As far as songs to learn on the ukulele goes, You Are My Sunshine is near the very top of my list to recommend to students. It checks all of the boxes of a good first song to learn:
It has a very simple and easy to hum melody
It only has three chords (C Major, F Major, and G Major) in it and is usually played in the key of C (our favorite on Ukulele!)
It is very recognizable and is somewhat already in our ear, so we don’t have to go in blind and learn it all from scratch.
But now we need to make an initial decision on how we want to play this song, either as a strumming chord type song or as a melody where you will play individual notes. Let’s dissect how to learn each of the ways of playing You Are My Sunshine on ukulele.
How To Find The Chords
In order to find the chords to You Are My Sunshine and in what order to play them, we need to put in a specific search in our search engine. We need to search for “You Are My Sunshine Ukulele Chords” and then choose only one of two search options: Ultimate-Guitar.com or Ukulele-Tabs.com. While other websites might have good results, these two are the most reliable. There are only a few things to look out for when looking at these websites.
For Ukulele-Tabs you may see other options for the chords such as ‘C7’ in place of ‘C’ and ‘G7’ for ‘G’. You can either learn these new shapes (in some ways these shapes are easier than their counterparts) or you can just go ahead with the original chords. They will function the same.
For Ultimate-Guitar.com you may need to “transpose” the song into the key of C. In my searches they have this song listed in the key of A, which means you need to transpose this song up three half steps using the “transpose button” at the bottom of the page.
How to Play C, F, And G
These three chords are amongst our first chords we learn on ukulele, generally. C is one of the easiest because you only use one finger! You place your ring finger on the third fret of the first string (closest to the floor) and then strum all the other strings open. F adds another finger into the mix. You place your index finger on the first fret of the second string and your middle finger on the fourth string (the one closest to the ceiling). And for G major you add yet another finger. You first place your middle finger on the second fret of the first string, your index finger on the second fret of the third string, and then your ring finger on the third fret of the second string.
How to Strum
So now that you know how to play the chords to You Are My Sunshine let’s talk about the best way to strum this song. There are lots of varying degrees of difficulty and complexity you can add to your strumming techniques here, but a good, simple, and most common strum pattern for this would be our classic “Down, Down-Up”.
For most of the song you will be doing this strum twice per chord, except for at the beginning and close to the end. On the first C chord you will play that strum pattern a total of four times, and on the final line where you play “C-G-C” you will play the first C one time with the strum and the same on that G. The final C you play the standard two times.
And there you have the song! Ready to be strummed and sing-along ready for any jam. But if you would prefer to play the melody of the song, so the part you sing but actually play those notes on the Ukulele, then you will need to find the tablature.
Finding Ukulele Tablature
While finding the chords to Ukulele songs is pretty straightforward, finding the tabs is a different story. Sometimes searching something along the lines of “Easy Ukulele Melody You Are My Sunshine Tabs” will bear fruit, which it did for me, but only after sleuthing a little further. So I will just attach a link to a site with multiple easy ukulele tabs for you to peruse, including You Are My Sunshine for ukulele.
Now to read the tablature in front of you you will need to understand how the notes are laid out. There are four horizontal lines, and each of these represent a different string on the ukulele. The top line represents the bottom string closest to the floor, and the top line represents the top string closest to the ceiling.
Reading left to right you will see numbers on the various lines and those correspond to the frets that you hold done when plucking said string. From there you’ll need to add the rhythm, which we have an edge on because we already know how this one sounds!
Those are the two distinct ways to play You Are My Sunshine on ukulele. You can strum all the chords in order to sing along, or you can pick out that vocal melody on the ukulele itself using tablature. And now you can repeat this process with any song you wish! Happy playing!