Beautiful guitar pieces
March 24, 2009 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify some beautiful ear-pleasing guitar pieces to learn and play at random.

I play acoustic guitar, have never really learned my scales or paid much attention to learning solos. Mostly I just strum or pick to accompany singing but I can also play a couple of pretty little tunes like Song 3 by Ben Harper, Bron-Yr-Aur by Led Zeppelin (on the rare occasion when I have the energy to retune the guitar), the opening bit from Nothing Else Matters by Metallica (I know, I know...) and that's about it these days.

I would love to learn a few more 'bits' like this: quite melodious, not very long or complicated and suited to an acoustic guitar. I would love to hear what some of your favourites are. I tend to play these things between practising other stuff, to check if the guitar's in tune between songs and for sound checks etc, so they don't need to be major performance pieces, just ear-pleasing little sound-snacks.

Bonus thanks if you can also point me in the direction of the relevant sheet music or tab, but certainly not required.

posted by gwpcasey to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Mood for a Day by Yes.
posted by Methylviolet at 12:51 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am an indifferent guitar player, but I have always found The Beatles' Blackbird has a fairly good prettiness:ease of learning ratio.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:52 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not being a guitar player, I can't judge the difficulty of this piece, but I'm partial to Water Song warning: youtube by Hot Tuna. It's breathtaking when played on a solo guitar.
posted by workerant at 12:53 PM on March 24, 2009

seconding blackbird, that's what I came in to post.
I also like a lot of Iron & Wine's stuff.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:54 PM on March 24, 2009

oh and for something completely different I've always been able to suck in some people with older Metallica songs which tend to have some beautiful intros. Welcome Home (Santiarium) comes to mind, but "One" does it as well. If you don't chomp down to hard on the heavy bits and use a few open chords instead you can pull off something almost "pretty"
posted by bitdamaged at 12:56 PM on March 24, 2009

Randy Rhoads' "Dee" is a nice little piece. It's on Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz.
posted by wheat at 12:57 PM on March 24, 2009

The Continue, Save, or Retry tune from Zelda is a tasty song snack.
posted by ignignokt at 12:57 PM on March 24, 2009

You'll need to tune your low string down to D, but the David Lee Roth song Damn Good is nice.

And, of course, there's The Beginning Of Over The Hills And Far Away, which as you know all guitarists are required by law to learn.
posted by bondcliff at 1:00 PM on March 24, 2009

There's a quiet guitar interlude in "To Live Is To Die" from "...And Justice For All" that I often noodle with when I pick up an acoustic.

Continuing the Metallica trend, the opening to "Fade To Back" is also quite nice.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:03 PM on March 24, 2009

There's a good one from The Wall (Pink Floyd): Is There Anybody Out There?
posted by dixie flatline at 1:12 PM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nick Drake's stuff is some of the most rewarding music I've learnt on the guitar. It's difficult and the tunings are obscure, but when you master it it's just fantastic. Songs like Day is Done, Three Hours (tab) Time of No Reply (tab) and especially Fruit Tree (tab) which when it takes off after the intro is just magical to play. His music may not be to everyone's taste, but some of the guitar pieces are just beautiful to work through, and it's interesting to experiment with his tunings.

(I feel your pain about Nothing Else Matters, it's addictive.)
posted by fire&wings at 1:16 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a few standbys that I tend to play when I'm just idling around:

- I want you (She's so heavy) & Because & Here comes the sun, by The Beatles
- The Wind & Moonshadow, by Cat Stevens (these are a little more complicated)
- 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) & America by Simon & Garfunkel

I have a bunch more I can post if I find the time!
posted by ORthey at 1:25 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nujabes' Aruarian Dance
posted by robofunk at 1:28 PM on March 24, 2009

Oh, and a couple more Beatles tunes that are easy and awesome:

Norwegian Wood & Michelle - I didn't include a tab for that one because there are many different versions - I actually have no idea if the one I play is the real one.

What I recommend is this: learn some of these tabs, the ones that you like, and then make them your own. I don't think I usually play the strictly correct version of a song, because it's more fun to play the essence of it - make it recognizable - but also make it my own, in a way.

But, that's just me!
posted by ORthey at 1:33 PM on March 24, 2009

I like to pick well known classical pieces and play the main themes and hooks to them. Good examples are Beethoven's 5th, Canon in D, and Bach's Little Fugue. (Fugue is technically a duet piece, but sounds nice enough on its own.)
posted by Chan at 1:39 PM on March 24, 2009

Response by poster: Heh heh, what a wealth of great stuff... I can see I'm in good company. I should have mentioned that Blackbird has been my old faithful crowd pleaser for a number of years now (along with Don't Follow by Alice in Chains for crowd v.2), but I never thought of working through Here Comes the Sun, great idea.

@ORthey if you find the time, I'd love to see more suggestions!

