Author Archives: aquifer

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

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.

Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealers Wheel

Made famous for this (or the previous) generation by the definitely non-ukulele based film Reservoir Dogs – this is a classic from the 70s, that still sounds incredibly fresh. Check out the original recording if you’ve not had a listen in a while. This arrangement is in the original key as well – so go join in with Gerry Rafferty and co…

It’s got some great rhythms for strumming – chords aren’t too hard (it’s mostly D and G) but it’s got a few tricky moves. You’ll need to get comfortable with D7 and G7 in particular, and some off-beat strums. Best played in a group so the non-ukulelists can do the (surprisingly tricky) claps, and the pros can do the chord stabs.

Oh, and you’ll need a cowbell…

Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol

Well – this is the MOST PLAYED SONG OF THE 21st CENTURY (on British radio). Who knew? Who’d’ve thought in 2006, when this song came out, that kids who weren’t even born would still be able to recognise this simple little tune in 15 years time. Amazing.

It’s got it’s share of haters, but I actually think that this is a great example of a well crafted simple pop/rock song. It’s only got three chords, and the sequence never changes, but there are layers upon layers of guitars and vocals on the original recording, and it conjures up a specific feeling for me – which is after all what music/art should do…

I’ve moved this one to the key of G (original key A), in a departure from our usual C major songs. You only need G, D, and C chords to play this – but of course there are ways to make these chords a bit juicier if you want to…

Every Breath You Take – The Police / Sting

“Best Song About Stalkers Ever”

Here’s a song that is incredibly well known and loved but is actually rather unsettling lyrically. However, it’s absolutely great musically so lets give it a go…

The chords are fairly straightforward, although the bridge Eb might be new – however, the magic of this piece happens when you add a 9th interval to virtually every chord of the piece! Also an opportunity for some fingerpicking here.

For intermediate players, and the new add9 chords might stretch a few more confident players too…

Lean On Me – Bill Withers

Simple chords, incredibly singable melody – but deceptively subtle as a song. This is the late Bill Withers (d 2020) classic “Lean On Me”. Everyone who has ever learned a major scale has played the opening melody, but few learn it all the way through.

I’ve arranged this for two ukuleles, the first ukulele part is trickier and has a few more adventurous techniques – the second ukulele part is aimed at beginners. You can see the whole score, but I recommend just following the chord chart to start with.