Ahoy Matey! 5 Easy Pirate Songs to Play on the Ukulele

Ahoy Matey! 5 Easy Pirate Songs to Play on the UkuleleWhether you’re celebrating National Talk Like a Pirate Day or sailing the high seas, playing a pirate tune on the ukulele is a fantastic way to pass the time. Try one of these tunes from ukulele teacher Willy M.; they’re rated arrrr for pirates!

Who doesn’t want to play the ukulele? It’s the perfect instrument for sitting on the beach in summer. But while you’re sitting on the beach, relaxing, watching the boats sail by, seeing the crabs scuttling along the sand, what naturally comes to mind?

That’s right, pirates!

No ukulele player worth his salt can show up at a luau without knowing at least a couple pirate songs! So here are a five classic pirate songs from my upcoming book Mandolin Dead Man’s Tuning Vol. 3 Pirates that not only work great for the mandolin in open D tuning, but also sound good on the Ukulele. The great thing about these songs is these 5 easy ukulele songs can be played using only 3 chords: D, G, and A.

1. Drunken Sailor

The first song is a song that everyone thinks of when they think of pirates is “Drunken Sailor.” “What do ye do with a drunken sailor?” as it is sometimes referred to is a very simple song using the I chord, the IV chord and the V chord, and can be played in any key you want. If you tune your ukulele to an open tuning, it’s as simple as strumming on the open chord, the fifth fret and the seventh fret.

2. Blow the Man Down

Another easy song is “Blow the Man Down.” This song like “Drunken Sailor,” is one that everyone at a party will want to sing along with the accomplished ukulele player! It also has only three chords, and makes a good follow up to “Drunken Sailor.”

3. Jim Jones

If you want to get a little more adventurous, you might try your hand at playing “Jim Jones,” or as it is sometimes known “Botany Bay.” This is the song of a convict who is sentenced to spend the rest of his days exiled from England, to the colony of Australia. I play this song in the key of D, using only the D, G and A. If you are playing the ukulele in D tuning, you can always tune down your B string to an A and simply strum along on the open, fifth and 7th frets and play “Jim Jones” this way. A great recording of this song is by Bob Dylan on the “Good As I Been To You” album.

4. Get Up Jack, John Sit Down

Another fun song to play on the ukulele that uses only 3 chords, is an old work song called “Get Up Jack, John Sit Down.” Again it only uses the I, IV and V, but it is a funny song that tells the story of how quickly the money goes away when sailors put into port. One of the best recordings I have heard is by Dan Milner.

5. Amazing Grace

Finally, you might want to check out “Amazing Grace,” just in case you’re called upon to play a wedding or a funeral onboard ship when the captain needs a musician to play. “Amazing Grace,” was written by a former ship captain turned minister, John Newton. “Amazing Grace,” is such a simple song that again anyone can play on the ukulele using only 3 chords. If you want to get adventurous you can always add the relative minor towards the end of the song to spice it up a little.

So these 5 easy ukulele songs can all be played using only 3 chords, and I hope you have a lot of fun trying them out at your next luau or pirate gathering!

Learn more fun ukulele songs and improve your skills by signing up for lessons with a private ukulele instructor. Ukulele teachers are available for lessons in-person or online via Skype. Find your ukulele teacher today!


Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston, 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 80’s. Learn more about Willy here!


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1 reply
  1. Lostdog
    Lostdog says:

    Arrr lass, so where be these pages this mate will study to learn such amusing folly? Seems a might grog headed to scribe enticing w’out pointin a mate to what ye boasted up so well!


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