Famous songs for ukulele beginners

Susan Fernandez February 02 2022

Why ukulele?

The ukulele is a very fun instrument to play! It's small, not too difficult to pick up, and you can learn the basics in just a week or two with some good beginner methods.

Learn how to read chord charts for chord progressions that are most commonly associated with the uke. Follow these guidelines on determining which chords belong where. Get started playing basic songs right away. This chord reference includes all of the simple chords you will use when playing ukulele songs for beginners.

Some basic chords are very simple for beginners to play on the ukulele, but other chords may require more attention. Some songs may be more difficult than others.

What is the typical setup for a ukulele?

A standard beginner ukulele setup includes metal strings, which are wound around the pole pieces of the machine heads. A pegs tuner, commonly called tuning pegs, will tune your strings to each note on the scale.

The tuning pegs turn screw-like to tighten or loosen (turn) the string tension and allow you to change the key via tuning down or loosening. The bridge of the uke may be either fixed (non-floating bridge), or a floating bridge (thrust bearing bridge). Players who rely on open tunings tend to use non-floating bridges because of their increased sustain.    

Music wire or stranded steel core wire with a plain (smooth) finish prevents the string from slipping out of the tuning peg. Metal strings are sometimes plated with chromium, which helps protect against corrosion and ensures that the strings will last longer.

Most metal strings for ukulele feature ball ends at one or both ends of each string so that players can easily find replacement strings in stores or online if they break during play. Players without access to durable strings may use fishing lines, dental floss, hair wire, nylon monofilament, plant fiber lines or gut strings.

A piece of theory

Before starting to learn songs as a beginner you have to know a little bit about music theory. This is not a rule but it might help you with your playing if you know the basics of chords and scales.

Chords are constructed by stacking fourths, called intervals. In the key of C, the chord progression C-F-G follows this pattern: tone-tone-semitone (or half step), tone-tone-tone (or whole step).

The distance from one note to another in a scale or chord is referred to as an interval - or more simply, how many half steps apart they are. If two notes sound good together it's probably because their interval relationships work well with each other.

Exercises to practice

If you just bought a ukulele and you need to know the basics of how to play take a look at this short video.

For example, at first, you can try practicing how to play chords. For beginners, I recommend playing them in the following order C, A, G, E, and D because these are the easiest open chords for a beginner ukulele player, aka barre chords.

Also, you can try playing scales. The chromatic scale is one of the easiest to use because the notes are in order and it repeats every octave which you can easily play without thinking too much.

Strumming chords allows ukulele players to create percussive, rhythmic sounds while they switch between chords. Though not all songs need strumming, most at least benefit from the added rhythm that plucking strings alone cannot provide.

Finally, you may practice playing songs you like. Try playing them two times; once without looking at the sheet music and another time while looking at the sheet music. If your second attempt goes smooth, then it means that you know this song well enough to play it without problems. Now try practicing it while playing along with a ukulele accompaniment track.

A few pointers for beginner uke players:

  • Place your right thumb (pointer finger if you're left-handed) lightly over the top of the neck of your ukulele. It should rest behind the neck of the ukulele, not on top of it.
  • Use your index finger to press down on one string at a time while you strum from your elbow. Don't be afraid to experiment with different rhythms and hand positions- people disagree about a lot of this stuff!
  • Be careful not to hold the ukulele too tightly or you will end up making a sound that's very tight and tense instead of relaxed and flowing. To practice good technique, try playing scales while concentrating on relaxing every muscle in your body except for your fingers.

Songs for ukulele beginners

Well, now it is time to start learning songs for the ukulele. We will write three articles about this; one with free easy guitar tabs for beginners, another with 12 famous ukulele songs, and the last one with some paid downloadable material like books sheet music, etc.

  • Bittles - Let it be

This song was written by George Harrison for his wife, Pattie. He wrote it in Greece while the couple was on their honeymoon. Let It Be became The Beatles' last number 1 hit in the UK and stayed at number 1 for three weeks.

Chords are as simple as they may be: just use four chords G, C, A, and F. At first, you have to play only the notes G and C, later on you can add A and F.

If you want to play this song as a strumming song, try playing it with a drumbeat from your foot.

  • James Blunt – Goodbye my Lover

Who would have thought that James Blunt's hit single was going to turn into a UK number one back in 2005? The song actually reached number 1 over Christmas '05/'06 so it had quite a long run at number 1.

