Today I'm going to give you some easy ukulele songs you can start learning right away.
Learning the ukulele is a lot of fun. And, while method books can be a great source of information, playing through their beginner examples is often tedious and boring.
Wouldn’t you rather be learning your favorite songs? Well, the truth of the matter is that you probably can. You don’t need to wait to get started.
All you need are a few basic chords and strumming techniques to be able to play most songs (though you might need to figure out the rhythm yourself).
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“With or Without You” by U2 (D, A, Bm, G)
“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows (Am, F, Dm, G, C)
“Save Tonight” by Eagle-Eye Cherry (Am, F, C, G)
“Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down (Bm, G6, A)
“What It’s Like” by Everlast (Dm, F, C)
“When I Come Around” by Green Day (G, D, Em, C, Am)
“3AM” by Matchbox Twenty (G, Cadd9, D, Em)
“Fly Away” by Lenny Kravitz (A, C, G, D)
“Wild Thing” by The Troggs (A, D, E)
“Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” by Green Day (G, C, D, Em)
“…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears (Bm, Gb, D, Em)
“Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera (Am, G, F, E7)
“Never Let You Go” by Justin Bieber (F, Am, G)
“Creep” by Radiohead (G, B, C, Cm)
“The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World (D, A, G)
“Closing Time” by Semisonic (G, D, Am, C, Bb)
“California Gurls” by Katy Perry (F, Bb, C, Dm, G)
“I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas (G, C, Em)
“Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty (G, C, C/B, D)
“Wonderwall” by Oasis (Gbm, A, E, B, D)
“Hey Ya” by Outkast (C, F, G, Am)
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (Am, D, C, F)
“Smooth” by Santana ft. Rob Thomas (Am7, E7, Dm7, Em7, Am)
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan (G, D, Am7, C)
“End Of The Line” by Travelling Wilburys (D, A, G)
“Spiderwebs” by No Doubt (Bb, F, Gm, Eb)
“Red, Red Wine” by UB40 (Db, Gb, Ab)
“The Joker” by Steve Miller Band (F, Bb, C, C7)
“Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (D, C, G)
“Viva La Vida” by Coldplay (F, G, C, Am, Bm)
“Hurt” by Johnny Cash (C, D, Am, G, F)
“Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child (Cm, Ab, Fm, Bb, Ebm)
“Yellow” by Coldplay (C, G, F, Am, Gm)
“Something In The Way” by Nirvana (A5, F5)
“Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen (C, F)
“Lively Up Yourself” by Bob Marley (C, F)
“Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus (A, E)
“Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction (G, A)
“Blurred Lines” by Robbin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharell (G, D)
“Paperback Writer” by The Beatles (F, C, Am7, C7)
“Break On Through” by The Doors (Em, D)
“Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles (C, Em, Em7, Em6, Cmaj7)
“House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals (Am, C, D, F, E)
“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (D, A, G)
“A Horse With No Name” by America (Em, F#m)
“Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum (A, C, D, E)
“Ring Of Fire” by Johnny Cash (G, C, D7)
“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by John Denver (G, C, D)
“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison (G, C, D, Em, D7)
“The Scientist” by Coldplay (Dm, Bb, F, Fsus2, C)
“Love Me Do” by The Beatles (G7, C, G, D, F)
“Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum (F, Am, C, Em, G)
“The One I Love” by R.E.M. (Em, D, G, Am, C)
“Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton (G, D, C, Em, G7)
“Stay With Me” by Sam Smith (Am, F, C, G)
“Have You Ever Seen The Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (C, G, F, Am)
“Zombie” by The Cranberries (Em, C, G, D)
“Otherside” by Red Hot Chili Peppers (Am, G, C, G, Em)
“Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol (A, E, D)
What Qualifies As An Easy Song For A Beginner To Pick Up?
If a song had more than five chords in it, I didn’t include it here. Three- to four-chord songs are relatively easy, and interestingly, most pop songs don’t have more than four chords.
