Bluegrass music is a genre that developed in the US, in the 1940s, and has roots in traditional English, Scottish, and Irish ballads, along with the traditional blues and jazz. The creator of the bluegrass genre is Bill Monroe, and the genre’s name comes from the band called Bill Monroe And The Bluegrass Boys. Bluegrass was first classified in the category of folk music but later was in the category of hillbilly.
Bluegrass songs contain banjo, fiddle, mandolin, upright bass, and acoustic guitar sounds. They often talk about lost love, regrets, and the everyday lives of the people from the region where the music came from.
A significant number of bluegrass songs are easy to play and therefore suitable for entry-level guitarists. The sound of the fiddle and banjo will fill your heart and make you think about life and its both hard and beautiful side.
Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons
It’s the debut single by Mumford & Sons and part of their studio album called Sigh No More, from 2009. The frontman said the song is about a personal story of his past. The song debuted on the UK Singles Chart and reached number 72. In the US, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It reached number 43 on the list called 150 Best Tracks Of The Past 150 Years.
Little Lion Man is bluegrass, folk-rock, and indie-folk song. It’s set in 4/4 time signature, and it’s in a moderately fast tempo. The song includes Em, G, C, Am, and D, played along with an easy strumming pattern.
Wildwood Flower – The Carter Family
Wildwood Flower is an American song that became popular thanks to The Carter Family’s recordings. It has some variants, such as The Pale Amaranthus and The Pale Wildwood Flower. The song was inspired by the song called I’ll Twine ‘Mid The Ringlets from 1860. The original poem, which the song was based on, has been lost. The Carter Family recorded the song in 1928.
The song is an example of the known form of the song called ‘the Carter Scratch’ named after Maybelle Carter from The Carter Family. It includes playing both melody and rhythm lines on the acoustic guitar simultaneously. The song requires G, D, and C played with an easy strumming pattern.
If you are interested to learn more similar guitar songs, check out my other list Top 50 Famous & Easy Folk Guitar Songs – Tabs, Chords Included
Wayfaring Stranger – The Broken Circle Breakdown
Released in 2012. It’s a version of a traditional American song about a life journey. Many musicians recorded their versions, so many variations of the lyrics exist. During the American Civil War, the song was known as a Libby Prison Hymn. Wayfaring Stranger became one of the most popular songs of The Broken Circle Breakdown.
The song is in a moderate to fast tempo. Play three basic open chords – Am, Dm, C, a barre, F chord, and put a capo on the 2nd fret. The song is suitable for beginners.
Driving Nails In My Coffin’ – Ernest Tubb
It’s a song written by Jerry Irby and it’s actually about a breakup. He recorded it in 1945 and was later covered by many artists, such as the Osborne Brothers, Rhonda Vincent, and of course, Ernest Tubb. Ernest recorded the song in 1946 and it became a hit. It reached number sixteen on the Billboard’s year-end folk jukebox chart.
The song is in a moderate tempo. You can hear a beautiful solo and drumming. You can put the song in your repertoire, too – you only need to know C and G7. Transitions between chords are pretty easy and suitable for every beginner.
If you love slow songs and want to learn more of them, check out my article Top 40 Famous & Easy Slow Guitar Songs For Beginners – Tabs Included
Blue Moon Of Kentucky – John Fogerty
Blue Moon Of Kentucky was recorded in 2000 and was written by Bill Monroe. He recorded it in 1947. John Fogerty recorded his version of the song for a Ricky Skaggs album to Bill Monroe called Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe. It became an official bluegrass song of Kentucky. Besides John Fogerty, many musicians, such as Elvis Presley and Paul McCartney, recorded their versions.
This bluegrass classic became popular worldwide. It’s set in common time and includes an easy three-chord progression with A, D, and E chords. It’s so easy to memorize this song, so what are you waiting for – grab the guitar and enjoy the bluegrass!
Dooley – The Dillards
Dooley is a song from The Dillards’ album called Back Porch Bluegrass, released in 1963. The song was performed on The Andy Griffith Show episodes The Darlings Are Coming and Mountain Wedding. The Dillards said that Dooley is about people that the family knew. The song is written by Rodney Dillard and Mitch Jayne. Many people love this song because it illustrates traditional family values.
