52 Best Emo Songs To Take Your Guitar Playing To The Next Level

You may have already noticed emo music is having a revival.

When thinking of emo music, it’s not a genre people tend to associate with strong guitar playing. While it’s not as sloppy as some grunge can be, it rarely has the soaring solos of classic rock or the precision of heavy metal.

With that said, don’t underestimate emo and pop-punk. There are lots of emo songs to take your guitar playing to the next level; whether they use tricky, uncommon chords, employ fingerpicking, or unique strumming patterns; you can still learn a thing or two from this genre.


Teenagers – My Chemical Romance

Teenagers is one of My Chemical Romance’s most popular songs. Written about rowdy teenagers being intimidating, this song has a recognizable riff.

Teenagers relies on a blues-rock shuffle with some palm muting. There are no shapes that are particularly difficult in the tab. A blues shuffle translates into many songs and genres, so it’s good to have it under your belt.

While emo songs tend to play the same chord for at least a bar, less experienced guitar players may find the quickly changing chords in the chorus tricky – but it’s worth nailing.

Here are the tabs:


King For A Day – Pierce The Veil ft. Kellin Quinn

In 2012, Piece The Veil teamed up with Kellin Quinn from Sleeping With Sirens to release what was arguably, the emo song of the year or even of the mid-2010s.

The style of playing is more akin to metal, with the style of playing changing between the intro, chorus, post-chorus, and bridge. It’s a great track for nailing, finger plucking, hammer-ons, pick slides, and tremolo.

It’s worth learning both guitar parts. The first guitar plays the intro with fingerpicking, while the second plays a riff. If you’re struggling with the speed, just play this at your own pace as you work on your technique.

Here are the tabs:


Therapy – All Time Low

Therapy by All Time Low is suited for acoustic and electric guitar players.

The chorus relies on basic open chords. The verses have an interesting riff worth learning; you strum downwards until hitting the hammer-on and then back up. Given that this riff tends to go down the same fret, rather than across multiple fretboards, which is more common, it took a while for me to nail this.

Here’s the tab:


Warning – Green Day

While Green Day are rarely, if ever, labeled as emo, lots of emo fans love Green Day.

Scales are important, but when I started learning guitar, anything technical bored me, so I liked finding ways to implement the skills without feeling like I was doing homework. If you’re sick of practicing scales, Warning is a great way to work on your dexterity. The same riff runs through the entire song and is played similarly to a scale – after all, we wouldn’t have cool riffs and solos without scales to begin with!

Here’s the tab:


I Write Sins, Not Tragedies – Panic! At The Disco

drop d tuning graphic
Drop D tuning illustration. 

I Write Sins, Not Tragedies by Panic! At The Disco is a good intro to Drop D tuning. If you’re not familiar, all this means is tuning your low E string to D.

The intro to the song requires fingerpicking before jumping into strumming normally for the verses and chorus.

Here’s the tab:


Young Volcanoes – Fall Out Boy

Young Volcanoes is a pretty straightforward song. The tricky part is bar chords are played for the whole thing.

While playing bar chords for a few bars is no challenge for most guitarists, doing so for an extended period of time is hard to maintain. It’s particularly challenging if you’re playing on an acoustic due to the thicker fretboard.

So, this is one of the best emo songs to learn if you want to strengthen your fingers. Trust me when I say you’re hands will ache afterward, but it gets easier with regular practice.

Here’s the tab:



The Edge – Tonight Alive

drop c tuning graphic
Drop C tuning illustration.

Lots of emo and pop-punk bands are inspired by ska. Ska is known for playing on the off beats. You’ll notice this is also the case with The Edge by Tonight Alive. If you’re struggling with the timing, slow the song down and increase the speed when you’re ready.

This song is also played in Drop C so you will need to retune all your strings.

Here’s the tab:



The Only Exception – Paramore

If you look at a tab for The Only Exception, you might be wondering why a song with relevantly easy open chords would be on this list of the best emo songs to improve your guitar playing.

Most emo, pop-punk, and even pop songs are played in 4/4 timing. The Only Exception is in 3/4. So, learning this song is a good way to practice timing, strumming, and counting while playing.

While the tab looks easy, I really struggled learning to play this song in time when I was first learning guitar.

