20 Sad Songs to Play on Guitar

If you’re looking for a list of songs to play on guitar that will tug at people’s heartstrings, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our ultimate list of 20 popular sad songs for guitar.

When it comes to learning new songs, the key principle is always the same – patience and effort. The song selection is a preference for all, with happy songs being the go-to for most, sad songs are also good to have in your pocket for when you want to get into the blues vibe.

The following list compiles 20 sad songs to play on the guitar and features several different artists and styles.

1. The Beatles – Yesterday

What better way to start this list than with The Beatles. Their song “Yesterday” was released in 1965 and has been covered by over 2,200 artists. It is one of the most-covered songs in history. It was written by Paul McCartney and released on the “Help” album. This should make an excellent addition to your repertoire.

The song has a simple chord progression and melody that makes it easy to play. The song has a standard tuning with which you’ll be able to impress your friends and family with your rendition of this classic song.

2. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” is a good sad song to play on guitar. The song was released in 1975 and is about Syd Barrett, the original lead guitarist for Pink Floyd. The song is listed on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It holds a spot on the album of the same name – “Wish You Were Here”.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of A minor. It is a good song to play at a slow tempo. Having this one in your back pocket will certainly come in handy when you want something sadder and to get you in the mood, as a way of letting some emotions roam free.

3. Scorpions – Winds Of Change

Everyone knows this classic and would love to learn it. “Winds Of Change” by the Scorpions was released in 1991. It is a power ballad about the end of the Cold War. The song was written by Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker for the band’s eleventh studio album “Crazy World”.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of D minor. It is a good song to play at a medium tempo. If you can incorporate the vocals, this would turn out to be an excellent addition to your arsenal.

4. Coldplay – The Scientist

It’s hard to put into words the impact Coldplay has had on music in the last decade. Their song “The Scientist” was released in 2002 and is about a man who is trying to understand the woman he loves. The song was written by Chris Martin and was the second single from their debut album “Parachutes”.

The song has a slow tempo and is in the key of Eb minor. It is a good song to play at a slow tempo. Because of the slow tempo, this one should be easy enough to master on the guitar. With a little practice, you will have it down by the end of the day.

5. John Mayer – Gravity

Next up is one of my favorite artists of all time – John Mayer. His song “Gravity” was released in 2006 as the third single from his album “Continuum”. The song was written by John Mayer and produced by John Mayer and Steve Jordan. Normally, John Mayer songs are incredibly difficult on the guitar.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of A minor. It is a good song to play at a medium tempo. This one will require a bit more practice than some of the others on this list, but it is well worth the effort. With a little time and patience, you’ll have this one down in no time.

6. U2 – With Or Without You

U2’s “With Or Without You” will forever be a classic for many. This song was released in 1987 and was written by Bono and The Edge. It is one of the band’s most successful singles. A perfect ‘sad’ song for many occasions to have in your pocket.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of C major. It is a good song to play that has a good and medium tempo. This one will require some practice, but it is well worth it in the end. Once you have it down, you’ll be able to impress all of your friends and family with your rendition of this classic song.

7. R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts

On the sadder end of the spectrum, we have “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. The song was released in 1993 and was written by R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe. It is one of the band’s most successful singles and one of the saddest songs around.

The song has a slow tempo and is in the key of Eb minor. This is one of those songs that will amplify some emotions but that is all good. Sometimes it’s good to let them out and what better way than through a song like this.

8. Lady Gaga – I’ll Never Love Again

Lady Gaga has had some amazing songs, but “I’ll Never Love Again” from the movie “A Star Is Born” is exceptional. This song was released in 2018 and was written by Lady Gaga, Natalie Hemby, Hillary Lindsey, and Aaron Raitiere. It is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard.

The song has a slow tempo and is in the key of Eb minor. This is one of those songs that will amplify some emotions as well. With a good slow tempo, this is a perfect one to get the hang of, especially if you have the vocals to back it up.

9. The Beatles – While My Guitar Gently Weeps

The Beatles make the list again, this time with their song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. The song was released in 1968 and was written by George Harrison. The song was inspired by Eric Clapton, who was playing at the recording session for the song.

The song has a slow tempo and is in the key of A minor. The guitar is simple and if you have the vocals, this would make an excellent jaw-dropper on get-togethers. There’s something about The Beatles and their sound that makes for amazing sad songs.

10. Sam Smith – Stay With Me

No one can argue with Sam Smith’s vocals and the emotion behind. His song “Stay With Me” was released in 2014 and was written by Sam Smith and James Napier. The song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. The song is truly sad but easy to learn.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of D minor. It is a good song to play at a medium tempo. With an hour of practice, this one will be done. Again, with some vocals backing this song, you will have an attention-grabber anytime you pull out the guitar.