It is a bluegrass song, so that’s why you can hear banjo solos in some parts. The song is in a moderately fast tempo and requires A-D-E chord progression, which is very easy to play.
Are You Lonesome Tonight – The Carter Family
Released in 1936 by The Carter Family and was first released by Charles Hart in 1927. The Carter Family recorded the song in New York. Are You Lonesome Tonight is actually an adaptation of Lou Handman’s song and The Carter Family added some bluegrass and country elements. The lyrics remain the same for the most part. The vocalist of the song is A. P. Carter, his wife Sara Carter and Maybelline Carter play the guitar and sing, too.
This bluegrass song is really easy to play as it includes a G-C-D chord progression which is easy to play and transitions between chords are suitable for beginners. You can play the song with a capo on the 1st fret because the original song includes G#, C#, and D#, which may be challenging for beginners.
If you like this list so far you may want to check my other list as well Top 70 Famous & Easy Country Guitar Songs – Tabs Included
Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms – Flatt & Scruggs
The song is a version of British and Appalachian songs known as Band Away Lulu and Bang Bang Rosie. It’s actually a traditional song with the unknown author of the original version. Flatt & Scruggs released their song version in 1951. Twenty years later, Buck Owens released his.
This moderately-fast song is originally set in common time. It’s a beginner-friendly song that requires three chords – A, E, and D. If you’re an absolute beginner, this song is perfect for your practice and showing your new skills to friends. It definitely deserves to be played on your guitar.
John Henry – Bruce Springsteen
The song was inspired by an American folk hero, John Henry. He was a steel-driving man, and his life was described in many novels, comic books, and video games, such as Wasteland 2. It is not sure if John Henry is real or not, but his legend lives on. Bruce Springsteen recorded the song in 2005 and performed it about 60 times in 2006 in many festivals and concerts. Besides Bruce, the song was also recorded by Peter Seeger, Pink Anderson, Chet Atkins, and so on.
It’s a catchy song, and it’s good for dancing. Four chords are enough to play this song. As a newbie, you can practice the transition between chords using the chords required for this song. A capo can be used on the 3rd fret, too.
I’m Working On A Building – Bill Monroe
I’m Working On A Building is a traditional song released by Bill Monroe in 1954. Actually, The Carter Family released the song in 1934, and their version is copyrighted to A.P. Carter. Bill added the song to his list due to some requests from fans. An interesting fact is that B.B. King first learned this song and performed it during the beginning of his career.
The song became popular worldwide because of its flawless melody. It is catchy and easy to learn as the song has repetitive lines that are actually an inspiration for the title. This is one of the first songs learned by absolute beginners as it includes two chords – D and A.
If you wish to learn more fingerpicking songs, check out my list Top 50 Easy, Intermediate, Advanced Fingerpicking Songs – Tabs Included
Uncle Pen – Bill Monroe
Uncle Pen is a song written by Bill Monroe. He found inspiration in his uncle and musical mentor, Pendleton Vandiver. Pendleton was a Kentucky fiddler, and he learned Bill to play. Bill recorded the song in 1950. It reached #14 on the US Hot Country Songs. Besides him, many artists recorded the song and contributed to its popularity. Ricky Skaggs’ version reached number one on the US Hot Country Songs and Canadian RPM Country Tracks.
The song is cheerful and fast. It includes four chords – G, C, G7, and D. The seventh chord mentioned here may scare the beginner, but it’s easy to learn in a short period.
Wait A Minute – The Seldom Scene
Wait A Minute is a song released in 1974 and written by Herb Pedersen. The song is part of The Seldom Scene’s album called Old Train and was re-recorded featuring John Starling in 2014 as part of a Long Time…Seldom Scene studio album. The song was performed in many bluegrass festivals and shows, such as the Tommy Hunter Show. The song became the band’s signature one.
The song is in a pretty slow tempo. It includes four chords – G, D, Am, and C. You can play the song with a capo on the 4th fret.
Man Of Constant Sorrow – Blackberry Smoke
Blackberry Smoke covered Man Of Constant Sorrow and performed it live several times. It’s a traditional American song first published by Dick Burnett under the title Farewell Song in 1913. Fifteen years ago, Emry Arthur covered the song and gave it the current title. Man Of Constant Sorrow gained popularity when it appeared in a 2000 movie called O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and two years later won a Grammy for the best country collaboration. Many artists, such as Bob Dylan and Stanley Brothers, recorded the song.
