Led Zeppelin can easily be considered the best rock and roll band in history. Throughout the years, they were able to write iconic songs such as Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving you, and, of course, Stairway to Heaven.
Jimmy Page is also one of the most legendary guitar players and his skills helped immensely to create such rock and roll anthems, both acoustic and electric. Let’s take a look at their best songs:
Led Zeppelin’s Acoustic Guitar Songs
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
This song comes from Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album and is one of their most recognized acoustic songs. However, this song is not an original composition.
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You is a folk song written in the 1950s by American folk singer Anne Bredon. Later in 1962, American songwriter Joan Baez recorded a solo rendition that inspired Jimmy Page to begin working on his own version. He would later show it to Robert Plant, and together they created their unique, rock n’ roll version.
This song is in the key of Am and features an acoustic guitar that focuses on arpeggiating chords. It also features a constant moving bassline that gives life to the guitar riff. Finally, it is important to mention that Jimmy Page uses a fingerstyle picking technique for this song while coming back to a guitar pick on the hard rock sections.
Going to California
Going to California is another acoustic ballad from Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album. This song is also one of their most esteemed songs, as Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #11 on their “40 greatest Led Zeppelin songs of all time” list.
This song talks about a romantic failure and a desire to move to California, where the grass is said to be greener. In an interview, Plant recognized he was a bit embarrassed about the lyrics, but they did reflect a tumultuous time in his life.
Going to California is in the key of D major and plays around with some harmonic modulation. The tuning Jimmy Page uses on his acoustic guitar is known as Double Drop-D Tuning. It goes as follows: D-A-D-G-B-D. Essentially, the top and bottom E strings on standard tuning are tuned down a whole step to D. The tablature for this one is a mix of the acoustic guitars and the mandolin heard on the song.
Black Mountain Side
Black Mountain Side is another song found on their debut album Led Zeppelin. It is a solo instrumental piece recorded in 1968 where we can hear Jimmy Page’s great abilities on an acoustic guitar.
The first thing to notice with this song is the tuning of the guitar. Page recorded this song on the classic Gibson model, the SJ-200, using what is called the DADGAD tuning. You can also hear the instrument named tabla, used to enhance the Indian vibe in the song.
This one is a quite challenging song in the key of D Dorian. There are several live versions of Jimmy Page performing this song on its own, or in a mashup with a former song he had written in DADGAD, White Summer. These live performances are also a great tool to find some other licks he uses on the acoustic guitar.
The Battle of Evermore
The Battle of Evermore is track number 3 on their fourth album (which is untitled but commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV). It is a folk duet sung by Robert Plant and English singer-songwriter Sandy Deany. This song features an acoustic guitar and mandolin.
This song was written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, who later explained that we had just picked John Paul Jones’ mandolin and started playing with it until he wrote the song in one sitting. This song, like others from the group, makes references to The Lord of the Rings.
The Battle of Evermore is in the key of Am and features open chords throughout the song. The one interesting thing harmonically is a descending bass line found on the guitar that goes Am/E to Am/D# to Am/D, which creates an interesting movement.
Gallows Pole is an arrangement of an old folk song, The Maid Freed from the Gallows. This song talks about a condemned maiden pleading for someone to buy her freedom before being executed at the gallows.
It is important to note that Led Zeppelin III, the album where this song resides, marks an important shift in Led Zeppelin’s musical influences. Thanks to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s sudden interest in northern folk music, they began experimenting with more music material to balance out their full rock and roll vibe. Funnily enough, this was not well received by the critics.
Gallows Pole is in the key of A and has a Mixolydian flavor. It is played in standard tuning and uses basic open chords, making this a relatively simple song to learn. A banjo that can be heard further in the song uses arpeggiated figures to give movement to the song.
The Rain Song
The Rain Song is an acoustic ballad and the second track on Led Zeppelin’s fifth studio album, Houses of the Holy. Jimmy Page recorded this song in his newly constructed home studio in his house in Plumpton, England. His new studio enabled the band to create more sophisticated arrangements and expand their musicality.
An interesting story behind this song is that it is said that George Harrison inspired this song. He reportedly told John Bonham he thought Led Zeppelin didn’t write enough ballads. His words reportedly pushed Jimmy Page to prove him wrong and thus create The Rain Song. It is, however, not a confirmed story.
