Category Archives: Ukulele

All of Me – John Legend

One of the latest songs to be called ‘All of Me’ (there are many) I think happens to be an unusually well-written sentimental ballad written by John Legend for his wife-to-be, which took the charts by storm in 2014. Unusually for top-ten hits, it’s a very sparse arrangement consisting solely of Mr Legend’s (nice stage name) voice and piano, and some lyrics broadcasting his love for his fiancee. I didn’t really want to like it, but its simplicity, strong melody, and unusually faithful / monogamous lyrics sucked me in in the end, so here it is for the ukulele.

It starts off with a chord progression that forms the backbone of at least 40+ massive super hits, good start – (vi, IV, I V) in this key Em, C, G, D but then actually does change chord sequence and pattern twice more. The pre-chorus uses Am, G, D then the chorus uses G, Em, Am, C, D – it’s a pleasant run around the chords of G major (in the original it’s actually a semi-tone higher in Ab major) without once straying to any borrowed chords from another key – proof that you don’t have to be a master of music theory, or even ‘know all the chords’, to write or play a hit.

I’ve tried to borrow as much as I can from the piano part for this arrangement, although of course you can get by simply playing the chords. The interlude finger-picking pattern has some difficult rhythms in, to try to match the tasteful sparse piano notes in the original – not sure if I’ve quite succeeded…

Here’s the livestream tutorial
Here’s a performance of the arrangement

Nowhere Man – The Beatles

Here’s one I made earlier (with some incorrect solo notes…)

I remember hearing this growing up, and assuming it was about a homeless person or tramp or some such – but I recently read that it was probably about John Lennon himself, and the emptiness that he was feeling – sobering stuff.

When I came out to write with him the next day, he was kipping on the couch, very bleary-eyed. It was really an anti-John song. He told me later, he didn’t tell me then, he said he’d written it about himself, feeling like he wasn’t going anywhere. I think it was actually about the state of his marriage. It was in a period where he was a bit dissatisfied with what was going on; however, it led to a very good song. He treated it as a third-person song, but he was clever enough to say, ‘Isn’t he a bit like you and me?’ – ‘Me’ being the final word.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Anyhow, it’s a cracker of a song if you have a penchant for melancholic pop (like me)…

You’ll need three major chords (G, C and D), and three minor chords (Am, Bm and Cm) – and the Bm and Cm chords could be a stretch if you’ve not encountered them before – but be adventurous! You can also change the C’s to Cadd9 and the D’s to Dadd4 for a little extra sparkle…

Livestream tutorial video

I’m A Believer – The Monkees / Smash mouth

It’s a four chord fun package that was featured in Shrek – what more could you want?

You can add some nice embellishments as well, so there’s plenty of scope for more adventurous players.

This song will really sort out your G major chords, and particularly changing to and from a C major chord.

Livestreamed Tutorial 20/6/20
Just the performance of the song if you’d rather teach yourself

Mamma Mia – Abba

If you’re like me then the words ‘Mamma Mia’ conjure up images of Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody, rather than musical theatre and Scandi-Pop – but I can dip my toes in the world of well-crafted pop music that is Abba. I taught myself this song just to include in fireside sing-a-longs – but then realised that it’s really an excellently written slice of pop music.

To play the verse you’ll only really need three chords, (C, F and G in this case) – but then the chorus goes through all the minor chords in our key as well (Am, Em, and Dm) along with some brief snippets of Bb, borrowed from the subdominant key – add to this the augmented chords in the intro, and the tasty lead guitar licks scattered around, and you’ve got an interesting song for players of all levels.

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.