Research: The world's most played songs and riffs

What songs do musicians around the world want to play the most? We investigated this intriguing question and found out which song chords and guitar riffs are the most searched for around the world.

Move your mouse over the countries to find out more

Go straight to the results

There are many polls and lists of the most popular songs for guitarists, where musicians can vote for their favorite songs. However, these polls are only partially meaningful because they only capture the opinions of a limited number of people.

We wanted to do a more detailed analysis, so we looked at which chords and tabs are searched for the most around the world. Since almost everyone searches for chords and tabs on Google these days, we looked at and analyzed all searches for these chords on Google. A total of 271 songs and 2,314,336 Google searches were analyzed.

Our analysis aims to show which songs are played most often in which countries and which songs are searched for most frequently worldwide in absolute numbers. The top 3 songs for each country can be seen on the map above.

The differences between the countries

The differences between countries with the same language are particularly interesting: while in the USA "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley (original by Leonard Cohen) is played most often, in Great Britain it is "Let it Be" by the Beatles. And in Canada it is "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals.

The popularity of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" in South America is also remarkable. It is the most played song in 12 countries on the continent, including Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. It is considered the most popular wedding song in the world - no wonder it is performed so often.

But the European continent is very colorful - each country has its own taste. In the southern countries of Spain and Italy, "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd is played most often, while France, Denmark and Sweden prefer "Hallelujah".

In the UK, it is not surprising that "Let It Be" by The Beatles is the most played song - after all, The Beatles are the most successful British band of all time. The song is also the most played in Germany.

In Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, local songs in the local language are the most popular, as well as in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Unfortunately, we could only find a small amount of data in Africa, as Google is not as widely used there.

The world's most played songs in absolute terms

"Hallelujah" is number one in the world and number one in many countries around the world, including the USA, Sweden, France and Australia. It is also one of the most covered songs in music history.

The original was written by Leonard Cohen in 1984 and gained some popularity. In 1991, John Cale reinterpreted the song and had a little more success with it. This version in turn inspired Jeff Buckley to create a new interpretation that became incredibly popular worldwide. The song was then included in Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".

It speaks to almost everyone in the world with its themes of love and loss, coupled with biblical references and incredible poetry.

Ed Sheeran's love song "Perfect" follows in second place. No wonder: the song has been listened to 3.7 billion times on YouTube and 2.9 billion times on Spotify. The song is also a perfect guitar ballad, ideal for playing and singing along.

"Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd comes in third and is the most popular song in Spain, Italy and Brazil. Also about love, with a striking guitar riff, this song is perfect for playing and singing alone on an acoustic guitar.

So we can conclude that love songs are the most popular. This is not surprising because everyone can relate to this feeling, whether it is with their partner, friends or family.

The world's most played guitar riffs

We also asked ourselves which guitar riffs are the most popular. It is reasonable to assume that people searching for popular guitar riffs would type "song title + tab" or "song title + guitar tab" (or the translation in the respective language) into Google. We examined and analyzed exactly these searches. The results are as follows:

This is where the famous "forbidden riff" joke on the guitar comes from: the first 4 songs are played so often that the staff in the guitar departments of music stores can no longer hear them.

For example, "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes is by far the most played song - probably because the melody is very simple and extremely catchy. Even in football stadiums, fans often sing the famous riff.

Second on the list is "Staiway to Heaven", THE ultimate forbidden riff. The iconic guitar intro has influenced generations of guitarists - almost every guitarist has probably played it a few times in their life.

"Come As You Are" by Nirvana comes in third. Also a fairly simple but catchy riff, like most of Nirvana's songs. It is played with the famous Electro Harmonix Small Clone chorus pedal. Surprisingly, many more people search for these tabs than for Smells Like Teen Spirit. In the US, Smells Like Teen Spirit is actually more popular, but worldwide Come As You Are is the most popular Nirvana song to play. Maybe it's because the riff of Smells Like Teen Spirit is so simple that guitarists can play it without tabs (it's only 4 power chords).

The band with the most appearances on the list is Metallica, with a total of 5 songs.

The most played songs in the USA

The most played songs in the UK

The most played songs in Germany

The most played songs in Spain

The data comes from Semrush, the world's most popular and reliable keyword tool. Semrush has the largest Google keyword database in the world and regularly updates the search volume.

Using this tool, we found the most popular Google searches ("song + chords", "song + tabs", with different variations such as "guitar tabs" or "guitar chords" and the respective translations in each language) in each country and compared them.

The searches were then entered into Google's Keyword Planner tool to verify the volume of searches. This is Google's official tool for determining search volume.

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