It's time to diversify...ukulele is becoming so popular in Australia that I thought I should give it a go and write up some easy songs to play on ukulele. So I've borrowed a cheap little uke for a few days and here goes....
As with the guitar, ukulele can be easy to start with, but of course you can take it as far as you like. Check out some of the virtuoso players on YouTube.
However, I'm starting off with the very basics: simple chord formations and strumming.
Beginner Ukulele Chord Chart - click on this link for a chart of basic chords for the Key of C and Key of G.
These are easy chord formations for beginner playing* You may notice they are the same as the top (thinnest) 4 strings on a guitar, but in a different key.
You may want to vary the chord formations for other songs or for more advanced playing; there are several sites on the Internet with ukulele chord charts.
You can use whatever fingers are comfortable to press the strings down. Try to keep enough pressure so the strings have a clear, ringing sound when played.
Parts of the ukulele; making chords:
this is the way the chords are written out: the name of the chord is at the top. The diagram shows the nut across the top, the strings going down and the frets going across. The white dots are where you put your fingers (see photo at right).
Press your fingers down just behind the frets. Try to keep your fingers as upright as possible so that you're not muffling the other strings (bring your wrist forward a little if you need to).
Here is a handy chart I've made with the 4 main chords in each key (Tonic, Sub-Dominant, Dominant 7th and Relative Minor). These are the chords mainly used in simple melodies. There are other chord charts available on the Internet for extra chords, but I wanted to have all the main chords, on one page, arranged in their keys.
The Main Chord Table is laid out in a pattern so that each key is next to its neighbour on the Circle of Fifths... you can see the pattern if you look at it, and this will help if you want to change a song to a different key (and also to work out which keys have easier chords to play on uke!).
APRIL, 2012 : Note- I realised that the C#m chord diagram was wrong in the Basic Chords Table, so have corrected it and re-loaded the corrected PDF; click on the title above.
Tuning: Note that the strings on a ukulele with standard tuning are tuned to G, C, E, A (from the top as you are holding it), so the G string is higher in pitch than the next 2 strings. If you don't have a tuner/piano etc to tune with, you can find a free online tuner at get-tuned.com, HERE (you need to click on each note, listen to the sound and then tune your string to the same sound).
You can also download a free audio tuner that uses a microphone from supernifty.com.au, HERE. You can install this on your computer, iphone etc. You need to select your instrument and tuning type (e.g.ukulele standard), then the string. It's very effective and useful (just note that it's difficult to get a string to vibrate to an exact frequency, but try to get it in the "green" zone).
I bought a cheap clip-on "Eno" tuner online for around $10, and it seems to work fine. It can be changed to work with different instruments, and it even has a built-in metronome if you want to practise sticking to a regular beat.
Practise a little, frequently, so
a) your fingers don’t get cramped
b) you build up your muscle memory and
c) you develop some hardness in your fingertips!
You can just strum with your right hand; use your thumb and/or fingers to get an even up-down rhythm.
Think about the rhythm of the song- is it a 3/4 (waltz) time or a 4/4 time? Strike the first beat, downwards, a little stronger on each bar: “ONE 2, 3, ONE 2, 3” etc for 3/4 time or “ONE,2,3,4, ONE,2,3,4” etc if the song is in 4/4 rhythm. (Listen to the song in a recording, or sing a bit of the melody, to hear the timing).
Up-strokes: In between the down-strokes, you can flick the strings lightly upwards with your thumb or fingers, e.g. strum "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and", where the 1,2,3,4 beats are down-strokes and the "and" beats are up-strokes. Don't stress too much about the rhythm; try to keep it nice and natural, with a loose wrist. It will become easier when you've been playing for a while.
Ukulele for Kids
Ukulele is an ideal instrument for children's little hands. They need to be old enough to be able to press the strings down on the fingerboard,and to remember the tunes and chord formations, but you can teach them an easy song or two and they will have lots of fun.
You can buy cheap ukuleles for under $30 (but make sure that you can tune them and don't expect them to sound brilliant). Even a toddler will enjoy just strumming; when I ran a creche group, the littlies just loved "playing" my small guitar - and a uke is a perfect size for them.
