The ukulele is one of the most charming and interesting instruments to play. Even if the ukulele is the first instrument you’ve put your hands on, there are plenty of songs you can easily learn to play. In this guide we’ve selected a 10 such songs for you to get started quickly!
1) Blowing In the Wind
One of the ground-breaking songs of the 1960s, and one of Bob Dylan’s most beautiful numbers, “Blowing in the Wind” is also a perfect song for every sort of ukulele players. It has a simple three-chord, folk-song structure. While the original key is D major, in this tutorial you can learn how to play this song in C major. It’s simpler to play it that way on the ukulele, and it’s not difficult to sing along, as well. Bob Dylan makes complex songs, lyrics-wise, but his singing isn’t that demanding, although it’s not easy to imitate him. That’s why it’s better to find your own way to sing his songs.
2) I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Released in 1987 on Joshua Tree, this song is one of the most successful songs made by U2, both in terms of commercial success and reception among the audience.
What makes it so great for the ukulele is the chord progression. The original version is played in D major and entire song revolves around three major chords in this key: D, G, and A.
Just like with “Blowing In The Wind”, it’s more convenient to transpose it for the ukulele and play it in C major. In this video lesson, you can learn how to play it in that key. The strumming pattern is quite straightforward. What might be tricky is singing Bono’s high-register notes, but you can always sing it an octave lower.
3) Hey, Soul Sister
The song “Hey, Soul Sister” was released by the American rock band Train.
The catchy tune and the pleasant falsetto singing made this number an instant hit.
It was originally written in E major, but chord progression in this key might be a bit complicated for new ukulele players, mostly due to the bar chords that have to be played here. That’s why we’ve picked a tutorial in which a capo is placed on the fourth fret so that the song is played in the original key.
If you think you can cope with the bar chords, here you can check out how to play “Hey, Soul Sister” in the original, E major key.
4) One Love
“One Love” by Bob Marley was released in 1977, on his album Exodus. Like many songs written by this great reggae author, it’s a thrilling song about love and joy.
It’s also perfect for the ukulele because you need only four chords to play this song: C major, a minor, F major, and G major. The original version is in Bb major, which is not simple to play on the ukulele. When the song is transposed to C major, you can simply play it with four open chords.
The rhythm is simple, so the strumming pattern shouldn’t be complicated either. For more details on playing this song, watch this YouTube lesson.
5) Just The Way You Are
Released in 2010, Bruno Mars’s song “Just The Way You Are” has a lively rhythm and a nice tune, plus it’s not too complex, chord-wise. As such, it’s a great song for new ukulele players.
The original version of this song is in F major, which includes some more difficult chords on the ukulele. That’s why we suggest playing it in C major, as shown in this video. In this key, you can also sing it without too much tension. Bruno Mars has an extremely high vocal register so most people will find it hard to sing his songs in the original keys.
Still, if you can sing high notes, have a look at this ukulele tutorial for “Just The Way You Are”. It’s played and sung in the original F major key.
6) I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
Another song written by Bob Dylan in 1967, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” became more popular in 1990 when Robert Palmer and UB40 released its cover. This version has a ukulele-friendly beat since it sounds more reggae than Dylan’s folk arrangement.
In this ukulele lesson, you can play and sing “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” in the original F major key. However, if that key doesn’t suit your vocal range, you can always use a capo and adapt they key to your singing preferences.
7) Stand By Me
Written and sung by Ben E. King, “Stand By Me” was released in 1961. It’s still one of the most popular songs of all times. It’s also a great choice for the ukulele. The chord progression is the 50s chord progression, which is in this case A-f#-D-E.
On the ukulele, this could be a bit confusing for beginners, so again it’s better to transpose it to C major. In this version adapted to the ukulele, you can learn fast to play and sing this song. As for the rhythm, just stick with the regular 4/4 strumming pattern.
8) Wonderful Tonight
This song was released in 1977 and still remains one of the most beautiful songs written by Eric Clapton.
A slow ballad in G major, it’s a real treat for every ukulele player. What’s also great about playing this song on the ukulele is that most beginners will be able to play the intro, in addition to the chords.
In this video tutorial, everything is covered, from the intro to the verse and chorus, all the way to the bridge.
When you’ve mastered the ukulele for “Wonderful Tonight”, you can start practicing the vocal line, which requires precise singing. Hence, it might take some time to learn how to both to play and sing this song.
9) I Fought The Law
Written by Bobby Fuller Four and originally released in 1966, “I Fought The Law” rose to prominence in 1977 when The Clash covered it on their eponymous album.
A simple, catchy tune is a great choice for the ukulele. The original song is in D major, but one more time C major is a better choice for ukulele players, as presented in this video. While the strumming pattern isn’t complicated, there are some fast chord changes, so don’t give up if you can’t play them at once. Keep practicing for a few days along this video and you’ll be proud when you manage to master those tricky parts.
10) Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Recorded in 1939 and part of the soundtrack for movie Wizard of Oz, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” became a true ukulele hymn in the version released by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, in 1990.
What’s important to say is that this song is more difficult to play than most of the other songs on this list. Its harmony requires more chords, mostly due to the age when the original version was written. Back then, harmonies were written in a more complex manner.
Still, you can play a simpler version, like the one you can watch here until you master the ukulele in a more thorough way. As your knowledge of this instrument extends, try to learn this version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. It’s more complex, but also more effective, as well as musically challenging.
This list is only the tip of an iceberg when it comes to popular songs that can be easily played on the ukulele.
We’ve mainly followed the mainstream taste in this guide. This doesn’t mean that some metal or punk songs can’t be played on this instrument. What’s so beautiful about this instrument is its adaptability to multiple musical genres and styles. Just take your ukulele, play it as often as you can and you’ll soon be able to play any song you want!
Got some more easy ukulele songs for beginners to suggest? Please write a comment below!