75+ School-Appropriate Rock Songs for Your Rock Group Ranked from Very Easy to Difficult (updated 20
This list includes the song name, artist name, chords, and skills learned from each song. It is mostly catered to guitar players, but unless otherwise stated, you can assume that the keyboard, bass, drums, and vocals are pretty straightforward. This means that drums will play a straight up rock groove variation, bass will play root notes more or less, and piano will play chords that basically follow the guitar, as well as easy vocal melodies. It is also important to note that the chords listed are not necessarily in order.
Using Chapter 4 from Rock Coach, some of my resources on TpT as a guide and through experimenting on your own, knowing how to simplify many of these songs will become easier. Sometimes we don’t perform the songs as they are on the recording. We may create our own arrangements by taking out a section to simplify it or there have been times where we have only performed what we know of a challenging project song. For me, it is about the process here—we rarely perform a song only once and if a song is only half learned, the next performance will be the entire song or an arrangement that works. This also creates lower stress levels for learners and facilitators.
This level includes songs that have two or three, sometimes four chords only or a basic, repetitive riff for all instruments. They may also be primarily power chords but can be easily simplified by playing only the root notes. Drums will play a basic rock groove or blues variation or will work with a basic rock groove or basic blues groove. Sections of songs may be a little more of a challenge but, for the most part, are attainable or will still work with that section removed:
Never Tear Us Apart by INXS (mostly keyboard: C/A, Csus4/F, Dm, F, G) triplet feel, guitar is minimal. Chance for minor pentatonic or blues solo.
Best Day of My Life by The American Authors (D, G) with easy guitar riff in the chorus. Beginning banjo riff can be omitted. This song has a very short Bm chord it it but can be omitted and still work.
Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash (D, G, A7, G/F). Drums may find this difficult in chorus.
Stompa by Serena Ryder (C, G, Am, Em, A7, B7 in bridge only). Easy riff based song in Em. Bridge is easy but may be difficult to remember because there is no obvious pattern. Bass drum part in the drums could be a challenge for a beginner drummer. However, a straight 4/4 rock groove is fine.
Blitzkrieg Bop by The Ramones (power chords, I–IV–V–I progression). Could be quick for the drummers. Key of A
Songbird by Oasis (G, Em).
Good Riddance by Green Day (G [with added 5th], Csus2, Dsus4, Emadd 7). The chord progression will make much more sense when you listen to it.
All Day and All of the Night by The Kinks (power chords: F, G, B , A, C, D). Good one for improvising on G blues.
Lean on Me by Bill Withers (C, F, G7). Very easy for all instruments, can be a little low for singers. Easy root position chords in parallel motion for the keyboard. Riff based.
You Really Got Me by The Kinks (power chords: F, G, A, C, D). This song presents a great opportunity to improvise in G minor pentatonic.
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor (power chords: C, Bb, G, A , easy barring). Can be easily simplified, fits female voices nicely, keyboard has the following progression in the verse: Cm, Ab, Bb, Cmsus2 all in root position.
Last Kiss by Pearl Jam (G, Em, C, D). This can be done with or without the strumming pattern.
SONGS THAT ARE DIFFICULT BUT CAN BE EASILY SIMPLIFIED
Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd (D, C, G, one F chord). Without picking patterns or solos this is very easy to play.
Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns n’ Roses (D, C, G). No down-tuning, no solos and this song can be easily played.
This level includes basic chords, scales and concepts as well as some easy solos. Players who have had some lessons or experience, or are a quick learn and know the Main 7 chords would be able to handle most of these songs. They may have started learning some power chords and barre chords but are still somewhat uncomfortable with them. Drums may have basic fills or an easy groove variation:
Believer by Imagine Dragons (Bb, Gb, A, power chords). The ‘bouncy’ guitar part throughout the song can be a challenge for a guitar player. If your guitar players are struggling with it at first, have your keyboard player do it. There are some neat choir sounds in this one that can be done on a good sounding keyboard or electronic piano. Drums are very easy in this one.
