How to Play Ukulele Like Taylor Swift | 3 Easy Ukulele Songs

How to Play Ukulele Like Taylor Swift

If you’ve ever dreamed of being like Taylor Swift, today’s your lucky day! In this article, teacher Willy M. will show you how to play ukulele like Taylor Swift, and channel your inner rock star…

Taylor Swift has rapidly risen to stardom with catchy songs that are very simple in their structure. Her songs have a way of boring into the listener’s head and lodging in there for days on end. Today, we’re going to learn how to play ukulele using a few of Taylor Swift songs.

Whether you’re a ukulele beginner or a seasoned player, you’ll have fun playing these songs. So kick back, relax, grab your uke, and let’s learn to play these fun little numbers!

1. “Mean”

Taylor’s songs are not extremely difficult to play. In fact, the first song, “Mean”, is made up of only a couple chords. The song “Mean” does not have ukulele in the recording, but it translates quite nicely when I play it. Mean is in the key of D and the main chords are D, G, A, and Bm.

It opens with a duet between the banjo and the mandolin, but both instruments are sparse in their picking arrangement, emphasizing the “boom-chunk-chunk” country rhythm of the song. The rhythm is like a swung triplet, where the first beat is slightly emphasized more than the second two beats.

For beginner ukulele players, a triplet is when you have three beats where you should only have two. For instance, let’s say you have space for two eighth notes, but you cram three into that spot. So instead of “1 and,” you get “1 trip-let.”

I play this rhythm in “Mean” by striking the bottom strings of the ukulele slightly harder, and then playing a down strum and an up strum in quick succession on all four strings of the ukulele.

Bonus: Play It on Mandolin

What’s great about a song like “Mean” is that, if you get used to playing it on the ukulele, it’s relatively simple to transfer over to the mandolin tuned in Open D (a.k.a. Dead Man’s Tuning). The original mandolin tuning for the song is in Standard Mandolin, but the open tuning of Dead Man’s Tuning gives the mandolin more of a ukulele quality. Thus, by learning it on one instrument, it opens up doors to other similar instruments, which will make you a more well-rounded musician!

“Mean” also gives you a chance to practice some ukulele finger-picking patterns. One pattern that I find particularly useful for the intro is picking the second string, followed by the fourth, and then the third in that swung triplet pattern.


2. “Fearless”

Another great Taylor Swift song for the ukulele is “Fearless.” If I’m not mistaken (according to what I can tell from the video), Taylor plays this song on a nylon-stringed guitar with a capo on the third fret. Luckily, the nylon strings of the ukulele work well for this song, too.

Again, this isn’t a song that’s structurally complex. The chords are D, A, Em, and G (these are great chords for the mandolin in Dead Man’s Tuning) – although, the third fret has a capo, making the chords sound like F, Bb, C, and Gm.

When I watch Taylor play “Fearless” in the video, she employs a straight 16th note rhythm on the guitar – it goes like this: 1 – e – & a, 2 – e – & a, 3 – e – & a, 4 – e – & a. She never seems to deviate from this rhythm for the duration of the verse.

When she gets to the chorus, I do notice that she slightly emphasizes the fourth beat when strumming. Check out the video below and you can see this rhythm in action. Other than the slight emphasis on the fourth beat, however, the rhythm of the chorus is exactly the same as the verse.

When I play “Fearless,” I like to tune the ukulele out of standard and play it in D4, A4, D4, and F#4 tuning. This puts the open strings as a D chord, the fifth fret as a G chord, and the seventh fret as an A chord. By holding down the 2nd string 2nd fret, you get a type of Bm chord which you can substitute for the Em in the song.

Or, you could tune the ukulele (depending on the type of uke you have) to F, C, F, A, and play it without a capo in the same manner. I found that when I tried this, my uke stayed in tune better when I tuned it to open D and put a capo on it, but you may have a better ukulele than I do!


 3. “Fifteen”

Here’s another mandolin-driven song that’s in the key of G, but it still translates great to the ukulele. The rhythms have a lot of starts and stops, but the majority of it is easy to play. It’s more complex than the previous two songs, but regardless, anyone can play it.

