Riptide: Learn How to Play on Ukulele [Step-By-Step]

2013 saw Vance Joy come out with Riptide and it immediately became a smash hit. And once a song is everywhere, musicians from all over the world try to put their very own twist on it. Ukulele covers are all the rage right from. Starting from French classic “La Vie En Rose” to Jason Mraz’s romantic hit “I’m Yours,” there are few songs that ukulele players haven’t tried on their delicate instrument. 

Today we will go through a step-by-step guide on how to play “Riptide” on the ukulele. It’s a fairly easy song to play and even a beginner could perfect it with some practice. Thanks to its pop culture references and positive feel, it’s also one of the most popular songs on the ukulele, so you can be sure it will be a crowd pleaser. 

Without further ado, let’s learn how to play riptide on your ukulele.


Tuning before playing any song is super important because you are going to miss out on the entire essence of the song otherwise. Not to mention how wrong it will sound. If at any point you aren’t getting the desired sound after hitting all the right chords, retune your ukulele and it may work.

For “Riptide,” the tuning needs to be G C E A. And now moving onto the chords…

Riptide Chords

The good news is that you only need four chords to play Riptide on the ukulele, and if you’ve ever picked up a uke before and even got introduced to the chords, you are probably already familiar with the ones you will need. The chords are: Am, G, C and F.

Riptide Ukulele Chords

There’s nothing majorly complex here. However, if you do know the chords well, we suggest mixing in a few chord inversions to keep developing your chord knowledge. 

The song’s original key is actually C#. That, however, is half a step up from our normal running. If you want to play along Riptide’s record, you will have to drop one capo on at the first fret.

The verses, intro, chorus use the same three chords and that too in the same order all throughout the song. Those chords are: Am | G | C

As we mentioned before, if you’ve spent some time playing the uke, you should be pretty familiar with those. You won’t need your pinky for this one, so it can rest.

You will be playing one bar of Am, one of G, and two bars of C.

Also Read: How to Play Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the Ukulele

Strumming Pattern

Riptide boats an incredibly recognizable rhythm that plays the key factor in driving the song. Once you get the rhythm right, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

For almost the entirety of the song, the strumming pattern goes: down, down, up, down, up, and repeat. And like with all other rhythms, the “say it play it” thing is correct. If you are able to recite a rhythm out loud, you can play it on an instrument. 

Riptide Strumming Pattern

There’s a reason why everyone considers Riptide as the song that you’ll learn first or second when you pick up a uke. It’s fairly simple and you shouldn’t face too much difficulty getting to grips with it. But since it’s so simple, it gets increasingly important to get the timing right. We recommend you use a metronome for this.

If you really want to take your playing to the next level, try to play the first two down strums with a bit more emphasis. This truly accents the tone.

For a rather easy song, it tears along at a decent rate – precisely 155bpm, so take it slow initially. With time, speed will surely come. Surprisingly, you can get faster as playing the uke by taking your lessons at a very slow rate. Tortoise and the hare indeed!

Song Structure

The song is largely based about the repeated use of chords Am, G, and C for the most parts. This will only change moving on in the song when the first F chord makes its appearance. 


Riptide Ukulele Chords

Here’s the final chord distribution for Riptide. Try playing them on your ukulele now.

Am                G                     C​

I was scared of dentists and the dark

Am                     G                    C

I was scared of pretty girls and starting conversations

Am             G                          C

Oh, all my friends are turning green

Am                               G                       C

You’re the magician’s assistant in their dreams


Am G C

Oh, oh, oh

Am G           C (hold)

Oh, and they come unstuck


Am    G         C               

Lady, running down to the riptide


Taken away to the dark side

G                         C               

I wanna be your left hand man

Am           G                                      C               

I love you when you’re singing that song and


I got a lump in my throat because

G                    C               

You’re gonna sing the words wrong

Am                          G                       C               

There’s this movie that I think you’ll like

Am                          G                       C               

This guy decides to quit his job and heads to New York City

Am                 G                    C               

This cowboy’s running from himself

Am                             G                     C               

And she’s been living on the highest shelf

Also Read: How to Play a B Minor Chord on Ukulele



Am                               G 

I just wanna, I just wanna know

C                                                  F

If you’re gonna, if you’re gonna stay

Am                               G 

I just gotta, I just gotta know

C                                            F 

I can’t have it, I can’t have it any other way

Am                G                       C

I swear she’s destined for the screen

Am                    G                        C

Closest thing to Michelle Pfeiffer that you’ve ever seen, oh

​Bottom Line

We hope this guide was helpful in teaching you how to play Riptide on ukulele. Much like with anything in the universe, practice makes perfect. So if you’re planning on playing this on a special occasion or simply picking it up as one of your first songs, keep trying till you reach a piece you’re satisfied with.

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