Zombie by The Cranberries (Em, CM7, G, D). Repetitive chord progression. A pretty easy guitar solo in the pre-verses. Might be a bit low for some of your younger singers but can easily be transposed.
Up We Go by Lights (A, D, E). Any instrument can do the keyboard licks but if you have a synth, this song can work really well.
Song 2 by Blur (drop D power chords, one-finger power chords). Repetitive riff-based pattern throughout. Changes once in the chorus.
Enter Sandman by Metallica (power chords). Can be done with first finger only and it still works. Some simple palm muting. Drumming can be complex at beginning but for the most part pretty straight forward. Remove whispered section of lyrics in the bridge.
Berlin Wall by Town Heroes (capo 2, drop D tuning easy one-finger power chords). The drummers will love this one. A bit of a challenge in the bass drum but they love it once they get the hang of it.
If Today Was Your Last Day by Nickelback (capo 1, easy barring, Bm, D, A, E, G)
Keep Holding On by Avril Lavigne (G [with added 5th], G/F#, Emadd 7, Csus2, Am, C, Em). This one will make more sense when you listen to it.
Titanium as performed by Madilyn Bailey (capo 3, C, G, Am, F, Em). Originally for piano and voice but works really well with guitar and voice.
I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett (power chords E, A, B, G. I–IV–V–I progression). Drums are really easy but there is a small turnaround in the chorus. Take out last verse lyrics and replace with first.
Proud Mary by CCR (C, A, F, G, D, Bm). Strumming pattern might be a bit of a challenge at first.
Riptide by Vance Joy (capo 1, Am, C, G, F). Solo before the bridge can be a bit of a challenge but the song will work well without it.
Christmas Love by Billy Idol (G, C, D, A7, D7, Em, simple picking patterns).
Nothing Else Matters by Metallica (Em, C, D, G, B, power chords, picking patterns) NOTE: I would begin without picking—just strumming.
One by U2 (C, F, Am, G, easy one string picking).
Takin’ Care of Business by BTO (blues, power chords: C, Bb, F, F pentatonic/blues scales).
Takin’ Care of Christmas by BTO (power chords, blues).
House of the Rising Sun by The Animals (Am, C, D, F, E7, A minor pentatonic/blues scales) The progression can be a bit confusing.
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd (G, Am, D, C, G, pentatonic scale).
What You Need by INXS (F# easy/half barre, Am easy/half barre, B power chord, F# power chord). Great easy synthesizer solo. Easy guitar picking in bridge. Drum patterns change slightly in each section.
Island in the Sun by Weezer (easy barring, Em, G, D, Am, C). Guitar players should be comfortable with the moveable four-string F chord shape.
Yellow by Coldplay (capo 1, A, Asus4, F#m, E, D, Dsus2, string bends).
Come Together by The Beatles (B, A, and G power chords). Bass is a challenge throughout but repeats. The guitar solo can be turned into a keyboard solo and is very simple. Drums have a triplet fill at the beginning that comes up again near the middle of the song.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day (capo 1, Em, G, D, A, C, easy guitar solo). Make sure you change swear word to “messed” and use only an edited version. This is very easy to alter in any sound editing program. All you need to do is select the word and reverse it. Could be a bit low for some singers.
Shine a Light by Bryan Adams (C, G, F, Am). The quick switches to the F chord make this a bit of a challenge at first.
When I Come Around by Green Day (power chords, F#, C#, D# [optional 5th string minor barre], B [optional 5th string major], I–V–vi–IV, G#, A#, B power chords). Make sure to take out the second verse and use the first verse twice. Also easy to alter on a sound editing program.
Just Like Fire by P!nk (Em, C, G, Am). There are a couple of tricky vocal lines.
Astronaut by Simple Plan (Dm, G, F, Am, C, basic strumming patterns).
Down on the Corner by CCR (C, F, G). Lead guitar has an easy pentatonic melody throughout the song.
Try by P!nk (power chords: G, D, A, B). Same notes in the verse, but in a different order. Pretty easy keyboard part.