I count the rhythm as 1 –e – & a, 2 – 3 – & a, 3 &, 4. Or, four 16th notes, four 16th notes, two eighth notes, and a quarter note. As a slight variation, that last quarter note could be an eighth note and a eighth rest. That distinctive rhythm repeats on both the verse and the chorus.

If you want to learn it on the ukulele, I would recommend trying it in standard ukulele tuning. If you want to switch over to the mandolin at some point and play it like the recording sounds, you can still keep your mandolin tuned like the other two songs. This is because open D tuning works great in the key of G.

In the video, I noticed that Taylor emphasizes her fourth strum like she does in “Fearless” – it seems to be her trademark strumming style.

When Taylor gets to the end of the chorus, she does a little flatpicking on the upper notes. You can mimic this on your ukulele by switching from the main strumming pattern to emphasize some of the notes of the chords.

Finally, when she gets to the bridge, she abandons the 16th rhythm for a staccato chop; 1 – 2 – 3 – 4, where all of the beats get equal emphasis.

So that’s it, uke players! I showed you three Taylor Swift songs that are fun to play on the ukulele. I want to remind you, if you’re having trouble with any of them, TakeLessons has a whole bunch of great teachers that can help you learn how to play ukulele.

Keep playing, and I will see you next time with some more info on how to be a better uke player!

Do you know any other Taylor Swift songs that would sound great on the ukulele? Comment below telling us which songs and why!

Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston Salem, NC. He’s the author of the Dead Man’s Tuning series of mandolin songbooks, and is a former member of the American Federation of Musicians. Willy has been teaching for 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

Photo by Larry Darling

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It’s Time to “Spring Clean” Your Music Goals!

music goals

Remember how bright-eyed and excited you were at the beginning of the year with your music goals and dreams? Now that we’re a few months into the year, it’s a great time to evaluate your progress.

If you followed the SMART goal process (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely), you should have a good idea of whether you reached these goals or not. On the other hand, if you’ve completely forgotten about those aspirations, don’t be too hard on yourself – as life and other priorities come into play, it can be all too easy to brush off or altogether abandon what you set out to do. In fact, according to Betterment.com, while 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, only 8% end up achieving them. Motivation wanes, excuses crop up, and all of a sudden your guitar case has a nice layer of dust on it.

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6 Popular Spring Hobbies That Won’t Break the Bank

Happy first day of spring! Now that the days are longer and the weather is warmer, it’s the perfect time to start a new hobby. And don’t worry — there are tons of hobbies to choose from that don’t require expensive equipment or pricey commitments. In fact, many of these cheap hobbies can actually save you money in the long-run. Check out our recommendations below, and see what sparks your interest!

1. Languages

learn a language

Did you know that learning a second language can increase your brain power, expand your network of friends, and set you apart from other candidates in your job search? Plus, knowing how to speak the native language of a country is the easiest way to save money while traveling, since you’ll be able to quickly negotiate with locals and avoid tourist traps.

The best way to learn is by working with a language tutor, but there are also tons of free resources, apps, and online games that can supplement your lessons and help you improve even faster at no added cost. Additionally, language classes are among the easiest lessons to take online — saving you the commuting expenses and allowing you to learn from the comfort of your home.

2. Crocheting, Knitting, or Sewing

knitting

Why spend money on a tailor when you can hem your paints, repair holes, and sew on lost buttons yourself? With the right skills, you can even design your own garments or make statement pieces like springtime scarves, headbands, and handbags. To cut down on costs, stick with inexpensive yarn or fabric, and connect with a crafts teacher who can help you learn without wasting materials and making pricey mistakes!

Tip: These handmade creations make excellent gifts for Mother’s Day!

3. Cooking

picnic

It’s common knowledge that eating out constantly is one of the best ways to sink your savings. So why not learn to cook a few dishes that you bring to all the spring picnics and parties coming up? To really watch your budget, stay away from expensive ingredients like fish and opt for legumes, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables. A cooking teacher can help you master a particular dish or technique, to make your learning more efficient.

