Famous songs that are actually covers

Sometimes an artist covers an already existing song and creates a version so iconic that it eclipses the original – think Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” or Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” (originally by Otis Redding). 


Here are some songs you might not realize are covers: 

“Hurt” – Johnny Cash (originally Nine Inch Nails) 

Typically you see newer artists covering songs from artists of a slightly older generation. Johnny Cash flipped that convention on its head in 2002 when he covered “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails (originally released in 1995) to much critical acclaim. Trent Reznor, who wrote the song, praised the cover to Alternative Press in 2004, saying “that song isn’t mine anymore”


“Feelin’ Alright” – Joe Cocker (originally Traffic) 

“Feelin’ Alright: was a huge hit for Joe Cocker – charting in the U.S. and Canada on its release in 1969 and again during its re-release in 1972. The song was actually written and released by English band Traffic for their eponymous 1968 album and was released as a single but failed to chart in the U.S. or the U.K. 


“The Man Who Sold the World” – Nirvana (originally David Bowie)

What did David Bowie think of Nirvana’s cover of his 1970 song? 

“I was simply blown away when I found that Kurt Cobain liked my work, and have always wanted to talk to him about his reasons for covering ‘The Man Who Sold the World'” and that “it was a good straight forward rendition and sounded somehow very honest,” Bowie said. “It would have been nice to have worked with him, but just talking with him would have been real cool.”


“Black Magic Woman” – Santana (originally Fleetwood Mac)

“Black Magic Woman” is one of Santana’s biggest hits, but it started out as a song for another huge band. The song originally appeared as a single for Fleetwood Mac in 1968 – founding band member Peter Green wrote it, inspired by his former girlfriend Sandra Elsdon, whom he nicknamed “Magic Mamma”. For Santana, the song charted at number four in the U.S. and Canada, making it the better-known version. 

“All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix (originally Bob Dylan)

“All Along the Watchtower” is actually a Bob Dylan song, but Hendrix’s 1968 version is so iconic that it influenced the way Dylan performs his own song, to the extent that they’ve been called “covers of a cover”. 


“Girls Just Wanna  Have Fun” Cyndi Lauper (originally Robert Hazard) 

“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is synonymous with 1980s chanteuse Cyndi Lauper, but the playful song was originally written and recorded by musician Robert Hazard, who had a completely different interpretation of the song. 


“I Love Rock and Roll” – Joan Jett (originally Arrows) 

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts popularized “I Love Rock & Roll” – the song is the group’s highest-charting hit. It was originally written and recorded by British rock band Arrows, as a response to the Rolling Stone’s “It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It).  Jett saw the band performing their song on their weekly UK TV series while she was in England touring with The Runaways.


“Me and Bobby McGee” – Janis Joplin (originally Roger Miller) 


How much do guitar lessons cost?

How much do guitar lessons cost? Traditional private guitar lessons vary in cost based on factors like the length of the lesson and the city in which the lesson takes place. The teacher’s level of expertise also factors into the cost of the lessons. Highly skilled and experienced instructors who can take you beyond the beginner level of guitar will usually charge more for in-person lessons. 


Generally speaking, you can expect a 30-minute lesson to cost anywhere from $30 to $50. Hour-long lessons will of course cost more. 

Another factor to consider when weighing out the cost of guitar lessons is transportation. For in-person lessons, you may have to travel to your instructor’s home or studio, and potentially pay for parking depending on where they are located. Some instructors are able to come to you, however, that convenience may be included in the cost of the lesson. 

Depending on your musical aptitude and how much time you can devote to practicing, it can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to a year to become proficient in guitar. If you want to learn advanced guitar techniques including improvising solos, it might take longer. 

Lessons in major cities will cost more than in small towns. Here’s a breakdown of the average costs of lessons in some large cities:


Los Angeles: $40 to $90/hour 

Chicago: $70/hour 

NYC (Queens): $35 to $60/hour 

Boston: $38/hour 

Dallas: $40 to $90/hour 

Orlando: $27/hour

Online lessons can be more cost-effective than in-person lessons, and cut out the cost of traveling. 

