Denver penned a classic goodbye with his 1969 hit “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” If it weren’t for the subject matter, it might be easy to confuse the track with a sunny love song – the major-key chord progression gives the tune a sunny disposition. But once the listener realizes that the singer doesn’t know when they’ll be back, this goodbye takes on a tragic quality.
“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is one of the most accessible songs on the list. It is highly recommended for beginners as a quick introduction to a few simple open chords to help build confidence.
27. The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby
When a song starts with the lyric, “Ah, look at all the lonely people,” you know you’re in for a sad one. The Beatles don’t disappoint with “Eleanor Rigby,” their classic song about the loneliness of humanity. Since “Eleanor Rigby” is a song by one of the most famous bands of all time, you might be surprised to find that this classic is easy to play.
Though there are tabs that offer chord variations to help match the string arrangement, at its root, “Eleanor Rigby” is just C and Em over and over again. This simplicity makes the song entry-level. Beginning players can impress friends by busting out a Beatles song after a few lessons.
28. Alicia Keys – Fallin’
Toxic heartbreak is the story behind Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’,” a story that almost everyone can relate to. This universal tale helped launch Keys’ career and gave us a more upbeat take on the classic theme of love gone wrong.
Alicia Keys is a piano player by trade, but “Fallin’” is an example of a piano ballad that translates well to solo guitar. This song will be enticing to guitarists just starting as it only has two chords. The Bm7 is trickier than your average open chord, but since it’s one of two chords in the song, players will master it in no time.
29. Simon and Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence
Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” is a poetic tale of a world where people can’t seem to make connections with one another. The universal themes of loneliness and longing are presented through a dreamlike narrative, making “The Sound of Silence” highly interpretive and sorrowful.
Though “The Sound of Silence” is in the key of Ebm, the chord shapes will be easy for beginning guitar players familiar with the key of C by placing a capo on the 6th fret.
30. Nirvana – Something in the Way
Nirvana closed out their breakthrough album Nevermind with an absolute dirge in “Something in the Way.” Between the barely audible vocals of Kurt Cobain and the two-chord back and forth of Em and C, this is about as easy and sad as it gets. Perfect for this list. Just be sure to hug someone afterward.
31. Dolly Parton – I Will Always Love You
Long before Whitney Houston transfixed the world with her powerful vocal performance on the torch song “I Will Always Love You,” Dolly Parton cut a country version that’s every bit as sad.
Dolly Parton’s original version has a simpler chord progression than Houston’s, making it a perfect sad song for beginning guitarists. A capo is necessary to play along with the record, but the chord shapes are ones that most guitarists learn early on.
32. Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the Wind
Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” stands as one of the most culturally significant songs ever. Taking a simple chord structure and melody and applying it to the social turmoil of the day, the song has become synonymous with a tumultuous time in American history.
The underlying melancholy of “Blowin’ in the Wind” speaks to the difficulty felt during times of unrest – making the song just as relevant today as it was nearly sixty years ago. The simple chord progression makes this Dylan tune a quick study for beginning guitarists.
33. U2 – With or Without You
U2 was one of the biggest rock groups of the 80s, and “With or Without You” was their first US number-one single. When most people think of this song, they hear The Edge’s innovative lead guitar. What many listeners miss is how simple the song is.
The entire composition is D, A, Bm, and G repeated. This repetition helps beginners commit the chord shapes to memory. Singing along to Bono’s anguished vocals never felt as good as when you’re able to do it while learning this iconic ballad.
34. Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City
Bruce Springsteen wrote dozens of songs revolving around the quiet desperation of humanity. This exploration is why his work resonates so deeply; it has influenced how America tells its story. In the case of “Atlantic City,” these stories can sometimes reflect the storm clouds of economic doom.
Because Springsteen is steeped in Americana, his songs often have a traditional country or folk structure. These structures make “Atlantic City” easy for novice guitarists, with its four chords practically begging to be played.
