Women in music have given us many masterpieces that have touched their audiences’ hearts, reminded them of what love is, or have pushed them into action against social inequality.
These are some of the greatest acoustic songs written and performed by some of the most influential female artists in music history.
Complicated – Avril Lavigne
Complicated is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Avril Lavinge. It was her first single ever and the lead single from her debut album, Let Go.
Complicated is in the key of F and has all of the chords you would expect in this key (F, Gm, Bb, C, and Dm). It is a fairly simple song, and you can play it in an open position or with a capo of the 5th fret.
Ironic – Alanis Morissette
Ironic is a song by Canadian-American singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette. She released this song in 1996 as the third single of her third studio album, Jagged Little Pill. It is one of her most recognized and successful songs.
Ironic is in the key of E, and you will need a capo on the 4th fret. The D chord in this position is out of the E major scale, which also gives you a taste of what modulation is.
Rolling In The Deep – Adele
Rolling In The Deep is a song by British singer-songwriter Adele. It was part of her second studio album, 21, and is one of her most popular songs up to date.
Adele describes this song as a “dark, bluesy gospel disco tune.” It is in the key of Cm, and by using a capo on the 3rd fret, you can keep the chords simple.
Rolling In The Deep is a very simple song and one of the top acoustic songs by female artists.
Don’t Speak – No Doubt
Don’t Speak is a song by the American rock band No Doubt. It was part of their third studio album, Tragic Kingdom, and is one of the most iconic songs of their career. Both Gwen Stefani and Eric Stefani wrote this song.
Don’t Speak is in the key of Cm and you can play the song with a capo on the 3rd fret. You can also play the chord voicings on the actual song (as seen in the tab).
Bleeding Love – Leona Lewis
Bleeding Love is a song by another top British female singer-songwriter, Leona Lewis. It is part of her debut album Spirit, which she released in 2007 and became a big success.
Bleeding Love not only became the lead single of said album, but it also became her best-selling song and a cornerstone in her career.
This ballad is in the key of F. You can use a capo in the 5th fret to make things more accessible to you.
Always Be My Baby – Mariah Carey
Always Be My Baby is a song by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey. As part of her fifth studio album, Daydream, this song came out in 1996 as the 3rd single in the album. Always Be My Baby is one of her most successful songs.
This song is in the key of E and has a bit of more complex harmony. All of the chords are your simple open or barre chords, except for the Cdim7 and C#dim7. Not to worry, all chords are tabbed.
Shadowboxer – Fiona Apple
Both Hands is a song by American singer-songwriter and activist Ani DiFranco. It is the first track in her debut self-titled album, which her own record company, Righteous Babe Records, released.
This indie rock/folk song is in the key of Am and is a three-chord song. Your three chords are C, Am, and G. The latter will also have a variation (Gsus4), which is still fairly easy to play and will potentially add no difficulty to the performance of the song.
Cold Feet – Tracy Chapman
Cold Feet is a song by American singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman. It is the fifth track in her fourth studio album, New Beginning. It is one of her more obscure songs, but an iconic song, and a signature Tracy Chapman song.
This acoustic folk-rock song is in the key of G, and you have your typical V-IV-I chord progression. At the beginning of the song, you have a small G pentatonic riff which gives you a good taste of what G pentatonic sounds like.
Chantaje – Shakira feat. Coldplay
Chantaje is a song by Colombian singer Shakira. This song was released in 2017, as a single to anticipate Shakira’s eleventh studio album, El Dorado. This song features vocals from fellow Colombian singer Maluma.
This version is taken from Shakira’s live concert in 2017 in Hamburg. In this performance, Shakira is accompanied by singer Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland. They are both members of the British band Coldplay.
Chantaje is in the key of C#m, and you’ll need a capo on the 4th fret.
If I Ain’t Got You – Alicia Keys
If I Ain’t Got You is a song by American singer-songwriter and artist Alicia Keys. This song is part of her second studio album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, which she released in 2003.
Alicia Keys wrote this song in honor of her friend and singer Aaliyah’s death, as well as the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
If I Ain’t Got You is in the key of C and revolves around 7th chords, which are slightly more complex than your regular open and barre chords but are also richer in nature.
Say A Little Prayer – Lianne La Havas
Say A Little Prayer is a song written by American composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. American singer Dionne Warwick was the first artist to perform this song, but it was popularized by Aretha Franklin.
Lianne La Havas’ version of Say A Little Prayer is in the key of Em and has jazzier guitar chords that include 7ths and 9nths. This is a great song to explore more complex chords without playing more complex chord progressions.
Zombie – The Cranberries
Zombie is a song by the Irish alternative rock band, the Cranberries. The main purpose of this song was to be a protest against the tensions occurring in Northern Ireland at the time. It was also the lead single on their second studio album, No Need To Argue. It is by far their most iconic song.
Zombie is in the key of Em and has very simple chords, included a very used inversion of the D chord, D/F# (which means a D chord with an F# note on the bass).