Recently, some cities began offering free guitar lessons online through their local libraries. Library streaming service hoopla is now offering free Fret Zealot lessons. You can choose from thousands of lessons from top-rated instructors, from guitar basics to song lessons, to player study courses. 


See if your city offers free online guitar lessons by checking out this map. 

Five songs you can learn on guitar this weekend

Got a little bit of free time this weekend? Here are five fairly easy songs that you can easily learn between now and Sunday evening! 


“You Belong with Me” – Taylor Swift

You’ll need a capo on the fourth fret to play this “Fearless” hit. It involves some fingerpicking to nail the distinctive riff, but it’s easier than it sounds!

“Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5

The funky, disco-esque rhythm is the most important part of this dance floor anthem – but with only a few chords, it’s pretty easy to learn.

“Wake Me Up” – Avicii

You only need four chords to play this popular song – it’s very easy to accompany yourself singing. 

“Creep” – Radiohead 

Ready to practice those barre chords? This song only has four chords total, and is another great one to sing along to.

“Ain’t No Sunshine” – Bill Withers

This 1971 hit is an absolute classic. Learn this simple version, or you can try the slightly more challenging fingerstyle version.

More songs you can play with only three chords

Even with a basic grasp of guitar chords, you have a lot of songs at your fingertips. Here are some songs that only need three chords to play. 


What’s Up – 4 Non Blondes

Chords used: G, Am, C

This ‘90s anthem is a great song to break out at parties, and with a simple strumming pattern, it’s easy to play.

Evil Ways – Santana

Chords used: C, Gm, D

While playing Carlos Santana’s lead part on this 1970 hit might take some practice, the riff is made up of just three chords.

Englishman in New York – Sting

Chords used: Em, A, Bm


Born This Way – Lady Gaga

Chords used: E, D, A. 

You’ll need a capo on Fret 2 to play this pop song in the key of the recording. 

Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan 

Chords used: C, F, G.

One of the best-known folk songs of all time, “Blowin’ in the Wind” can be played with only three chords. You can also play this song with a capo on the 7th fret and G, C, D. 


These are some of the most memorable riffs of all time

Some songs have riffs that are so iconic, they’re instantly recognizable for even the most casual of music listeners. You might find yourself singing the riff, rather than the words! 

Check out this list of what we think are some of the most memorable riffs of all time. 


“Back in Black” – AC/DC 

 “Back in Black” was AC/DC’s tribute to their former singer, Bon Scott, who died suddenly in the same year the album was released. It was AC/DC’s first album with Scott’s replacement, Brian Johnson. 


Purple Haze

One of The Hendrix Experience’s best known songs, “Purple Haze” features Jimi Hendrix’s use of his signature chords and a blend of blues and Eastern modalities.


Sweet Child o’ Mine

Famously, Guns ‘n Roses guitarist Slash came up with the riff for “Sweet Child O’ Mine” as a joke, playing what he called “a circus melody” during a jam session warm up. Lead singer Axl Rose wrote lyrics for the song by the next day.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana

Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain said that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a result of trying to write a song that sounded like The Pixies. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band,” Cobain told Rolling Stone in 1994. “ We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”

“Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne

Guitarist Greg Leon (Motley Crue/Quiet Riot) said he helped Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, Randy Rhoads, come up with the riff for “Crazy Train” after showing him the riff for “Swington” by Steve Miller.  “I said: ‘Look what happens when you speed this riff up.’ We messed around, and the next thing I know he took it to a whole other level and end up writing the ‘Crazy Train’ riff”, Leon said in a 2012 biography on Rhoads.


“Killing in the Name” – Rage Against the Machine 

RATM guitarist Tom Morello wrote this iconic drop D riff while giving a guitar student a lesson in Drop D tuning. He told Triple J in 2009 that he briefly paused the lesson to go record it. 

“Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes

White Stripes singer and guitarist Jack White wrote the riff that would become “Seven Nation Army” while on tour in Australia. White originally wanted to save the riff in case he ever was called on to write a song for a James Bond movie – but thinking that the chances were slim, he incorporated it into a White Stripes song instead. Five years later, he did write a song for a Bond movie (“Another Way to Die” with Alicia Keys).

“All Right Now” – Free

English band Free’s drummer, Simon Kirke, said that their hit “All Right Now” was written following a lackluster gig. “. We finished our show and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser,” Kirke told a newspaper in 2008.. It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows.”


“Beat It” – Michael Jackson

Jackson and producer Quincy Jones tapped Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen to add a guitar solo for a “rock song” for Thriller. The resulting riff is not only “fire” for how cool it is – according to a 2010 BBC piece on Jones, while Van Halen was recording his solo, the sound of his guitar caused the control room’s monitor speaker to catch fire. “This must be really good!” one of the sound engineers exclaimed.

“No One Knows” – Queens of the Stone Age

According to Queen of the Stone Age founding member Josh Homme, although the song “No One Knows” came out in 2002, the song’s iconic riff was created about five years prior. “We have patience with music, a year or five years down the road it may kind of rewrite itself and become what it’s supposed to be,” Homme said in a 2005 biography of the band.

“Can’t Stop” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

RHCP guitarist John Frusciante utilizes a reggae style – strumming only on the upbeat – during the bridge of this 2002 hit.

“Alive” – Pearl Jam

The riff for Pearl Jam’s debut single predates the formation of the band. Guitarist Stone Gossard, who was then playing in a band called Mother Love Bone, wrote the music for the song, which was then called “Dollar Short”. The band unfortunately dissolved following the overdose death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood. Gossard, bandmate Jeff Ament and guitarist Mike McCreedy recorded the song along with four other tracks on a demo in hopes of finding a singer and drummer. Vocalist Eddie Vedder, who was then working as a security guard, got a hold of the tape, recorded some vocals, and sent it back to the band in Seattle. The rest is rock history. 

“Walk This Way” – Aerosmith

“Walk This Way” was created during a soundcheck, while Aerosmith was opening for The Guess Who in Honolulu in 1974. Guitarist Joe Perry was fooling around with riffs, and singer Steven Tyler began scatting over the groove. They had the basics of a song by the time soundcheck was over. 

“Sunshine of Your Love” – Cream

Cream bassist Jack Bruce wrote the riff that would become the basis for “Sunshine of Your Love” after seeing Jimi Hendrix perform.  “I don’t think Jack [Bruce] had really taken him in before … and when he did see it that night, after the gig he went home and came up with the riff,” Cream guitarist Eric Clapton told Rolling Stone in 1988. “It was strictly a dedication to Jimi. And then we wrote a song on top of it.”


Scary-hard songs to learn on guitar

It’s the scariest time of the year.

We know you’re up for a challenge, so why not take on a new guitar song that’s terrifyingly challenging?


“Eruption” – Van Halen 



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Eddie Van Halen’s face-melting guitar solo on Van Halen’s 1978 debut album showcased his tapping and squealing guitar prowess – and it’s often considered the best guitar solo of all time. For a leg up on learning this song, check out our Eddie Van Halen Player Study Course


“Through the Fire and Flames” – Dragonforce 

@fret_zealot Replying to @the_bone_doc #ThroughTheFireAndFlames by #DragonForce with #tabs from the #FretZealot app 🔥 #Guitar #Metal #GuitarTabs #SpeedMetal #Prog #ProgMetal #GuitarTok ♬ Through The Fire And Flames – DragonForce


“Through the Fire and Flames” was famously featured in Guitar Hero III – causing a lot of frustration for players, as it was one of the most difficult songs in the game. With a speed of 200 BPM, this song will give your fingers a real workout. 


