Spread Your Wings: The 9 Best Paul McCartney Songs to Learn on Guitar

paul mccartney songs - guitar

Paul McCartney was arguably the most powerful creative force behind the Beatles. He is the only "lead" writer of the band still living and is by far the most prolific. Not surprisingly, he is also the most popular, with an incredible 45% of fans citing him as their favorite, according to polling site YouGov.com.

Whether you're a seasoned guitarist or an unabashed newbie, it's natural to want to add a few Paul McCartney songs to your repertoire. Here are a few of the best electric, acoustic, and full-band transcriptions to try.

Beatles Era

The Beatles are one of the biggest bands of all time, and this is great news for aspiring guitarists. For the past fifty years, millions worldwide have devoted time and energy to learning and covering the Fab Four's entire discography. Today, tabs, video explainers, and sheet music are readily available.

'Rocky Raccoon'

The beloved White Album's "Rocky Raccoon" isn't a shred fest like "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," but it offers a surprising amount of complexity, especially if you plan to sing and play. The song is catchy and bittersweet, and it's fun to cover at parties and small venues. Its seventh and suspended chords provide interest and tension, and the strumming pattern is slightly unusual for a folk-inspired tune.

But what really sets the song apart is its vocals. Singing over most Paul McCartney guitar chords is a straightforward affair. For these, you'll need to consciously separate your voice and your hands. At first, it might seem impossible, but you'll get there with practice.


"Blackbird" is a classic among early Paul McCartney songs for a reason. It isn't terribly difficult, but it was absolutely groundbreaking when it first hit the radio in 1968. Inspired by the civil rights protests of the time, it is as beautiful and unconventional as the movement's key leaders.

The song features a 3/4 time signature, along with several changes, giving both of your hands more than enough to do. If you're new to fingerpicking, you'll have to pay special attention to your fingers to make sure you're hitting the right strings.

'Drive My Car'

The Beatles were known for their reinterpretations of early rock and blues licks, and "Drive My Car" isn't shy about its influences. The introductory riff is a classic surfy run that transitions to a fun, persistent bassline.

Like many other Paul McCartney songs, there's plenty of instrumentation, so the guitar parts aren't very thick. But if you want to do an acoustic cover, there's no reason not to follow along with some major and minor chords, using your first finger to fret the bass notes.

'Back in the USSR'

Another popular White Album selection, "Back in the USSR" is a delightfully upbeat blues track. It starts with a basic blues progression, but it picks up with some layered lead guitar and tremolo picking.

Thanks to its consistent structure, it's a perfect candidate for playing with a looper. You'll want to have a pause button, or at least a killswitch if you want to be totally accurate, but you can modify things to your taste.

'The Fool on the Hill'

"The Fool on the Hill" isn't the most popular with those learning how to play Paul McCartney songs on guitar, but it's easily one of the best. The track lends itself perfectly to acoustic covers, and it's a great early song to try your hand at singing over.

It's perfect for beginners, since the vocals and picking mostly run together. It has some nice unconventional chords that can widen your mental chord library, and it deviates slightly from a traditional verse-chorus structure. If you're a little more experienced, it can make for a great afternoon learning session.

'Mother Nature's Son'

"Mother Nature's Son" just might be the Beatles' quintessential hippie guitar tune. Hearing it, you can just imagine the four sitting in a field and listening to famed yogi Maharishi Mahesh pontificate on the meaning of life.

The song is great for acoustic guitar, as it features some intricate fingerpicking to complicate an otherwise straightforward composition. While the chords are simple, some inversions and bass notes give them character.

Post-Beatles Career

Casual Beatles fans often forget that McCartney's career spanned well beyond the sixties. He is still making music and other art, and much of it is well-regarded, if not always as famous as his early work.

It might not surprise you much if you've paid attention to other, similar solo acts, but McCartney's technique has gradually evolved into something much more sophisticated. This has suited his act well, as his complexity and instrumentation have replaced the sheer output of multiple players.

'I'm Carrying'

"I'm Carrying" is one of the earliest solo Paul McCartney songs to have stood the test of time. With a deceptively simple riff that continues throughout the song, it's the perfect track to sing or solo over. If you've struggled to coordinate your picking hand or vocals, use it to mentally separate your limbs before moving on to more complicated works.

'Every Night'

Written in 1970 just after the Beatles' break up, "Every Night" echoes the undeniable loneliness of this troubled era. This is peak McCartney, and it's a great tune to play with others, thanks to its excellent potential for vocal harmonies.

For most players, it makes for a quick learn, but it's catchy and fun in a group. Whether you want to do a faithful cover or an avant-garde conversion, there's plenty of flexibility available.

'Too Many People'

"Too Many People" might be one of the most veiled diss tracks of all time, but it's also a fantastic example of Paul's impeccable songwriting. Written as a jab at John Lennon, it has a hint of aggression that some light distortion can help to convey. If you have a looper or a friend, try improvising a solo over the chorus.

If you love learning to play Paul McCartney songs, you'll love the library of tabs and sheet music at Musicnotes.com. They make it easy to access and read the most accurate tabs by your favorite musicians, and they even offer creative arrangements by YouTube guitarists. Check them out today!