Free Falling by Tom Petty (capo 1, E, Asus2, Bsus4).
This level includes the Main 7 as well as barre chords, picking patterns and some intermediate level solos. Basic drum grooves will work for the majority of these songs but will not work for a few of these if you want to keep the integrity of the song. There will be a mix of basic and more advanced keyboard parts.
This level encompasses a wide range of players and may include learners who are beginners or have some experience but are progressing quickly or need a good challenge. Use your discretion with this.
Hall of Fame by The Script (capo 3, Em, C, G, D). This song has a repetitive chord progression throughout. The piano part can be a bit of a challenge to pull off properly but it can be simplified.
Everything You’ve Done Wrong by Sloan (C#m, B, Asus2, Em, A, D, G, G/F#, D7). The opening is barre chords. This is a great tune for opening up some solos. Am pentatonic and Em pentatonic work really well as solo material. Trumpet parts can be performed on keyboards.
Happy Together by The Turtles (capo 2, Em, C, D, G, B, fifth string major barre chords).
Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane (Power chords: D, C, Bb, F, G). Every riff can be substituted for just root notes and still come across well. Some palm muting in the verses.
It’s My Life by Bon Jovi (power chords C, Ab, Db, Bb, B, Eb, bridge has F, C, Bb). This can be played without the solo and still work.
Hold the Line by Toto (power chords F#, C#, D, E, solo in F# minor) This one is all about feel. Basic shuffle for the most part in drums. Keys have tricky opening and chorus (F#, A, Bm7, E, Esus4). Check this video. Verse chords (Bm, C#m, F#, D, E).
Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger (basic blues pattern I–IV and V chords). Key of F#. Might be a bit of a hand stretch for your beginners. A great one to solo with F# minor pentatonic or blues.
Buddy Holly by Weezer (power chords with lots of changes and jumps, down tuning by half step to play the bridge). I use Audacity to transpose this up by one half step instead of down-tuning the guitars. That way it is in the key of A.
Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi (C, D, Em, G). Off beat patterns, quarter note triplets, solo can be simplified, key change up a minor third but power chords will suffice. Keyboards are featured at the beginning and play an Em to G pattern in the verses.
Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. (A, E, B, power chords: B, A, G#, E). There are some awkward off beats in the guitar parts. What makes this the most difficult is the keyboard part. A good keyboard player should be able to handle it.
Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down (Bm, G, Asus2). Repetitive guitar picking pattern. A challenge for drummers.
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey (power chords: B, E, C#, A). Drummers could find this song a challenge to keep steady, fits female voices quite nicely, bass line can be a challenge. Keyboard part can be done with right hand only as long as the bass part is strong. Have an additional keyboard player in charge of some of the other parts if your keyboard player can’t reach the octaves.
Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd: Without solos (D, C, G). Picking patterns, blues. Without picking patterns this song is much easier.
What About Love by Heart (Dm, Bb, F, C). 5th string major barre chords, power chords, solo picking, a bit of scale work on the keyboard.
Let Her Go by Passenger (Em, C, G, Bm, D). Changes are quick and the two progressions are similar enough to be a bit confusing.
21 Guns by Green Day (Dm, Bb, F, C). 5th string major barre chords, power chords, solo picking.
The Final Countdown by Europe: without solos (power chords: F#, D, B, E, F, A, G#). Palm muting, a good challenge for the keyboard player. Works without power chords but there are a lot of changes in the guitar part. Key of F#m.
The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car by Trooper (all power chords: Bb, Ab, Db, Eb). Some of the strumming patterns can be difficult for some guitar players. Intermediate to advanced guitarists could play the solos in this song. They are based mostly on the blues and minor pentatonic box patterns. Could be a great opportunity for improvised solos too.
Torn to Pieces by Pop Evil (Chorus/ Verse: Am, C, G, FM7; Bridge: Dm, Bb, C) Power chords work well with this song too. Bit of a tricky guitar riff in the intro and verses. Repetitive guitar solo in the bridge.