“Cliffs of Dover” – Eric Johnson 

@fret_zealot “Cliffs of Dover” by Eric Johnson with Fret Zealot #Guitar #GuitarTabs #GuitarLessons #LearnGuitar #GuitarSong #Guitarist ♬ Cliffs Of Dover – Instrumental – Eric Johnson



Another instrumental composition that shows off the skills of its guitarist, “Cliffs of Dover” starts with an ad-libbed guitar solo. This song was also featured on Guitar Hero III. 


“CAFO” – Animals As Leaders 


Most guitarists probably find Animals As Leaders songs punishingly hard, as AAL guitarist Tosin Abasi is one of the greatest technical guitarists around. 


“Master of Puppets” – Metallica 


The title track of Metallica’s 1986 album is difficult because of the odd meters used in the fast, heavy riffs. The song was prominently featured in Stranger Things 4 and – SPOILER – Eddie Munson must have been a musical genius to be able to play it front to back the same year it came out without online tabs or videos! 


“Heartbreaker” – Led Zeppelin 


If you’ve ever thought that Jimmy Page’s guitar solo on “Heartbreaker” sounds different than the rest of the track, you’re right. Page told Guitar World in 1998 that the track was recorded separately in a different studio than the rest of the song. It was also the first time he used his  Gibson Les Paul/Marshall Stack combo for recording. 


“Neon” – John Mayer 


John Mayer has said his technique for playing his 1999 song “Neon” is a trick similar to “the kid at school turning his eyelids inside out”. In March 2021, Mayer uploaded a TikTok video sharing a “guitar tip” on how to play the song, which is to move your thumb and index finger back and forth on the guitar strings. 


 “U forgot to explain the step where u just dislocate your thumb,” one commenter pointed out. 


“Free Bird” – Lynyrd Skynryd 


“Free Bird” might be a bit of a punchline among guitarists – who hasn’t been hassled by a drunk audience member requesting it before? But the solo, which kicks in around the 4:55 mark, is a bona fide endurance contest of short licks that takes plenty of technique to master. Or, you can always troll the audience:


[TikTok video of Shane’s Free Bird request]


Pre-show superstitions and rituals of famous musicians

It’s easy to dismiss superstitious beliefs – Stevie Wonder famously sang about it in one of the catchiest songs of all time. However, performing a ritual before a stressful task – like playing a sold-out show, for example – can actually help alleviate anxiety, helping promote a good performance, a study by Harvard Business Review found. 

During the study, researchers conducted four experiments during which the participants performed a ritual before completing stressful tasks, which included singing “Don’t Stop Believing” for an audience and taking a math test. 

They concluded that performing a “ritual” before a high-stakes situation can ease feelings of anxiety, allowing the ritual-performer to do better on the task. 

Many famous musicians have pre-show rituals to help them perform their best. Here are some of them: 


The Rolling Stones

Don’t touch Keith Richards’ Shepherd’s Pie! The legendary Rolling Stones guitarist has a rule that he must have a pre-show Shepherd’s Pie (an English pub favorite) and that he’s the one who breaks the crust. “Nobody touches the pie till I’ve been in there,” Richards wrote in his 2010 autobiography Life.  “Don’t bust my crust, baby.”


Led Zeppelin 

Led Zeppelin was famous for their hard-partying antics during the band’s heyday – but the remaining members have calmed down a bit. During their reunion show in 2007, lead singer Robert Plant requested a special spot to iron his shirts. He explained that the task of ironing his own shirts helps to get him into the mood to perform. 

Foo Fighters

These rockers get ready for a show by listening to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album and downing some Jager bombs (aka “David Lee Roth juice”, lead singer Dave Grohl said in 2007



The British band has a quiet moment and a group hug together before they perform. Lead singer Chris Martin has some additional rituals of his own, including brushing his teeth. “For me, there are about 18 things I have to do before I can go out to perform—most of them are too ridiculous to repeat!” Martin told Clash Music in 2009. 

