STRUMMING BASICS First things first: learn a simple way to get started strumming: using your thumb to strum four even beats of a measure. Then you’ll learn to strum with the fingernail of your index finger and combine downstrokes and upstrokes with both your thumb and first finger. You’ll also learn a versatile strum pattern used in many styles of music: down, down-up, up, down-up.
FIRST CHORDS Now that your picking hand is working, you need something to strum. Learn the C and G7 chords and how to switch between them so you can play “Singing in the Rain.” Then add the C7 and F chords to play “When the Saints Go Marching In.” This lesson includes a downloadable PDF with basic major, minor, and seventh chords in popular keys, which you can use to play thousands of songs.
SONGS AND STRUMS In these lessons you’ll add new chords and strums and play a variety of fun songs.
- If I Had a Hammer Learn to accent strums with a bouncy rhythm, using the folk classic “If I Had a Hammer.” You’ll also learn a new way to finger C and F chords that allows you to play a fun intro to the song.
- Siyahamba Learn the South African song “Siyahamba,” with a down, down-up, _up, down pattern using your thumb for the downstrokes and your finger for the upstrokes.
- Accentuate the Positive Learn the great 1940s pop song “Accentuate (Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate) the Positive,” made popular by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. It uses a few new chords, including C6, A7, Dm7, and D7, which you’ll play with a relaxed down-up strum that gives the song a loping swing rhythm.
CHORD DRILLS In this series of four lessons, Marcy gives you some chord drills to help you improve your fluidity when changing from one chord to another. She gives you advice on the most efficient way to change fingerings, using the least amount of movement, and then gives you some drills in the keys of C, F, G, A. You’ll practice your chord-changing skills on the song “Keep on the Sunny Side,” which you’ll play in each of these four keys.
TONE PRODUCTION The right-hand technique presented in this lesson will help any ukulele player get the warmest, fattest tone from their instrument.
- The Hukilau Song Marcy talks about using economy of motion in your fretting hand, finding ways to save effort in your hand so you can play easier and more smoothly. She goes through a few basic chords, getting you used to playing with the least amount of pressure on the strings. Then she shows you how to apply this concept to the chords in “The Hukilau Song.”
- Big Yellow Taxi Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” is a great song to sing with just three chords in the key of C (C, F, and G7) and a basic strum pattern of down, down-up, down-up, down-up. You’ll also learn how to play a more rockin’ percussive strum using some different versions of the C, F, and G7 chords and how to accent the backbeat by relaxing your fretting-hand fingers.
- L-O-V-E The song “L-O-V-E” was made famous by Nat King Cole in 1965. You’ll learn to play it with some nice easy swing chords that flow easily into each other. chords.
- Under the Boardwalk In this lesson on playing the summertime classic “Under the Boardwalk,” you’ll learn a number of techniques, including damping and the fan stroke, which you’ll use with the down, down-up, _up, down-up strum pattern. You’ll also learn three different ways to damp the strings to get a percussive sound.
- I Love a Ukulele The great old song “I Love a Ukulele” was recorded by popular Jazz Age singer Annette Hanshaw in 1930. You’ll learn some new chords and how to play the basic C chord with your pinky so you can play the quick C–Cdim–Dm7 turnaround without moving your pinky.
- Forever Young Learn Bob Dylan’s song “Forever Young” in Bb, which means you’ll learn some more new chords: Bb, Bbmaj7, Gm, Eb, and a new way to play an F chord. You’ll also learn to play it in G, with a few new versions of G, Gmaj7, Em7, C, D, and D7 chords.
We Shall Not Be Moved Learn to play the Civil Rights-era folk song “We Shall Not Be Moved” using the down, down-up, _ up down-up strum and basic chords in the key of C. Marcy gives you advice on playing the strum pattern with fingers or thumb, and shows you a couple variations on the chords.
Get Up and Do Right Learn a great song to play with simple chords and a catchy chorus written by Alice Gerrard. All you need to know to play this song are C, F, and G7 chords and you can play it with a simple strum pattern. Marcy is joined by Cathy Fink, who sings the verses of the song and joins Marcy on the chorus. And then Marcy shows you some of the strumming variations she used to play “Get Up and Do Right,” including a rhythmic “chunk” pattern played by damping the strings with the side of your hand, giving you a down-up-chunk-up pattern.
INTERMEDIATE UKULELE LESSONS
FINGERSTYLE Learn to use some simple fingerstyle patterns to play these next songs.
- The Glory of Love The pop hit “The Glory of Love” was written in the early 1930s. Marcy’s version was inspired by the blues guitarist and singer Big Bill Broonzy. You’llr Learn to play “The Glory of Love” with two fingerstyle patterns: the pinch pattern and a finger roll, which alternates the thumb with the fingers in a simple rolling finger pattern.
