10 Country Songs For Beginning Guitarists

Man Playing Guitar
Dougal Waters/Getty Images

If you like to play guitar and enjoy country music, you may want to play some of the classic country hits like "Big Iron" or "I Walk the Line." Fortunately for beginning guitarists, many of these classics are easy to play, requiring only two to four chords.

Basic Guitar Chords in Country Music

Before you can play any songs on the guitar, you'll have to master a few basic chords. For country songs, these are the most common:

  • A major: The A major chord, also known as the A chord, requires three fingers on the second fret, on adjacent strings. As you practice, be sure the open first string is ringing clearly and keep your third ring finger curled so it doesn't get in the way.
  • A minor: When playing this chord, make sure that your first finger is curled so the open first string rings clearly. Try to avoid playing the open sixth string when strumming the A minor chord.
  • D major: This is a relatively easy chord to play. Make sure to curl the third finger on the second string so the first string rings properly. Only strum the top four strings, avoiding the open fifth and sixth strings.
  • D minor: When you play this chord, pay attention to your third finger on the second string. If it's not curled right, the first string won't ring. Be sure to play only the top four strings when you strum a D minor chord.
  • C major: The C major chord (also known as the C chord) is often the first chord guitarists learn. The fingering is fairly straightforward—the key again is to concentrate on curling your first finger so the first string rings open properly.
  • E major: This chord is simple to play, just make sure that your first finger (holding down the first fret on the third string) is properly curled. Then strum all six strings.
  • E minor: The E minor chord is one of the simplest to play as it only requires two fingers. Be sure not to let your other fingers touch the open strings. With this chord, you will put your hands in place and strum all six strings.
  • G major: Again, curl your fingers so the strings ring clearly and your fingers do not hit multiple strings. Then strum all six strings.

Easy-to-Play Country Classics

Country music is beloved for its musical and lyrical simplicity. Some of the genre's most enduring songs make excellent practice for novice guitarists:

  1. Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line": You only need to know four chords to play this classic, which was a number one Billboard hit in 1956.
  2. Dwight Yoakam - "It Only Hurts When I Cry": Co-written by Dwight Yoakam and Roger Miller, this country weeper has only three chords.
  3. Marty Robbins - "Big Iron": This country ballad, from Robbins' album "Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs," is an outlaw classic you can play using only three chords in standard tuning.
  4. George Jones - "White Lightning": Originally a rockabilly hit from 1959, the four-chord "White Lightning" became a hit after it was rerecorded by George Jones.
  5. Bob Wills - "Take Me Back to Tulsa": Bob Wills, the bandleader credited with inventing "Western swing," wrote a number of country classics, including "Take Me Back to Tulsa," which has only two chords.
  6. Don Williams - "It Must Be Love": This simple ballad was a hit for the man who became known as the "Gentle Giant" of country music.
  7. Merle Haggard - "The Bottle Let Me Down": From the hit album "Swinging Doors," this gloomy ballad can be played using only two chords.
  8. Merle Haggard - "Mama Tried": Once you've mastered "The Bottle Let Me Down," you can practice "Mama Tried," a four-chord Merle Haggard hit from 1968.
  9. Hank Williams - "Cold, Cold Heart": This honky-tonk tune is an American classic. Requiring only four chords to play, it's also perfect for beginning musicians.
  10. Hank Williams - "Honky Tonkin'": This two-chord hit has been covered by everyone from Townes Van Zandt to Waylon Jennings.