May 29, 2023 by Klaus Crow
Hi Folks, as a guitar student and musician you need to learn your Tom Petty songs and for a good reason!
Tom was a great American singer-songwriter who left an indelible mark on the world of rock music.
With his distinctive raspy voice and catchy songwriting, he became known for his ability to blend elements of rock, folk, and Americana, creating a unique and timeless sound.
In 1976, he gained widespread recognition with his band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and later as a solo artist creating the iconic album “Full moon fever” produced by Jeff Lynne, and went on to release a string of great albums and hits.
Tragically, Tom passed away on October 2, 2017, leaving behind a profound influence on generations of musicians.
Luckily his songs are left for us to play, to study, to practice and enjoy. Tom Petty’s songs are a really good source to develop all the different skills you need as a guitar player from common chords and progressions, embellishments, catchy riffs, licks, and great song writing.
In this carefully curated list, you can find the cream of the crop from Petty’s extensive catalog, from the infectious hooks of “Free Fallin'” to the anthemic power of “American girl,” each song offers a unique opportunity to dive deep into Petty’s signature guitar style.
So grab your favorite six-string, make yourself some good coffee and let’s explore the magic of Tom Petty’s guitar-driven classics. Each title contains a link to Youtube and a link to the chords / Tabs and lyrics for the song.
Enjoy your practice and have a great one!
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1 – “Free Fallin’
“Free Fallin’ was written by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne for the album “Full moon fever” and was released in 1989. The song was recorded in just two days and used a multitude of acoustic guitar to create that incredible dreamy sound.
It’s a nostalgic song about personal freedom and embracing life’s journey. It encourages you to let go and enjoy the ride, capturing the essence of self-discovery and adventure.
The song is in the key of F major and can be played as a beginner-friendly version by playing it with the capo on the 3rd fret following the chords D – G – D – A (sus4) throughout the entire song.
2 – “I Won’t Back Down”
This song is an empowering anthem, released in 1989, and embodies resilience and determination. It’s a reminder to stay true to yourself and stand strong in the face of adversity.
With basic open chords like Em , D, G and C “I Won’t Back Down” is approachable for beginner guitarists. The song follows a verse-chorus structure, making it easy to learn and perform.
3 – “American Girl”
“American Girl” is a classic rock song that captures the spirit of youthful rebellion and American dreams. The songs was released for their self-titled debut album in 1976 and tells the story of a young woman’s experiences and embodies the essence of rock ‘n’ roll energy.
The progression incorporates basic open chords like D, E7, G, and A. The song follows a verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure, giving you the chance to practice chord progressions and transitions. The melody and rhythm allows for energetic strumming.
4. “Learning to Fly”
Learning to Fly” is a reflective song about personal growth and taking risks. It encourages listeners to embrace life’s challenges and soar to new heights.
The chords for the song include F, C, Am and G offering opportunities for intermediate players to develop their barre chord technique or you could play it just as easy with open chords.
5. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”
This haunting and mysterious song, released in 1993, tells a story of lost love and farewell. It explores themes of obsession and bidding farewell to a past romance.
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” incorporates chords like Am, G, and Dsus2, Em7 and A providing an opportunity to practice finger positioning and transitions. The melody, based on the A minor scale, creates a moody atmosphere, allowing for expressive strumming and vocal interpretations.
Mary Jane’s last dance chords + TABS
“Breakdown” is a catchy rock song that delves into themes of heartbreak and vulnerability. The song was released in 1976 for the self-titled album “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” and it tells the story of a relationship falling apart and the protagonist’s struggle to cope with the emotional turmoil.
The easy chords for this song are perfect for beginners. The song contains the chords Am – G – Fmaj7 and Fmaj7sus2 throughout most of the verses and chorus, providing a solid foundation for rhythm guitar. The rhythm involves a combination of strumming and palm muting, creating a captivating groove.
Refugee was released in 1979 on the album “Damn the Torpedoes,” the song is a powerful rock anthem that embodies resilience and determination. It tells a story of survival, urging listeners to persevere through life’s challenges and find strength within.
The chord progression follows F#m – A -E (4x) and then D and B, in both the verses and chorus, creating a driving and energetic sound with the use of power chords.
8. “Don’t Do Me Like That”
“Don’t Do Me Like That” is a catchy rock song that delves into the frustration and uncertainty of a strained relationship. It emphasizes the need for respect and fair treatment in love.
The chord progression follows G – F(maj9) – C – D in both the verses and chorus, creating a catchy and memorable sequence and ideal for beginners to practice
9. “Into the Great Wide Open”
“Into the Great wide open” was released in 1991 on the album of the same name, “Into the Great Wide Open” tells a cautionary tale of a young man named Eddie who embarks on a journey to stardom but faces the pitfalls of the music industry. Johnny Depp was casted for the video of the song.
The chords for the song starts with Em – EmMaj7 – Em7 – Em6 for the intro and first part of the verse and then continues with Am – Am/G – Am/F# – Am/G – and G – F – C – G – C – G creating a beautiful chord progression. The chorus turns goes into a more major feel good flavor that opens up the song with a catchy melody.
Into the great wide open chords
10. “Runnin’ Down a Dream”
“Runnin’ Down a Dream” was written by Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, and Jeff Lynne and released in 1989 on the album “Full Moon Fever”. It’s an energetic rock anthem about pursuing one’s aspirations with unwavering determination. The song tells the story of a relentless pursuit of a dream, overcoming obstacles and staying focused on the journey.
The song features a driving chord progression of E – D for the verse and A – G – E throug the chorus making it an excellent choice for practicing power chords. The rhythm combines a mix of palm-muted downstrokes, open strums, and occasional accents, creating a rhythmic groove that propels the song forward.
Running down a dream chords + TABS
Check out the official chords and Tabs in the “Tom Petty – The Definitive Guitar Collection (Guitar Recorded Versions)”
one he’ll of ablast of music and how to get under it. thanks klaus
Steve Manwarren says
The TP song that first caught my imagination was “I Need To Know” from his second album in 1978. I also think that some of his best work came from his later collaboration with Jeff Lynne: I Won’t Back Down, Runnin’ Down A Dream, Learning To Fly.
Klaus Crow says
Haha! Enjoy the songs 😉🎸👍
Klaus Crow says
Absolutely, every artists is evolving as they write and produce songs over the year.
There’s an absolute difference in the early Tom Petty and later with Jeff.
While I prefer the Jeff Lynne productions, all the albums and songs have their charmes.
Thanks for the feedback.😉👍