If you are new to the ukulele one of the best ways to get started is to jump right in with playing songs. It is a simple process of following the fingering for the chords above the lyrics. In this list we have 30 songs that are perfect for playing on the ukulele. Not only are these songs fun, many are specifically chosen for their educational value.
Almost all of the songs and genres that are popular follow patterns called chord progressions.
You can find some of those formulas in this article about common chord progressions on the Ukulele.
As you learn to play each one below you will unwittingly teach yourself some music theory.
And once you reach the final song you will know how to play far more than 30!
As you read the list keep this little chart in mind:
Right now this chart may not make sense, but by the end you will want to print it out for when you practice! The notes of each key may not seem like they are in order, but they are musically speaking. It is very simple to read; in the key of C the V chord is G, if we want the V chord in the key of G it is D. And the same for every other transposition. Sometimes Roman numerals are used or the Nashville Numbering System of 1-7. For now that info is all you need to worry about!
Eventually if you find some of the songs below don’t sound good with your voice, then you can use the chart above (or our key transposer) to change the key. This transposition table is important for first time players to see; it will give you a head start recognizing the popular patterns that most songs will be repeating. And the best way to learn this chart is by playing some music, so let’s get started on our first song.
The band Traffic played a mix of 60’s rock genres and this simple two chord song was later covered by Joe Cocker. This entire song is only two chords! The C7 and F7 are repeated back and forth easily throughout the entire song, so the key is getting a good strum down. As you can see in the chart above the C is I and F IV so this is known as the I-IV progression.
As far as the strum goes, rock music is often counted as 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & also known as 1/8 notes. Start counting that out as you switch the chords back and forth each measure. As you get a better feel for the rhythm you will find a nice bluesy yet rocking strum. And when we get to the chorus we still have the same chords but we play them with more emphasis.
This I-IV chord progression is also found in the songs “Everyday People” and “Born in the USA.” But of course they use slightly different strums and rhythms. And you may notice Springsteen doesn’t sound totally right as C-F, and that is because the song is I-IV in the key of B. But playing a B (I) and E(IV) chord won’t be easy as a beginner!
While you would think the easiest song to play is a one chord song (and they do exist!) in reality you need some changes, sometimes even two chord songs get a little tedious. And just like the I-IV there is a common I-V. The first chord or the root has a very close relationship with the fifth, you often see these close by.
Sometimes you will see the I-V as C-G or C-G7, that V7 will be a common chord you see in many songs below. In our song above you get both the G and G7, it’s a great example of how those two chords sound slightly different. The 7 gives us more tension. The hard part about the song is keeping the slow changes up. You need to keep a steady upbeat strum up and try not to make it boring!
The I-V is common in folk, children’s music, and of course modern pop like Lady Gaga’s “A Yo.” And that song also makes use of a G7. If you want to get a simple upbeat point across in song you can’t go wrong with the root and the fourth or the fifth chord! And now it’s time to put that C, F, and G together to make an even better chord progression!
While there are plenty of two chord songs, the most common you will find are three chord tunes called I-IV-V or the 1-4-5. And again in rock, that V chord is often a 7th. Most songs will repeat the I and IV back and forth until the end of the phrase when they use the V7 to do a “turnaround.”
That V7 is called a dominant seventh and while you may not know what that means now, all you have to realize is that it needs to be resolved. If you look at the song example here by Elvis you will see he does just that. We start on the C and move back and forth to F until the end of the verse where we put G7 in quickly before the C resolves. We have taken ourselves back to our home tonic chord and can end the song or go to the next verse.
Rock n roll tunes are often written in these I-IV-V7 progressions and they were often in the key of E. Which would mean that 1-4-5 is E-A-B7. As you advance in ukulele playing try playing your rock progressions in E. And if you won’t take our word for how big that I-IV-V7 chord order is, listen to the master himself!
And while rock may have embraced the I-IV-V7 it has been in use in jazz, blues, and folk music for some time. Even old time standards like this song also use that and in this case in the same key. This is a great example to show how two different songs with different vibes and melodies can both have the same chord progression!
