Easy Motown Songs On Guitar: 9 Cool Tunes

These easy Motown songs on guitar will get your fingers moving & your toes tapping – let’s dive in!

Over 100,000 guitar-learners get our world-class guitar tips & tutorials sent straight to their inbox: Click here to join them

In this free lesson you will learn…

  • 9 easy Motown songs
  • Tips for playing each song effectively
  • How to master tough chord shapes
  • How to explore new strumming patterns

Add Some Spice To Your Songbook With These Easy Motown Songs On Guitar!

If you want to build up your repertoire with songs that are universal, beautiful, fun to sing, and fairly easy to play, one of your first stops should be the Motown catalog.

It’s not an overstatement to say that the Motown record label, based in Detroit and founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. in 1959 as Tamla Records, transformed both popular music and the entire culture of the 1960s.

To get you familiar with this style, we’ve got ten easy motown songs on guitar for you to play along with below.

Easy-Motown-Songs-On-Guitar

Easy Motown Songs On Guitar 1: Smokey Robinson – “I Second That Emotion”

We just had to kick it off with some Smokey Robinson.

At 79 years old, Smokey is still out there performing his amazing collection of enormous worldwide hits. He wrote “I Second That Emotion” in 1967.

  • Knowing a timeless song when he hears one, folk musician and Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia frequently covered this song, ensuring its permanent popularity with the jam band crowd and cementing it in many guitarist’s lists of easy Motown songs on guitar.
  • The best part? It’s got only three chords!

D (xx0232)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

G (320003)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

A (x02220)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

This is the first of your easy Motown songs on guitar because apart from the tricky little rhythm in the intro, which repeats throughout the song, you’ll be camping out on the D chord about 75 percent of the time.

Easy-Motown-Songs-On-Guitar

The intro to “I Second That Emotion”  just has the A and G chords in it, but the rhythm is syncopated, meaning that you’re strumming the guitar in between the beats.

  • Follow the rhythm of the recording, and don’t be afraid of those up strums!
  • They’ll be appearing over and over here, because of the understated but funky guitar parts of the session musicians playing on most of the hits of Motown.
  • The chord progression of the verse is easy. Try to hear it in the recording!

D  D D  D

D  D |G A|  D

For the chorus, “In that case I don’t want no part,” you’ll be playing this progression twice.

G  D G  D

D  |A G|  G D

Easy-Motown-Songs-On-Guitar

Many of these easy Motown songs on guitar have fancy licks to learn.

  • There’s a little lick that comes in between the lines of the verse, and you don’t even have to leave the D chord to do it!
  • Here’s a chord and lyric chart to “I Second That Emotion.”

Easy-Motown-Songs-On-Guitar

Easy Motown Songs On Guitar 2: The Undisputed Truth – “Smiling Faces Sometimes”

Country music is sometimes described as three chords and the truth. In “Smiling Faces Sometimes,” The Undisputed Truth does it with only two chords.

There are a lot of easy Motown songs on guitar that have a I-ii chord progression.

That means that the chords just shift back and forth between the chord of the key the song is in and the minor chord one whole step (two frets) up the neck.

Am (x02210)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

Bm (xx4430)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

 

To play along with the recording, use your capo on the second fret. This chord chart is in a different key, but it contains all the lyrics. Can you dig it?

Easy-Motown-Songs-On-Guitar

Pro-Tip: Learn from the recording! Emulating rhythms in the recording by listening and playing along to easy Motown songs on guitar does wonders not only for your strumming ability, but also your skill at playing with different grooves and feels.

Learn the 12 EASIEST beginner chords with our famous FREE guide

  Stop struggling. Start making music.

  Learn 12 beginner-friendly versions of every chord.

  This is our most popular guide and it will improve your chord ability quickly.

Easy Motown Songs On Guitar 3: The Temptations – “The Way You Do the Things You Do”

Well, you could have been anything you wanted to, and I can tell by the way you play these easy Motown songs on guitar! Here’s “The Way You Do the Things You Do” by The Temptations.

This was also written by Smokey Robinson, and the recording contains a key change, but we’re going to play the whole thing in the key of D, so you only need these three chords.

D (xx0232)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

G (320003)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

A (x02220)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

The D chord lasts through the entire verse. There’s a simple little guitar riff that you can do for the introduction and to kill time on that D chord in the verse:

Easy-Motown-Songs-On-Guitar

Here are the chords for the refrain, “Well, you could have been anything…”.