4.  Yoga

yoga

Yoga is one of the best cheap hobbies to consider, because it doesn’t take much to get started, and it results in a ton of mental and physical benefits. All you need is comfortable clothing and a yoga mat! And spring is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine as you breathe, relax, and focus on positive thoughts. While you can find many yoga poses described online, it’s best to work with a teacher, who can observe and adjust you in each pose. If you want more individual attention, a private yoga instructor can guide you through exercises that are catered to your specific needs.

SEE ALSO: 40 Hobbies for Women

5. Dance

dancing

Spring is a popular season for weddings — and that means lots of opportunities for dancing! Instead of embarrassing yourself in front of your family and friends (or worse, the date you’re trying to impress), why not take a few dance lessons to brush up on your skills? An instructor can show you specific steps, or give you overall feedback to help you feel more confident on the dance floor. The best part? For most genres, there’s no need for fancy equipment or attire — all you need is comfortable shoes and a positive attitude! 

6. Music

ukeleles

Music is a great skill to learn any time of year! If you’re looking for something easy to start with, singing is a go-to choice for many, since you already own your instrument (your voice)! If singing isn’t your jam, there are many affordable ukulele brands out there,  as well as reasonably-priced keyboards that are perfect for beginners. Beyond that, many music stores rent out all types of instruments — just do your research to find the the best option in your area. With the help of a private music teacher, you’ll be ready to show off your skills at any potluck or bonfire by summer.

These are just some of the cheap hobbies that are fun to learn and can even save you money! Ready to get started? Enter the hobby you want to learn and your location here to find teachers near you.

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Photos by Eric Andresen, scrappy annieomgponies2Dave RosenblumDennis van Zuijlekompixelsuite

7 Hawaiian Ukulele Songs for Beginners

7 Hawaiian Ukulele Songs for Beginners

7 Hawaiian Ukulele Songs for BeginnersLooking for some authentic Hawaiian ukulele songs? We’ve compiled a list of seven awesome Hawaiian songs that everyone will enjoy. Whether you want to play these songs or just listen, each of them are popular hits with strong connections to the beautiful state of Hawaii.

We’ve included each song’s history, tips on how to play them, and videos of each song. We hope you enjoy listening and reading about the stories of these beautiful Hawaiian songs – in the spirit of Hawaii, “Aloha!”

7 Hawaiian Songs Featuring the Ukulele

1. “Blue Hawaii” – Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger

Elvis Presley loved Hawaiian songs and recorded many of them for his 1961 film, Blue Hawaii. However, this song actually dates back to 1937.

The song is a bit difficult to play on the ukulele because it uses chords from G# major. However, one helpful trick to playing this song the “easy way” is simply to take off all the sharps from the chords. Voila! You will now have a beautiful Hawaiian song with just four simple chords.

 2. “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

This song is a classic and a staple in any ukulele players’ repertoire. It’s a two-song medley that Hawaiian native, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, made famous. This particular version is so popular that it’s licensed 111 times in movies, TV dramas, commercials, and even websites.

The song utilizes many chords but they are all simple and, with some practice, easy for a novice ukulele player to pick up.

3. “Aloha Oe” – Queen Liliuokalani

Stepping away from the Hollywood influence, lets look at some lesser known, but very traditional Hawaiian songs. This song dates back to 1878 and is by the Queen of Hawaii at the time. Many call it Hawaii’s most famous composition.

The song has a beautiful story. The Queen composed it after witnessing a lingering embrace between a woman and man at the Edwin Boyd Ranch in Maunawili. The Queen herself said, “It’s a poem about love and passion, man and woman. It’s much, much more than just goodbye.”

The song is very simple to play on the ukulele using only three chords.

SEE ALSO: 10 Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners

4. “Hiilawe” – Gabby Pahinui

This song is an ancient hula standard about a love affair at a Big Island waterfall. The composer and date are unknown however the artist Gabby Pahinui transformed it into an anthem for slack guitar players.

Pahinui is known as a “folk hero” of the Hawaiian Renaissance. This is another easy song to play for any ukulele enthusiast!

5. “Hawaii ’78” – Mickey Ioane

This is one of our favorite Hawaiian songs. It’s a melancholy song that dates back to 1978.

This song was written in response to Hawaiian demonstrators clashing with the National Guard at Hilo Airport over land issues and resort development, which was crowding the island’s oceanfronts. The song is a slow song and uses only four repeating ukulele chords.

