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When it comes to learning cover songs on the guitar, the options can sometimes be overwhelming. So many of my favorite songs are written in unusual tunings, and this can make for a steep learning curve.
Don’t worry though – there are more songs to learn in the standard guitar tuning than any other tuning, so you have plenty of options to keep you going until you learn alternate tunings.
I’m breaking down the 20 best songs in standard tuning, so read on to find out about some amazing covers that you could learn today!
List of the Best Songs in Standard Tuning
1. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
I thought I would start things off with an absolute classic, Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley. There was a time when this song was being covered by just about everyone due to its gorgeous lyrics and guitar chords.
Whilst Jeff Buckley’s version has to be the best, it was originally written by Leonard Cohen and has been covered by the likes of Bob Dylan, Damien Rice, and Imogen Heap.
Easily one of the most beautiful and best songs in standard tuning – and it’s really simple to learn!
2. Ed Sheeran – Perfect
Ed Sheeran has always been known to keep things simple – after all, why overcomplicate songs when you have incredible songwriting, vocal, and guitar skills? For this reason, tons of Sheeran’s greatest songs can be learned in the simple standard guitar tuning.
You could pick just about any of his songs, but I’ve always favored Perfect. It’s a particularly fantastic option if you want to serenade your other half, and can be learned through simple chords or more complex guitar picking. Beautiful stuff.
3. Passenger – Let Her Go
Music is one of the best methods of expressing your emotions – through lyrics, energy, and harmony, you can express anything from sadness to euphoria through songs. Whilst writing your own songs is a great way of doing this, I often turn to Passenger’s track Let Her Go.
It’s got an ambivalent blend of happiness and sadness tinged in all areas of the track, it doesn’t focus too much on a particular emotion and recognizes that life is full of ups and downs. It’s one of the best songs in standard tuning to play when you’re feeling a bit down.
4. John Legend – All Of Me
Whilst we’re exploring the expression of emotion through music, I thought that I would give a mention to John Legend’s masterpiece All of Me.
Many people think that major chords and energetic riffs are essential when writing an uplifting song, but this song proves that this simply isn’t the case. It does sound quite sad in places and uses a lot of minor chords, yet the music is uplifting, romantic, and never fails to inspire me.
5. Elvis Presley – Can’t Help Falling In Love
I must admit that I am getting very soppy throughout this article – so many of the best songs in standard tuning are romantic pieces that pull on my heartstrings!
If you ever want to learn something on the guitar to play for the older generations (such as your grandparents or old Doris down the road), you cannot go wrong with Elvis Presley. In particular, Can’t Help Falling In Love is one of my favorites.
Absolutely timeless – no more words required.
6. Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven
It’s about time that I talk about a song from one of my favorite bands ever, Led Zeppelin. I remember when I first learned Stairway to Heaven – I was only a beginner at playing the guitar and was only learning songs that I could play through simple chords.
However, this song was the moment that I realized I had leveled up. It’s not actually that difficult to learn, but it’s a little more complex than other songs we’ve discussed so far. It’s guaranteed to impress your friends, learn it and own it!
7. Jason Mraz – I’m Yours
Didn’t I promise you that we’d take a look at some happier songs soon? I never break a promise, and that’s why I’ve chosen one of the most chilled and best songs in standard tuning – I’m Yours by Jason Mraz.
Do I really need to say any more? You’ve heard it, you’ve sung it with friends, and you’ve probably considered learning it in the past. Do it – it’s one of my favorite tracks to play when I’m by the campfire with friends, truly a wholesome classic.
8. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
I briefly mentioned earlier that Ed Sheeran is the go-to guy when it comes to standard tuning songs, so let’s take a look at another classic from the dude himself.
This time I decided to go with Thinking Out Loud – it’s a lot more upbeat than Perfect, yet it still manages to portray the same inspirational feelings.
If you want to go the extra mile, you should consider learning the vocals to this track too. They are seriously powerful and it requires a lot of practice to pull off, but I believe in you!
9. Plain White T’s – Airplane
Using music to portray emotions is all well and good, but sometimes it can be used to paint a deeper and more mysterious picture.
Airplane by Plain White T’s is a great example of this – the scales and harmonies used in this track have a really ethereal and spooky edge, it’s a really good track for providing some atmosphere to a room.
This has always been one of the best songs in standard tuning in my opinion. It’s not for everyone, but I just love the mysterious vibe!
10. Bruno Mars – When I Was Your Man
Some songs just never get old – whether they came out in the ‘50s or in the ‘00s, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll still be played at people’s weddings, funerals, and other life events a hundred years later.
Bruno Mars is a master of writing songs like this – tracks such as When I Was Your Man is written in a way that allows the songs to be accessible to all ages. There’s nothing offensive, innovative, or futuristic about it – just good songwriting.