The Only Exception is played with a capo on the fourth fret. If you’re singing, or someone else is, you can move the capo depending on their vocal range.

Here are the tabs:



In The End – Black Veil Brides

drop c tuning graphic 1
Drop C# tuning illustration.

Black Veil Brides guitar style is largely inspired by glam rock and heavy metal.

In The End is played in Drop C# tuning.

The song is good for learning how to play notes on adjacent strings on the same fret, and then quickly changing to another chord.

Here’s the tabs:



Famous Last Words – My Chemical Romance

My Chemical Romance songs are rarely effortless to play.

Famous Last Words has some interesting riffs and a challenging solo. Given that it’s easy to get in the habit of playing the same chord for a whole bar, Famous Last Words will keep you on your toes, as the chords regularly change mid-bar.

The solo for the lead guitar line will definitely be too challenging for beginning guitar players, so feel free to skip and play the rhythm guitar line instead at that part of the song.

Here’s the tab:



Blink-182 – I Miss You

CB GB Cadd9 CE and Fadd11 chords
C/B, G/B/, Cadd9, C/E, Fadd#11 chords. 

They say you can play most songs if you learn only a handful of chords. That saying isn’t wrong, but it’s worth learning more.

Learning chords one by one can be boring, which is why it’s fun to seek out songs with interesting chords instead. By learning this song, you’ll pick up chords such as C/B, G/B, Cadd9, C/E, and Fadd#11.

Here’s the tab:



Taking Back Sunday – Flicker Fade

To play Flicker Fade by Taking Back Sunday, you will need to tune your guide half a step-down. There are two guitar lines in this song, you can challenge yourself to learn both, or stick with the one you are comfortable with. Most beginning guitar players who do not feel ready to take on solos prefer playing rhythm guitar. However, the tremolo in the bridge and the solo for the lead guitar line does not have any stretchy shapes, so it’s worth challenging yourself and trying it.

Here’s the tab:



Green Day – Wake Me Up When September Ends

Wake Me Up When September Ends was the first song I learned on guitar that actually sounded like the original song.

This is a great song for beginnings as you practice plucking individual strings, bar chords, and a simple solo.

Here’s the tab:



The Used – Empty With You

It’s not all about speed, some time’s the best riffs and melodies are the ones that allow breathing room between notes. The intro and verse to Empty With You is a practice in patience- but you are permitted to go hard on the chorus and bridge.

Here’s the tab:


21 Pilots – Heathens

21 Pilots might not sound like the typical music people associate with emo, but they ended up becoming a vital part of the scene.

Heathens introduce newer guitar players to 5 chords, which are commonly used in rock music. In particular, you’ll learn A5, B5, C5, and E5.

A5 B5 C5E5
A5, B5, C5, E5 chords illustration.

Here’s the tab:



Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag

Teenage Dirtbag is a song every pop-punk guitarist should know due to its recognizable riff.

There are no particularly difficult shapes, so budding guitarists can impress their friends with this one.

Here’s the tab:



Palaye Royale – Ma Chérie

While Palaye Royale usually go hard, don’t underestimate Ma Chérie.

The chords are fairly easy, but the strumming pattern can be tricky to nail down for less experienced players.

Here’s the tab:



Against Me! – Black Me Out

Against Me! lean much more towards punk than emo as we know it, but the intro riff requires precision worth nailing.



Hayley Williams – Simmer

Paramore’s frontwoman, Hayley William’s debut solo album, Petals For Armor, sounds less stereotypically emo but has some deep moments. Simmer uses pretty straightforward open chords. The main challenge is nailing the strumming pattern as the song sounds quite rigid at moments.

Here’s the tab:



Sum 41- In Too Deep

In Too Deep is arguably the most iconic pop-punk song of the early 2000s. This song is a great way to practice palm-muting and is just fun to play all around.

Here’s the tab:



Paramore – Misery Business

Misery Business by Paramore is one of the most iconic emo songs of all time. This song is all about speed, but the chords are not particularly challenging.

You will need to tune your guitar to C#.


C tuning
C# tuning illustration. 



All American Rejects – Dirty Little Secret

Dirty Little Secret largely relies on bar chords for the lead and rhythm guitar lines, while the intro is great for practicing pull-offs.