6. “Waimanalo Blues” – Liko Martin and Thor Wold

This is a fun tune from back in 1974. Its original name was “Nanakuli Blues.” It later became a political protest about the developments taking place all around Hawaii. The song is a simple form which uses a nice flat-7 chord in the turnaround.

7. “Palehua” – Amy Hanaialii Giliom and William Kahailii

This last song is a beautiful piece written in 1998. The song was inspired, composed, and recorded in Palehua. It is an easy song to play on the ukulele using mainly just two chords.

If you are interested in listening to even more beautiful Hawaiian songs, visit HUAPALA. To work on improving your ukulele playing skills today, start your search for a ukulele teacher near you!

All the information about these songs was taken from the article “50 Greatest Songs of Hawaii” written by Ronna Bolante and Michael Keany.

 

ChristopherS.Post Author: Christopher S. teaches bass guitar, guitar, and composition in Jamaica Plain, MA. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Humboldt State University. Christopher has been teaching students since 2004. Learn more about Christopher S. here!

 

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Photo by Oliver Degabriele

48 Successful People With Unexpected Hobbies

Did you know that Bob Barker once studied karate with Chuck Norris, or that both Meryl Streep and Ryan Gosling like to knit? Even brilliant billionaire Warren Buffet loves to play the ukulele. This fun and fast-paced video from Mental Floss will take you on a tour of the hobbies of 44 other wildly successful people, and it might even inspire you to take up a new hobby of your own!

Is there a hobby you would like to learn more about or get better at? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

 

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20+ Facts About Your Hobbies to Prove You’re Smarter Than Most

These days, we get a lot of messages about living your best life. Bloggers and books abound that offer tips for being happy, managing stress, and staying sharp.

Sometimes, it can feel a bit overwhelming.

So instead of forcing yourself to read more or do that Sudoku puzzle just because some article tells you to, how about doing more of the things you love?

Maybe that’s jamming on your guitar, cooking, or even doing art projects.

Well, guess what?

If you do these activities in your free time, you’re already ahead of the game. Dare we say… you may even be smarter than most?

Check out the infographic below to see if you’re already doing some of the best hobbies for your brain — and continue reading to learn how to exercise your brain and improve your skills even more.

8 best hobbies for your brain - infographic

Learn More: The Best Hobbies For Your Brain

best hobbies - benefits of sports

Sports and Fitness

Exercise your brain while you exercise your body! Breaking a sweat can improve your ability to multitask and boost productivity. Even just 20 minutes of exercise helps your brain process information and improves your memory functions. In another study, exercising boosted women’s performance on memory and problem-solving tests by 20%.

Plus, it’s great for your career: employees who exercise regularly are 15% more efficient and 23% more productive!

Fitness is also important for older adults. You may have heard about the hippocampus, the part of your brain that forms long-term memories — and that it shrinks with age. Good news: seniors who exercise for 45 minutes, three days a week can actually reverse that age-related shrinkage by one to two years. 

Try something new: Tennis, golf, and even ping-pong can keep you active.

best hobbies -computer skills

Computer Skills

Nowadays, our lives are pretty much all on computers and smartphones. But did you know that can actually be a good thing? Mastering new computer skills can have a big impact on your brain — and that goes for both young and old alike! 

For the younger generation, being comfortable with technology is a given. And don’t feel guilty about playing video games, either: certain games can even increase your brain’s “flexibility” and improve your eyesight. One study even showed that playing fast-paced video games can improve the reading skills of dyslexic children! Beyond the brain benefits, computer and technology skills can help your career prospects: by 2020, almost 80% of jobs will require IT skills.

And for older adults? You actually can teach an old dog new tricks. Researchers found that adults who regularly used a computer reduced their risk of mild cognitive impairment by 53%.

Try something new: Picture yourself working at Pixar? Find a teacher for animation, graphic design, or even web design.

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Yoga and Meditation

Awesome news for yogis: centering your chi greatly reduces stress, fights off anxiety, and can lower your risk of depression. 

How does it work, exactly? GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a key neurotransmitter for stress relief. Hit a yoga class or do an hour of meditation, and you’ll increase GABA levels in your brain by 27%. In fact, one study reported that 60% of anxiety-prone participants showed improvement after 6-9 months of meditation. 