11. Vance Joy – Riptide
Next up on my list of the best songs in standard tuning is Riptide by Vance Joy. This track is absolutely the most uplifting and euphoric on the list – the chord progressions are fantastic and never fail to put a smile on my face.
Campfires are great, but this would be a particularly great track to learn if you’re planning to bring your acoustic to a music festival. Everyone around would want to join and bask in the positive vibes, guaranteed!
12. Radiohead – Creep
Earlier in this article, I mentioned that Hallelujah had to be the most covered song out there – well, it could actually have some competition with Creep by Radiohead.
Head out to just about any open mic night or cover band, and there’s a pretty high chance that they’ll be playing this absolute banger.
One of the best things about it is how versatile it is – it’s a pretty song to play on an acoustic, but you could also whip out the effects pedals and shred just like Johnny Greenwood.
13. Metallica – Nothing Else Matters
Ahh, Metallica. This is the band that really got me into playing guitar, especially with their track Nothing Else Matters.
From the gorgeous electroacoustic introduction to the heavy riffs towards the end of the track, this song is a stunning showcase of excellent songwriting. It’s varied, the energy fluctuates, it just has so much going for it.
It’s a long song and thus will be difficult to learn, but it’s going to be one of the best songs in standard tuning if you’re looking for a challenge.
14. Coldplay – The Scientist
Coldplay has had one heck of a career, and they get far too much hate these days. Sure, their newer music isn’t quite as good as their first few albums, but I’ve got huge amounts of love for them.
For me, it all started with The Scientist, featured on their album A Rush of Blood to the Head. It’s a euphoric anthem with a gorgeous bunch of lyrics that everyone can relate to.
“Nobody said it was easy” – well, you’ll be happy to know that this is definitely one of the easiest tracks on my list for you to learn.
15. Justin Bieber – Love Yourself
I associated Justin Bieber with boring pop music and heavily produced auto-tune music for years, but I only recently realized how wrong I was. He actually has a ton of fantastic songs, particularly later in his career.
A prime example of this is Love Yourself – this beautiful guitar ballad shows some real maturity growing in the musician’s songwriting. The picking pattern is really fun to play as well, one of the best songs in standard tuning to play when it comes to fingerpicking!
16. Ed Sheeran – Photograph
Yes yes, I know that I’ve already mentioned two Ed Sheeran tracks, but I just can’t get enough of the dude!
I wanted to list one more track, Photograph. In my opinion, this track is absolutely peak Sheeran – it’s inspiring, authentic, and relatable, with a music video that is bound to make you shed a few tears.
Listen and learn the lyrics, see if you can get close to the wondrous way Sheeran plays this track, and you’ll see jaws dropping all around you!
17. Adele – Someone Like You
One of my favorite things to do when playing the guitar is to work out how to adapt a song to the guitar. There are tons of songs that deserve fantastic guitar covers that don’t actually include any guitar, with Adele’s Someone Like You being a fantastic example.
See if you can figure out the chords yourself – it’ll be a really fun challenge. However, if you feel like reading a tab, there are loads of examples available online already!
18. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
This one’s for all the sons out there – if you’ve been practicing the guitar day in and day out, hoping to impress your Dad with your epic guitar skills, you can’t go wrong with learning a bit of Pink Floyd.
Loved by just about every dude living in the ‘70s, Wish You Were Here is a fantastic choice to go for. It’s one of the best songs in standard tuning, featuring gorgeous chords and simple yet effective solos at the beginning.
Learn this one for father’s day, and you’ll be the proudest son in the world!
19. Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
Did you really think that I was going to finish this list without mentioning Oasis? No chance, absolutely no chance. Oasis is an absolute staple of guitar music, and I’d be surprised if there was any band out there that has seen more covers of their songs.
There are way too many to choose from, but Don’t Look Back in Anger is one of my favorites. Those chord sequences are just magic, it gives me goosebumps every time I play them.
20. Oasis – Wonderwall
We have sadly reached the end of this list, but I’ve decided to finish up with something truly special – Wonderwall. I couldn’t just bring up Oasis and not mention this song – forget Hallelujah and Creep because this has to be the most covered song in the world.
It’s one of the best songs in standard tuning to learn because it’s easy, uses a small handful of basic chords, and literally, everyone who hears it recognizes it instantly.
If you’re looking to pull crowds, impress your friends, or serenade that special somebody, you cannot go wrong with Wonderwall. I could not think of a better way to finish this article – enough said!
Justin is an audio engineer with years of experience in the field. He has been creating and playing music his entire life, but he really found his passion for engineering when he was introduced to Logic Pro at age 10. Justin has spent countless hours perfecting his craft and now works as a freelance engineer out of Boston, MA.