What are some good guitar songs for camping?
May 22, 2005 6:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm already thinking about summer (maybe too optimistically at this point) but I know for sure that our plans include some camping trips. I'd like to bring my guitar along for kicks, but I don't know what to play. What are some good (not cliche, not sappy, etc) songs that would be good? Keep in mind that I'm not amazing at guitar, nor am I amazing at singing.
posted by devilsbrigade to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
That really depends on your audience. Adults? Kids? Families? And do you want to perform, or are you just looking for a more casual sing-along?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:24 PM on May 22, 2005

In terms of specific songs, it's hard to say. I once went out on a mission to find some classic folk songs to learn, and came back empty handed after I realised I didn't know many classic folk songs to even look for. But the question is: Can you play the blues, man?

Spend some time getting the blues scale down pat. Know your way around it, particularly in acoustic mode. Practice your shuffle, and get your fingering automatic so you can just noodle out some blues riffs.

In case you don't know it, here's a nice blues scale in A:


The notes in brackets are alternative on certain strings - fun to slide between. Experiment with this, and discover which note are good to bend, how the scale can be extended above and below what I've shown here. From there, it's just a matter of playing the 12 bar blues, which I'm assuming you know. Okay, if not, 12-bar blues in A:


If you want to get fancy, learn chords like Ab7 and avoid major or power chords. But only if you want to get fancy.

If you can learn to jam on that, you can (a) amaze people with your endless inspirational licks and riffs (b) play any blues song known to humanity. Hoochie coochie man, anyone? It worked for me. And as Faint of Butt alluded to - if you're looking for a sing-along, nothing's easier than call and response.
posted by Jimbob at 6:28 PM on May 22, 2005

Oh if all that fails, here's Kumbaya.
posted by Jimbob at 6:36 PM on May 22, 2005

Any and all Tom Petty songs are easy to learn and fun to play and lots o people recognize them and know the words.

Rocky Raccoon, by the Beatles, is a lot of fun and also easy to play. You have to be ready to lead on the lyrics though. Most people know at least some of them but they'll forget as you go along unless you're there to lead them through the song. Memorize it.
posted by scarabic at 7:33 PM on May 22, 2005

Neil Young: Heart of gold, Cowgirl in the sand, The needle and the damage done, etc. etc. Prolly all can be played with three chords and a smile.
posted by docgonzo at 7:35 PM on May 22, 2005

If you can find the book Rise Up Singing, it's got just about as much music as you'd ever need--pretty much everything in the "folk canon," if there is such a thing, with lyrics and chords.
posted by Jeanne at 7:54 PM on May 22, 2005

Adding to JimBob's answer, simple Chuck Berry rock'n'roll follows that same chord progression using a root-fifth -- root-sixth chugga chugga rhythm.

For sing-alongs, treat your guitar as more of a percussion instrument than as something musical, and keep a strong, steady beat.

... and beer! Lotsa beer!
posted by mischief at 8:01 PM on May 22, 2005

Thanks for the suggestions, I'll start looking into some of those - Tom Petty & Neil Young especially. The blues suggestion is interesting too - I haven't touched blues much, but I might have to look into that soon.

I'm thinking more in terms of classic rock - Bob Seger's 'Turn the Page' is kind of what I want in terms of sound, although the guitar part isn't emphasized very much.

The 'audience' is a group of friends under 20 (so... ahem on the beer comment...). Its kind of performance/singalong, but nothing like kumbaya ;)
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:09 PM on May 22, 2005

It's not camping with a guitar if Southern Cross isn't played in the flickering campfire light at least once while the stars come out.
posted by Staggering Jack at 8:11 PM on May 22, 2005

Violent Femmes are extremely underrated in the sing-a-long department.
posted by cali at 8:20 PM on May 22, 2005

Redemption Song, by Marley is one that I've always enjoyed doing a sing-a-long to. In a similar vein, some of Dave Matthews songs can work very well with just an acoustic guitar, if you're into that kind of stuff. #41, Stay (Wasting Time), and of course Crash might all work.
posted by Inkoate at 8:37 PM on May 22, 2005

Some things me and my friends use to play (and I also am a mediocre musician/singer)

Street Spirit, Exit Music For A Film, Creep

Blackbird, Rocky Raccoon, A Day In The Life, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, Norwegian Wood, Let It Be

Iron & Wine
Jezebel, Free Until They Cut Me Down, Cinder & Smoke, Such Great Heights (Postal Service Cover)

Say It Ain't So (ALWAYS gets a lot off people singing), Undone, My Name Is Jonas... In fact, just anything of the Blue Album

The General, Two Coins, Drive (Personally, i think this stuffs cheesy, but it drives the ladies wild)

G. Love
My Baby's got Sauce, Gimme some Lovin'

Friend Is a Four Letter Word, End of the Movie, Jolene

Led Zeppelin
A quick note: although it's always nice to let the Led out, do not, I repeat, DO NOT play Stairway to Heaven
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, Ramble On

Neutral Milk Hotel
King of Carrot Flowers Part 1, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Mariner's Revenge Song (Once again, always gets singers), California One Youth and Beauty Brigade, Sixteen Military Wives

Scissor Sisters - Mary
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over The Rainbow/It's A Beautiful World
Pixies - Where is My Mind?
The Kinks - Lola
Iggy Pop - The Passenger
311 - I'll Be Here Awhile
Rick Springfield - Jesse's Girl
Kermit - It's Not Easy Being Green

All these songs are easy to figure out, or if you have trouble doing that you should be able to easily find the tabs online. Good Luck
posted by cyphill at 9:25 PM on May 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

May I suggest investing in a good guitar fake book? If you're not acquainted with the concept, fake books give (generally chord-based) approximations of songs so that a player can "fake" their way through a song. If you have a decent command of the basic chords and one of the comprehensive fake books you will probably find tons of songs you can learn to play passably (and maybe bring it along and wow everyone by playing a few requests around the campfire.
posted by nanojath at 10:01 PM on May 22, 2005

Under 20? Hmm, tough crowd. They probably have never heard 90% of the songs given. You should be able to find a fake book for songs released since 2000 though.
posted by mischief at 5:19 AM on May 23, 2005

Modest Mouse's "Bankrupt on Selling"
posted by saladin at 6:17 AM on May 23, 2005

Seriously, One word: "FREEBIRD!"

Camping = Skynyrd. Known fact. Proven by Science.
posted by indiebass at 7:24 AM on May 23, 2005

Little Feat: Willin'
Victoria Williams/Mark Olsen: When We Sing Together

A nice Saturday night/Sunday morning combination for ya.

VERY singalong-able, both
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:40 AM on May 23, 2005

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