I admit that some of the songs on the list are harder than others, but that’s only because they are in different keys, and when you look at the overall chord structure of each song, you’ll see that they are quite simplistic.
If certain songs are giving you a hard time, then either come back to them later or try playing them in the key of C or G, and you will find they are considerably easier.
Is It True That Most Pop Songs Can Be Played With Only 3 Or 4 Chords?
Yes. This is not an exaggeration. The odd pop song has six or more chords, but usually they only have three to five chords, as seen above.
With that in mind, if you want to be able to play in different keys, learning four chords isn’t enough.
But there is a certain convention or formula most songs follow, and that’s that they use these chords:
I – IV – V – vi
In the key of C, those roman numerals become the chords C – F – G – Am.
In the key of G, those numbers become G – C – D – Em.
If you haven’t learned this in your studies yet, don’t worry, you will. If you’re working with a teacher, ask them to explain it. If you’re working through a method book, keep going and you should find it. And, if you’re learning entirely online, Google additional teaching material.
Throughout this guide, we’ve looked at songs in various keys. If you find some are too difficult, feel free to skip over them for now – you can always come back to them later.
Then How Come My Playing Doesn’t Sound Like The Song?
There can be a lot of reasons for this. Let’s cover the most common:
- Your strumming is off. It may take a while for you to figure out the exact rhythm or pattern to play the song to. Listen carefully and try to imitate what you hear. You could also try imitating the drums.
- You’re in the wrong key. With some songs, to play in key, you may need to tune down or even use a capo to get it to the correct pitch. Seek additional resources online if you’d like to play along with a specific song but don’t have the correct chords.
- The lead sheet/tab is inaccurate. For better or for worse, this does happen. In most cases, the interpretations you find should be close, however, and with a bit of tweaking, you can probably make them sound better. You can also go looking for other tabs.
- The chords are too generic. In many songs, you aren’t necessarily hearing the same old “zombie chords”. The musicians have deliberately put their own spin on the chords to keep them interesting. Don’t worry, assuming you’re in the right key and keeping up with the changes, you still get a passing grade. Eventually, you’ll want to learn how to add more color to your chords.
Everything takes time, so don’t get frustrated, and keep practicing. Sometimes, all you need to do to get good at a specific song is to keep working at it.
When I was first learning guitar, I found there were plenty of things I couldn’t do or didn’t understand how to do. Then, as my lessons progressed, I found myself able to pick up more and more songs. You will probably find the same thing as you continue to improve.
How Do I Strum The Ukulele?
Although you can play a ukulele with a guitar pick, you’ll find most players intermediate and above play with their fingers.
As a beginner, you can begin by using your thumb, but I would encourage you to graduate to your index finger as soon as possible.
Eventually, you will want to learn how to strum with all your fingers, but you don’t need to work on that until later.
So, here’s a video lesson that shows you how to strum with your index finger – where to position your finger, how to keep loose and get a clear sound out of your instrument (you can also learn basic strumming patterns just by following along):
What’s important to understand is that most songs are in 4/4 time, meaning there are four beats per measure. Typically, the kick lands on 1 and the snare on 3. In that sense, music is both mathematical and methodical.
Strumming patterns generally fit within the context of a four-beat structure. A chord progression, however, can unfold over many bars of music.
So, for example, if a song has a C – Am – F – G chord progression and each chord lasts a bar, it would look something like this:
| C | Am | F | G |
Where each bar is worth four beats.
Easy Ukulele Songs For Beginners, Final Thoughts
From beginner to intermediate, you should now have plenty of songs to keep you occupied while you’re improving on the uke.
Keep in mind that being great at any instrument – even the ukulele – takes a lot of hard work, time and patience. So, don’t give up and keep practicing.
If you can’t play the above songs yet, don’t worry – if you stick with the process, you will learn how!