Don’t have an hour? Research has shown that even 20 minutes of Hatha yoga improves participants’ speed and accuracy in memory and focus tests, helping your brain retain and use new information.

Try something new: Nervous about putting your moves on display at a studio? Take an online class from the comfort of your own home, or work with a private yoga coach.

best hobbies - cooking and baking

Cooking & Baking

Whipping up a tasty meal can help develop your cognitive skills and improve your overall well-being! As you cook, you’re working on your motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and improving your problem-solving skills every time you improvise with an ingredient.

Make it a healthy meal, and you’re serving up a double-whammy: not only are you keeping your brain active, you can add some important nutrients to your diet. (One study found that people with a Mediterranean diet are 36% less likely to develop age-related memory loss and thinking difficulties!)

Try something new: Take a cooking class with your friends and family — the endorphins you’ll receive from spending time with loved ones can do wonders for reducing stress.

best hobbies - music

Music

The benefits of playing an instrument are amazing — and this goes for any age! While there’s a lot of research about music education and kids, it’s never too late to start playing. Did you know, for example, that drummers’ brains release feel-good endorphins immediately after playing? Or that playing any instrument gives your brain a full workout, since it uses both hemispheres? 

Outside of the brain benefits, you’re also improving your motor control, exercising your creativity, learning about time management and perseverance, and boosting your self-esteem as your practice and perform for others.

Plus, even just listening to music can be beneficial to your health. Listening to your favorite songs can increase your brain’s production of dopamine (the “feel-good” neurotransmitter) and decrease your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Try something new: If you think of yourself as tone deaf (tip: you’re probably not!), don’t give up just yet. Working with a music teacher 1-on-1 will give you the personalized attention and lesson plan you need to succeed — so take the plunge!

best hobbies - crafts

Crafts

Did you know that crafts like knitting and scrapbooking also benefit your brain? In a way, it’s much like meditation: when you sit down with those knitting needles, your mind focuses on that, not the stress from the day. Doing this calms you down, and all the while your brain is releasing dopamine, which acts as a natural anti-depressant.

Crafting can be especially helpful for older adults. Research has shown that several leisure activities, including crafting, can reduce your chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30-50%. This means you’re at a lesser risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Time to break out the scrapbook!

Try something new: Are the DIY Pinterest projects not working out? Get some extra hands-on advice by taking a class in jewelry design, scrapbooking, or crocheting.

best hobbies - learn a language

Language

Learning a new language is another activity with tons of benefits. Not only will you be able to communicate with different people, you’ll improve your decision-making skills and enhance your ability to multitask. Multi-linguals are also typically better at focusing, as well as remembering lists or sequences.

Moreover, research has shown that bilinguals show Alzheimer’s symptoms about five to six years later than those who speak only one language.

Try something new: Languages are about communicating, right? So put down those grammar flashcards and textbooks, and spend some time simply chatting with a friend or family member who is also learning the same language. Spanish learners, here are some great conversation starters to try.

Bonus: Try out one of our live, group language classes to get even more practice!

best hobbies - art

Art

Channeling your inner Picasso can improve your problem-solving abilities and boost your memory. In fact, artists often have structurally-different brains, with increased neural matter in the areas related to fine motor movements. Research in Germany even showed that making art could delay or even negate age-related declines in the brain.

Much like yoga and meditation, it’s a fantastic way to calm your mind and take a break from a busy day. There’s a reason art therapy is a thing — and it works! You can even fit it into your work day: doodling while listening to information, like lectures and work meetings, can lead to a 29% increase in memory recall

Try something new: Adult coloring books are all the rage right now — pick one up and spend some time coloring! Or, try out a drawing, painting, or photography class.


How to Really Exercise Your Brain

The next time someone guilt trips you after spending hours on Pinterest, playing video games, or pulling out your coloring crayons after a hard day at work, use these facts to fight back.

All said and done, any activity that you enjoy will release dopamine in the brain. So don’t stress! The best hobbies for your brain are the ones you love.

And when you’re ready to really step it up, try something new! We’ll help you get started.

So just tell us… what do you want to learn? 

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