Looking for good and not too hard songs for a small band.
November 7, 2010 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Imagine a small band comprising a drummer, bass player, rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist. Imagine none of them being great players. Now imagine them having fun and playing some good music. What are they playing?

We're having fun in our band, but none of us are virtuosos, so songs with long and complex solos or anything too fancy are out. So far we are loving the following songs:

The One I Love (REM)
No Rain (Blind Melon)
What's my Scene (Hoodoo Gurus)
Don't Stop (Fleetwood Mac).

None of these are particularly hard, but they all sound great. Your recommendations, please! We are also looking at adding a keyboard player, so that increases our potential repertoire somewhat.
posted by tomble to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What about Pixies? Maybe start with Where is My Mind if you want something nice and well known.

Also, I bet there is a lot of Talking Heads stuff you could play.

Maybe I'm just suggesting music I like, though; I play guitar poorly and don't have a good ear for easy tracks.
posted by aganders3 at 7:48 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe look into some Pixies? My band had great fun doing Pixies songs, many of which allowed us to sidestep crazy, intricate solos.
posted by corey flood at 7:48 PM on November 7, 2010

Punk is pretty simple, though a good number of punk bands have excellent bass for some reason. You might try some Green Day (the bass seems to have gotten simpler after the first album), and some Blink 182 is downright simple and fun.

Other than that, you might try Stand (REM), since it's just stupidly fun. There's a lot of 12 bar blues out there that, while a little repetitive, is a great way to pick stuff up.
You might also try out some Clash. Brand New Cadillac is a good amount of fun to play, as is London Calling.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:49 PM on November 7, 2010

The Sonics made the sound you're looking for: not too complex, down and dirty and rock and roll. They're the (or a) band Jimi Hendrix was inspired to pick up a guitar by.

The Witch
posted by griphus at 7:49 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Check out some early albums by the Police. The bass can be intricate, but it's easy enough to fake. "So Lonely," "Roxanne," many others. Very fun to play.
posted by bardic at 8:07 PM on November 7, 2010

Perhaps you've heard of The Ramones?
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:10 PM on November 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

Some great two-chord wonders:

"Working Class Hero", John Lennon
"Everyday People", Sly & The Family Stone
"Weeping Song", Nick Cave

More than two chords, but Lucinda Williams' "Drunken Angel" is always fun to play in any condition.

Almost anything by Neil Young!
posted by Crane Shot at 8:17 PM on November 7, 2010

Songs my old buddy's garage band used to play:

Talking Heads, Stay Up Late
Beatles, Day Tripper, Get Back
Police, Next To You, Message In A Bottle
Elvis Costello, Pump It Up
U2, One, Sunday Bloody Sunday, I Will Follow
REM, Driver 8, Can't Get There From Here
Led Zep, Tangerine
Dire Straits, Sultans Of Swing (Easy chord progression, some fun riffs)
posted by bondcliff at 8:20 PM on November 7, 2010

The Butthole Surfers made some rock songs so fucking simple that it would be hard to get much simpler and still be playing rock and roll. Comb has only one chord, played with no nuance whatsoever, Florida has only one note(!) except for the solos, which can just be left out. Both have lots of room for interpretation making them nearly impossible to fuck up.
posted by idiopath at 8:21 PM on November 7, 2010

The Strokes.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:23 PM on November 7, 2010

Stooges- I Wanna Be Your Dog
Elvis Costello - Girls Talk
Local H - Bound For the Floor
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 8:45 PM on November 7, 2010

I Got Eyes in the Back of My Head - the Bevis Frond
posted by flabdablet at 8:48 PM on November 7, 2010

That was a cover. Here's the album version.
posted by flabdablet at 8:52 PM on November 7, 2010

Weezer? "The Sweater Song" is pretty flexible and can be simplified pretty far.

VU's "Rock and Roll" or "Sweet Jane"

The Cure's "Just like Heaven" has about four chords, and can be pulled off without too much pain. You don't really need the keyboard from the original

What about "All Along the Watchtower?" Again, four chords, and you can just skip the solos, or let your lead screw around if you want. Actually, a lot of Dylan is this easy.

AC/DC's "Back in Black" is surprisingly simple, and has the benefit of being all open chords on the guitar and a pretty simple back-beat on the drums.

You might also consider The Specials. "Doesn't Make it Alright," "Monkey Man," and "Enjoy Yourself" are all good candidates.
posted by Gilbert at 8:57 PM on November 7, 2010


As cool as the solos are, a number of Black Sabbath songs do not have a build up to the solo and sound fine if you just skip the solos.

Every crappy band I've been in (not to say yours is!) has been able to play Metallica's For Whom the Bell Tolls.
posted by ignignokt at 9:10 PM on November 7, 2010

Back in the day, we used to play a ton of Social Distortion just for fun. There is no simpler music, and you can play around with it a lot. "Story of My Life" was especially a blast.
posted by General Malaise at 9:28 PM on November 7, 2010

A lot of early rock & roll (50's/60's) consisted of about three chords.

