If there’s one instrument that’s gotten wildly popular over the years, it’s the ukulele.
You could blame it on the amazing YouTube covers of musicians singing “I’m Yours” or “La Vie en Rose” with their ukuleles, or how easy the instrument is to play, but there’s no denying that many of us have considered at least trying our luck with ukuleles at least once in our lives.
Want more proof? In 2019, approximately 1.6 million ukuleles were sold in the U.S. alone (source)
Coming back to how beginner friendly this instrument is, you’ll only need to learn a handful of chords to be able to play an impressive list of songs on the ukulele.
Why Playing the Ukulele is Considered to Be So Easy
While listening to every song, you’ll be able to notice that there is a very obvious repetition of the ukulele chords. For instance, all pop songs feature repetitive patterns.
The pattern looks something like this:
C D E F G A B
If we designate number to each of these notes from left to right, we get:
C D E F G A B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
The reason why you only need these few chords to play thousands of songs is as all these songs have synonymous chord progression. In simpler terms, a ukulele player is technically working with a single set of chords when he’s switching, thus he’s switching between the same group.
This group of ukulele chords has been formed on the I V Vi IV chord progression. No, no! These aren’t the Roman numerals.
This simply means that when you’re using, let’s say the key C, all you would need to use is C F G A as demonstrated below.
Here’s the best part! Even within these chords, the possibilities are limitless!
A Capo for a Few Songs
The same chords can be used to play most of these songs can be played with, but some songs are originally based on a different key.
However, this isn’t a burning issue. C, F, G, and Am can still be used by what’s termed as a “Capo.” A capo is basically a tool that’s used to alter the pitch of open strings.
In full honesty, this is just a fancy way of saying that a capo can be used on a particular fret and the user will be able to play the tune using the same ukulele chords in those exact finger positions. Don’t be intimidated because this only applies to some songs and we’ll definitely mention the varying requirements for each song.
We will suggest occasions when you should use a capo, but if you’re comfortable not playing with a capo, go on! It’ll just sound a tad bit different, that’s all.
Top 12 Easy Songs to Learn on Ukulele
1. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sweet Home Alabama is one of the most popular choices for songs to be played on the ukulele, considered by many as one of the absolute classics. Regardless of that, it’s very easy to learn. You’ll only need about three chords.
The first chord for this song is D. Press the top three strings on the second fret to play a D chord. Even if you have small hands, you can use one finger to hold down on each string. If the ukulele is small in comparison to your hands, you could try using the same finger to hold down all three strings at the same time.
The next chord you’ll need is C and this one is even easier. You press down the third fret on the bottom string. That’s it!
The last chord for this song is G. This one is combination of the second fret on both the second and fourth string and the third fret on the third one. If you’ve ever played a guitar, you will recognize this from how you position your fingers to play a D chord.
When you’ve mastered these three chords, this song can be played with little to no error on the ukulele. The simplest pattern that you can count on is two D chords, two of Cs, and four G chords. Repeat the pattern for the verses and chorus alike.
2. Just The Way You Are – Bruno Mars
Impactful, beautiful songs don’t need to be complicated over the top with chords and beats, and this is a perfect example of that. You can play this song with only three chords.
The first chord is C, and the second is Am, or A minor, which will need only a finger. This time, the top string’s second fret is held down.
The final chord is F and you have to hold down the second fret on the top string as well as the first fret on the third string. Here’s a pro tip: While playing Am chord, use your middle finger to work on the top string. When you shift playing on A minor to F, you can keep the finger where it was and put your index finger to the use for the third string.
The song is super simple once you’ve gotten the hang of these chords. Eight sets of C, eight sets of A minor, eight sets of F, and eight sets of C – the pattern is repeated throughout the song, for both the chorus and verses.
3. Rude – Magic!
- Suggestion capo on 1st fret.
- Order of ukulele chords: F, G, C, Am
A beloved song from the mid-2010s, Rude along with a few other songs on the list are some the easiest catchy tunes you can play. We love the chorus and bridge. The reggae vibe is somewhat intoxication and you’ll be able to strum from sense.
4. Octopus’s Garden – The Beatles
- Suggested capo on 4th fret
- Order of uke chords: C, Am, F, G
This classic by one of the biggest musical artists of all times, the Beatles, is sang by Ringo Star – the group’s drummer. He was extremely skilled on the drums and also carried some powerful vocals.
The order of the chords goes C, Am, F, G. For the first verse lines at the starting of the song, here’s what the chord chart appears like. The entire song is filled with this repetition.
Strumming pattern recommendation: down up, down up, down up, down up.
You can add extra emphasis on the bold “down up” and use lesser force on the ones that aren’t bold (the second and fourth).
5. Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
- Suggested capo on 1st fret for the Jeff Buckley version, none for the Leonard Cohen one.
- Order of chords:
Verse: C, Am, C, Am, F, G, C
Chorus: F, Am, F, Am, C, G, C
How could we leave this song out from the list? Not only is it highly popular, but it’s also pleasantly easy to play on the uke. You could expect to be able to play this one song with few errors after some practice sessions.
6. Someone Like You – Adele
Now that you know the easy chords, you could move on to a song that really moves the soul. This soothing ballad by Adele needs only four chords but it’s very simple to play, and the results are quite extraordinary. The pattern repeats throughout the song, so you know the drill.
We begin with four sets of C, and similar numbers of G, A minor, and finally, F. Repeat the pattern for the verse, bridge, as well as chorus.
Once you’ve become a pro in the pattern field, you can try with various strumming patterns to determine which one you like most.
7. Love Yourself – Justin Bieber
The YouTube world is way too familiar with another artist drawing a cover of them playing this charming yet sassy song by Justin Bieber. For the final song, we will need one more chord: D minor.
To play this chord, use your third finger to press the second fret of the top string, the fourth for the second fret of the second string, and the index finger for the first fret of the third string.
The verse’s pattern goes: C, C, G, G, Am, Am, Am, Am, Dm, Dm, C, C, G, G, G, G. Repeat.
The bridge section goes: Am, Am, F, F, C, C, C, C (play this twice) followed by Am, Am, F, F, C, C, G, G, Am, Am, F, F, G, G, G, G.
Lastly, for the chorus: C, C, G, G, Am, Am, F, F, C, C, G, G, C, C, C, C
We hope you enjoyed this piece and found it helpful. Keep practicing till you have all these patterns by heart and you can move onto more complicated tunes.
Maybe you can make some of your own too!