- Freight Train Guitarist Elizabeth Cotten’s signature song was “Freight Train,” which has become a folk and fingerstyle guitar classic. Learn to play “Freight Train” with a rolling fingerstyle pattern that emulates Cotten’s guitar playing.
- High on a Mountain Olabelle Reed was one of the finest songwriters in bluegrass and country music. Learn her most popular song, “High on a Mountain” with a fingerpicking pattern in which the thumb plays the fourth string, the index finger plays the second string, and the middle finger plays the first string. You’ll also learn how to play a melodic solo to “High on a Mountain” using the pentatonic scale.
PLAYING MELODIES Ready to play melodies on the ukulele? You’ll learn some great songs and the scales you’ll need to know to play them.
- C, G, and F Scales Learn the C, G, and five scales in different places on the fingerboard in this series of lessons. You’ll start with open position and then move u and across the fingerboard.
- Sleepwalk “Sleepwalk” is a classic rock and roll hit from the 1950s recorded by Santo and Johnny. Learn to play the melody of “Sleepwalk” in double stops: two notes at a time. You’ll also learn a cool slide technique.
- Dixie Bell (Bicycle Built for Two) The old tune “Dixie Bell” is better known as “Bicycle Built for Two” and is a fun tune to play on the ukulele. It’s a waltz in the key of C and you’ll learn to plays the melody and chords with your fingers: chord-melody style.
- This Land Is Your Land Marcy gives you a guide to playing chord-melody style on the ukulele, using “This Land Is Your Land.” You'll review the C major scale on the top string, and then learn the basic melody of “This Land Is Your Land.” Then you’ll learn to add chords to the melody.
- Autumn Leaves Johnny Mercer’s classic “Autumn Leaves” is a jazz standard. In this advanced ukulele lesson you’ll learn Marcy’s arrangement of the chords and melody of “Autumn Leaves” played fingerstyle. Marcy walks you through the chord voicings you’ll use and shows you how to add the melody to the chords.
- Whispering Learn a chord-melody version of the early jazz classic “Whispering” in the key of D. You’ll learn a lot of new chords, including a B augmented chord, an A7sus4 chord, and a D6/9 chord, among others, so Marcy makes sure you have them down before showing you how to combine the melody with the chords you’ve learned. You’ll also learn how to play a rest stroke when you’re strumming chords with the melody on the second string.
MORE INTERMEDIATE-LEVEL SONGS
- If I Only Had a Brain Learn the great song “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz. It’s a fun song to play and sing and the chords are beautiful, including some new ones: D, Em7, D6, B7, C#m7, and Bm7. You’ll also learn the tune’s signature lick.
- IM4U The song “IM4U” was written for the original Tonight Show, with comedian Jack Paar as host. You’ll learn a cool Caug–C6 vamp to begin the tune.
- Rockin’ the Uke Learn Roy Smeck’s fun ragtimey tune “Rockin’ the Uke.” Marcy shows you how to embellish some chords by just adding or changing one note and the strumming pattern for “Rockin’ the Uke”: fingers-thumb-up, fingers-thumb-up, fingers-up.
- Sentimental Journey The swing-era classic “Sentimental Journey” makes a great ukulele tune. You’ll start with a position similar to the open G7 position but moved up two frets. This position can be used to play the whole A part in harmony. The second part starts on an F chord and moves up to a D7 chord halfway through, finishing with a cool descending line over the G7 chord.
- Can’t Buy Me Love Learn to play the Beatles’ classic “Can’t Buy Me Love” with a rhythmic strumming pattern. Marcy shows you the pattern by starting with all downs and then adds ups for a down, down, down-up, _ up _ up _ up down, down pattern. She also shows you how to mute the strings after the upstrokes for a more percussive effect.
Cocktails for Two This jazz standard was first recorded in the 1930s by jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Spike Jones. Marcy shows you the chords you’ll need to play “Cocktails for Two” in the key of C and then walks you through the entire song slowly, calling out the chords and making sure you understand when they change.
- Kissing in the Dark This great old blues song comes from Memphis Minnie. It’s in the key of C and and has a basic blues progression but Marcy shows you how to get a bluesy sound by playing seventh chords and a couple of other cool bluesy moves. She also shows you how she plays it fingerstyle with a syncopated feel.
- Money, Money, Money The song “Money, Money, Money” (also called “We Need Some Money”) comes from Washington, DC, “go-go” music pioneer Chuck Brown. Marcy plays it on the ukulele in the key of Eb. She shows you how to play an Eb9 chord with just a one finger barre, and gives you advice on playing barre chords. She also shows you how to play the percussive syncopated rhythm used in “Money, Money, Money” by strumming with your thumb and fingers and damping the strings. You’ll also learn a cool “horn lick” using sliding Db–D–C chords.