The ukulele is a beginner-friendly instrument that you’re never too young or old to try out.
From the first time you pick up the uke, you’ll be amazed at just how accessible this instrument is. With just a few easy ukulele chords, you can play a variety of tunes that sound great and are fun to sing along with.
A few extra bonuses – the ukulele is affordable, portable, and has a warm, uplifting tone. If you think the ukulele is only fit for breezy tropical tunes, think again. You can use a uke for virtually any song, especially those originally written for the guitar. You’ll find that our list covers everything from folk favorites to pop anthems, and that’s just a small taste of what’s possible with this instrument.
If you don’t already own a uke, you can start by choosing from the three most common ukulele sizes for your first instrument: the soprano, concert, or tenor. They all use the same tuning, but the main difference is in body size (tenor is the largest). You should be able to purchase a starter uke for between $50 and $100.
Once you have your uke in hand, you’ll be cranking out tunes in no time. Simply get a few easy ukulele chords under your fingers and find some basic songs to take on. Some of the greatest compositions of all time have just three or four chords, but don’t let their simplicity fool you!
We picked these 10 easy ukulele songs, so that you can experience the joy of playing the uke as quickly as possible. You can use these tunes as a launching pad to motivate you to practice and take your musical journey to new heights. Or, you can just sit back and enjoy just how far four ukulele chords can take you!
How to Play 10 Easy Ukulele Songs with 4 Chords
Step 1: Tune Up and Learn 4 Basic Ukulele Chords
Standard ukulele tuning is G-C-E-A, which lends itself nicely to the key of G. To play the songs in this blog post, all you’ll need to do is learn the fingerings of four chords and get comfortable transitioning between them. The four basic ukulele chords are: G major, C major, D major, and E minor (Em). Once you familiarize yourself with them, you can play any one of the easy ukulele songs here, including hits from Bob Dylan, Adele, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Learn the Chord Shapes and a Simple Down-Strum Pattern
Below you’ll find chord diagrams for these four basic ukulele chords. Finger them carefully, making sure you’re sounding all of the notes clearly. To make sure of this, try playing each string individually and adjust your fingers as needed if you hear muted or muddy notes. Before you attempt to play any of these songs, first practice each chord with a down strum, using your right–hand thumb.
These easy ukulele songs are all in the time signature known as 4/4, meaning there are four beats in every measure, and each one of those beats is a quarter note. So, to prepare for learning these songs, play each chord four times. Start with the G chord, playing several measures of four consecutive down strums at a slow tempo. Then move on to the C chord, then back to the G chord, and then the D chord. Try tapping your foot as you play the chords, strumming each chord for four counts.
Though learning a single chord is easy enough, recalling different chord shapes and seamlessly switching between them takes some practice. Don’t worry if you find it frustrating to switch between different chords at first. Over time, you will build up your muscle memory and you won’t even need to think about where your fingers need to go.
Optional Rhythmic Strumming Pattern
Once you have that simple down strum and foot-tapping working, you can try this more interesting strumming pattern consisting of:
Down, Down-Up-Down, Down-Up-Down, Down-Up-Down, Down-Up-Down, Down-Up-Down, Down-Up
This pattern is fairly easy, though it might look harder than it is. Just break it down to an independent down strum to start off with, followed by 5 groups of Down-Up-Down, ending with Down-Up. You can either use your thumb or a felt pick. Please note: the down stroke (down strum) symbol most commonly used is: Π and the up stroke (up strum) symbol most commonly used is: ∨.
Step 2: Pick an Easy Ukulele Song!
Once you’re relatively comfortable moving from chord to chord, you’re ready to try playing one of the uke songs listed below. Remember to take it slow at first, and gradually increase the tempo as you get more comfortable. Don’t expect to play along with the recording right away!
In the beginning, it’s ideal to start with a song that you’re already familiar with. This will help you get the chord changes right and will allow you to sing or hum the melody as you play. You can then move on to more novel and challenging tunes!
1. “Blowin’ In The Wind” – Bob Dylan
- Verses: G, C, G, G, C, D, G, C, G, G, C, D
- “The answer my friend” refrains: C, D, G, Em, C, D, G
2. “Brown Eyed Girl” – Van Morrison
- Verses: G, C, G, D, G, C, G, D, G, C, G, D, G, C, G, D, C, D, G, Em, C, D, G
- “Do you remember when we used to sing: ”sha-la-la-la-la-la-la” refrains: D, G, C, G, D, G, C, G, D, C, D, G, Em, C, D, G
3. “22” – Taylor Swift
- G, D, C, D
4. “I Won’t Back Down” – Tom Petty
- Verses: Em, D, G, Em, D, G, Em D, C, Em, D, G
- Choruses: C, D, C, D, C, D, Em,, D, G, Em, D, G
5. “Someone Like You” – Adele
- Verses, Choruses and Bridge: G, D, Em, C
- Pre-chorus: D, C, D, C, D
6. “Your Mama Don’t Dance” – Loggins & Messina
- Verses: G, C, G, C, G, D, C, G
- Bridge: C, C, C, C, D, C, G
7. “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Verses: G to D (for verses),
- Choruses: C, D, G, Em, D C, D, G, Em, D——C, D, G, Em, D—–C, D, G
8. “Bring It On Home” – classic blues song recorded by countless artists
- G, D, G, C, G, D, G, C, G, D
9. “This Magic Moment” – Jay And The Americans, Lou Reed, etc.
- Verses: G, Em, C, D
- Pre-chorus: Em, C, G, D
- Choruses: G, Em, C, G, Em, G, Em
10. “Tougher Than The Rest” – Bruce Springsteen
- Verses: G, C, D, C, G, D (for verses)
- Bridge: Em, C, G, C, D, G, Em, C, G, C, G, D, G
Looking for more uke tunes? Here are 10 more easy ukulele practice songs for beginners.
Remember, listen to these songs as you’re learning and play along so you can hear where the chord changes happen. You can also look them up on a site like Ultimate Guitar, which shows where the chord changes occur relative to the lyrics of the song.
Need some extra help mastering these ukulele chords and songs? Nothing beats working with a teacher one-on-one. Your uke teacher will give you a fun and engaging pathway to uke proficiency, so you can get a big sound out of this little instrument.
By taking online or in-person lessons with an experienced ukulele teacher, your skills will noticeably improve in a short period of time. With every lesson, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your musical goals. Search for a ukulele teacher today!
Jeff S. teaches ukulele and guitar lessons in Perth Amboy, NJ. He is both a songwriter and performer, and has taught music business and songwriting at various universities and music schools. Learn more about Jeff S here!
Photo by Victor Engmark