A  G A  G

Then return to the D. This song maintains an easy quarter-note strum pattern throughout.

Use this chord chart for the lyrics.

Easy-Motown-Songs-On-Guitar

Easy Motown Songs On Guitar 4: Four Tops – “Can’t Help Myself”

Also known as “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” the next in your easy Motown songs on guitar is “Can’t Help Myself” by the Four Tops.

It was written by the main Motown songwriting force known as Holland-Dozier-Holland in 1965, an admitted rehash of the chord progression they used for the Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go.”

This fun little call-and-response number uses only four chords and a repeating pattern.

C (x32010)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

Dm (xx0231)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

F (xx3211)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

or (xx3210)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

G (320003)

Easy-Motown-Songs-on-Guitar

The progression is simple and easy to memorize, and the lyrics are too!

C  C G  G

Dm  Dm F  G

There’s a break in the middle that hangs on the C chord. You may want to use the intro riff there:

Easy-Motown-Songs-On-Guitar

Here’s the chord chart.

You might try the calypso strum for this song:

Down, down-up, -up, down-up

Easy-Motown-Songs-On-Guitar

Easy Motown Songs On Guitar 5: Stevie Wonder – “Uptight Everything’s Alright”

You won’t get very far looking for easy Motown songs on guitar before you run into Stevie Wonder!

His “Uptight, Everything’s Alright” is one of a small handful of tunes he wrote with only two chords.

  • Berry Gordy signed Stevie Wonder to Tamla Records when Stevie was 11 years old.
  • “Uptight, Everything’s Alright” was one of his first hits the mid-1960s. Go see him in concert if you can.
  • As with an awful lot of Stevie Wonder’s hits, “Uptight, Everything’s Alright” was written on the piano, so it’s a half-step down from being comfortable to play on the guitar.
  • We won’t let that stop us, this is still one of our favourite easy Motown songs on guitar!

Here are the chords you need:

D (xx0232)

C/D (xxx010)

The progression is very easy; throughout the whole song, you’ll just alternate between the D and C/D chords every measure.

If you’d like a complete chord and lyric chart, click here.

  • When easy Motown songs on guitar have very simple chord progressions, sometimes it’s best to spice things up with your strumming pattern.
  • That keeps the song from dragging down and losing its groovy feel.

For “Uptight, Everything’s Alright, give this strumming pattern a try:

Down, down, down-up, -up

If you’re feeling super funky, try this pattern over two measures:

Down, down, down-up, -up, -up, down, down-up, –

motown-guitar-lesson

Easy Motown Songs On Guitar 6: The Marvelettes – “Please Mr. Postman”

One of the easy Motown songs on guitar that’s gained permanent worldwide fame is “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes.

That’s a Marvelettes song? I thought it was by The Beatles! Or the Carpenters!

The Marvelettes’ and Carpenters’ versions were number 1 hits. This is one of the few Beatles songs that underperformed other versions.

“Please Mr. Postman” is a classic example of ice cream changes. You can play this song in any key you like; choose your I chord and then use the musical alphabet to find the vi chord (minor), IV chord (major) and V chord (major).

The Beatles and Carpenters use the key of A major, but we’ll play it in D major with these chords:

D (xx0232)

Bm (xx4432)

or (xxx432)

G (320003)

A (x02220)

Here are the changes in the key of D major, two measures each. Use this chord chart.

D  Bm G  A

Pro-Tip: Chord numbering can be confusing, but it’s such a handy shortcut to knowing how songs work that we’d love it if you checked out this lesson on music theory for beginners.

Motown-chords-for-guitar

Easy Motown Songs On Guitar 7: The Temptations – “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”

It just isn’t a set of easy Motown songs on guitar without this classic! “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations is a 1966 number one hit.

This song almost didn’t make it out of the production studio.

Berry Gordy thought the song needed more story, and producer Norman Whitfield changed the key so that it was just a bit too high for lead singer David Ruffin.

  • The resulting strain on Ruffin’s voice gave the song the power it needed.
  • You can choose whichever key you like, but we’ll play it here in the key of C major, using these chords.

C (x32010)

F (xx3211)

or (xx3210)

G (320003)

The verse can be played entirely with the C chord, or you can punch the F chord in at the end of the lines like the keyboard does in the recording.

The chorus alternates every two beats between the C and F chords, with a G chord punched in at the end. Simple and fun!