The Rain Song uses a 12-string acoustic guitar, which has an alternate tuning. Their studio version is played with the following tuning (low to high): D-G-C-G-C-D. Their live versions have the same tuning up a whole step: E-A-D-A-D-E.
Tangerine is yet another song from the very folk, acoustic-influenced side of Led Zeppelin III. It was recorded in 1970 and it is considered a very similar song to one written previously by Jimmy Page during his time at The Yardbirds, Knowing That I’m Losing You.
On this song, we can hear Jimmy Page actually play two guitar parts, one on a six-string acoustic and the other one on a 12-string acoustic guitar. It is through mixing that they were blended to make it sound like one part.
As for the song, it is in the key of Am and features simple open chords that are embellished with multiple melody lines. Am, for example, turns into Am2 and Am4 by changing the top line from C to B or D. It is a very commonly used technique to give your chords a different flavor and Jimmy Page takes advantage of that.
Friends is the second song in Led Zeppelin’s third album, Led Zeppelin III. This song was recorded in 1970 and is credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant although bassist John Paul Jones arranged the string section.
This song is particularly interesting due to the unconventional tuning Jimmy Page Used. An open tuning that revolves in the key of C, this song moves around C Major, C minor, and C Blues. The tuning is as follows (low to high): C-G-C-G-C-E.
On the bright side, this open tuning makes it much easier to learn this song as Jimmy Page gravitates with a lot of open chords with little embellishments.
At the very end of this song, you can hear a Moog synthesizer gradually come in. This synthesizer is used to bridge this song with the next one on the album, Celebration Day.
Bron-Y-Aur Stomp is another acoustic song from their most folk-influenced album, Led Zeppelin III. This song’s name is inspired after their house in the countryside of Wales, a place where they would retreat to rest from their tours and find inspiration for new material. Funnily enough, the song’s title is misspelled, as it should be named Bron-Yr-Aur.
For this recording, Jimmy Page used a Martin D-28 guitar while John Paul Jones used a double bass, and John Bonham played spoons and castanets. Led Zeppelin recorded Bron-Y-Aur in 1970.
This song also has an interesting tuning, open F tuning. In several interviews, Jimmy Page stated he would not really know how to play in these tunings. He would let the sounds dictate where he would go until he found the right combination of chords, regardless of the fingerings. Open F tuning is as follows (low to high): C-F-C-F-A-C.
That’s the Way
That’s the Way is a folk ballad released in their 1970s album, Led Zeppelin III. This song is another one written at Bron-Yr-Aur cottage that portraits their acoustic inclination at the time.
The instrumentation in this song is very sparse to help the vocals and acoustic guitar shine through. The guitar part was recorded with a 12-string acoustic guitar, as well as some mandolin and steel guitar fills.
Like most of their acoustic guitar songs on this album, That’s the Way features an open guitar tuning, in this case, open G. This tuning is as follows (low to high): D-G-D-G-B-D.
An interesting fact is that this song was originally named The Boy Next Door due to the lyrical component. It was, however, changed to That’s the Way before its release.
Led Zeppelin’s Electric Guitar Songs
Whole Lotta Love
Whole Lotta Love is the opening song from Led Zeppelin’s second album led Zeppelin II. It was released as a single in various countries such as the United States, where it peaked at #1 and became their first hit single. This song is ranked at #75 on Rolling Stones 2004 edition of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The song’s main riff, which is considered one of the most epic rock and roll riffs, revolves around a five-note grouping Jimmy Page came up with. The lyrics, however, did have a plagiarism issue, as they were taken directly from Willie Dixon’s You need Love. This matter was settled out of court in 1985
Whole Lotta Love is in the key of E and uses E Mixolydian (as some of their other greatest hits). The solo is a mixture of a jazz free-form that plays around with John Bonham rhythmic components, Robert Plant’s moans, and theremin.
Stairway To Heaven
Stairway To Heaven is often considered not only Led Zeppelin’s best song but also the most popular song of all time. This beautiful ballad begins with a soft introduction, where we can hear Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar and recorders.
The second part of this song introduces John Bonham drums and a mixture of the acoustic guitar and a 12-string electric guitar, which Jimmy Page popularized. Finally, we get a rocking end which showcases Jimmy Page’s incredible abilities on the electric guitar.
