Ready for a time warp? Ukulele teacher Willy M. has five classic tunes from the 60s that are perfect for your ukulele!
There was something about the music of the 1960s that has remained popular year after year. The nice thing about this for the beginning ukulele player is that 60s songs make great tunes to learn on the ukulele, simply because they’re relatively easy to play. Here are five easy ukulele songs for beginners that come from the swinging 60s.
1. “Up Around the Bend”
The first song I want to point out to you is the classic Credence Clearwater Revival song written by John Fogarty called “Up Around the Bend.” This fun little tune has a verse chorus structure, so there are only two parts of the song to learn. The verse couldn’t be easier – there’s only two simple chords, the D chord and the A chord. You can also make the A chord an A7 when you are transitioning back to the D chord; but really it is as easy as just playing the D for a line, and then the A for a line.
In the chorus the song adds some depth by adding the G chord, but both lines of the chorus are simply a G chord to a D chord, and then finally ending on the A chord.
2. “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”
What 1960s collection of songs would be complete without including something from the late great Otis Redding? “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” was the last song Redding recorded before his tragic death in a plane crash at the tender age of 26 years old. Though his life was short, the gospel-turned-R&B singer left a brilliant catalog of hits, and in my opinion, this is one of his finest. “Dock of the Bay” is a great song for the ukulele, and it will challenge you to move out of your three chord frame of mind.
Unlike “Up around the Bend,” “Dock of the Bay” has three parts that you’ll have to learn, and several chords. However, all of the chords are simple chords that you can barre across the fret board to create. If you’re having trouble, you can tune your ukulele to Open G tuning to make it even easier, tuning it G B D G.
This song is in the key of G, but typical to a lot of 50s and 60s gospel music, it includes a few borrowed chords: A, E, B and F. To a new player, it will almost seem as if Otis couldn’t decide if he wanted to be in the key of G, C or A. But, what he’s really doing is borrowing chords from other keys to make the song sound more restless. It works well, and this song has remained popular ever since it was recorded.
Make sure you watch for the only F chord in the song when you get to the bridge. It provides the tension needed to get back to the more simple verse structure.
3. “Brown Eyed Girl”
“Brown Eyed Girl” is a very interesting, yet incredibly simple song to play. I can’t really call it a verse chorus type structure, because it’s really just a long verse with a repeated ending at the end of each verse. It has a refrain, but it’s more like a bridge that sets up the verse again. Regardless of the complexity of the song structure, it is really easy to play and learn.
“Brown Eyed Girl” is another song in the key of G with only the G, C and D chords, chords you probably already know as a beginning ukulele player. So, tackling this song should be second nature. And, once you get all your friends joining in on the la, ti, da’s at the end, you’ll feel like the master campfire ukulele player!
4. “Love Me Do”
No anthology of the 1960s would be complete without two bands who dominated the early 60s Billboard charts with catchy, easy to play love songs: The Beatles and The Beach Boys. So, to conclude our little foray into these 1960s easy ukulele songs for beginners, we are going to look at a couple of these bands’ songs. First, let’s take a look at The Beatles. “Love Me Do” is one of the easier songs The Beatles wrote. It is also in the key of G, with only the three main chords G, C and D for the bulk of the song. The Beatles get a little tricky and throw in that F chord to give it some spice on the bridge, but now that you’ve mastered “Dock of the Bay,” you know how to play it and can throw it into this song as well.
You need to be a little careful when you attempt to play these types of Beatles songs, though, because when it comes to doing the little head shake thing, people have been known to get whiplash! Just kidding. Next time you’re sitting at your next backyard barbecue, throw in a little Beatles, and you’ll have everyone singing in no time! See the chords and lyrics here.
I hope you have a great time as you give these easy ukulele songs for beginners a try at your next luau or 60s dance – or whatever fun party you’re going to have this summer! These five easy ukulele songs are sure to get your friends doing the mashed potato or surfer’s stomp in no time!
Learn more ukulele songs and techniques by studying with a private ukulele instructor. Find your ukulele teacher now!
Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston Salem, NC. He is 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 catspyjamasnz