Reggae music is incredibly interesting, creative and innovative. However, it’s not the easiest type of music to play. Finding easy reggae songs on guitar can be tricky, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the best ones out there, with tutorials included where possible.
The genre of reggae is full of songs to impress as the artists have no boundaries or limitations to their creativity. We’ve picked out these top songs for you to play on your acoustic guitar featuring easier guitar chords that will be simple for a beginner to master.
1. Bob Marley and the Wailers – One Love
We can’t start a list of reggae songs without kicking off with the king of reggae himself. Marley was known for his ability to churn out huge hits that would eventually popularize reggae music for the masses. Throughout his career he was an artist who could unite people with his talent and he will always be remembered as a person with a great soul.
One Love has a cheerful melody and peaceful lyrics written in a bohemian style. It’s easy to lose yourself in this one. The song went on to top the charts in the UK and sends the message being kind. You will experience major chords such as A, D and E in the song which should be simple for a beginner guitarist to learn. You also will need to know the F#m chord.
2. The Paragons – The Tide is High
Many people who love music will recognize this song as the cover that Blondie famously popularized in the 1980s. It was actually The Paragons, a reggae band, who first wrong the song in 1966. The song was originally written by John Holt who performed with The Paragons on one of their albums.
The song is so catchy for reggae guitar players that it soon caught the eye of other bands who wanted to play reggae. The original will also be the best, as an easy song for you to learn and great chord voicings which have their roots in authentic reggae sounds.
3. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Three Little Birds
This is probably one of the most famous songs in reggae music and, of course, it has to be Bob Marley’s. When it made its way to the Western music scene, it made a big impact on people. The song was originally recorded in 1977 and was released on the album titled Exodus.
Many fans of Bob Marley’s wonder why the song actually means and what the birds represent. According to Marley’s friend, he took inspiration for his reggae music from the wildlife that surrounded his home. Three birds would sit on his window every morning, and it made Marley feel free enough to write a song about them.
When the song was originally released it was an instant hit, and it’s still making a big impact today. It’s covered by many different musicians which is a great feat for a song that was released almost 40 years ago.
4. Bob Marley and the Wailers – I Shot the Sheriff
Another Marley song, we know, but his reggae guitar songs really do epitomize the genre, plus they only have two chords or more that are simple for beginners to nail. This band dominated the reggae genre and their prowess took over the scene for many years.
The original song was released in 1975 and, as many songs from these artists had, there is a political undertone. Once the song had gained some popularity, Marley spoke out to say that the song is about justice and that the sheriff was actually a representation of the police. Jamaican police don’t have a sheriff, so mentioning him was a good workaround for referring to the police without causing chaos.
5. Jimmy Cliff – Many Rivers to Cross
When you listen to this song you will instantly realize why it’s one of the most quintessential reggae guitar songs ever made. It’s been admired by many musicians who want to play reggae since its release in the 1960s. There have been several artists who have covered the chord progression in this iconic song including Cher, John Lennon and Annie Lennox.
Jimmy Cliff was the original songwriter and he wrote it out of frustration with the music scene and trying to break into it. He had a lot of difficulty in the Uk as a young artist and expressed this frustration through his acoustic guitar.
His persistence paid off and the song became so iconic that it was listed in Rolling Stone magazine as one of their 500 greatest songs of all time.
6. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Redemption Song
A song that was recorded in the later years of Marley’s life, Redemption Song was one of the most popular reggae guitar songs the artist ever penned. It’s a very simple song that was played on an acoustic guitar. The guitar chords along with the chord progression are easy to strum along to, which are a few things why it’s included on this list.
The complex part of the song lies in the lyrics and the message that the artist was trying to convey behind his reggae guitar. The feeling of freedom is evident in the lyrics and it’s clear that Marley wanted to spread his message of liberty.
Originally released in 1980, Redemption Song was a hit instantly. People still use it today to play reggae and for political activism reasons, helping to uplift those who are in difficult situations.
7. Shaggy – Mr.Boombastic
Going a little bit off track here with a reggae guitar fusion song is Mr Boombastic which was at its height of popularity when it was released in 1995. Shaggy, a Jamaican musician, gained worldwide fame and huge commercial success from this track. There are samples of Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye used throughout which is why critics claim it to be a masterpiece.
8. Toots and Maytal – Sweet and Dandy
While many reggae guitar songs are about the political struggles and injustices that Jamaicans face, Toots and Maytal wanted to paint a picture of what everyday life looks like in this beautiful country. The song they created spoke of what ordinary life looks like on the island.
Released in 1969, Sweet and Dandy depicts a wedding day. From the cake, to the arguments and then the vows, every stage is chronicled in the song. If you want a more uplifting reggae guitar song, this is definitely one for you to check out. Plus, it’s a great love song with easy guitar chords too.
Each song we have mentioned in our list so far has included an easy guitar tutorial for you to play along with. For the following songs, there is no tutorial available. Instead, we have included the videos for each one and a guitar tab if one was available for you to learn the chord progression.
9. Sister Nancy – Bam Bam
Even if you’re completely new to reggae guitar music, chances are that you would have heard Bam Bam by Sister Nancy. Despite its original release over thirty years ago, artists to this day are still sampling the song. Kanye West and Jay Z have both used this melodic song to influence one of their hip hop tracks.
When asked about the song which was originally released in 1982, Sister Nancy said that the track was actually more of an afterthought. It was a song that finished off the album but that wasn’t thought to be a huge hit. The song itself is catchy and we’re glad it got included because it became a hit for many years to come.
10. Johnny Nash – Hold Me Tight
Even if you’re not familiar with the name Johnny Nash you would probably recognize some of this artist’s music. His most popular song is I Can See Clearly Now which was released in 1972. His talent wasn’t only narrowed down to this song. Hold Me Tight was the song to kick off his career and was featured in many countries’ top charts.
11. Third World – Now We’ve Found Love
Like a lot of other regage guitar songs we’ve featured in this list, this is another track about wanting to spread the message of love and equality. After the song was released the band gained a large fan base, becoming especially popular in the UK.
12. Carlene Davis – Stealing Love
To finish off our list of reggae guitar songs, we’re going with a more melodic and gentle song that was released in 1981. Carlene Davis and producer Willie Lindo made this song to be put on the album Big People Music, Volume 3.
Davis is a truly incredible musician and you can hear her passion when she sings. The song is full of those reggae harmonies that the genre is known for. It’s an exceptional piece of music that can be played well using guitar chords.
We hope that you enjoy strumming along to this list and that we’ve made reggae music more fun for you to play. Nail those guitar chords first and get the right strumming pattern to be able to play the strings properly. If you need more help, consider investing in lessons where you will be taught all of the basics for playing from many different genres.
What is the easiest reggae song to learn on guitar?
There isn’t one ultimate reggae song that is easier than the rest. The songs we’ve featured in this list are easier than most in terms of chord progression and strumming. It will take focused lessons and lots of practice to nail this genre.
Is reggae easy to play on the guitar?
Reggae can be a particularly difficult genre to play on the guitar and any other instrument because of the way the beats work. The strumming happens on the offbeat so it’s important to get to know the patterns of reggae guitar before jumping into playing harder songs. Make sure to get that index finger very strong because you will be using it to play most of the rhythm and bass notes. Reggae has a very specific sound so it’s important to listen to the original music and learn those guitar chords before trying to play any of these tracks.