Want to Learn Easy 3-String Guitar Songs?
Three-string cigar box guitars are easy to play for beginners and perfect for more experienced players interested in advanced techniques like slide guitar. But regardless of your skill level, you need a catalog of easy 3-string guitar songs that bring out your inner rock star as quickly as possible.
To make that process easier, I’ve curated a list of five easy-to-play 3-string guitar song videos. Created by cigar box guitar master, these lessons and songs can transform even the newest players into jam session heroes in no time at all.
“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Whether you’re a fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival or not, “Bad Moon Rising” is a perfect first song for a novice player. In addition to taking advantage of the simplicity of an open-tuned, three-string instrument, the swamp rock mood it creates fits well with the history and sound of the cigar box guitar. The video lesson for “Bad Moon Rising” comes from Glenn Watt. Glenn has been around the cigar box guitar scene for a long time. His YouTube channel is a fantastic resource for cigar box guitar enthusiasts and provides tons of useful videos for making and playing 3-string instruments.
Why “Bad Moon Rising” is an easy 3-string guitar song:
Glenn’s version of “Bad Moon Rising” is an easy 3-string guitar song because you can play the whole thing using one finger. Instead of using chord shapes, you change chords by placing a single finger (usually your index finger) across all three strings. Believe it or not, you can play a lot of songs with just one finger – and Glenn has lessons for a lot of them on his YouTube channel.
“Wild Thing” by Jimi Hendrix
Recorded by the Troggs in 1966, “Wild Thing” ranks #261 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Hendrix covered it 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival – and now you can, too, thanks to a video lesson from Nigel McTrusty. Nigel’s YouTube channel is full of helpful 3-string guitar lessons for rock songs you already know and love.
Why “Wild Thing” is an easy 3-string guitar song:
Nigel’s lesson for “Wild Thing” is in G-sharp, a half-step up from standard G tuning, to duplicate Hendrix’s version. But if it’s easier, you can just play it standard G-D-G tuning. “Wild Thing” is perfect for a beginning cigar box guitar player because it’s a simple three-chord song that doesn’t require any chord shapes. All you need is a slide, an amp and a few spare minutes of time to sound like a rock god.
“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
“Ain’t No Sunshine” is a hard luck song with a soulful, blues vibe and a tasty little riff that sounds pretty darn impressive. Originally recorded in 1971 by Bill Withers, it’s been covered by dozens of artists over the years. The video lesson for “Ain’t No Sunshine” is from Roosterman, a YouTube user with lots of great content for cigar box guitar players.
Why “Ain’t No Sunshine” is an easy 3-string guitar song:
“Ain’t No Sunshine” uses basic, one-finger chords with a smattering of basic chord shapes thrown in for good measure. The main section repeats throughout the song, so once you learn the initial chord progression down, you’re almost there.
The tone of “Ain’t No Sunshine” fits nicely with standard G-D-G tuning. As your playing progresses, you will discover that many cigar box enthusiasts favor the blues because the tuning for 3-string guitars is ideal for producing blues sounds. If you decide to focus on blues songs, this song is a good one to have in your arsenal.
“Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash
“Folsom Prison Blues” launched Johnny Cash’s career and helped establish his reputation as one of rock’s earliest bad boys. As a cigar box guitar player, I love this song because (1) I’m a big Johnny Cash fan and (2) it’s easy to learn and play. The video lesson for “Folsom” is another Nigel McTrusty special.
Why “Folsom Prison Blues” is an easy 3-string guitar song:
Nigel plays “Folsom” in the key of A, but you can just as easily play it in standard G tuning. You’ll also notice that Nigel’s version introduces fingerpicking and slide into the mix. Although these techniques may seem complicated, the simple chord structure and the nature of 3-string guitar make them accessible to players of all skill levels. If you’re an absolute newbie, you can probably master “Folsom” in an afternoon or less.
“Chicken Coop Blues” by Mike Snowden
“Chicken Coop Blues” is an original song by cigar box guitar legend, Mike Snowden. Featuring a gritty, growly sound, it falls firmly in the cigar box blues genre. Once you learn it, don’t be surprised if you find yourself noodling the main riff almost every time you pick up your guitar.
Why “Chicken Coop Blues” is an easy 3-string guitar song:
Fair Warning: “Chicken Coop Blues” may not feel like an easy 3-string guitar song compared to some of the other songs on this list. But with a little practice, this song can extend your range and open new possibilities for using slide techniques when you play blues and other genres.
A Final Word About Learning New Songs for 3-String Guitar:
Three-string guitars are generally easier to learn and play than typical six-string guitars because there have fewer strings and usually feature open tuning in the key of G — a common key for rock, blues, old-time, folk and other genres. I actually know several experienced six-string guitar players who also play some songs on three-string cigar box guitars because three strings sound better and simplify the use of slides or other techniques.
But although three strings make guitar playing more accessible for beginners, a 3-string cigar box guitar is like any other musical instrument. You need to practice regularly and experiment with new things to become a skilled player.
Set aside a little time each day to practice new songs. In addition to the songs on this list, all of the featured teachers have extensive catalogs of video lessons on their YouTube Channels — I encourage you to check them out. Happy playing!