The ukulele, known for its delightful sound and compact size, has gained immense popularity recently. Whether you’re a complete musical novice or transitioning from another instrument, the ukulele’s simplicity and versatility make it an ideal choice for beginners. In this blog, we’ll look at five easy ukulele songs to get you started. We’ll also provide tips for choosing a ukulele and a downloadable ukulele chord sheet.
While the ukulele can be played in a very sophisticated way (check out performances by Eddie Kamae, Roy Smeck, or Jake Shimabukuro), it’s a great beginner instrument because it’s easy to manage physically, it’s tuned to an ‘open’ chord (meaning you can strum the strings without holding them down and it will produce a pleasant sound), and because it’s typically very affordable.
How to Choose the Right Ukulele?
Choosing the right ukulele is an important decision that can significantly impact your playing experience. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting your instrument:
Determine your budget
Set a budget range that suits your financial capacity. Ukuleles come in various price ranges, and while higher-end models may offer better sound and quality, there are also affordable options for beginners.
Consider the size
Ukuleles are available in four main sizes – soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Each size has its unique sound and feel. Smaller sizes like soprano are great for beginners and players with smaller hands, while larger sizes like tenor offer a richer, fuller tone.
Assess the build quality
Look for a ukulele with a solid build and good craftsmanship. Check for any visible defects or imperfections. The materials used, such as solid wood or laminate, can also impact the sound and durability of the instrument.
Test the sound and playability
Play a few chords and strum on the ukulele to assess its sound quality and projection. Consider the action (string height), fretboard comfort, and overall playability. The instrument should feel comfortable in your hands.
Seek recommendations and reviews
Read customer reviews and seek recommendations from experienced ukulele players or music store staff. Their insights can provide valuable guidance in making an informed decision.
By considering your budget, size preference, build quality, sound, and playability, you can choose a ukulele that suits your needs and brings you joy as you embark on your musical journey.
How to Develop Basic Ukulele Technique
Developing basic ukulele techniques is crucial for beginners to build a solid foundation for their playing. Here are some key aspects to focus on:
- Posture and Hand Positioning: Maintain a relaxed and comfortable posture while playing, with your ukulele resting comfortably on your lap. Ensure proper hand positioning, with your fretting hand forming chords cleanly and your strumming hand moving freely.
- Strumming Patterns: Practice basic strumming patterns, starting with simple downstrokes and gradually incorporating upstrokes. Focus on maintaining a steady rhythm and strumming with a relaxed wrist motion.
- Chord Transitions: Work on transitioning smoothly between chords. Start by practicing chord changes in isolation, then gradually incorporate them into songs. Take it slow, ensuring each finger lands on the right string and fret, and progressively increase your speed as you become more comfortable.
- Fingerpicking: Explore fingerpicking techniques, plucking individual strings to create melodies and patterns. Start with simple exercises and gradually work up to more complex fingerpicking patterns.
- Rhythm and Timing: Develop a sense of rhythm and timing by practicing with a metronome or playing with backing tracks. Focus on staying in sync with the beat and maintaining a consistent tempo.
Remember, developing basic ukulele technique takes time and patience. Practice regularly, start slowly, and gradually increase the difficulty level. With dedication and persistence, you’ll steadily improve your technique and unlock the ukulele’s full potential. Taking private music lessons can be a great benefit if you’re looking to take your playing to the next level.
Standard C6 Tuning & Right Hand Technique
Before we dig into some songs, let’s cover the basics. While there are various sizes and tunings for ukuleles, the most common is the soprano (followed closely by the concert and the tenor). While all three of these instruments are different sizes and have different timbres, they are generally all tuned the same way.
The standard tuning for your ukulele is as follows: G, C, E, A. When strumming without holding any strings down, this should sound like a C6 chord.
Now for a quick reminder of right-hand technique (the hand that we strum will). While playing the ukulele with a pick is possible, it is often played by brushing the thumb, fingers, or single finger. Experiment with different techniques and use the one that is the most comfortable for you. Practice strumming slowly and evenly while tapping your foot to the beat or a metronome.
Because of the ukulele’s tuning, playing a few basic chords is relatively easy and can be learned in a few days (if not hours!). See the chart below for common ukulele chord shapes.
Our ukulele is tuned, our strumming hand is ready to rock, and we have a few chord diagrams in front of us…now what? We need to pick a few songs, but where does one begin? That answer will vary depending on who you ask, but I’d like to offer some suggestions.
Common Ukulele Chord Shapes
Mastering common ukulele chord shapes is essential for playing different ukulele songs. Here are some of the most commonly used chord shapes for the ukulele:
By familiarizing yourself with these common ukulele chord shapes and practicing their transitions, you can play hundreds of songs and expand your musical repertoire!
Five Easy-to-Play Ukulele Songs
1. Blues in C
Playing a simple three-chord, 12-bar blues is a great place to start. Most folks are familiar with this form, and the chords needed to play it (C, F, G7) are straightforward to play on the ukulele. Thousands of blues songs follow this format, so it’s worth learning!
2. Amazing Grace
This classic hymn has a lovely melody and is in ‘waltz time’ (3/4). Play it in the key of G to simplify it (you’ll need your G, C, and D7 chords).
3. “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King
This 1961 R&B mega-hit has stood the test of time. With an infectious melody and a moderate tempo, this song is both obtainable and fun to play. This song’s harmony is made up of an all-time classic chord progression. Play in the key of A, and you hold and have no trouble getting it under your fingers: A, F#m, D, E.
4. “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett
This song’s laid-back island vibe is perfect for strumming on the beach. Like so many great songs, you’ll only need three chords! Play it in the original recorded key of D. You’ll need your D, G, and A chords to strum through this classic tune.
5. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mark
This song is originally in the key of B, a more contemporary tune that is always a cord pleaser. However, if we shift to the key of C, you’ll have this one under your fingers in no time: C, G, Am, F. Keep your ears peeled for the D7.
The ukulele is a fun, beautiful, and fascinating instrument. It opens up a realm of joy and musical expression, especially when starting with easy songs. By learning the basic techniques, practicing regularly, and exploring popular songs mentioned in this article, you’ll quickly find yourself strumming along with confidence.
Remember to set realistic goals, break down songs into manageable sections, and use a metronome to enhance your rhythm and timing.
If you want to take your ukulele skills to the next level, consider contacting Green Hills Guitar Studio. Our experienced instructors can guide your musical journey and provide personalized ukulele lessons. So don’t hesitate, take that first step, and unlock the musical world of the ukulele. Contact Green Hills Guitar Studio today for an enriching learning experience.