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The Top 10 Air Guitar Songs of All Time

(Image credit: Graham Wiltshire/Getty Images)

It used to be something you could do in private, like, well, some other things you're better off doing in private.

But that all changed when an upstart Tom Cruise made air guitar a public nuisance in Risky Business all those decades ago. With the house to himself, the underwear-clad Cruise did some mighty Chuck Berry-esque guitar work while frolicking to the chunky blues-rock chords of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll." Since then, air guitar has become, um, big business.

The best thing about playing air guitar? That is, other than the fact that you can be entirely tone-deaf, you don't need to own an instrument, you don't need to read a note of music, and you can have all the musicality of a hockey puck? You can crank the amp way up to "11."

10. Chuck Berry, "Johnny B. Goode"

If you can't play Chuck Berry's primal rock 'n' roll chords, perhaps air guitar isn't for you. Then again, you can work on that duck walk of his, a stunt best practiced behind closed doors and definitely not in front of mixed company.

09. Beastie Boys, "Fight for Your Right"

With their punk hearts, hip-hop minds, and Eighties 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 airmeisters.

08. The Who, "Baba O'Riley"

Okay, puff that chest out, and splay those legs. It's time for one of the great air-guitar moves in the short history of this amazing art-form—the Windmill. Thank you, Pete Townshend. Though we admit you're a pretty good real-life guitar player, your contribution to the air-guitar oeuvre of poses and mimicry will live on forever.

07. Aerosmith/Run DMC, "Walk This Way"

While air drumming is an art form that has yet to get its due, it plays a large role in injecting Joe Perry's great riff with a funky foundation. And with Run D.M.C.'s rap breaks on this groundbreaking hit, there's plenty of time to preen between duty calls. Officially, however, we'd like to say this is an either/or situation, as in, you can dump the Run DMC version and stick to the original!

06. 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 real guitars.

05. 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 he need not follow one solo arc specifically. For "Free Bird" is more about "feeling" than it is about technique.

04. 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 sexy vocal hooks to distract an audience from noticing big gaps in your technique. Heck, even the local frat boys can figure their way around the fretboard for this three-chord masterpiece.

03. 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.

02. Jimi Hendrix, "Foxy Lady"

Jimi doesn't turn up on a lot of 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.

01. Derek and the Dominos, "Layla"

Multiple guitar parts are the ultimate challenge for air guitarists, no matter what their skill level. For example, 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? I think I know what you'd do...

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Guitar World Staff
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.