35. John Prine – Angel From Montgomery
In “Angel From Montgomery,” songwriter John Prine captures the ennui of an old woman recalling pieces of her life. John Prine never veers into overwrought sentimentality. Instead, he rests the story gently in the romantically small moments of his character.
As a country artist, Prine was adept at writing simple yet enduring songs. Many songs in his catalog are like this, but “Angel From Montgomery” stands out as one of his best-loved tunes. All you’ll need for this song is a few standard chords in the key of G and a wry smile.
36. Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi
Joni Mitchell penned “Big Yellow Taxi” as an ode to environmental conservation. As a protest song and a lament for times past, “Big Yellow Taxi” is not only the most well-known of Mitchell’s vast canon but also more universally understood than her usual personal songwriting.
For beginning guitarists that feel a sense of dread over the environment, “Big Yellow Taxi” is a perfect choice. A capo on the second fret puts this song in the key of E, but the shapes players will be using are in the key of D.
37. Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire
This song about the all-consuming destruction of a person by the object of their desire is less a love song and more a cautionary tale. Though “Ring of Fire” was popularized by Johnny Cash, his wife, June Carter Cash, wrote this song. She felt that being around Johnny during his wilder years was a dangerous place to be.
Like many great country songs, “Ring of Fire” consists of the same three chords, making it a great choice to play for the greenest of guitar players. This track is a great one to play after being burned by love, and it’s so easy that anyone can play it.
38. Pearl Jam – Elderly Woman Behind the Counter
“Elderly Woman Behind the Counter” finds Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder stuck with a sense of deja vu upon seeing someone. The feeling is so strong, Vedder thinks they might have once loved one another. The track fades out with the sad refrain, “hearts and thoughts they fade away.”
The tempo of “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter” is a little quick, so beginners might need to slow the song down a little at first to make all their changes. Once the chords are committed to muscle memory, playing at full speed will help develop better coordination in strumming.
39. Bush – Glycerine
Though Bush was one of the most successful alternative rock bands of the late 90s, they found great success with their ballad “Glycerine.” While deciphering the lyrics might be a little difficult, it’s clear that love has gone wrong, and the singer is at risk of losing it all. It doesn’t get much sadder than that.
For the lovesick guitarist, “Glycerine” is a classic four-chord rock song to strum away. Players learning power chords will particularly enjoy learning the song, as this is how the band played it on their album.
40. The Verve Pipe – The Freshmen
The Verve Pipe’s “The Freshmen” is a powerful ballad that tells the story of a love triangle gone wrong. You know when a song contains the lyric “guilt-stricken sobbing with my head on the floor,” at the end of every verse that this is a seriously down-on-their-luck storyteller.
Beginners will love singing along to such sad lyrics with the simple chord shapes from the key of C. This song is a fun one to sing loudly, as the cathartic build of the song is therapeutic.
41. Oasis – Wonderwall
Long before the song became the subject of multiple memes, “Wonderwall” was a massive alternative hit for Oasis. Though no one knows what a Wonderwall is, there is no denying the beauty and sadness of the song.
Though “Wonderwall” has some exotic chords, beginners shouldn’t shy away from adding this song to their repertoire. The F#m7, Esus4, and B7sus4 chords can be considered variations of the A, played by pressing down strings on the same fret. With just a little extra patience, learning “Wonderwall” will open up a whole lot more songs to play.
42. Neil Young – Unknown Legend
Though Neil Young is considered an artist from the 60s and 70s, he has continued recording vital work through the century and into the new millennium. His 1992 offering “Unknown Legend” ranks among some of the best songwriting of his career, as Young’s character study of a small-town woman captures a particular middle American sadness.
Beginning guitarists will love playing “Unknown Legend” as the song is a simple back and forth between G and C. Once mastering that progression, more adventurous players can tackle the simple guitar riff that breaks up the song.
43. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
Unless you live under a rock, you have heard the sorrowful modern-day hymn, “Hallelujah.” Though written by songwriter Leonard Cohen, the most popular version of the song comes from Jeff Buckley’s interpretation. The vocal performance and sparse arrangement are among the most emotional ever recorded.
There are several different ways to play “Hallelujah,” but at its root, the song is a simple five-chord progression taken at a slow tempo. This song is an excellent choice for guitarists that want to show off their vocal prowess, as it has a lot of room for vocal runs.
44. Big Star – Thirteen
Though Big Star never found success during their career, the enduring beauty of their songs has given their work a new appreciation with each passing generation of music lovers. Their best-known composition, “Thirteen,” is a bittersweet tale of young love with a couple of well-placed minor chords to color the story with light melancholy.
The song might intimidate beginners with its seven different chords, but the reality is that the Em7 and D5 both use a single finger, making them very easy to play. The rest of the song utilizes open chords in the familiar key of C.
45. REM – Everybody Hurts
It does not get any sadder than REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” This song, along with its classic music video, became the ultimate sad song of the 90s. As time has passed, the song has remained a classic of REM’s storied career, likely due to its hopeful take on the experience of sadness.
Since “Everybody Hurts” is in Em, the relative minor of G, most of its chords are open. There are two barre chords during the bridge, F# and Bm, but these are simple to play as they share the same shape, just one string over.
46. The Cranberries – Linger
Despite the guitar effects and string section that bolster the studio version of “Linger,” this Cranberries classic stands up to a performance on solo guitar as its melody and lyrics capture a universal feeling of unrequited love.
Beginners will appreciate the simple chords of “Linger” along with its mellow tempo. The song’s inclusion of an A6 chord may seem difficult at first but is very simple to master with practice.
47. Cat Stevens – The First Cut is the Deepest
Cat Stevens depicts a worse for wear love affair in his song “The First Cut is the Deepest.” The song was popularized for a whole new generation by Sheryl Crow, but it doesn’t get much darker than Stevens, whose original version is less of a ballad and more of a raw admission.
For the love-scorned beginning guitarists out there, “The First Cut is the Deepest” is a great song to play along to. The song is a classic three-chord progression that is easy to pick up and great to play while you cathartically sing your heartache away.
48. Coldplay – Yellow
Coldplay’s “Yellow,” despite its bells and whistles, is an acoustic song at heart. Though the electric guitars and strings embellish the sweeping emotions of the song, you can always hear the acoustic guitar underneath. It is the heart of the “Yellow,” a big one considering the song’s sweeping emotion.
“Yellow” is essentially four open chords in the key of G with a few variations near the end that inexperienced players could skip. Not only is this a great sad song, but considering that Coldplay is one of the most popular bands in the world, it’s sure to impress any audience.
49. Patti Smith – Because the Night
Patti Smith’s “Because the Night” might be an epic song about love, but by writing it in the key of Bm, Smith gives her sweeping proclamations of love a tinge of sadness. The effect makes this a fun yet melancholic song to play.
The chord progression in “Because the Night ” is simple, but some of the transitions come on quickly. These changes don’t take the song beyond the skill of a beginner, though. Instead, they offer an opportunity to practice changing chords. “Because the Night” is a simple, fun song to play for the lovesick.
50. Soul Asylum – Runaway Train
Soul Asylum wrote the ultimate sad song with “Runaway Train.” There isn’t any redemption for the narrator, and there isn’t any uplifting anthemic quality to the music. “Runaway Train” is a song about being on your last leg and having nowhere else to go, and that makes it a cathartic song to play.
Like many simple songs, “Runaway Train” is in the key of C and primarily uses open chords. The tempo is slow, so if a beginner has trouble barring the F chord, the song gives plenty of time to make the transition.
As our list of the top 50 sad guitar songs for beginners illustrates, some of the best songs out there are the most simple. As the influential songwriter Harlan Howard famously claimed, music is “three chords and the truth.” That’s part of the magic of playing an instrument – if you know a few chords, you can work out even the most complex feelings.
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.