Every ukulele player should have a few cool ukulele riffs in their back pocket. In this article, you’ll learn 10 of the best riffs to impress your friends and add some variety to your repertoire.
When you first start playing the ukulele, you’ll most likely learn the four basic chords – C, G, Am, and F. Once you have a handle on these four chords, you’ll be able to play tons of songs. But after you get comfortable playing songs, you’ll want to spice up your repertoire.
One easy way to do that is to include ukulele riffs in your playing. A ukulele riff is a series of notes played within a song that creates a catchy melody. A riff can be played as a pattern of single string notes, or as a series of chords. Often the riff is repeated several times throughout the song and is easily recognizable.
10 Cool Ukulele Riffs to Learn Today
Eventually, you’ll be able to pick out riffs by ear, but when you’re just getting started it helps to have the notes tabbed out for you. Ukulele tabs are an easy way to learn the notes of a melody, even if you can’t read music.
Keep in mind that tabs don’t usually include the timing for how long to play each note. (It will help if you’ve heard these riffs at some point in your life, so you’ll know the rhythm).
Tabs also won’t tell you what fingers to use to play each note. As you advance in your skills, you’ll be able to choose an effective fingering quickly. So without further ado, here are 10 cool ukulele riffs with tabs below.
1. “Shave and a Haircut”
This quick riff was made popular by the late 80s, semi-animated movie, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
2. “Weak” by SWV
This fun riff is repeated over and over throughout the song. Like many ukulele riffs, this one has been transposed to a key that fits the ukulele, while still maintaining the integrity of the melody line.
3. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones
This opening riff is played by the guitar on the original recording. Because of the tuning of the ukulele, the tab below is written so that the melody is played higher than the original key.
4. “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley
This song simply requires a knowledge of the four essential ukulele chords (C, G, Am, and F). The turn around riff follows the chords.
5. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
One of the most popular, cool ukulele riffs is the opening of “Eye of the Tiger.” It’s a sure way to turn your ordinary ukulele into a rock and roll machine. Below are two different versions of the opening riff.
6. “Charlie Brown” Theme Song
A classic riff that has been played on piano, guitar, and now the ukulele. All the notes are on the one string (above the 5th fret) which makes this an easy riff you can learn to play today.
7. “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens
This opening riff is the longest riff on this list. It’s also a bit more challenging than all the rest because of the frequent changing of strings within the melody. It’s a fun challenge for beginning ukulele players that will help with finger coordination and speed!
8. “Friends” Theme Music
If you’re a Friends enthusiast, this is the ukulele riff you’ve been waiting for. Within the popular TV series, there are reprises of the original theme music that are used to help transition between scenes. This is one of those transitions that is used often.
9. “Simpsons” Theme Song
There are two tabbed versions of this popular riff below. The first is in the original key. Because of note limitations on the ukulele, the last four notes of the riff have to go up instead of down.
The second version is a transposed version of the riff. It has the same intervals as the original melody where the last four notes go down. Like most music, it is up to the individual artist to decide which version they prefer best.
10. “Beverly Hills Cop” Theme Song
This catchy ukulele riff has a great rhythm and you can learn to play it in a day. Plus, most of your friends have heard this riff, and even hummed it a time (or 10).
We hope you enjoyed this list of cool ukulele riffs to wow your friends and family. Be sure to check out Takelessons Live to learn more ukulele skills. You can also work with a local ukulele teacher to improve your technique.