This popular song has to be in your repertoire and includes three chords – G, D, and C. Absolute beginners can enjoy the song because the chords and the transition between chords are easy to perform.
If you wish to learn some guitar songs to impress your loved ones, check out my other article Top 30 Easy Guitar Love Songs To Impress Her/Him – Tabs Included
You Are My Flower – Flatt & Scruggs
You Are My Flower is a lovely mountain song written by A. P. Carter, and The Carter Family first recorded it in 1939. About 24 years later, Flatt & Scruggs recorded You Are My Flower and gave a new dash to the song.
The song has a slow tempo, and it’s a song that every beginner can play. It includes two chords only – G and D7. This seventh chord can be played in several ways, from beginner-friendly fingers’ positions to advanced ones. It’s up to which works for you the best.
Old Dan Tucker – Bruce Springsteen
The song is very popular in America. There is a mystery when it comes to the origins. The melody author is unknown, but many people say that words are written by Dan Emmett. The first song sheet was published in 1843. Bruce Springsteen recorded his version and released it in a 2006 studio album. Pete Seeger was inspired by Springsteen – he recorded the song, too.
The song is set in common time, and the melody is simple. Old Dan Tucker can be performed by playing three chords – C, F, and G, along with the down-down-down-up-down-up strumming pattern.
Shady Grove – Jerry Garcia & David Grisman
It’s a traditional Appalachian song released in 1996 by Jerry Garcia featuring David Grisman. The song is part of the album called Shady Grove. The background story is about the true love of a young man’s life, and that’s why the song is sometimes classified as a courting song. The author of this song is unknown, but it still lives in cover versions of many artists.
It’s believed the melody is taken from the version called Matty Groves. The song is set in 2/4 time signature and requires easy chords – Dm, C, and Am, along with a beginner-friendly strumming pattern.
If you are interested in playing Christian songs on your guitar, check out my other article Top 45 Easy Christian Worship Guitar Songs – Tabs Included
I Saw The Light – Hank Williams
Released in 1948 as a single by Hank Williams. He recorded it for MGM Records. He also wrote the song and he was inspired by a remark his mother made after his concert. Many artists recorded cover versions of the song and helped it to become popular worldwide. Also, the song appeared in an episode of the drama Orange Is The New Black, which premiered on Netflix, in 2013.
I Saw The Light is in a moderate to fast tempo. It’s set in 4/4 time signature and it requires three chords – G, D, and C, a standard tuning, and the down-down-down-up-down-up strumming pattern.
Buffalo Gals – Traditional – Bruce Springsteen
Buffalo Gals is an American song published under the title Lubly Fan in 1844. The song became popular in America and was used for suiting the local audiences. It was performed as New York Gals, Boston Gals, Alabama Gals, and so on – the title was formed depending on the US region. The song appeared in a 1946 film called It’s A Wonderful Time.
The song is set in 2/4 time signature and has a catchy melody. It requires only two chords, so it’s classified as the one suitable for absolute beginners. Play G and D along with an easy-to-learn strumming pattern.
Past My Prime – Greensky Bluegrass
Released in 2016 as part of the Shouted, Written Down & Quoted. The song conflates regrets and restlessness. Past My Prime was performed live many times, whether by Greensky Bluegrass or other bands and artists.
Past My Prime puts bluegrass into a modern context with a swinging rock. The song requires G, Em, and C. That makes the song easy and excellent for beginners.
Stay All Night – Willie Nelson
Released in 1973 as part of the Shotgun Willie studio album. It’s a version of Bob Wills’ song released in 1945. Besides this song, Bubbles In My Beer is another Bob’s song that was a part of the named Nelson’s album. Stay All Night is written by Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan. The title comes from a refrain in the chorus ‘Stay all night, stay a little longer’. The song has many versions and was re-recorded by many well-known artists.
Only two chords are enough to play this song – G and D. These two chords are basic open ones. They’re easy to play to all absolute beginners.