11. Queen – Somebody To Love

One of the best to ever do it, Queen makes the list with “Somebody To Love”. The song was released in 1976 and was written by Freddie Mercury. The song was originally written for a different artist, but Mercury decided to keep it and record it himself. A great decision!

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of G minor. This one will require some practice, but with a good moderate tempo, you’ll be able to pull this one off. Granted, the vocals are way harder to get down, but the guitar would be of moderate ease.

12. John Mayer – Stop This Train

I have to include John Mayer again, this time with his song “Stop The Train”. The song was released in 2006 and was written by John Mayer. The song is about his struggles with addiction and how he wants to stop the train before it gets too out of control.

The song has a slow tempo and is in the key of D minor. This one will require some practice, as mentioned before, John Mayer’s songs are quite difficult for the most part. But practice makes perfect!

13. John Mayer – In Your Atmosphere

While on the topic of John Mayer, I can’t help but include “In Your Atmosphere” as my all-time favorite song from him. The song was released in 2008 and was written by John Mayer. The song is about a relationship that is on the rocks.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of G minor. This one has some fast chord changes but nothing too fancy or hard. Plus, you are compelled to sing it even if you don’t have the vocal capabilities.

14. Coldplay – Fix You

You didn’t think Coldplay was out just yet did you? Their song “Fix You” was released in 2005 and was written by Coldplay. The song is about how a friend tries to help a broken person. A truly sad theme and overall singing/structure.

The song has a slow tempo and is in the key of C minor. The vocals are beautiful and the guitar is simple. With a little hard work, you’ll be able to play this song without any problems. Due to the slow tempo, it should be pretty easy to switch chords and get the progression under control.

15. Bob Dylan – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

This will surely be an instantly-recognizable song for many. Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” was released in 1973 and was written by Bob Dylan. The song has a very sad theme and lyrics. You probably know it from Guns N’ Roses’ rendition.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of G. The chord progression is simple and the lyrics are beautiful. It’s a great song to play at a party or gathering and will be sure to get people’s attention. Plus, anyone can sing along as most likely everyone knows it.

16. John Denver – Leaving On A Jet Plane

The next song on the list is by the amazing John Denver. His song “Leaving On A Jet Plane” was released in 1969 and was written by John Denver. The song has a sad theme about someone who is leaving on a jet plane and not knowing when they will be back.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of G. The chord progression is simple, with an hour of practice, this one will be in the bag. Plus, even if you don’t have a good vocal range, just the basic vocals would do just fine here.

17. Dave Mason – We Just Disagree

Another hidden gem on this list is Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree”. The song was released in 1977 and was written by Dave Mason. The song is about a relationship that is falling apart. As most have a story like this, it is perfect for the occasion if you want to let out some excess emotion.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of D minor. The chord progression is simple, with a little practice this one will be easy to play. The only tricky part is the fast-changed chords part but with practice, it will be easy after a few tries.

18. Johnny Cash – Hurt

A perfectly named song and one that fits our list here. Johnny Cash’s song “Hurt” was released in 1995 and was written by Trent Reznor. The song is about Cash’s struggles with addiction and how it has hurt him both physically and emotionally.

The song has a slow tempo and is in the key of A minor. Since the vocals are easy to comprehend, once you get the guitar part down, you can also give it a try by singing it too. The slow tempo allows for both and makes for a good performance.

19. Florence & The Machine – The End Of Love

As a true fan of Florence & The Machine, I had to include “The End Of Love”. The song was released in 2018 and was written by Florence Welch. The song is about the end of a relationship.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of D minor. Due to the moderate tempo, the chord changes are easy enough to comprehend and learn. This is one of those songs that has a huge amount of emotions within, playing it will also bring out some to the surface.

20. Dolly Parton – I Will Always Love You

The last song on the list is one of great popularity. Most probably know it from Whitney Houston, but the original is by Dolly Parton. “I Will Always Love You” was released in 1973 and was written by Dolly Parton. The song is about a woman who is breaking up with her lover, but will always love him.

The song has a moderate tempo and is in the key of C major. The chord progression is simple, making it easy to play. Plus, due to its popularity, almost everyone knows the words and can sing this with or for you. A legendary song worth learning.

Conclusion

Sad songs are often some of the most beautiful and powerful pieces of music. They can speak to our emotions in an unmatched way. And, while they may be sad and heart-wrenching, they often leave us feeling cathartic.

Learning how to play some of these songs on guitar can be a great way to express your emotions. Not only will you be able to perform them for others, but you will also have a personal connection to the music.

So, if you are looking for a way to connect with your emotions and express them, learning how to play some sad songs on guitar may be the perfect way for you.

Milan Trajkovikj is a touring and recording bass guitarist who loves to share his passion for all things music.

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