Indie music has a certain charm that pulls away from the more generic genres like pop and rock. The music isn’t overly polished like most mainstream tracks are these days. Because these songs dig deeper and show more creativity they are becoming wildly popular amongst beginner guitar players.
Anyone who is looking for appropriate songs for beginners should look no further than our list of easy indie songs on guitar. Each of these songs has been carefully picked by us to suit beginners who want to learn easy indie guitar songs. Using just basic chords, we explore some of the most popular indie tracks in our guide.
Every song comes with a video tutorial for you to play along with. Let’s get started!
1. Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall
We’re kicking off our list with indie icons, Vampire Weekend. They are an incredibly popular American indie rock band and Harmony Hall is one of their most popular tracks. What’s even better is that the entire song is easy to learn on your guitar.
Harmony Hall came from the band’s fourth album titled Father of the Bride. This was the first album that the band released attached to a major record label. The lyrics in the song talk about dread and angst which is a great juxtaposition against the cheerful, upbeat music.
You will be able to play Harmony Hall using the chord progression G, D, C and Cmaj7. The strumming pattern is 4:4 as well which is super easy for beginners. It’s the beginning riff of guitar chords that you may find a little more challenging but this shouldn’t put you off trying to master these notes. Learn each of the chords separately first, get confident in playing them and then combine them together slowly. This will build up your confidence and skills to play the indie song properly.
2. Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Like Honey
We’re steering away from the four chord songs now to help your guitar playing with a three chord song. Jesus and Mary Chain are a Scottish indie band that got together in 1983. Just Like Honey is a song that gained recognition when it was used in the film Lost in Translation starring Scarlett Johansson. It’s one of the most memorable melodies because it’s so atmospheric and it really sticky in your head, even when you’ve finished playing.
You’ll use the simplest of all chord progression here – G, C and D. The strumming pattern follows that same simplicity too.
3. Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Next in our list of excellent songs which will make you a great indie guitar play is this hit from Neutral Milk Hotel. This one features such easy chords, anyone can play it! You’ll use four chords in the progression which includes G, Em, C and D. There’s also a sweet horn solo in the song which breaks up the main riff.
What’s interesting about this band is that they deliberately use a lower recording quality in their music which has been inspired by pysch rock. It’s sometimes referred to as slacker rock. Jeff Mangum, the lead vocalist, really makes this song so if you are a beginner guitarist who loves to sing, try this one on for size.
4. Sufjan Stevens – Casimir Pulaski Day
Unlike most songs in the indie genre, Sufjan Stevens’s floaty vocals lend themselves to a different, dreamier style of music. He uses emotions and honesty in his tracks which makes him a songwriting icon. As an artist he released eight solo albums, all using his clever use of common chord progressions. His prowess for music writing earned him both Grammy and Oscar nominations, as well as several other accolades.
Casimir Pulaski Day comes from the album Illinoise, his fifth to be released. The theme of the song is actually very sad as the main protagonist loses his partner to bone cancer, despite begging with the powers that be to heal them. Both the song and the melody are beautiful and are played using the D, C, Am and G chords. These open chords are used throughout the entire song. The strumming is laid back so as far as easy songs go, this one won’t cause you any problems.
5. Mac DeMarco – Let My Baby Stay
Continuing on with your guitar journey into easy songs with an indie vibe is Let My Baby Stay by Mac DeMarco. He is a Canadian artist who found fame for his slacker and slow-born style. The vocals are chilled out and the melody is pretty trippy.
This is a great song for beginners because it only uses simple chords which are easy for newbies to playing guitar. You will need to know the essential chords of Am, D7, G and D. The same progression is repeated throughout the entire song. Thanks to the slower pace, the strumming won’t be taxing and it’s a hit song that should be in any guitarist’s repertoire.
6. Clairo – Bags
Clairo or Claire Elizabeth Cottrill to use her real name first started her indie song career at the tender age of 13. Bags was the first song of hers that hit the Billboard Hot 100 charts alongside other artists such as Lizzo and Billie Eilish. The song has a lovely melody that is paired with incredibly expressive and raw lyrics. The chord progression is simple as well from this American singer songwriter.
Any guitar novice will love to play this song because the chords are made for beginner guitarists. You use the same progressions in the chorus and the verses of the track. Using standard tuning, play the chords F#, A#, A#m and G#. If you fancy yourself to be a bit of a soloist, there’s plenty of room for experimentation from the intro riff to the end of the song.