I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes – The Carter Family
I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes is an old song discovered by A. P. Carter. It’s adapted from Guy Massey’s song called The Prisoner’s Song. The Carter Family’s version became popular in 1929 because people loved both the melody and the background story. It’s actually a tale of love lost across the sea. Many artists recorded their song versions, and some of them shortened the title to Broken Ties or Broken Vows. The song was later put on The Carter Family’s album – it’s actually a compilation of their recordings.
Maybelle Carter used the Carter fingerpicking style where the bass notes were played with her thumb, and she was strumming with other fingers. An easy A-D-E chord progression is required for this song.
Angel Band – The Stanley Brothers
Angel Band is an American song published in 1860 and written by Jefferson Hascall under the title My Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast. The Stanley Brothers recorded their version of the song in 1995. This version was present in a 2000 movie called O Brother, Where Art Thou?. The song speaks about death and life in general.
The song is set in common time, and it requires effortless chord progression, including A, D, and E. You can play the song with a capo on the 2nd fret for a better and more original sound.
Mule Skinner Blues – Dolly Parton
Mule Skinner Blues is a song written by Jimmie Rodgers and George Vaughan and first recorded by Rodgers in 1930. Since then, many artists have recorded the song. One of them is Dolly Parton. She recorded the song 40 years later and reached number two on the US charts. The song was also nominated for a Grammy Award.
The song is set in common time, and it includes an easy G-C-D chord progression. Therefore, any beginner player can enjoy it.
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane – Norman Blake
Released in 1976 as part of the Whiskey Before Breakfast studio album. It’s actually a song written by James A. Bland in 1880. The song has been recorded many times in a variety of genres – jazz, country, bluegrass, rock, and blues. The very first version was recorded in 1924 by Kelly Harrel. Bob Dylan put one song line into his song called Ain’t Talkin’ on his 2006 album Modern Times.
This bluegrass song is set in 4/4 time signature. It includes three basic open chords – A, E, and D and it’s fun for practicing transitions between chords.
Roving Gambler – Billie Joe Armstrong
Roving Gambler is a traditional song and is also known under many other titles, such as The Gambler, Gambling Man, and Roving Soldier. The song originates in the first decade of the 20th century. The song was first released in 1924 by Samantha Bumgarner. Many artists recorded their versions, and Billie Joe Armstrong recorded the song, too, in 2013.
The song is in a moderately fast tempo, and it’s set in common time. There are some versions set in 2/4 time signature. If you want to play Billie Joe’s song version, you’ll need two chords – D and G, and a capo on the 4th fret if possible.
Freeborn Man – Tony Rice
Released in 1973 as part of Tony’s first album named Guitar. It was recorded in Kentucky. Keith Allison first released the song in 1967. Keith also wrote the song with Mark Lindsay. They said they wrote the song while sitting on a motel’s air conditioning unit. The paper they wrote the song on includes words such as ‘bright rock beat’ and the writers’ signatures. Tony Rice added some bluegrass elements and made a nice work.
The beginning of the song makes you wish to continue listening to the song. Freeborn Man requires G, C, D, and G7 and it’s set in 4/4 time signature. You can play with a capo on the 3rd fret.
Orange Blossom Special – Johnny Cash
Orange Blossom Special is a song recorded by Johnny Cash in 1965. It’s actually a song written in 1938 and recorded in 1939 by Ervin T. Rouse. It’s about a luxury passenger train called Orange Blossom Special. The song is often called The Special or OBS. Johnny Cash put this song on his album with the same name.
The song is set in common time, and it’s in a fast tempo. You’ll need three chords for this song – C, F, and G. If you are an absolute beginner, maybe the F chord is going to be a bit challenging for you, but don’t worry – practice is the key.
My Little Georgia Rose – Bill Monroe
The song was written by Bill Monroe, and he released it in 1950. The little Georgia Rose is presumed to be Bill’s and Bessie Lee Maudlin’s daughter and it’s one of his ‘true songs’. The song was re-recorded in 1954. Some artists put their own stamp on the song and recorded cover versions. One of them is The Seldom Scene, and they put the song on their studio album called Act 3.
The song is set in common time, and it’s suitable for absolute beginners. You need to know three chords to play this song. Play A, E, and D along with an easy strumming pattern.