@fire&wings, Nick Drake is a great idea, I only have his Pink Moon album but will look up those ones, thanks.
posted by gwpcasey at 1:45 PM on March 24, 2009

John Fahey - The Return of the Repressed and Blind Joe Death
Leo Kottke - 6 and 12 String Guitar
Bola Sete - Shambahala Moon
posted by rhizome at 1:46 PM on March 24, 2009

My standard acoustic noodling tunes are:
Dust in the Wind - Kansas
America - Simon & Garfunkel
Discovery (2112) - Rush
Needle and the Damage Done - Neil Young
Can't Find My Way Home - Blind Faith
posted by rocket88 at 1:55 PM on March 24, 2009

I don't want to live on the moon [tab]- originally sung by Ernie from Sesame Street. Very sweet.

White Stripes - We're Going To Be Friends [tab] is easy to play and sounds nice
posted by lizbunny at 1:59 PM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

+1 for Blackbird, (I know the OP knows how, but anyone else reading for suggestions).

It is pretty, relatively easy, and it usually impresses people because it looks difficult to play when you are melting their faces.

Crash Into Me (whatever the title is) by Dave Matthews Band always drops the panties.

More than Words by Extreme

Basically go for cheese or classics.
posted by Brettus at 2:28 PM on March 24, 2009

rhizome, good suggestions. I was going to suggest the Sligo River Blues from Blind Joe Death.

Learn some samba/bossa nova ballads. The chord changes from "Para Machucar Meu Coracao" by Joao Gilberto sound great.

The guitar part from Jolie Holland's "December 1999" is sweet and easy.
posted by baxter_ilion at 2:43 PM on March 24, 2009

Firstly, I hope no one hurts me by suggesting this...

If you can sing, you can do a slowed down acoustic version of "Baby One More Time". Yes, THAT song.

I was at a pub once, talking to friends, and started to REALLY get into the song the band was performing. Slow. Harmonious. A little melancholy. Then it tickled my brain that I recognised it, though it was so dramatically different (stylistically) that I couldn't place it. When I did, I had a stange feeling of disgust and delight at the same time.

I also play a totally instrumental version of "The Rose" (by Bette Midler) in C Major that people seem to enjoy.

I wish you could post comments anonymously.

Also, theres loads of great stuff (and some mediocre stuff I've posted) in Mefi Music... even some instrumental guitar covers in there, check it out!
posted by Admira at 2:44 PM on March 24, 2009

My "interlude" song is The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday by Phish (first half of video... transitions into another song about 4 minutes in). It's a beautiful little dirge that sounds great solo.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:58 PM on March 24, 2009

Nick Drake is a great idea

Nick Drake is not a great idea unless you enjoy retuning your guitar a lot. His stuff is gorgeous, no doubt, but not really "noodling" material.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:01 PM on March 24, 2009

Since you like Zep:
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You

(Btw, in the same way that Dark Side of the Moon supposedly synchs up with Wizard of Oz; Babe I'm Gonna Leave You will synch up with "'Twas The Night before Christmas")
posted by forrestal at 3:11 PM on March 24, 2009

Africa via Andy McKee is fun.

Stepping back a bit, there's always Little Martha (yeah, yeah, I know, open tuning). Also Angie. The fun one, not the Jagger/Richards lament.

And notching it up a bit once more, there's always Don Ross
posted by IndigoJones at 5:39 PM on March 24, 2009

I don't know how hard it is, but I adore Jose Gonzalez. And Iron and Wine too. *swoon*
posted by bellbellbell at 6:39 PM on March 24, 2009

I've always loved "From the Beginning" by Emerson, Lake and Palmer for pretty guitar.

Also, seconding bellbellbell: Jose Gonzalez is pretty great and was featured prominently on Zero 7's latest.
posted by OneOliveShort at 7:18 PM on March 24, 2009

A warm place, NIN. Awesome.
posted by signal at 7:53 PM on March 24, 2009

Seconding rhizome on the John Fahey. This is instant street cred.
posted by Beardman at 8:21 PM on March 24, 2009

I don't know if it's easy (I don't play guitar), but I'd love to be able to play the intro to Elliot Smith's Memory Lane.
posted by Emilyisnow at 2:48 AM on March 25, 2009

Unmilitary two-step, Rory Gallagher.
posted by primer_dimer at 4:59 AM on March 25, 2009

Silent Lucidity is pretty fun to play...
posted by Jinkeez at 5:05 AM on March 25, 2009

Since we brought Metallica into this, the intro to Battery is pretty good, if short, and the interlude to Master of Puppets (~3:30). I love playing Bron-y-Aur, but like you I hate tuning to it so I usually play just that song for a week or so and then tune back to standard. Fleetwood Mac's Never Going Back Again feels similar to me, is only drop-D and a capo, and it's fun to play. Here's the tab from U-G, but I think it's not 100% accurate, so here's my take based on that one but with a few fixes (It looks like a mess unless you're familiar with Travis Picking, it's not actually that hard to play). Landslide is also fun. Little Martha, while an excellent song, is a pain in the ass tuning.
posted by Who_Am_I at 10:13 AM on March 25, 2009

Not sure if they fit but I'll throw in:

Signe (and Layla) from Clapton Unplugged.
Street Spirit - Radiohead
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You - Led Zeppelin (seconded)
posted by starman at 3:54 PM on March 25, 2009

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