Here’s the tab:



Avril Lavigne – Sk8r Boi

Sk8r Boi is a fun upbeat song to play on guitar. You’ll notice fills, slides, palm muting, and vibrato in the tab to keep you on your toes.

Here’s the tab:



Blink-182 – All The Small Things

All The Small Things is another fun pop-punk song to play.

The tab will teach you the power of letting notes ring and allows you to work on palm-muting.

Here’s the tab:



Gives You Hell – All American Rejects

Gives You Hell does not have any difficult chord shapes. The lead guitar lines rely on arpeggios for the bridge and dead notes through the chorus.

Here’s the tab:



Fall Out Boy – This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race

This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race by Fall Out Boy is another one of the best emo songs from the early 2000s.

This fast track is great for nailing slides.

Here’s the tab:



All Time Low – Remembering Sunday

Remembering Sunday by All Time Low showcases how sometimes you don’t need to use the most complicated chord progressions to write a good song.

You might not be familiar with chords such as Cadd9, Cmaj7, or Dsus2, but they’re fairly easy to play. The chords of this song flow together without needing to move your fingers much.

Cmaj7 Cadd9 Dsus2
Cmaj7, Cadd9, Dsus2 chords illustration. 

Here’s the tab:



30 Seconds To Mars – The Kill

The Kill by 30 Seconds To Mars is an emo anthem. The chorus is straight bar chords, while the second verse is a good opportunity to practice pull-offs. It also closes with an interesting riff.

Here’s the tab:



We Are The In Crowd – The Best Thing (That Never Happened)

Finger rolling can be challenging – especially when it makes up most of the song. The Best Things (That Never Happened) is a good way to strengthen your fingers so this technique becomes easier.

Here’s the tab:



We The Kings – Check Yes Juliet

Check Yes Juliet is one of the most well-known emo songs. It utilizes finger rolling and 5 chords, but the notes themselves are not too challenging.

Here’s the tab:


Plain White Ts Hey There Delilah

Fans of emo music rarely come across finger plucking, which you’ll see in Hey There Delilah. As a guitar player, it’s good to broaden your horizons, so this song is a great way to practice this technique.

Here’s the tab:


Death Cab For Cutie – Title And Registration

You’ll need a capo to play Title and Registration. You can play this song with fingerpicking, but some people prefer to use a guitar pick.

The song has an interesting riff that runs the whole way through.

Here’s the tab:



Metro Station – Kelsey

Kelsey by Metro Station is mostly comprised of straight-forward bar chords. The main challenge for inexperienced players is nailing the vibrato in the intro and verse. If you play the song without vibrato first, and then again with it, you’ll notice what an important difference it makes. Vibrato makes the notes sound like they’re quivering by pushing and pulling the strings.

Here’s the tab:



Jimmy Eat World – The Middle

You might associate playing single notes on a string with bass, but it’s not unheard of when it comes to playing guitar; these are known as fills The song opens with this style of playing before diving into 5 Chords.

Here’s the tab:



My Chemical Romance – Na Na Na

You’ll notice when playing many songs, you’re hands are generally staying in the same area of the guitar; either towards the top of the fretboard, middle, or even the end. Na Na Na uses chords from pretty much every part of the fretboard so it will get you used to moving your hands quickly.

Here’s the tab:



Panic! At The Disco – Northern Downpour

Northern Downpour by Panic! At The Disco incorporates bar chords with open chords. The chords are fairly simple to grasp.

Here’s the tab:



Good Charlotte – My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine by Good Charlotte is one of the most believe emo songs in the genre and is fairly easy for guitar players to learn at home.

This song should be tuned down half a step. You need to be strong with palm muting and bar chords to nail this.

Here’s the tab:



Avril Lavigne – Complicated

You can learn to play Complicated by Avril Lavigne on an acoustic guitar with open chords. If you listen to the song, you’ll notice another guitar playing a delicate riff during the intro, which is worth learning if you want to push yourself.

Here’s the tab:



Automatic Loveletter – Hush

Hush by Automatic Loveletter mainly uses open chords. It is a great way to become acquainted with B/Ed and A/C# which you may not have come across before.

B/Eb, A/C# chords illustration.

