Learn the Chords to Your Favorite Green Day Songs on Guitar
Learn the chords and play along with 6 Green Day guitar tutorials for hit songs like "When I Come Around,” Basket Case” & "American Idiot”.
By Ben Nemeroff
With a sound that combines the energy of bands like The Clash and Ramones with the hooks of the Kinks and the Who, Green Day made a major impact on listeners and kicked off a wave of mainstream appreciation for fast-paced pop-punk in the mid-’90s, following on the heels of the grunge movement. Songs such as “When I Come Around,” “Basket Case,” and “Longview” made their hit album "Dookie" an instant classic, and changed the face of rock for decades to come.
Brimming with catchy choruses and fast-tempo power chords, "Dookie" was recorded in just three weeks in 1994 -- the very same year that the music world lost Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. In this episode of Fender Play LIVE, host Eugene Edwards and guitarist Izzy Fontaine discussed how both Nirvana and Green Day represented two ends of the alternative rock spectrum.
In this article, we’ll break down the songs & tricks to help you learn to play some of Green Day’s biggest hits:
-- Basket Case
-- When I Come Around
-- Welcome to Paradise
-- American Idiot
-- Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Want to learn to play some of Green Day’s biggest hits yourself? A free trial of Fender Play unlocks lessons that will show you the chords and riffs for some of Green Day’s most popular songs.
Check out Fender Play LIVE on YouTube for a crash course on how to play Green Day songs from Dookie.
How to Sound Like Green Day
Want to achieve Green Day’s crisp, punchy punk sound? From the guitar perspective, the ingredients are fairly simple to replicate Billie Joe Armstrong's distinctive sound. His guitar and amp settings pack a punch with a full overdriven sound that features plenty of high-end. Billie Joe has played a variety of guitars throughout his career, but perhaps his most iconic guitar is "Blue", a daphne blue stratocaster copy that would eventually feature a humbucker in the bridge position. Fender has a wide selection of HSS Stratocasters available to pick from to get that full overdriven tone.
Of course no conversation about Green Day is complete without talking about Mike Dirnt’s prominent role in these hit songs. The opening bass notes that provide the backbone of “Longview” stands as proof of his ability to craft memorable bass lines on par with some of the crunchiest of guitar riffs. Take a page from his bass playbook and check out the signature model Mike Dirnt Road Worn® Precision Bass®. Based on the original-era 1951 Precision bass style, the signature model has a dinged-up look that feels at home in the hands of any bassist, giving an explosive tone that belies its road-tested look.
Beyond instruments, amps and various presets can help you achieve the iconic Green Day tone. Fender offers different presets that musicians can access when using Fender's Modern Contemporary amps, such as the Mustang™ GTX50. Tapping into the Green Day pre-set amp settings, you’ll find a combination of ready-to-play effects without having to string together different pedals to get just the right sound.
How to Learn Green Day Songs on Guitar
Fender Play offers a collection of Green Day guitar tutorials to show you how to play some of the band’s best-known songs. A free trial unlocks lessons that will show you how to play chords and riffs on such songs as “Basket Case,” “American Idiot,” "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" and many more. These songs are great for guitarists of all levels, from beginners to seasoned guitar vets - they're all ultra fun to play.
Before you start learning songs, here's a tip: make sure you nail down your power chords first as they are used very frequently in Green Day songs. Check out this power chord lesson on Fender Play to brush up on your power chords before diving into these Green Day classics!
Dookie - The Album
In 1994, Green Day introduced mainstream music listeners to California Bay Area punk with their landmark album, Dookie. While it seems like they were an overnight success, vocalist / guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool had previously released two other albums and had been carving out their niche in the East Bay punk scene since the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Since the release of Dookie, Green Day went on to become one of the top-selling rock artists of all time. The band snatched up Grammy awards for subsequent releases, including American Idiot, a concept album that was later made into a Broadway musical.
Basket Case Guitar Chords
An instant classic upon its release, “Basket Case” was one of the demo songs that got Green Day signed to Reprise records. Eighth note strumming and string muting give this song it’s fast, choppy, and hectic sound. Played in Eb tuning, Billie Joe utilizes both open and barre chords to get different sounds. For instance, "Basket Case” features two versions of the E chord: one played on the 9th fret and another version in open position to give it a fuller sound.
Learn how to play Basket Case right here on Fender Play.
When I Come Around Guitar Chords
Perhaps no other song introduced Green Day to music fans around the globe more so than "When I Come Around”, which features a plethora of power chords and an iconic opening four-chord riff. The lead single from Dookie, “When I Come Around” is built around 8th note strumming and palm muting to create the chugging power chord sound that became Green Day’s calling card.
Learn how to play "When I Come Around" right here on Fender Play.
For help on Palm Muting, check out this exercise on Fender Play.
Longview Bass & Guitar
The bassline for “Longview” is probably one of the most instantly recognizable opening lines of any rock song. Mike Dirnt’s walking bass riff is an ultra fun exercise for bass players, especially those learning to play with a pick. The bass riff is easily transferable on guitar too, and the the chorus is 3-chord assault that is as classic punk as they come.
Welcome to Paradise Guitar Chords
The second single from Green Day’s breakthrough 1994 album, Dookie, “Welcome to Paradise” is yet another classic chock full of power chords. Alternate strumming combined with eighth note patterns gives the song it’s quick-and-dirty punk rock feel.
While the Fender Play lesson shows you how to play the song in standard tuning for the sake of simplicity for beginner guitarists, Billie Joe Armstrong originally played “Welcome to Paradise” in half-step tuning.
Check out the Fender Play LIVE clip to hear Izzy Fontaine and Eugene Edwards talk about the unique way Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt tuned down a half-step on Dookie. Want to try it yourself? Check out the Fender Tune app to explore a range of alternate tunings.
American Idiot Guitar Chords
Fast-forward a decade later from the release of the iconic Dookie album to 2004. “American Idiot” is the title track from Green Day’s 2004 concept album of the same name. The band set out to create a “punk rock opera” chronicling an American teen’s view of the world through the lens of working class discontent and war.
When learning to play the “American Idiot” chords in this tutorial, you’ll also focus on such techniques as alternate strumming and syncopated strumming. Get the jump on these vital strum patterns and read up on 6 ways to Strum Like Pro.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams Guitar Chords
Another track from Green Day’s Grammy-award winning American Idiot, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” showcases the band’s versatility. The acoustic ballad is played with a capo on the first fret of the guitar and makes use of a variety of chords that every beginner guitarist should have in their arsenal.
Learn “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day on guitar by signing up for a free trial of Fender Play.
Check out Green Day Fender Play Guitar Lessons
Learning to play songs by a great artist such as Green Day helps to not only give you a greater appreciation of their musicianship, but it's also an easy and fun way to learn some essential guitar techniques. Be patient, and remember that everyone was a beginner once so just have fun! Try your hand at these Green Day tutorials and unlock a full library of songs and lessons with a free trial of Fender Play today.