Honestly, if Herman's Hermits could play it, so can you.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:08 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a crappy bassist, I'm pretty sure you could handle Weezer's Tired of Sex. Fun song, fun to sing, fun to play.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:29 PM on November 7, 2010

You've set a high bar, because I can hardly imagine anything more fun than being in a room with a bunch of friends playing "What's My Scene." Seriously, everybody, listen to this glory:

Anyway, I've been in lots of casual bands like this with people who like the same kind of records as this. "Driver 8" is the natural R.E.M. song to add. Or "Radio Free Europe," or "Superman," or really any number of songs from the first five or six records. Many Pixies songs are great for this -- our favorite was "Debaser." And early Pavement, e.g. "Debris Slide" or "Summer Babe" or "Box Elder."

But your song picks are actually a little less distorted/rock than these so let me recommend the Pretenders, "Back on the Chain Gang," the Violent Femmes "Please Do Not Go," and many, many Velvet Underground songs, which is probably what REM were playing when they were four guys who couldn't play that well in a room.
posted by escabeche at 10:36 PM on November 7, 2010

My small band played these songs:

Wave of Mutilation - The Pixies
I Should Have Known Better - The Beatles
Career Opportunities - The Clash
The Sign - Ace Of Base (Played somewhat ironically, but it always went over well.)

At one show we also played The Ramones version of the birthday song.

I could handle all of these as the weakest member of the band.

Seconding The Ramones, who I wanted to play but was always vetoed.
posted by gc at 12:56 AM on November 8, 2010

Probably a fair number of Rolling Stones' tunes, I'm guessing: perhaps, "Miss You," "Emotional Rescue," and maybe "Neighbors" (from Tattoo You). Needless to say, skip the sax solos, etc., but you guys could certainly make them your own. It's cool to play well-known pieces that have a mixed reputation these days (like most of the Stones' disco era stuff), and then simplify them/customize them to your sound so the audience both recognizes the original and hears something new, even if it's a pretty rudimentary version - fun is fun....
posted by 5Q7 at 3:03 AM on November 8, 2010

Dare I suggest writting something of your own? That way you never get it wrang, er wrong. Originals are by definition, at your level, plus you can always add and change on any whim. We only had one cover and it was the theme to Peter Gunn, to which I managed to cobble in the words to Long Haired Country Boy. Hence my second word of advice: mix it up a bit. You got a stamp, use it!
posted by Redhush at 3:41 AM on November 8, 2010

CCR is ideally suited to a four-piece non-virtuoso band. On top of that, everyone knows the songs already: if you grew up in North America any time in the last few decades, the chord changes are stored in your mitochondial DNA.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:19 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not very good at guitar, but a few songs that I've been able to handle:

Jenny (867-5309)
More than a Feeling (but with simplified solo parts)
Highway to Hell (or really any AC/DC song ... simplifying solo parts as needed)
Blister in the Sun (super easy)
Symbol on my Driveway (Jack Johnson - a bit obscure one of his, but super easy to play, plus you get to say "I got a mosquito on my nose")
Running down a Dream (Tom Petty - simplified solo again)
posted by forforf at 7:02 AM on November 8, 2010

Here a few of the songs my band of beginners likes to play:

Holland 1945 - Neutral Milk Hotel
Dancing With Myself - Billy Idol
Paper Planes - MIA
Crazy - Gnarles Barkley
posted by catastropher at 7:22 AM on November 8, 2010

Since Yesterday is quite easy to play on a guitar. And here is a guitary-version.
(I would play the Gmaj7 as x20002 or else x22002 instead of just xx0002 for a slightly bigger sound)
posted by K.P. at 7:33 AM on November 8, 2010

How not-great are you? If you can manage a reggae beat, then reggae and ska sound more difficult/impressive than they really are.
posted by cmoj at 9:22 AM on November 8, 2010

Dare I suggest writting something of your own?

How not-great are you?

Whether you are going to stick to covers, or want to write your own songs, I'd suggest picking up How to Write Songs on Guitar. It's written to do what it says--teach you how to write songs on guitar, and along the way teach you theory-you-can-use to someone already a little familiar with a guitar in their hands (and use the little bits as you learn them, as opposed to other theory books that seem like they're just throwing a bunch of arbitrary scale patterns and roman numerals at you to memorize). But it also has lists of songs grouped by chord progression. So, for example, if your rhythm guitarist is only comfortable with open (non-barre) chords, you can look at the list of songs for a I-IV-V progression and play them with D G and A. Anything from the I-vi-V list can be played with either C/Amin/G or G/Em/D.

Also, Horse with no Name is super easy for the rhythm guitar. 022000 and 200200
posted by K.P. at 6:16 PM on November 8, 2010

The White Stripes The Air Near My Fingers
posted by Sara Anne at 8:03 PM on November 8, 2010

These are all great, thanks folks!
posted by tomble at 6:18 PM on November 14, 2010

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