Times like These by Foo Fighters (Am, C, Em, D as well as E, D and C power chords). Intermediate solo picking. The big challenge in this song is the drums and the metre changes. There are many places where the time switches to 7/4 and then to 8/4 and back again. You need strong drummers for this tune.
Separate Ways by Journey (power chords: E, D, C, B). Palm muting, easy harmonics. Keyboards have Em, D, C and a bit of easy solo riff work at the beginning middle and end. Drummers have a couple solos, a good chance for them to improvise.
I Wanna Rock by Twisted Sister (power chords, A, G, D, E). Strumming pattern could be a challenge for limited knowledge player. Some intermediate level drum fills.
Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams (D and A power chords as well as A, D, G, F, Bb, C, and Bm). 5th string major and minor barre chords. Switches are pretty quick at times.
Clocks by Coldplay (capo 1, D, Em, Am, G, F). 8/8 grouped as 3+3+2, keyboards have some advanced arpeggiation with E , B m, Fm, dual keyboard. Drummers will be challenged to keep steady and follow the 3+3+2 pattern.
Complicated by Avril Lavigne (F, Dm, Bb, C) Easy guitar solos. D and G power chords in sections. What makes this one tricky is the order of chords; every progression uses the same chords but changes the order of them.
Juke Box Hero by Foreigner (power chords, D, E, B, G). Bridge can be a bit of a challenge. Vocals can be quite a challenge to pull off properly. Some more advanced drumming in areas (ie: switching feel).
Jump by Van Halen. Guitars follow the bass line throughout this song. This is a keyboard feature and may present a challenge for a beginner keyboardist. Some of the drumming is quite advanced in places. Charts for this are easy to find. We performed this without the extended solo sections for guitar and keyboard.
Difficult/Lots of Experience
This section includes all basic chords and/or all barre chord forms as well as medium to advanced arpeggiation, medium to advanced solos and some advanced picking and finger picking patterns or metres. This level will be a good challenge for any groups within your higher-end Medium category:
Purple Haze by Jimmy Hendrix (E7(#9), G, A). This song has some challenging guitar licks along with the opening solo part. The E7(#9) chord is also known as the Hendrix Chord because it was a favourite of his.
Fix You by Coldplay (capo 2, C, C/B, Am, F, G). Guitar part is fairly minimal and simple. What makes this one difficult are the keyboard parts, some of the drumming and the vocal harmonies at the end. This will be easier with two keyboard players.
Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns n’ Roses (down tuning, D, C, G). Intermediate to advanced arpeggiation, picking patterns, power chords, bends, solo picking, some advanced bass lines.
Christmas All Over Again by Tom Petty (A ,F#m, Bm, E, Gm, barre chords).
Take on Me by A-Ha (Bm, E, A, D, A/C#, F#m, G). 6th and 5th string barre chords. A challenge for your singers and keyboard players.
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin (finger picking, Am, C, G, D, FM7). Barreing, challenging for all instruments and voices.
Dream On by Aerosmith (finger picking, bends, some advanced solo picking).
Blackbird by The Beatles (finger picking). In G.
Oh! Darling by The Beatles (E+, A, E, F#m, A7, D, F7, Bm7, Bb7). 5th and 6th string major, minor, major 7 and minor 7 barre forms, blues and triplet feel for drums and keyboard, arpeggiation, picking patterns, a challenge for your guitar players. The bass line is quite a challenge as well.
Barracuda by Heart (power chords). Palm muting, simple to complex metre changes. 4/4 to 5/4 and 4/4 to 3/4. Drums and guitars have the biggest challenge with all the metre changes and some of the drumming is quite advanced in places.
Do you have any songs for my list? Let me know. I’ll be updating this list as I go. It would be great to have over 100 songs on here!
Until next time, Happy Musicking!
Giddings, S (2017). Rock Coach: A Practical Guide for Teaching Rock Bands in Schools. Steve’s Music Room Publishing. PEI, Canada