Monthly Archives: May 2020

Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen

Such a beautiful song. And pleasingly simple on the uke. This is a great piece to practice your fingerpicking on, but you can also simply strum the chords. Remember you’re counting in 6/8 not 4/4. All you need is C, G Am, and F, and a sneaky E7 or Em depending what mood you’re in.

Star Wars Imperial March – John Williams

I’m always on the look-out for songs that people don’t expect to hear on a ukulele – this is one of my favourites. Even just the chord sequence can make people go “Huh? I recognise that… where’s that from?”.

Here’s the arrangement performed on my Nikko Fir youtube channel

With only three and a half chords in, it’s also deceptively simple in structure – however, it’ll test your counting ability, and if you want to get that intro strumming sorted you’ll need flexible fingers and a bit of practice. Also, did I mention that the three chords are rarely played together – Em, Cm and Bbm6 – dark and juicy…

The melody needs to be played short and snappy – pay attention to the dotted rhythms which make a tasty counterpoint to the underlying triplet rhythms of the intro and percussion.

This Little Light Of Mine – Traditional

We’re breaking away from C major with this arrangement of the traditional gospel song, This Little Light Of Mine, in G major. This will stretch your chord knowledge a bit if you’re a beginner – but don’t panic, the chords are actually fairly easy!

If you can play G and C, then this song should be relatively straightforward to learn. We’ve got a B7, and Em7 and a D7 in there as well, but we can play all of those chords using shapes we can already play. B7 is just a G, but moved over a string. Em7 is a G with a finger missing. D7 is a B7 with a finger missing.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole

I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of the Wizard of Oz – it’s just a bit weird and kitsch for me – I know there are many that love it. So this song never made much impact on me – until I heard one of the many amazing covers. Eva Cassidy did a wonderful version – but it’s the Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole version (recorded in one take in 1988) which helped me re-discover this song – and incidentally, the ukulele.

I think this song did more to help folks take the ukulele seriously than any other song – it’s just beautiful!

It’s not particularly difficult, you’ll just need C, Em, Am, F and G – with a brief E7 in the intro and outro – but you will need a rock solid and incredibly sensitive strumming hand pattern.

Stay With Me – Sam Smith

Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a three chord song. So I added in some optional chords to this otherwise really beautifully simple gospel tinged pop song. But, they’re optional, so you could be playing this song in 30 mins after picking up a Ukulele for the very first time – seriously.

All you need is Am, F and C (with an optional G, and a really optional Caug).

And folks, I’d avoid the one-night stands as far as possible…

It Must Be Love – Madness / Labi Siffre

I know this song from the wonderful Madness version. Dark glasses and flat caps are required if you want to look the part – but otherwise you’ll need a really good sense of when to play swing, and when to play straight.

This is a deceptively complicated song – it’s got lots of chords, and lots of different strumming ideas, and even a time-signature change in the chorus… all good fun!

Make sure to keep the short chords short

Here’s a more recent recording of my arrangement
Here’s the livestreamed tutorial from 2020

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) – Simon and Garfunkel

Well, this song is significantly older than me – but that ain’t a bad thing…

It’s all about the feel of this one – it’s only got three chords, and they repeat in the same way throughout the song, but the strumming really needs to feel – well – groovy, for want of a better word. It’s got a really strong swing to it.

All you need are F, C and a weird G (G7sus4 if you must know) and a good groove.