Ukeful things...
March 23, 2015 4:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm learning the ukelele! Mainly because a fellow mefite browbeat me into it. But I'm having fun! Help me find some inspiration, and some info. on how to learn more.

I've been playing for about 3 weeks. I know about 10 chords. I'm still figuring out strumming, but I'm getting better. I'm going to group lessons once a week, which is helping with my technique.

Learning: So, where are cool online ukelele resources? The basic lessons and tutorials for someone who is only a few weeks in, and the good tabs and chord charts.

Inspiration: I'm also interested in cool or interesting ukelele covers of modern pop or rock (especially genere shifts), or modern artists who play the ukelele.

Rock out!: Any suggestions of simple four or five chord pop or rock songs that I could learn to play with my extremely basic level of skill? 'Cos 'London Bridge', 'Drunken Sailor' and 'Lime in the Coconut' get old really fast.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
shmuel510 posted a nice FPP back in December. Read the whole thread for lots of ukulele resources.

Someone else recently posted an looking for easy uke songs; if you do a search on the green it should come up.
posted by bunderful at 4:58 AM on March 23, 2015

Inspiration and a very moving and elevating video. One of my very favorites: Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra doing : It's a Heartache
posted by rmhsinc at 5:01 AM on March 23, 2015

Learning: Dr. Uke

Inspiration: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
posted by fox problems at 5:13 AM on March 23, 2015

I'm new to ukulele too, since January. All you have to do is google the name of whatever song you want to learn, with the words "chords" or "tabs" and you should find all you need to learn the song. Even if it's written to guitar chords, unless I'm grossly mistaken, they're the same for uke just different fingering. It works for me.

I've found that many old-timey country/bluegrass type songs are dead easy to play--try Johnny Cash, Ralph Stanley, Carter family, those types of artists. Not rock, but it's pretty awesome to play "Folsom Prison Blues" on your uke!

For learning, I like ukulenny's tutorials on youtube.

For inspiration, there is a youtube user uke3453 that has videos of a little boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old, just jamming out on his uke.

Have fun!
posted by auntie maim at 6:05 AM on March 23, 2015

Hello, fellow uke player! I just got a ukulele last week, so I'll be interested to see what gets recommended in this thread. But as far as things to play, why not just pick a song you love, look it up, and see if someone hasn't made a tab (tablature) for it? This is what I've been doing, and it's great fun. (YMMV. I have a reasonably musical background, including clarinet, a bit of guitar, choral singing, and music theory—although none of it is terribly recent except for the singing—and I tend to enjoy fumbling around while teaching myself new skills.)

The site I've been using the most so far is UkuTabs. What I like about it (and this may or may not be a feature of other tab sites) is that (1) the chords follow you down the page as you scroll and (2) you can easily transpose songs. Sometimes, the chords in the song's normal key will be a bit rough on a uke (e.g., the dreaded E chord...), but if you transpose the song you get something easier. For example, see I Will Wait, which even includes a note about how best to transpose it. (Note that if you transpose down and want the key to be the same, you can use a capo. But this isn't required, especially if you're playing alone.)

Good luck! The uke is so much fun.
posted by cellar door at 6:23 AM on March 23, 2015

In terms of inspiration, check out virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. There was a nice documentary done on him called Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings.
posted by gudrun at 6:59 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

My favourite uke-related site is Ukulele Hunt (and not just because of its great name). Lots of chords and tabs for a variety of levels, a regularly updated blog and a range of ebooks to download.

The guy who runs the site wrote a Ukulele For Dummies book which I also recommend heartily. It will take you steadily from where you are now to where you want to be.
posted by Del Chimney at 7:10 AM on March 23, 2015

Rock out!: Any suggestions of simple four or five chord pop or rock songs that I could learn to play with my extremely basic level of skill? 'Cos 'London Bridge', 'Drunken Sailor' and 'Lime in the Coconut' get old really fast.