The first chord you have to practice is D major. So just finger the chord D using your index finger on the first fret of strings 5, 4, and 3. Then finger E minor by placing your middle finger on the second fret of strings 2, 3, and 4. Next, put your ring finger on the third fret of string 1 to complete the chord E minor (also known as Em).

Then it is time for G major (which you should know already if you've completed all our beginner ukulele songs). Place your index finger on the first fret of strings 5, 4, and 3; place your middle finger on the second fret of strings 2 and 1 and place your ring finger on the third fret of string two.

Now we finally come to practice A major: Place your index finger on the fourth frets of strings 5, 4, and 3. Then use your middle finger from the second fret of strings 2, 3, and 4 then use your ring finger for the third fret of string two. The notes are also played by your little finger but you can always avoid that if you don't feel comfortable with it at this stage.

  • Jason Mraz - I`m yours

This is a comeback single for Jason Mraz. It is a pretty simple song to learn as the chords only go G, C, and D7 which you should know by now.

As long as you play these chords with open strings it doesn't really matter which finger you use because those chords are very easy to finger. But if you want to play them with closed strings (for example your little finger on the first fret of string 5) then try to practice this sequence:

Put your thumb on the sixth fret of string 4, put your index finger on the fifth fret of string 3 then slide your middle finger from the fourth fret of string 2 to the seventh fret of string 1 – that will be a chord G.

The next chord is C - place your thumb on the seventh fret of string 4, put your index finger on the sixth fret of string 3, and slide your middle finger from the fifth fret of string 2 to the eighth fret of string 1.

The last chord is D7 - place your thumb at the eighth fret of string 4, put your index finger on the seventh fret of string 3 then slide your ring finger from the sixth fret of string 2 to the ninth frets of strings 1.

  • Vance Joy - Riptide

Do you remember Vance Joy? Well, he is back with a new single. You only have to practice F, A, G, C chords for this song.

To play F, place your thumb on the first fret of strings 3 and 1 . Then just slide your ring finger from the second fret of string one to the third fret of string two - that should be easy for you.

The next chord is A – so put your thumb on the second fret of string 2, then put your middle finger on the first fret of strings 3 and 4.

Finally, you have to practice G by placing your thumb on the third fret of strings 1 and 4; use your index finger for strings 2 and 3 (the G note can also be played by using your little finger but only if it feels comfortable). The last chord is C. Place your thumb at the seventh frets of strings 1 and 4 then use your index fingers on the second fret of string 5 and third fret of string 2.

  • James Blunt - You`re beautiful

Some people think this is the most tender song about love! It is truly a classic and it's not that difficult to play. You need to use F, G, C, and Am chords for this song.

To play F, put your thumb on the first fret of string 2, then use your index finger to play strings 3 and 4 - if you want to add a little volume just add also your ring finger on the second fret of string 1 or even place it on the third fret if that feels more comfortable. Then slide back from the fourth fret of string 1 to get an open A chord (which can be played with a capo).

The next chord is G – so put your thumb at the second frets of strings 4 and 3, then use your index finger from the third fret of string 2.

Now we have to practice C which means placing your thumb at the seventh fret of strings 4 and 3; put your middle finger on the sixth fret of string 3 and your ring finger on the fifth fret of string 2.

You finally learn Am by placing your thumb at the seventh fret of strings 1 and 4; use your index fingers on the second frets of strings 3 and 2, and place your middle fingers on the third frets of strings 5 and 4.

  • Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks

Finally, here is a really easy song for all those ukulele beginners out there! It is perfect for strumming and you only have to practice Am, G, F, and C chords with the BB key.

To play Am, place your thumb on the first fret of string 4 and use your index fingers to play strings 2 and 3. Then slide back from the second fret of string 1 to get an open A chord (which can be played with a capo).

The next chord is G – so put your thumb at the second frets of strings 4 and 3, then use your index finger from the third fret of string 2.

The last two chords are F and C- please place your thumb on the third frets of strings 2, 3, and 4; use your middle fingers for playing strings 5 and 6 as well as using your index fingers for strings 1, 7 as well as 8.

Final words

Ukulele songs for beginners are a great way for learning new skills and spend time on a fantastic instrument. The six songs from this article provide an easy introduction to playing the ukulele, so check them out! Have fun playing these songs!