Love Me Like A Man – Bonnie Raitt
Love Me Like A Man is the fifth track in American musician Bonnie Raitt’s second studio album, Give It Up. American folk/blues singer Chris Smither originally wrote this song.
Faithful to the blues-folk style, Love Me Like A Man is a very simple song in the key of E. It works as a 12-bar blues and has many great rhythmic and lead licks for you to learn.
On My Mind – Jorja Smith
On My Mind is a song by English singer-songwriter Jorja Smith. She co-wrote this song with electronic music artist Preditah. This was in 2017 and became a big success and platform for her career.
The version I’m showing you here is from her Tiny Desk Concert, an intimate show designed to show songs in an acoustic form. On My Mind is in the key of Bbm and a Capo on the first fret will allow you to play the song as if it were in Am.
Closer To Fine – Indigo Girls
Closer To Fine is a song by American folk-rock band Indigo Girls. It is the opening track of their second studio album, which is also named Closer To Fine.
Closer To Fine is in the key of A. You’ll need a capo on the 2nd fret to allow you to play all of the open chords found in the key of G. This song has some nice variations to those open chords that can help you expand your ears.
Juice – Lizzo
Juice is one of the top hits in 2019. American singer and rapper Lizzo wrote this song and released it as the lead single of her third studio album, Cuz I Love You. This album was also her first one to be released on a major label.
This retro-inspired funky tune is in the key of Dm. You can use a capo on the 3rd fret to follow along the chords laid out on the tab. This also allows you to have all chords be in an open position.
Freight Train – Elizabeth Cotten
Elizabeth Cotten was one of the first women in the United States to write blues-folk songs that would later become popularized in the British Invasion of the late 50s and 60s. Freight Train was also one of the first songs she wrote and is her most recognized songs.
This blues-folk tune is in the key C and has what is now some common yet interesting cadences, such as E7 to F or the classic I-V7-I, which in this key is C-G7-C.
COPYCAT – Billie Eilish
COPYCAT is one of the very first songs released by American artist and sensation Billie Eilish. It was the fourth single on her debut studio EP, Don’t Smile At Me, and played a great part in her rapid rise.
This song, as well as all of her other songs, were co-written and co-produced with her brother Finneas.
COPYCAT is in the key of Em and the video I’m using can give you a more accurate visual representation of how Finneas plays it.
Sweet Bird – Joni Mitchell
Sweet Bird is the second to last track in Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell’s seventh studio album, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns. This album received great recognition and is one of the top albums of the 70s.
Sweet Bird is one of the more acoustic, sparse, singer-songwriter type of songs in the album. It is in the key of Em and has some interesting chords outside of the scale. Chords such as F/G or Bb/Eb give you a taste of modulation in songs.
Crazy On You – Heart
Crazy on You is a song by the American rock band Heart. It was the band’s debut single in the US and part of their debut studio album, Dreamboat Annie. Crazy On You is one of the most popular and iconic songs from Heart.
This song is in the key of Am but has many, many chords outside of the scale. In fact, the beginning can be considered in the key of E, which will modulate into Am. This is a very interesting song to learn if you want to expand your knowledge of harmony.
Alaska – Maggie Rogers
Alaska is a song by American singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers. It was both her first-ever single and the lead single for her EP Now That The Light Is Fading, which she released in 2017.
This song gained massive popularity after a YouTube video was released that showed Pharrell Williams listening to Alaska in a class of hers at Berklee.
Alaska is in the key of C and can be played with both a strumming or a fingerstyle pattern (as she does on her acoustic performances of the song).
Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine
Dog Days Are Over is a song by English indie rock band Florence + The Machine. It is the opening track of their debut album Lungs and served as the second single for their promotional campaign.
Dog Days Are Over is in the key of G and is a 3-chord song. G, Am, and Em are your main chords, and the tab gives you some nice chord voicings to expand your palette.
Valerie – Amy Winehouse
Valerie is a song by the English indie rock band The Zutons. It was released in 2006 but was later covered by British-American producer Mark Ronson and English singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. The latter version had much more success and became one of Amy Winehouse’s signature songs.
Valerie is in the key of Eb major, and you will need a capo in the 3rd fret to use the chords found in C major. It is a simple song to learn and a great version to cover.
Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
Dreams is one of the top hits for British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac. It is part of their eleventh studio album, Rumors, which is also one of their top-selling albums. This song had a resurgence last year (2020) due to a viral Tik Tok video.
This song is in Am and only uses F-G in a constant loop to which you can add some variety by using a G6 or Fmaj7 chord. I’d recommend you use a capo on the 5th fret to avoid any barre chords.
Once again, there are many other great female artists and songwriters you could choose from. I encourage you to take this list as a small guide of where to start.
I’d certainly recommend you look for more and more artists, as that will help you expand your ears, your guitar skills, and your love for music.
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