Stairways To Heaven is written in the key of Am and features arpeggiated, fingerstyle arrangements of chords, making this song a great way to develop said technique.
It is undeniable that this is one of the most legendary songs in rock history and is a fairly accessible song for anyone looking to learn some rockin’ Led Zeppelin tunes.
Black Dog is Led Zeppelin’s opening song from their fourth studio album. The song was released as a single and charted in many countries. Black Dog is another song that was included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
John Paul Jones wrote the riff for this song, which is inspired by blues legend Muddy Waters and is built around a call and response dynamic between Robert Plant and the band. Jimmy Page used a Gibson Les Paul to record all of the guitars and its overdubs.
Black Dog is in the key of A and mostly plays around with the A blues scale. Jimmy Page’s solo in this song is also considered one of the best guitar solos in rock history.
Along with Stairway to Heaven, Kashmir can easily be considered their most impactful and artistic song. It is track number 6 of their album Physical Graffiti and was so critically acclaimed that it became a pivotal aspect in their live performances from then on.
The song is credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant although John Bonham helped write the song. It took them 3 years to finish this song. For Kashmir, Page uses a common alternate tuning, DADGAD. John Paul Jones arranged the strings and brass section that gives the song such an epic vibe.
All four members of the band considered Kashmir as one of their best musical achievements.
Ramble On is one of Led Zeppelin’s most recognized songs (it was ranked 440 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time). This song is the 7th song in their second album, Led Zeppelin II. Ramble on is influenced by The Lord of the Rings, like many other songs from them.
We can notice that this song is a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, so it’s not an entirely acoustic song. It is, however, a great song and one worth learning.
This song is in the key of E Major and has some unique chords. Using a pedal bass, Jimmy Page leans on the open E and A string to change the harmonic context while playing different chords on top.
As for the solo, Page explained he used his neck pickup with a sustain pedal and cut all the highs of the guitar to achieve that violin-sounding tone.
Good Times Bad Times
Good Times Bad Times is the first song of Led Zeppelin’s first album. It was recorded in 1969 and delivered the first blow this legendary rock band would give to its audience. This song is credited to the four members of the band since John Paul Jones wrote the riff, Jimmy Page the chorus, John Bonham added a very well recognized drum pattern, and Robert Plant the lyrics.
Good Times Bad Times is in the key of E and relies on the Mixolydian scale to give it a bluesy vibe. For his solo, Jimmy Page passed his guitar through a Leslie Speaker and created a swirling effect. At the time, this was very cutting-edge, and he was praised for his creative approach.
Immigrant Song is Led Zeppelin’s opening statement to one of their most controversial albums, Led Zeppelin III. This is due to the fact that, even though the first half of the album maintains their killer rock and roll instinct, the rest of the album serves as an exploration to both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant to move the band’s direction into a more folky-acoustic vibe.
Immigrant Song revolves around a repeating riff in F# minor and features mythical references of the Nordic culture in its lyrics. It is considered one of the most commercially successful songs in their career.
Robert Plant revealed in an interview that the song’s main inspiration came from a concert they held in Reykjavik, Iceland during a politically charged time.
When the Levee Breaks
When the Levee Breaks is the last track in Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. This song comes from a blues song recorded in 1929 by blues artist Memphis Minnie and “Kansas Joe” McCoy. The lyrics talk about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
One of the most noticeable elements in this song is John Bonham’s drums. They were recorded at the lobby of Headly Grange with microphones placed on top of a flight of stairs. Using heavy compression gave the drums a huge aggressive sound that became a very popular recording technique.
When the Levee Breaks is in the key of F minor and has a very delta-blues rhythm to it. The guitar is tuned down and does not use the 2 bottom strings (low to high): X-X-C-F-A-C.
Rock and Roll
Rock and Roll is the second track in Led Zeppelin’s untitled album. It features Ian Stewart, pianist of the Rolling Stones, and is one of their most acclaimed rock compositions.
Jimmy Page explained in an interview that the song came about in the studio. While looking to complete another song of theirs (Four Sticks), John Bonham began playing the groove to which Jimmy Page followed with the iconic riff. The basis of the song structure was created in that recording session.