I would say that simply strumming out simple rock songs on the ukulele risks missing out on one of the ways that makes it appealing to learn over a guitar. Guitar beginners often start with the simple chords because the complex jazzy ones are hard to play. This is not the case on the uke and I would therefore point you in the direction of tunes with more complex chord structures that are, nevertheless not too hard to play. For example You've Got a Friend in Me , The First Day of My Life, Blue Skies etc.
- don't worry about plucking at this stage - just try out the chord sequences.
posted by rongorongo at 7:41 AM on March 23, 2015

Julia Nunes has been doing the uke thing for like about 7years. She does original songs, but also covers. Also she's hella adorable.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:54 AM on March 23, 2015

I use Chordie which I like because it's not uke specific. You can share it with guitar players and both get good chord charts for the same song even if you're on different instruments. They have a lot of pop music. I made a little songbook of songs I like to play but looking for stuff like "beginning uke" or "simple uke songs" should find you some good songs.
posted by jessamyn at 7:59 AM on March 23, 2015

While I'm not a uke player, (albeit a player of another small stringed instrument), I'd offer that you'll do yourself a huge favour by working on your rhythm playing early and often with a metronome - this guy gives a good example of practicing timing with a metronome on a uke.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:20 AM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Here are two pieces of inspiration for you:

Sleep - Dragonaut

Driftwood on the River - Ernest Tubb
posted by Otis at 9:06 AM on March 23, 2015

Uke Minutes has lots of useful info for beginners.
posted by cazoo at 9:59 AM on March 23, 2015

I really enjoyed working with Ukelele Mike's videos when I was learning. He has a bunch of playlists of his videos, including at least one for beginners.
posted by snowymorninblues at 10:36 AM on March 23, 2015


If I had to pick one reason why I got a uke, it would be Molly Lewis.

Any canon of modern ukulele classics would have to include Jake Shimabukuro's cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's medley of Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World.

For an exploration of less conventional sounds you can get out a uke, try James Hill with a comb, thimble, and chopsticks, or his version of Billie Jean. (And here's a look at how he does the drumbeats.)

All of the above are people I will never, ever play as well as. The next two are people whose work I like, but whose uke playing is at a level I think I might attain one day, if I keep at it. (Of course, they'll have gotten better by then...) For me, that's an even better source of inspiration.

Possibly my favorite current band is nerd-folk duo The Doubleclicks, usually featuring cello and either uke or guitar. (The emphasis has been moving from the former to the latter as time goes on.) Here's their PAX 2013 set.

And if I had to pick one song that inspired me to play my ukulele after buying it, it'd be Amanda Palmer's Ukulele Anthem.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:36 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Eef Barzelay is the reason I'm going to start playing. Here's his cover of Faithfully by Journey.

He also played a concert at my house last summer and was super nice!
posted by Twicketface at 11:09 AM on March 23, 2015

I like the iPhone app UkeBank. You can tune your ukelele to it and it also shows you the chords on demand. Basic functionality is free, there's a one-off in-app-purchase to unlock the full set of chords.
Set the chord to C6 to tune your uke.
posted by w0mbat at 12:33 PM on March 23, 2015

Ukulele Underground. Free uke video lessons, including strum-along song demos ("song tutorials").
posted by sazanka at 1:27 PM on March 23, 2015

You guys are the best. Some great resources there. Some good inspiration too!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:26 PM on March 23, 2015

Eef Barzelay is the reason I'm going to start playing.

Awesome! If it helps, the go-to recommendation for a beginner instrument seems to be the Lanikai LU21 soprano; highly recommended by my teacher and my new uke group. I just bought one for the Red Thoughts consort and she loves it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:01 PM on March 25, 2015

If you're looking for something even cheaper and don't mind plastic, I can recommend the Kala Makala Dolphin soprano uke. Comes in all colors!
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:39 PM on March 25, 2015

Late to thread - traffic was bad - but I found this rather bountiful site: GotaUkulele

I got a lot out of the beginner tips, especially the Finger Stretching Exercises.
posted by valetta at 2:26 AM on January 18, 2016

Oh, and I got there via this handy list: Top 50 Ukulele Sites.
posted by valetta at 2:34 AM on January 18, 2016

I just got a Snark clip-on uke tuner. That thing is awesome and so cheap.
posted by w0mbat at 11:11 AM on January 19, 2016

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