If you don’t already own a uke, you can start by choosing among 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.
Keep reading to learn 10 easy uke songs that you can start playing today, even if you’re a beginner!
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 uke 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 easy ukulele chords. Finger them carefully, making sure you’re sounding all the notes clearly. Adjust your fingers as needed if you hear muted or muddy notes or chords. 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.
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 comfortable moving from chord to chord, you’re ready to try playing one or more of the easy ukulele songs listed below. The order of the chords in these 10 songs are as follows. Here are 10 more easy ukulele practice songs for beginners.
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
It helps to 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? Try taking online or in-person lessons with an experienced ukulele teacher to take your skills to the next level. 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