Rock and Roll is a 12-bar blues in the key of A. The main riff is repeated 3 times, once in A, once in D, and once in E, thus creating the structure of the song. The solo uses the A pentatonic scale and gives it some A Major flavor on the A chord.
Communication Breakdown is another song from the band’s first album, Led Zeppelin. It was released as the lead single for the B-side of the album and directed to the US audience. Robert Plant was not credited for this song due to another record contract he had at the time. He is, however, responsible for the lyrics.
Communication Breakdown was one of the first songs the band composed, even before they actually had live gigs. It is said that Jimmy Page brought that super recognizable riff and the band worked around it.
This song is in the key of E and, as with Good Times Bad Times uses the Mixolydian scale to give it a blues-rock vibe. This song features a fast downstroke riff that indirectly gave birth to punk music in terms of guitaristic style.
Dazed and Confused
Dazed and Confused is one of the most known and acclaimed songs from Led Zeppelin. This song is track number 4 on their first album and is credited to Jimmy Page and inspired by American singer-songwriter Jake Holmes.
In fact, it was Jake Holmes who wrote Dazed and Confused and released it on his debut solo album in 1967. Jimmy Page was inspired by said song and wrote an arrangement for his band at the time, the Yardbirds. The Yardbirds constantly performed their arrangement of Dazed and Confused but never recorded it. It was until Led Zeppelin was formed that Jimmy Page decided to record it.
Dazed and Confused is in the key of E minor and the main riff doubles the bass line. For the solo, Jimmy Page used a violin bow to create the effects you hear. You can alternatively use a slide and play around the E minor scale and E blues scale.
Heartbreaker is the opening song of the B-side in Led Zeppelin’s second album, Led Zeppelin II. It was ranked #328 by Rolling Stone Magazine in their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
Heartbreaker has one of the most epic and challenging solos in Jimmy Page’s arsenal. Featured in the middle of the song, Jimmy goes unaccompanied and delivers this solo that focuses on the pull-off technique. Several guitar legends such as Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai have credited this song as a big inspiration to their own development.
This song is in the key of A and revolves around its pentatonic scale. Riff number 2 has the same characteristics but modulates up to B. At the end of the song, you can hear Jimmy Page moving into a more Mixolydian flavor to both its riffs and solo.
Trampled Under Foot
Trampled Under Foot is the fifth song and only single of Led Zeppelin’s most successful album, Physical Graffiti. The song came to fruition in a jam session driven by John Paul Jones and a clavinet riff he played around with. After several arrangements, Led Zeppelin came to create a funky version of the song, which ended up being the finalized product.
John Paul Jones credits Stevie Wonder’s song Superstition as an inspiration to his clavinet riff. As for the guitar, Jimmy Page used a wah-wah pedal and added reverse echo to the final recording to get the guitar sound. Trampled Under Foot is in the key of G minor.
No Quarter is a song on Led Zeppelin’s fifth studio album, Houses of the Holy. This song was composed by John Paul Jones and quickly became one of Led Zeppelin’s favorite songs to play live. No Quarter is one of their most progressive rock kind of song in their repertoire.
Recorded in 1972 at Island Studios in London, Jimmy Page used several tricks to get his guitar sounds. First, he used vari-speed (a pitch controller) to tune down the song and give it more weight. In addition, the guitars are heavily compressed to give it that unique sound. John Paul Jones’ Mellotron and synths, however, are the main elements of No Quarter.
Since I’ve Been Loving You
Since I’ve Been Loving You is the fourth track on Led Zeppelin’s third album, Led Zeppelin III. It was one of the first songs to be prepared for said album and it was, reportedly, the hardest one to record.
This song was recorded mostly live with almost no overdubs. Their intention was to capture the energy and emotion of playing in one room altogether. Interesting fact, there is no bass on this song, but the bass pedals of a Hammond organ (played by John Paul Jones)
Since I’ve Been Loving You is a slow blues in C minor. This was a very common variation to the original 12-bar blues progression, giving it a much more epic/melancholic flavor. Jimmy Page’s solo on this song is considered one of the greatest guitar solos of all time.
I have to admit it was difficult to only do 25 songs since Led Zeppelin has so many great ones. I’d completely recommend you take some time to listen to all of their albums, especially in a chronological way to be able to really listen to the evolution of their arrangements and musical inspirations.
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