You’ll notice in the recording that there’s next to no rhythm happening apart from the drums. To move the song along on guitar, try this pattern over two measures in the verse:

Down, -, down, -, down, -, down-up, down-up

For the chorus, “Ain’t too proud to beg,” you can use this one.

Down, down, down-up, down-up

Here’s a complete chord and lyric chart for “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Feel free to play the major chord in place of the suggested seventh chords!

fun-Motown-songs-to-play-on-guitar

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

Easy Motown Songs On Guitar 8: Smokey Robinson – “Tracks Of My Tears”

Here’s a tune with a lot of story and feeling! As sad as it is, you’ll find “Tracks of My Tears” to be a fun addition to your collection of easy Motown songs on guitar.

Listen to Linda Ronstadt break your heart with this version. She’s backed by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, which is how the Eagles made it onto a list of Motown songs.

There are four chords you’ll need for “Tracks of My Tears”:

G (320003)

C (x32010)

D (xx0232)

Em (022000)

The chord progression for the verse is below. Play it twice.

|G C|C D|G C|C G|

The chorus progression isn’t much different:

|G C|C D|G C|C D|

|G C|C D|G C|C G|

|C G|C G|

The bridge goes like this:

|C G|C G|C G|C G|

|C G|C G|C G|C G|

Em  Em D  D

With all those split measures, the chord changes are syncopated in the middle, which means that you jump into the second chord a half beat early, like this:

One and two and three and four and

If you practice with the calypso strum, you’ll be able to change chords on the first upward strum.

Easy-Motown-chords

Easy Motown Songs On Guitar 9: Martha & the Vandellas – “Heat Wave”

As proof positive that learning easy Motown songs on guitar will make everyone around you happy, here’s “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas.

It’s another jewel in the Holland-Dozier-Holland crown of hits, and another song that Linda Ronstadt absolutely slayed with this smashing rendition.

In the key of C, you’ll need these chords. There are a lot, but they’re not unfamiliar!

C (x32010)

Csus4 (x3301x)

Dm (xx0231)

Em (022000)

F (xx3211)

or (xx3210)

G (320003)

Am (x02210)

If you listen to the intro, you’ll hear the first chord chug back and forth. To emulate that sound, a definite staple of the Motown groove, you can go back and forth every beat between C and F.

Too fast? The Csus4 chord above is like a cross between a C and F chord, so you can just add your pinky every other beat and still get that chugging sound.

If any of these easy Motown songs on guitar are too quick, simply slow your pace to master the chords first!

Easy-Motown-Songs

Like some of the other easy Motown songs on guitar from this list, there’s just one verse progression throughout.

You won’t have too much trouble memorizing “Heat Wave” and you can concentrate on belting out those amazing vocals!

F  G Am  Am

F  G Am  Am

Dm  Em F  G

C  C C  C

C  C C  C

There’s a variant of the calypso strum (down, -up, -up, down-up) that works for this song if you can play that fast enough.

  • Every time you land on the C chord, you can do the C-to-F chug to dress up your arrangement.
  • This song is so much fun to sing and play! Use this chord chart.

More Soul Music for the Guitar!

Of course, Motown isn’t the only record label that’s produced tons of easy Motown songs on guitar.

We hope these easy Motown songs on guitar get you started. Check out “100 Soul, Funk, and R&B Grooves for Guitar” to finesse your rhythm, and build up that repertoire!

Recommended Resources

If you enjoyed this lesson on easy Motown songs on guitar, we’ve got so much more for you! Check out these next steps on your path:

What Type of Guitarist Are You?

Take our 60-second quiz & get your results: Take The Quiz

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 100,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

Popular Lessons

How To Learn Guitar: An 11-Step Programme For Beginners

10 Easy Songs For Beginners

How To Strum A Guitar

How To Choose The Perfect Beginner Guitar

Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

How To Play Lead Guitar

3 Easy Ways To Play Bm

More Cool Guitar Stuff

Learn about the National Guitar Academy: About Us

Visit our YouTube channel for fun guitar videos.

Join us on Facebook for daily guitar tips.

Listen to our Learn Guitar Podcast for rapid guitar progress.

Check out our free chord lessons.

 
Get our best guitar tips & videos
Where should we send it?
Where should we send it?
Get our best guitar tips & videos
Enter your email address to learn our best guitar tips and tricks today!