Old Joe Clark – Bill Monroe
Old Joe Clark is a US mountain ballad and it’s dedicated to a person called Joseph Joe Clark. He is a Kentucky mountaineer. The song is popular among Kentucky soldiers during the First World War and after, but also it’s popular among kids because it has a cheerful melody. Old Joe Clark is part of the US national repertoire and is covered by many artists. It is also used as inspiration for some songs’ riffs and solos.
This song is excellent for dancing and was played during play parties. It’s set in 2/4 time signature, and it requires three simple chords – G, D, and F. You can play with a capo on the 2nd fret.
Little Sparrow – Dolly Parton
Released in 2001 as part of the album with the same name. The album was nominated for Best Bluegrass Album at the 2002 Grammy Awards. Parton used a sparrow in this song to relate to a woman betrayed by her lover.
This bluegrass song is suitable for beginners as it includes only three chords – Am, Dm, and Em. You can play the song with a capo on the 2nd fret.
Nine Pound Hammer – Flatt & Scruggs
Nine Pound Hammer is a traditional work song whose rhythm helped the railroad laborers to keep a steady pace during the work. Flatt & Scruggs’ version was originally released in 1962. Even blues artists recorded their cover versions. The first version was recorded in 1927 by Al Hopkins and His Buckle Busters. Nine Pound Hammer is also known under titles as Take This Hammer and Spikedriver Blues. These songs are referred to as ‘hammer songs’ or ‘roll songs’, and all of them include verses about the railroad worker, John Henry. A documentary movie Take This Hammer, used the song as a soundtrack.
The song requires an easy G-C-D chord progression – it’s perfect for absolute beginners. It’s set in common time, and the strumming pattern is pretty easy to perform.
Who Will Sing For Me – The Stanley Brothers
Released in 1962 as part of the Good Old Camp Meeting Songs album. The song was written by Carter Stanley and was recorded and performed live by many bluegrass stars, including Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, and Ricky Skaggs. There are many variations of the song, so you may hear different words while listening to other artists. In the past, people played it on funerals because of its lyrics, but that tradition is now gone.
It’s set in common time, and it’s pretty easy to play. It includes a beginner-friendly chord progression A-D-E played along with an easy-to-learn strumming pattern.
Cripple Creek – Bill Monroe
The song was published in the middle of the 19th Century, and it’s often played on the banjo or fiddle. Music critics say the tune is older than the lyrics, and the composer’s name has been lost. Many artists recorded the song and put it on their studio albums. The first recording was in 1924, and Bill Monroe recorded the song 46 years later. Most traditional musicians from Virginia believe the song is about Cripple Creek, Virginia.
The song includes an easy G-C-D chord progression that makes the song suitable for beginners. It’s set in 2/4 time signature and requires an easy, beginner-friendly strumming pattern.
Windshield – Greensky Bluegrass
Windshield is the first track of the If Sorrows Swim studio album.
It was released in September 2014. The song is about lost love between parents.
It sounds more like a pop or rock song, but rhythmically it’s a pure bluegrass song. The song was first performed in 2013 at Red Rock Amphitheater in Colorado. Many people started to love the song when they heard it at an online Greensky Bluegrass concert during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Everyone loves this song – both bluegrass fans and those people who are not familiar with the genre. The composition includes all the elements of a bluegrass song – mandolin, upright bass, acoustic guitar, and banjo. The song requires four chords – Em, C, G, D, along with an easy strumming pattern.
Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies – Johnny Cash
William Matthew Golden wrote Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies, and it’s about the place where all of us should go when our time has come. Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies is among those songs that several bluegrass artists recorded. Besides Johnny Cash, the song was recorded by Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Hank Williams, and many more.
It has an interesting riff, repeating over A and E chords. Everyone can play this song because it’s easy and doesn’t require much effort as it includes only two chords.
Bluegrass music is a genre that developed in the 1940s and soon became popular worldwide. The bluegrass creator is Bill Monroe. Songs include several instruments, such as banjo, fiddle, and mandolin.
Some bluegrass songs have a complex chord progression, but they can be adapted to newbies. On the other hand, most bluegrass songs are beginner-friendly and require easy chord progressions and transitions between chords.
You can find a lot of bluegrass songs played with only two or three chords. That is excellent for absolute beginners – for their practice and repertoire.
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