7. Current Joys – A Different Age
Current Joys is a moniker for the artist Nick Rattigan and A Different Age is another gem from this artist. Not only is a a musician, he plays multiple instruments on his tracks and also works as a journalist.
You’ll love us for introducing you to this song because it uses only two chords, D and G. They are played on a downstroke strum for the entire song and the track only uses these two major chords. If you think that this sounds pretty boring, it’s really not. Give the song a go using the tutorial below and find out just how fresh this track really is.
8. Men I Trust – Show Me How
Another band of indie rockers from Canada are Men I Trust. Coming from Montreal, the band first hit the scene in 2014 so are newer faces on the indie block. When they first started out they were releasing their music on their own but soon got picked up by a record label.
We love a good slow burner track and Show Me How is just that. It’s a great song thanks to the simple strumming pattern. Even though the chords may look a little bit daunting, they’re actually very easy to play. These chords include Am7, Cmaj7, Fmaj7 and Dsus2. Don’t let the 7ths put you off because they’re not as hard as they seem. We’ve given you a slightly harder challenge than the other easy guitar songs in this list but it’s still simple enough for a beginner.
9. Gus Dapperton – My Favourite Fish
Gus Dapperton is a true indie artist that makes really memorable music. He writes about important social issues which are relevant today such as mental health. It’s these things that give his music that added layer of depth which indie music is known for.
My Favorite Fish only has four chords. They might be 7th chords but it’s such a great song that we had to include it in our list. The chords go C#maj7, Cm7, A#m7 and G#maj7. There are two chords which are major and two that are minor. Once you’ve nailed the chord shapes and the finger patterns you need, playing the rest of the song is incredibly easy. You’ll use the same chords throughout the entire track so it’s worth knowing them for your future playing skills.
10. Brian Johnstown Massacre – Anemone
One of the older bands on the indie scene is Brian Johnstown Massacre who emerged in 1990. They’ve released indie-psych rock tracks since then and have 19 albums under their belt at this point. Anemone is a good song for indie fans because it uses only two chords and it’s got a really mysterious feel to it.
To play this you only need to know A major and E as a chord progression. There are more guitar chords you can add in if you want to sound more like the original such as D, G, B, A7 and E7.
11. Arctic Monkeys – 505
505 is the first love song that the Arctic Monkeys ever wrote and it is a great one. The rumor about the track is that 505 was the hotel room number where Alex Turner’s girlfriend was and he wanted to go back there to get back together with her.
This is a three chord song played with standard tuning on your guitar. You need to know D, Em and A. The strumming pattern won’t cause you any trouble either because it’s very simple.
12. Galaxy 500 – Tugboat
Galaxy 500 as a band aren’t together anymore, forming in 1987 and parting company in 1991. During their stint as indie artists, they released three albums. All of their tracks featured on each album have been able to influence how indie sounds over the next few years, turning it into what we know it to be today.
You’ll only use two guitar chords in Tugboat which are G major and the Em/C chords. This is nostalgic indie music and it’s a simple track to begin with when you just want something easy to strum along to.
13. Patti Smith – Gloria
Patti Smith is truly a songwriting icon and her music has influenced a lot of different genres, not just indie. Music such as rock and punk rock have used her influence to create their sound. The song Gloria was originally a track written by Van Morrison in 1964 when he was part of the band Them. Patti turned it into her own version, reworking the lyrics to make them more punk rock to be part of the movement which was happening at that time.
This is a three chord song using E, Dsus2 and A/D chords. The progression carries on repeating throughout the song so as soon as you learn these chords, you’ll be able to play the track easily.
14. The Modern Lovers – Roadrunners
Not many indie bands existed before the 80s but The Modern Lovers first made their appearance in the music industry in the 70s. They are considered to be pioneers of not only the indie movement but the punk movement too. Modern bands even today look to them for inspiration. Roadrunners is a road trip style song that has a cool vibe, as well as being simple to play. You just feel cool when you hear it.
Set your guitar to standard tuning to start with. Then use the D, A and E guitar chords which are the only ones used throughout the song, along with a steady 4:4 beat.
