The top 10 air guitar songs of all time

Man wearing headphones playing air guitar
(Image credit: Getty)

Though nothing beats the feeling of playing an actual guitar – be it an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar – sometimes circumstances force us into playing something else entirely: nothing at all.

If it wasn’t clear, we’re talking about the air guitar: a deceptively difficult discipline that, believe it or not, was once a taboo instrument – something that was played away from prying eyes when the overwhelming feelings of separation from a real six-string became too great to bear.

But that all changed when Tom Cruise made air guitar a public nuisance in 1983’s Risky Business. With the house to himself, the underwear-clad Cruise did some mighty Chuck Berry-esque guitar work while frolicking to the chunky blues rock riffs of Bob Seger's Old Time Rock and Roll.

The best thing about playing air guitar? That is, other than the fact you can be entirely tone deaf, you don't have to fork out for an actual instrument, an appreciation of music theory is entirely unnecessary, and you can have all the musicality of a hockey puck? You can play as loud as you like without fear of receiving any noise complaints.

With that in mind, here are 10 tracks of varying difficulty that will put your air guitar abilities to the test. Master these tracks and you’ll be on your way to the Air Guitar World Championship in no time. Yes, that is a real thing.

10. Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode

An entry level track for those looking to kickstart their air guitar journey in the easiest possible way. In fact, if you can't navigate Chuck Berry's primal rock 'n' roll riffs, perhaps the discipline isn't for you after all. If the song proves too difficult to learn, never fear: you can still work on that iconic duck walk of his – a stunt best practiced behind closed doors and definitely not in front of mixed company.

9. Beastie Boys – (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)

With their punk hearts, hip-hop minds and '80s metal sensibilities, the Beastie Boys tried and succeeded for a while in becoming all things to all people. For air guitarists, they did not provide consistently fertile ground, but this frat boy anthem has become a quiet classic in the annals of flailing air-meisters.

8. The Who – Baba O'Riley

Okay, puff that chest out and plant those legs. It's time for one of the greatest air guitar moves developed in the short history of this amazing art form: the Windmill. Thank you, Pete Townshend – though you may be a pretty good real-life guitar player, your contribution to the oeuvre of air guitar poses and mimicry will live on forever.

7. Aerosmith – Walk This Way

A riff that really needs no introduction, Joe Perry’s low-fret throwdown from 1975 separates the good air guitarists from the great air guitarists. It may revolve around only a handful of frets, but that’s no excuse to get complacent – your right hand will need to keep up with your left hand for this one. A lack of synchronization will just put a spotlight on the shortcomings of your technique.

6. Boston – More Than a Feeling

Tom Scholtz's hermetic guitar artistry is legendary, so it comes as no surprise to see his byline on a list of air guitar songs. The tone alone allows air guitarists to feel the heat of the spotlight, hear the roar of the crowd and think about what would have happened if they had only learned to play a real guitar.

5. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird

As the solos that close this epic veer off in a million directions like a gorgeous display of fireworks, a seasoned air guitar vet knows that they need not follow one solo arc specifically, for Free Bird is more about "feeling" than it is about technique. Still, those lightning-fast pentatonic licks are not for the faint of heart.

4. The Troggs – Wild Thing

Like the primal scream of the Troggs themselves, this song is great for beginner air guitarists. The melody is familiar and there are enough vocal hooks to distract any onlookers from noticing big gaps in your technique. Simply put, it's a three-chord masterpiece, and one that needs to be in the repertoire of all serious air guitarists.

3. AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long

With his manic gestures and incessant mugging, Angus Young may just be the quintessential role model for an air guitarist. Not only is this chord progression standard for all air-heads, but it also provides an amazing sing-along chorus for those players who aren't afraid to sing and play at the same time.

2. Jimi Hendrix – Foxy Lady

Hendrix doesn't turn up on a lot of air guitar lists because, well, frankly, not many air guitarists dare take on the Great One. The fact is, even pretending to be Hendrix is difficult. Tackle at your own risk. For experienced air guitarists only.

1. Derek and the Dominos – Layla

Multiple guitar parts are the ultimate challenge for air guitarists, no matter what their skill level. In this instance, do you follow Clapton's rhythm track on this classic, or do you take the high road and play Duane Allman's memorable lead line? It's a no-brainer, really...

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Guitar World Staff

Since 1980, Guitar World has been the ultimate resource for guitarists. Whether you want to learn the techniques employed by your guitar heroes, read about their latest projects or simply need to know which guitar is the right one to buy, Guitar World is the place to look.