Here’s the tab:



5 Seconds Of Summer – She’s Kinda Hot

She’s Kinda Hot by 5 Seconds of Summer sounds funkier than some of their other songs.

The tab might be intimidating as there are 3 guitar lines, and it jumps from acoustic to electric guitar; however, only stick to whichever guitar line you feel the most comfortable with.

The lead guitar line is in Drop D but the rest are in standard tuning. If you’re daunted by the symbol for “hold note” appearing throughout this tab, in this case, it just means to let the notes in question ring.

Here’s the tab:



Willow – Transparent Soul Ft. Travis Barker

Willow Smith’s venture into rock music has resulted in some great songs. You’ll need bar chords under your belt to play Transparent Soul. For the intro and verses, you’ll play a riff alternating between different frets on the A and E strings, which will help with precision.

Here’s the tab:



Palaye Royale – Lonely

Lonely by Palaye Royale is another example of how you do not need to stuff as many notes into a bar as possible; sometimes it’s more effective to let the song bleed. This song is also a great way to practice rolling and filling.

Here’s the tab:



Could We Burn Darling – Fearless Vampire Killers

Sometimes it can be tricky to control palm muting; it can be easier to palm mute for an entire bar, rather than for only one note. This song can help you be more precise with palm muting.

Here’s the tab:



Creeper – Black Mass

Black Mass by Creeper is not particularly challenging. During the bridge, you need to strum downwards on the sixth fret from the D to the B string and back up. The same motion is repeated on the eighth fret. Some people struggle to keep their fingers in the same place during this style of playing.

Here’s the tab:



Black Veil Brides – The Mortician’s Daughter

The Mortician’s Daughter by Black Veil Brides is best played on an acoustic guitar. The chords are simply open chords. The strumming pattern for the intro is not the same as the rest of the song, which newer guitar players might find challenging.

Here’s the tab:



Gerard Way – Action Cat

Gerard Way is arguably the face of emo, so his solo album. Hesitant Alien, has song emo songs well worth learning. Action Cat is pretty straightforward. It will help you get used to muting notes between strings while playing a chord. The strumming pattern is down the whole way through, which may be harder to master for those used to playing more upbeat genres.

Here’s the tab:



Gayle – ABCEFU

If you’re on TikTok, you know ABCEFU.

There are a few different versions of the song, the “angrier” version doesn’t use open chords. Instead, it uses 5 chords, with the same progressions repeating throughout the song.

Here’s the tab:



We The Kings – We’ll Be A Dream Ft. Demi Lovato

You need to pick the strings for the intro of We’ll Be A Dream before diving into strumming normally for the rest of the song. The chords and opening riff are not too complicated.

Here’s the tab:



Mayday Parade – Terrible Things

You need to tine your guitar half a step up for this song.

If you’re playing the rhythm guitar line, you mostly play 5 chords throughout the song. The lead guitar has a nice riff at the beginning.

Half Step Up Tuning Illustration. 

Here’s the tab:



Rise Against – Make It Stop

A lot of people would argue that Rise Against are not emo, but the reason it’s on this list of the best emo songs to learn on guitar is because a lot of fans of this band are in the emo scene.

The bar chords for Make It Stop are not particularly complicated, but you will use a lot of plam muting.

Here’s the tab:



Taking Back Sunday – Makedamnsure

Makedamnsure by Taking Back Sunday is considered one of the best emo songs of all time.

You’ll need to tune your guitar half a step down for this one.

The chords for the rhythm guitar line are pretty straightforward and common. You’ll use a lot of palm muting. The lead guitar line has some interesting melodies, but they’re not too complicated either.

Here’s the tab:



5 Seconds Of Summer – Amnesia

Amnesia by 5 Seconds of Summer is softer than some of their other songs. A gentle riff runs through the intro and verses. You can play this with a pick or use finger-picking. As the chorus is strummed, you’ll probably find it easier to use a pick.

Here’s the tab:




So, there we have 52 of the best emo songs to take your guitar playing to the next level. These songs rely on different techniques. So, whether you’re learning something new or hoping to keep yourself in shape, these songs will keep you on your toes.

Have fun playing!

52 best emo songs to take you guitar playing to the next level 1