15. The Velvet Underground – Oh Sweet Nuthin’
The Velvet Underground are incredibly iconic American indie rockers and they were a big part of encouraging the movement. You can play this track as a three chord song, using C, Bb and F. It’s a good track to start off with because it’s easy and very laid back. Towards the end of the song it actually begins to speed up and gives you a guitar solo to sink your teeth into.
16. Aurora – Runaway
A more recent song to hit the soundwaves is Runaway, released in 2015. The reason it gained so much apparently, apart from being a good track, is that it was used as the background song in an Instagram challenge. Not the greatest way to gain popularity but hey, at least we got to hear the track!
There’s a harmonious melody in Runaway that gives it a really earthy vibe. Aurora prides herself on being inspired by nature and you can hear this in her vocals. There are more guitar chords in this song than in previous ones we’ve mentioned in the list but they should be familiar to you as a beginner. Some are barre chords as well which is a great technique to learn as a beginner as they are featured in a lot of music, not just indie tracks. Use chords Em, D, C, G, Am and Cmaj7 to recreate this song.
17. The Seeds – Can’t Seem to Make You Mine
The Seeds started out their indie career back in 1965 with Can’t Seem to Make You Mine and it fully represents their garage indie style. Since its release the track has been covered by a lot of different artists including Johnny Thunders, the Ramones and Yo La Tengo. You’ll hear that the lyrics are all about heartbreak, even though the melody is pretty casual. It’s this vibe that makes the song appealing still today and why it’s become a timeless classic.
You’ll have to play the main riff and the chorus using G, D and Em chords. For the rest of the song you will be playing a C, G, C, G and C, G, C, D chord progressions before you circle back round to the rain riff once again.
18. Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Kevin Parker is an incredibly talented musician who can play multiple instruments and Tame Impala is his brainchild. This steers away from the true indie vibe and incorporates other different genres. It’s hard to box this band into the indie genre because of this, but this is one of the tracks from them that definitely have those sorts of vibes. That’s why we thought we would add it to our list.
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards was released in 2012 as a track on the album titled Lonerism. If you watch the music video you’ll see how the trippy vibe from the music was incorporated into it. You’ll be playing this song with really easy open chords which are F, A, Bb, Dm and C. As for your strum pattern, this is really straightforward as well and it shouldn’t be a struggle for inexperienced guitar players. It’s probably one of our favorite tracks to play as a guitar player looking into their first songs for the indie genre.
19. Bright Eyes – Lua
If you are looking for tracks to suit an intimate, more low-key gig then this will be a great song for you to choose, and it’s easy to learn. Lua was first released back in 2004 and was featured on Bright Eyes album titled I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. The song only has two elements, the vocals from Conor Oberst and an acoustic guitar accompanying him. The lyrics you hear are about Oberst’s struggle with addiction and depression throughout his life.
As we’ve already said, this is a very beginner friendly song. You’ll use some open chords that are simple for novice guitar players which are G, C, Am, D, A7 and Em.
20. Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap
A great track with only three chords that make it ideal for any beginner is The Boy with the Arab Strap. this was released by the Scottish band Belle and Sebastian in 1998, and it shared the name of the album it was featured on. The track is pretty upbeat which contrasts nicely with the airy vocals. The song is featured on NME’s 150 best tracks of the last 15 years list.
You can play the whole song using chords G, C and D and this progression repeats over and over again throughout the track. The strum pattern is also basic, using a simple downstrum that alternated. All in all, it’s an easy one to crack.
21. Silver Jews – Random Rules
With a 20 year stint as a band under their belt, running from 1989 to 2009 with a few line-up changes along the way, Silver Jews are an indie staple. Even though they no longer exist as a band, they continue to be a force within the genre. Random Rules is a spoken and sung lyric track which shows honest emotions. It was released in 1998 as part of the album American Water, the third album from the band. Many music journals gave it its props.
The raw element of the lyrics goes well with the melody and beginners will find the song easy to play. The track goes through a C, Em, F and Dm chord progression and a 4:4 strum pattern to finish off with. In the middle, there’s a good guitar solo which you will enjoy and you can still learn this as a beginner.
Indie music is such a rich and varied world full of beautiful melodies and powerful lyrics. The emotions that are portrayed in this type of music is what makes it so popular, and why it’s been at the forefront of the music industry for so many years. Anyone who wants to explore the genre will find all of the songs they need in our list. We’ve done our best to include all of the simplest, easiest tracks to start your journey out with. We hope you enjoyed our list!
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