While the ukulele and songs for ukulele has long been a mainstay of folk music, it has recently seen a popularity boom because of its portability, ease of playing, and incorporation into many contemporary music acts.
With a light, distinctive sound, the ukulele can easily be incorporated into almost any musical arrangement. Below are five songs that are well-suited to the ukulele. If you’re planning on playing alone or as part of a group you can miss with this songs.
Each of them can be played simply by someone just starting out. More advanced players usually add riffs, solos, and more to really make each song their own.
“After Hours” by The Velvet Underground
With its stripped-down acoustic styling and preponderance of minor and seventh chords, this song from the classic band the Velvet Underground sounds as though it could have been written within the last few years.
While not all of the chords are easy, “After Hours” does follow a relatively straightforward strumming pattern, making it accessible for even beginning ukulele players.
For those who are looking for a challenge, this is a song that lends itself to improvisation.
You may want to practice some arpeggios using the given chord progression. Try to improvise with incorporating palm muting to create a uniquely textured sound.
While the original song uses a guitar, this song has a quirky, distinctive sound that makes it well-suited to uke players as well.
“Skinny Love” by Bon Iver
Like “After Hours,” “Skinny Love” is a song whose original relies on a guitar. However, many artists have covered this song using various instruments, including the piano.
Its strummy chorus makes it an easy song for novice through intermediate ukulele enthusiasts, but there’s plenty of room for improvisation and the playing of individual notes.
This is a song that can work well in a group with multiple instruments. Ukulele players can also experiment with adding in hammer-ons and pull-offs in order to play both chords and melody at once.
If you’re looking for a song you can sing along to while playing, “Skinny Love” is a good choice. Generally speaking, it’s a little easier to sing along while you’re strumming as opposed to playing individual notes. This song has a distinctive strumming rhythm.
“Ho Hey” by The Lumineers
This song is a great choice for those who have a decent grasp on common chord fingerings and want to work one more challenging strum patterns.
“Ho Hey” is a song that enjoyed significant popularity for its distinct sound. This is a sound that work especially well with a uke.
Song only has four fairly easy chord fingerings. You don’t need to switch between them too quickly, it’s not particularly challenging in that regard.
However, “Ho Hey” has a somewhat complicated strum pattern that can be challenging to replicate. For this reason, some uke players offer online tutorials dedicated to showing newer players how to play this song.
While the strum takes practice to master, it can be helpful to listen to the song on repeat in order to get a feel for the rhythm pattern. Because many people know the song (or at least its relatively simple chorus), “Ho Hey” is a good one to know if you’re planning on playing for friends at parties or other gatherings.
“Royals” by Lorde
Like some other songs on this list, “Royals” is a fairly well-known song that lends itself to covers with many different types of instruments.
And while the original song is heavily produced, it can be refreshingly simple to play on a single uke or guitar.
Many covers of this song involve simple strumming with some palm muting. If you want to really make the song your own, you might want to experiment with playing individual notes. You may choose arpeggio picking, or even blending different styles as you play.
Plus, because it has an uncomplicated chord progression, the learning curve for playing “Royals” isn’t too steep, even if you’re a beginner.
“The Only Exception” by Paramore
For popular rock band Paramore, the lighter, quieter “The Only Exception” was a bit of a departure. While the original is played on guitar, it’s usually played capoed up for a higher pitch that is reminiscent of that of a uke.
This song is also popular on online uke tab sites for its easy adaptability to the uke. And like many songs on this list, it’s possible to make playing the song very simple or very complicated depending on your skill level.
Many choose to play it with a simple D*DUDU strum pattern, and since the pattern does not usually vary throughout the song, mastering it won’t take too long, even for beginners. Plus, it’s not a hard song to sing along to as you play.
Like any other song, you can riff off the initial song structure and add solos, arpeggio breaks, and more, depending on your level of skill. Some of the chord fingerings are a bit more advanced, so for beginners. Getting a feel for this may take longer than learning the rhythm pattern itself.
While the above songs vary in terms of difficulty, even those new to the ukulele can start practicing them by lightly strumming chords. As you become more comfortable with playing, you can incorporate arpeggios and even solos.
So much of becoming a good musician is experimenting and developing your style. Each of these songs offers an opportunity for you to adapt strumming patterns, riffs, arpeggios, and breaks to your own liking.
By being patient with yourself and consistently practicing, you’ll be able to advance as a musician while having fun and learning new songs to play by yourself or with others.