Tag Archives: beginner

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

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.

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.

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…

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.

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…

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.