I really dig Halloween.
I’ve loved it since I was a kid.
As an adult it holds an even more special place in my heart – my wife and I met on Halloween and were married on Halloween (separate Halloweens… obviously).
I love Halloween music.
But sometimes guitar songs get the shaft on Halloween.
While I love Thriller and Ghostbusters… they’re not exactly “guitar songs”. Don’t get me wrong, there are excellent versions of these songs being done on the guitar.
But I’m talking about songs that either highlight some wicked electric guitar, or can be played easily on an acoustic guitar.
So, as your resident online guitar teacher and guitar music recommender, I’ve compiled a list of the best Halloween songs to play on the guitar.
There are some obvious choices and some that are less popular but worthwhile.
Here we go….
The Less Obvious Halloween Songs
Little Ghost (The White Stripes)
This song is cute and creepy. A ghostly love song with some strong mandolin, but easily played and translatable to acoustic guitar with simple open chords. You can probably get by with just I – IV – V chords (not necessarily in that order). Capo your guitar up around the 7th or 8th fret to get that mandolin sound.
My Fathers House and/or Nebraska (Bruce Springsteen)
Open chords, all acoustic. Both of these Springsteen songs have a mystical creepy vibe. Nebraska (about actual murderer Charles Starkweather) is smart, calm, and poignant. Sung from the perspective of Starkweather. My Father’s House is essentially a dream. Not so scary as it is ethereal and sad. Neither of these songs have anything to do with Halloween… but they feel right for this time of year.
Blue Moon (The Marcels)
Chosen explicitly for it’s inclusion and use in the soundtrack to An American Werewolf in London. I love the movie. The choice of the song at this particular moment in the film feels wonderful. Jarring and hilarious. The Elvis Presley version also works earlier in the film… but there is something about the way this song hits that makes me love it. Also… easily played on the guitar with open chords.
Hangman and the Papist (The Strawbs)
Again – not a Halloween song, but a disturbing song nonetheless. It starts off with organ and quiet guitar and progressively builds as the story unfolds. I’m not going to spoil it, but listen for yourself.
Oh the Vampyre (A.A. Bondy)
First of all, if you don’t know A.A. Bondy – check him out. He’s a great singer/songwriter and this song demonstrates how you can tie in sadness, hope, and love into a funny little song. It’s short and sweet and I could listen to it over and over.
Smoking too Long (Nick Drake)
Most of Nick Drake’s music has a steady mix of melancholy (Things Behind the Sun) or hope (From the Morning). It’s easy to close your eyes and let it wash over you. This song is different. Smoking too Long was written by Robin Frederick. You can find more details about the song (including the chords) on Frederick’s website here. Drake’s recording is sad and lonely and seems to jump rather than flow to the end of the song. Again… not Halloween… but it feels good to sing and listen and play in the fall.
The Popular Halloween Guitar Songs
You know these songs (if you don’t, you better get to know them). They work anytime of year… and they all work really well on the guitar.
Bad Moon Rising (CCR)
I put a Spell on You (CCR)
Highway to Hell (AC/DC)
Don’t Fear the Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult)
Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band)
Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
Season of the Witch (Donovan)
Bark at the Moon (Ozzy Osbourne)
Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Runnin’ with the Devil (Van Halen)
That’s it! Did I miss any? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll add them to the list!
Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo Credit: FHgitarre)