(* Note- these chord patterns are for right-handed playing, i.e. strumming with the right hand, making the chord forms with the left hand on the fingerboard. If you need to play left-handed, you would need to reverse the strings on the ukulele and “mirror” the chord formations).
Easy Levels: I have written these songs out using levels (L.1, L.2 etc) as they match the first levels in my guitar course, so they are very easy to play. I think this is a good way to get into playing the instrument- you can instantly play a few songs, and build up your skill as you have fun.
List of Songs: these are the songs available so far- click on the links to open/download a PDF document with full lyrics and ukulele chords, plus chord diagrams. Some songs are in more than one key/level.
Opening and/or downloading these song sheets uses bandwidth, which I have to pay for, so if you are using more than half a dozen or so of the sheets, and if you have a few dollars to spare, you may like to donate a little bit to help with the site costs (but please don't feel obligated in any way, the songs are here for you to enjoy).
Here are the songs:
L.1. First Uke songs:_Mockingbird (Hush Little Baby) - Key: G; Chords: G,D7 (also in L.12, Key:D)
L 2. I’ll Tell Me Ma – Key: G; Chords: G, D7, C NEW Nov. 2014
L.3. Clementine (oh My Darling Clementine) - Key: C; Chords: C, G7 (also in L.12, Key:D)
L.3. God's Dearest Lamb - Key: G; Chords: G, C, D7, G7 NEW Feb. 2015
L.8. Carrickfergus - Key: C; Chords: C, F, G7, Am, Dm NEW Nov. 2014
L.8 easy - Rocky Road to Dublin - Dubliners version - Key: Dm; Chords: C, Dm NEW Feb. 2015
L.9. The Banana Boat Song _Day-O - Key: F (rec. key); chords: F, C7 (also in L.3 & L.12)
L.12.The Banana Boat Song _Day-O - Key D; chords: D,A7 (also in L.3 and L.9)
L.12. Clementine (oh My Darling Clementine) - Key: D; Chords: D, A7 (also in L.3, Key: C)
L.12. Mockingbird (Hush Little Baby) - Key: D; Chords: D, A7 (also in L.1, Key: G)
L.12. My Grandfather's Clock (1) – Key:C; Chords: C,F,G7 NEW Jan. 2015
L.16. Forever Young - Key G; Chords: G, C, D7, Bm NEW Feb. 2015
Please leave a comment in my guestbook if you like the songs - or if you have any corrections.
Donations are most welcome- if you can afford even a few dollars, it will help keep this site running
As the traffic to this page was causing problems with the allowed bandwidth, I created a duplicate of the information on this page and put it on a new site: www.cathyschordsforuke.webs.com
There is nothing different form here- I've just split this page into two;)
For more songs, information on ukuleles and how to play them etc, have a look at ukuleletricks.com. This is a brilliant site with lots of free material including an excellent beginner book: "Your First Ukulele Lesson and Then Some". (You need to sign up for the book but it's free).
Ukuleletricks.com has songs to learn (with videos showing you how), clear photo-style chord diagrams, lessons on various aspects including strumming, an online tuner and lots more. You can pay for "Premium" video lessons, but there's lots of great free stuff; well worth a look!
Ukester Brown is another good site. with free practice sheets for full versions of old-time songs and YouTube demonstrations of him playing and singing the songs.
TraditionalMusic.co.uk is a wonderful site with amazing resources for a range of instruments, including Most Requested Ukulele Songs with Chords and Lyrics and the Harry Reser Ukulele Method; scroll down for a list of links to other ukulele resources!
The Kamiki Ukulele Method Here's another free Ukulele book- this one's a bit older though (published in 1922). How gorgeous is the cover?!
It's now in the Public Domain, and the pages have been scanned and stored online at ezfolk.com's Public Domain Music Library.
Note that the tuning in this book is different from the "standard" one (A, D, F#, B instead of G,C,E,A).
There are some good pages on strokes (or strums), and there is music for songs if you're an advanced player.