Country is the type of music people most often associate with cowboys, songs played around the campfire and the American South. However, a contemporary country song is so much more. Although some might not think of country music as popular, many country artists and musical groups have gained great mainstream appeal throughout the years.
In case you’re looking for some good country songs to learn, look no further. We have plenty of great country tunes to choose from that you can start learning today. First, if country music is totally foreign to you, let’s start by discussing the country genre before jumping into the list of songs.
What is country music?
Country music is a genre that originated in Southern USA, with influences from folk, gospel, blues and some other musical genres. The instruments used in country music include acoustic stringed instruments, such as the acoustic guitar, slide guitar, banjo and violin. Other common instruments you may hear in a country song include piano, percussions such as drums and harmonica. The beginning of the country genre as we know it today dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, some time around the 1920s.
Nowadays the term ‘country music’ encompasses a number of different subgenres, some of which have gained great mainstream popularity. Some sub genres of country music include outlaw country, Nashville-style country, honky tonk, rockabilly and many fusions with different genres, such as country rock and country pop. Today, some of country’s most well known artists include such names as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Dolly Parton, just to name a few. Popular country bands include Eagles, Dixie Chicks, Alabama and The Highwaymen.
How is country different from folk music?
Many people seem to have difficulties distinguishing between folk and country music, and for a good reason. The two genres share a lot of similarities and the line between folk and country music isn’t always clear cut. In fact, the music of a single artist can be labeled either country or folk, depending on the song and album in question.
Generally, folk music can be seen as a broader term than country music. One could even say that country is a style of folk music. The themes and stories of country songs are often more specific than folk songs where the lyrics often tell a wide variety of different kinds of stories. However, both folk and country music are rooted heavily in acoustic instrumentation and similar, often simple song structures.
As mentioned, the difference between the two genres isn’t always clear. So it’s up to the listener to decide what to make of the song in many cases. For some examples of folk music, check out our folk song collection.
13 great country songs to learn
Time to get started with some great country songs? These 13 country songs include both evergreen classics and traditional tunes as well as more recent country favorites. With Yousician, you can learn these songs with your instrument of choice: guitar, bass, ukulele and piano. Yousician lets you also sing along to these songs if your voice is your instrument instead. Don’t forget to check the entire list of country songs on Yousician’s song library as well as songs from other genres like rock, classical and heavy metal.
- Peaceful Easy Feeling – Eagles
Eagles is easily one of the most popular and well known bands to mix rock and electric guitars with that familiar country sound. In addition to classics like ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Take it Easy’, one great Eagles song to learn is ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’. The name of this country song describes it’s tone and mood pretty well. This song from the Eagles’ self-titled debut album may be more country than rock, but will definitely appeal to fans of both genres.
- Millionaire – Chris Stapleton
One of the newer country songs in this list, ‘Millionaire’ by Chris Stapleton is a calm and slow-tempoed country ballad from 2018. The song is in fact a cover, but landed Chris Stapleton a Grammy nomination. Although the acoustic guitar on this track might be a bit too advanced for beginner players, it can be made easier and played with simpler cowboy chords G, D and C.
- Song Of The South – Alabama
‘Song of the South’ by the band Alabama is another cover song on this list. Before this version by Alabama broke the bank and reached the top of the song charts in the late 80s, ‘Song of the South’ had been performed by Johnny Russell and Bobby Bare. ‘Song of the South’ is another great song for practicing basic cowboy chords on guitar, but makes a fun tune for other instruments as well.
- Humble And Kind – Tim McGraw
It would be an understatement to call Tim McGraw a famous and popular country artist. He has sold tens of millions of albums all over the world and ‘Humble and Kind’ is among his biggest hits. Released in 2016, ‘Humble and Kind’ ended up winning the Grammy Award for the best country song of the year. This one’s perfect for guitar players of all skill levels.
- Should’ve Been A Cowboy – Toby Keith
Toby Keith’s ‘Should’ve Been a Cowboy’ is a country hit from the 90s with lyrics about old Western stories and, you guessed it, cowboys. Try learning this song on the guitar with the basic cowboy chords or the full advanced chords.
- My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit
Not all country music comes from the United States. ‘My Silver Lining’ is a hugely popular contemporary folk country song by the Swedish duo First Aid Kit. Guitar players can try learning ‘My Silver Lining’ to practice some fingerpicking on an acoustic guitar.
- Don’t Close Your Eyes – Keith Whitley
‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ by Keith Whitley is among many country fans’ favorite country love songs. This country ballad has a slow tempo, making it suitable for beginner players to learn as well. As a popular country love song, ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ is a tune to perform for that special someone.
- Wanted – Hunter Hayes
For such a young country musician, the American multi-instrumentalist Hunter Hayes has accomplished a lot within the country music genre. Hunter’s ‘Wanted’ isn’t a country song about being wanted dead or alive (unlike the famous Bon Jovi song). Instead, it’s a grand country love song. ‘Wanted’ made Hunter Hayes the youngest male artist to reach the number one spot on the Hot Country Songs chart upon the song’s release in 2012. Here’s a great country song for all piano players too. Check out some other songs by Hunter Hayes, like ‘I Want Crazy’.
- Yankee Doodle – Traditional
‘Yankee Doodle’ is the first country song on the list that predates the 20th century. This traditional and famous country song has an upbeat melody and happens to be the state anthem of Connecticut.
- Man Of Constant Sorrow – Traditional
‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ is another old American country song, dating back to the early 1900s. Unlike the previous entry on this list, ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’–as its name might imply–isn’t quite as upbeat. Despite the song’s lyrics about sadness and troubles, this one’s still fun and quite easy to play. Throughout the years ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ has been recorded and performed by many well-known country and folk artists, most notably Bob Dylan, The Stanley Brothers and Joan Baez. A version of this song can be also heard and seen in the movie ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’.
- Wichita Lineman – Glenn Campbell
For many, ‘Wichita Lineman’ by Glenn Campbell remains one of the best country songs of all time, and for a reason. The song has even been preserved in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. The guitar chords for ‘Wichita Lineman’ are a good practice in case you want to learn something beyond just the basic open chords. But what is a Wichita Lineman the song’s lyrics are about? A man with the job of checking telephone lines and seeing that they work.
- All For You – Sister Hazel
Maybe more rock than country, ‘All For You’ is probably the most famous song by the band Sister Hazel. However, the track still has that familiar country sound to it, earning it a place on this list. The song is also a good one for practicing chord transitions, whether you’re playing ‘All For You’ with the basic cowboy chords or with the full, more advanced chords.
- Red River Valley – Traditional
The exact origins of the country classic ‘Red River Valley’ are unknown, but the song itself is known by many. It’s also considered one of the greatest cowboy songs of all time, making ‘Red River Valley’ a worthy entry into our list of the best country songs to learn. Whether you’re playing this traditional country tune with guitar or perhaps the ukulele, you should be able to play it as long as you’re familiar with all of the common cowboy chords.
Learn your favorite country song with Yousician
Ready to start learning some of the best and most popular country songs out there? Start with these 13 great country songs and, in case you still want more, check out the entire list of country songs you can learn with Yousician. In addition to these, there are of course numerous country artists and bands that we didn’t have time to mention here. In case country isn’t your thing for some reason or you want to expand your repertoire of songs in other genres, make sure to see what else is in the Yousician song library.