Taylor Swift

Triskaidekaphobia, where? Any true Swiftie knows that Taylor’s lucky number is 13, and the singer/songwriter used to write the number on her hand or body before each performance. She doesn’t appear to do this ritual anymore – but she now has the most number one albums by a woman in history, so maybe it worked! 


Mumford & Sons

Before a show, the members of Mumford & Sons light some palo santo wood, a type of wood native to South America and used in ritual purification there. Lead singer Marcus Mumford has said that the fumes of palo santo seem to be the only thing that can help his pre-show headaches. 


Leonard Cohen 

The late singer/songwriter used to prepare for shows with a whiskey and a Latin phrase – “Pauper sum ego, nihil habeo”, meaning  “I am poor, I have nothing.”

Do you have a pre-show ritual? Let us know what it is in the comments! 

Can being good at video games help you with playing guitar?

Were you a true “Guitar Hero” back in the day? Those skills might give you a leg up when it comes to actually playing guitar over other non-musicians. 

According to a 2016 study by the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, people who played music video games like “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” outperformed non-musicians with their musical listening skills, including perception of melody, tuning, tempo, and rhythm.

The study looked at three groups: musicians who had formal music education, non-musicians, and music video game players. All of the groups took a Profile of Music Perception Skills – a test of basic musical listening abilities. 

The results showed that both musicians and music video game players scored higher than their non-musician peers. 

It wasn’t clear from the results whether music video games help sharpen musical skills, or if those who are good at the games simply have more natural musical abilities. But there’s a good chance that if you could beat “Through the Fire and the Flames” on expert in Guitar Hero, you can learn guitar in real life! 

Fret Zealot is great for music video gamers who want to make the leap into real-life instruments. The Fret Zealot app has hundreds of step-by-step video lessons so you can learn anywhere, anytime, and the optional LED attachment makes learning more visual – and much faster. Get started today. 

Meet the Fret Zealot Instructors – Andre Von Berlo

In this new series, we’re introducing you to the Fret Zealot instructors! Fret Zealot has dozens of teachers with unique backgrounds and styles, so that you can find the one who’s right for you. 

Name: Andre Von Berlo

How long have you played guitar?
31 years


What got you into guitar?
A friend of mine played “Hotel California” on his acoustic guitar. I asked him to teach me the song. He said that I should start with something simple like “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan. I just kept asking until he agreed to do “Hotel California”. After about an hour I had it all memorized and it started to sound a bit like music. I never stopped playing since.


Why are you passionate about music?
It is the place where you loose yourself and find yourself at the same time. Time and space disappears and all there’s left is music.


Who is your favorite band/artist? 
I have too many to name but here are a few: Pat Metheny, Tommy Emmanuel, Mateus Asato, John Mayer, Gustav Mahler, Paco de Lucia, Django Reinhardt, Dream Theater, Scott Henderson, etc etc.


What’s your favorite style of music to play on guitar? 
Depends on my mood, currently I play a lot of gypsy jazz, Tommy Emmanuel and Mateus Asato tunes.

Check out some of Andre’s lessons and courses below! 

Time After Time 

Here Without You 

Meet the Fret Zealot instructors – Julian Cooper

In this new series, we’re introducing you to the Fret Zealot instructors! Fret Zealot has dozens of teachers with unique backgrounds and styles, so that you can find the one who’s right for you. 


Name: Julian Cooper 

AKA: GuitarJoolz 

How long have you played guitar?

32 years. 


What got you into guitar?

Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads, Malmsteen, Blackmore, Lynch and my Dad. 


Why are you passionate about music?

It is creative and gives me a way to express myself. It can be exhilarating or soothing as needed.


Who is your favorite band/artist? 

Not possible to pick, but if I had to: Led Zeppelin. 


What’s your favorite style of music to play on guitar? 



Check out some of Julian’s courses and song lessons below!

Pure Pentatonic Power: Rock and Blues Lead Guitar Course

Easy Rock Guitar for Beginners

Easy Barre Chords


Song lessons 

Can’t Stop


Be Yourself

You Give Love a Bad Name