“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” – Victor Hugo
Just across the channel, there’s a world of incredible French music that very few Brits choose to listen to. That said, there are plenty of wonderful and simple French songs that are hugely appropriate for budding guitarists.
Whether you’re a Francophile, learning French, or just love music, there are plenty of great French songs to learn on the guitar.
After all, French music isn’t just Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet, and Charles Aznavour.
So which are the easiest French songs to learn on the Guitar?
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the most famous songs in the French language that you should be listening to.
Every song in this list is great for beginners to start playing. That said, it doesn’t mean all the songs are at the same level. When you learn to play guitar, you should start by learning a few basic guitar chords and studying a bit of music theory with a guitar teacher. Once you know how to read guitar tablature and know your way around the fretboard, you’re ready to start strumming along to some simple songs.
There’s so much more to French music than what you think. (Source: Pexels)
There’s a broad range of songs for beginners: songs for absolute beginners and songs for beginners who already know a few chords.
In any case, these songs are very accessible to most beginners. In some cases, it’s just the intro, a riff, or part of the song that is accessible to beginners. That said, you can learn part of the song, improve, and come back to master the whole song once you’ve gotten better at the guitar.
To learn a song, you should start at a slow tempo and break the song down. Don’t increase the tempo until you’ve mastered the fingering.
Don’t try and learn the entire song in one go, break it down into parts such as the intro, verse, chorus, solo, etc. Then learn how to transition from one part to another.
Of course, choose a song that you like! You don’t need to force yourself to play. You’ll learn much more quickly by playing songs you enjoy. Thanks to the internet, you can find a lot of these songs on YouTube and Spotify. You can also find tabs for these songs quite easily.
French music isn’t just somebody playing the accordion outside a Parisian cafe. In fact, there are French artists playing plenty of different genres of music: there’s French pop, disco, rock, as well as the classical melodies from Debussy.
This is from the artist’s 1994 album “Un samedi soir sur la Terre”. It’s a critique of bullfighting.
The song uses 6 chords: Dm, F, C, Bb sus2, Csus2, A. While a few of these aren’t the most common chords you’ll study when you learn how to play guitar, they usually just involve moving a single finger to another fret as you strum.
The intro is pretty easily done with a few arpeggios and you can easily find tabs for it online.
The bridge is a little tricky, but with a bit of work, you should be able to get it. If you like the style, there are some other Francis Cabrel songs that are suitable for beginners: Je l’aime à mourir, L’encre de tes yeux, and Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai.
From his 1994 album, L’amour à la machine compares love to an item of clothing. There are four chords you’ll need to learn: E minor, D major, C, Major, G Major.
It’s an easy-to-learn song.
Foule sentimentale and Le serpent piteux are also good songs for beginners from the same artist.
This song was featured on George Brassens’ tenth album in 1964 and was for an Yves Robert film titled Les Copains.
It’s easy to see why so many French musicians are inspired. (Source: Pexels)
Even though the song isn’t that complicated, you still need to pay attention to the complex melody, rhythm, and the key change. It’s a great way to learn Brassens’ signature style.
The song Chansons pour l’Auvergnat is also a good one for beginners to learn.
From the 2000 album Jours Etranges, this song is a dark critique of youth in a consumerist society.
It’s a pop-rock structure in standard time and the song is in E minor. While the album version is played on an electric guitar, you can also find plenty of acoustic versions. The choice is yours!
Montée là-haut, Light the Way, and Debbie are other Damien Saez songs good for beginners.
This 1961 French song was originally a song sung by English sailors. That said, Hugues Aufray’s version is far more joyful and quicker than the original. This song is a great one for sitting around the campfire!
There are three chords you’ll need to learn: E minor, D major, and A minor.
Stewball and Céline are two other songs by Aufray that are good for beginners.
There were two versions of Elisa written by Serge Gainsbourg in 1969. One of them for Zizi Jeanmaire and another for Gainsbourg’s eighth album and dedicated to Jane Birkin.
The recording is in A minor but you’ll need to change the tuning of your guitar by half a step. If this isn’t very useful, you can always find versions in different tunings.
Bonnie & Clyde is another good Serge Gainsbourg song for beginners.
Johnny Hallyday’s emblematic song was recorded in 1964. It’s a French version of the American folk song The House of the Rising Sun. The words were written by Hugues Aufray and Vline Buggy.
Music is as popular in France as it is anywhere else in the world. (Source: Free-Photos)
It’s useful that if you learn the chords for this version, you’ll know how to play the English version, too!
There are 5 chords you’ll need to play: A minor, C major, D major, F major, and E major. The pick sweeping is probably the most difficult technique in the song. Start off at a slow tempo.
The Johnny Hallyday songs and Oh Marie and Je te promets are also suitable for beginners.
This 1966 song satirises the French bourgeoisie. It was the first song from Jacques Dutronc and sold over 100,000 copies.
The song is pretty easy to learn as there are only three chords (D major, A major, and E major). It’s a pretty simple song to play along to.
Polnareff’s first song came out in 1966 and thrust the artist into the limelight. It was translated into several other languages and sold over 200,000 copies. The lyrics refer to the sexual liberation of women at the time.
The music uses the E major, A major, and D major chords.
As a bit of trivia, the guitarist Jimmy Page played the guitar on the recording.
This is a song from the band’s 1982 album Dure Limite. It was inspired by the Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
French music rocks! (Source: Free-Photos)
The riff isn’t that easy for a beginner, but it’s good for improving your flexibility.
Why not try a few power chords while you’re at it?
You can also play the songs Cendrillon and New York avec toi by the same band.
This song from the band’s 1997 debut album has a great chorus and violin part. There are five chords that you need to play: G sharp minor, B major, C sharp minor, F sharp major, and A major. Make sure your right wrist is loose when playing this one.
There are also tutorials on how to play the violin part for the guitar. If you like the band, try out Les nuits parisiennes.
This song was written and composed by Goldman and came out on the 1997 album En Passant. It’s very easy to play with its campfire rhythm.
The only tricky part for beginners is the barre chords. Oddly enough, the studio version is played with a capo on the third fret while the live version has it on the second.
There are five chords: G, D, C, E minor, and A minor.
Il y a, Confidential, Pas toi, and Je te donne are all good Goldman songs for beginners.
There is so much great French music for budding guitarists to play. Here are some extra ones for you to try out:
So which of these great French songs are you going to get started with?
Don’t forget that if you like the sound of French, you’re not just limited to music from France, there’s music from Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec (the French-speaking Canadian province), and a multitude of countries in Africa.
If you’re struggling with any of these, you can always get guitar lessons from a private tutor or another guitar player. Playing guitar isn’t something you have to learn on your own and playing the guitar is often more fun with somebody there to help you.
That said, there are plenty of great resources such as free guitar lessons online to teach you more about the strings, frets, and how to tune your guitar, for example. However, if you’re really serious about playing the guitar, you should consider learning guitar on a guitar course at a music school or in private tutorials with your own private guitar tutor.
Whether you’re playing an electric or an acoustic guitar, learning how to play guitar can also be done online via video conferencing software like Skype with online guitar tutors.