The hard part about this song is that single C that you start on, you can try playing different fingerings of C while other times you just focus on your strum. Otherwise the song has pretty easy chord switches if you start slow.
And of course rock, pop, blues, jazz, folk, and more don’t always use the V7. In many songs they use the simple 1-4-5 without any extended chords. You will find these progressions in most keys and genres. If you ever wondered how a band can play a somewhat new song without much practice, this is how they do it. By knowing these formulas you will be a song playing machine.
This chord progression is huge and it is now often known as the Axis of Awesome, thanks to the same named Australian band. They had some viral fame with a video showing how a ton of famous songs all have the same chord progression! As you will see the I-V-vi-IV is everywhere in pop music. And what ukulele list would be complete without this Jason Mraz hit!
In this case we have the key of C with C-G-Am-F repeated the whole time. It needs a nice laid back and groovy strum. Start out with some down, down-up-down motions almost like an old country cowboy tune. As you count in 1/8th notes this strum will help you get a feel for the little bit of swing needed. The chords are easy, the hard part is nailing the lyrics and getting a nice rhythm going.
We could spend all day listing the other pop tunes that use this progression. The other popular ukulele cover “Hey Soul Sister” are these same chords. Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons, Lady Gaga, and anyone of fame has used it. And in many cases artists slightly change it up a bit. In The Beatles “Let It Be” they use the I-V-vi-IV (C-G-Am-F) in the verse and the Am-G-F-C in the chorus, such clever lads they were!
Another variation of the Axis of Awesome above is the Doo Wop progression, which is I-vi-IV-V or C-Am-F-G. Any 50’s doo wop tune you want to play will be in this chord order here. And what better example to share then Bobby Boris Pickett’s song “Monster Mash.” A classic that most people are familiar with and a staple for Halloween playing.
You may have noticed these chords aren’t C-Am-F-G, instead they are in the key of G so looking at the chart above we get G-Em-C-D. Now you can play the song in C if you want to keep the simple chords. But this song is a good time for the challenge of the D and Em chords. Luckily the chord changes are slow and always at the same point. The verse can have a casual 1/8th note feel strum while the chorus should be short and muted if possible.
And now that you know the doo wop progression you can play “Earth Angel,” “Blue Moon,” and “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease. This progression is so easy to play and flows so smoothly you will always look forward to songs that have it.
Now we can rearrange the chords again like with the doo wop progression. This time we use vi-VI-V-I or Am-F-G-C. When we use the C-G-Am-F you have a major key and the song is often upbeat or optimistic. When we play the Am-F-G-C we get a minor sound that is suitable for sad, melancholy, contemplative, or more pessimistic type tunes.
One of the best examples of this sensitive chord progression is “San Francisco” or the flowers in your hair song. The chords easily repeat most of the time and your hardest change will be from the F to a G. However it does have a bridge thrown in where the chords change. Which is great because often songs don’t have the same chords the whole way through.
The good news is that the extra bridge chords are only Bb and Gm7 (and to change between those we simply lift our middle finger up). This song modulates from the key of Am to Bb using that Gm7 and then the song moves back to Am. Other songs in this progression are “One of Us” and “The Passenger”.
And occasionally songwriters like to start the chords on the IV giving us IV-I-V-vi. Here in Taylor Swift’s song she uses this in the key of G. Again if you are having troubles playing the D or Em chord you can use F-C-G-Am instead of C-G-D-Em. It may not be the best key, but while you are learning it is not the end of the world.
Other songs that use this particular variation are “The Judge,” “Heart Attack,” “Whatever It Takes” and many more. Even Taylor Swift has a few songs with this same progression. It has become a very popular variation in recent years. With these four chords you can play an incredible amount of songs. Just find the right key and make sure to sing the appropriate melody.
But we can’t spend all day on the I, IV, V, vi progressions and their variations. Well we could actually spend a whole lifetime or music career on them, but there are some other great progressions waiting for us. In jazz the most common progression is I-ii-IV, it’s as common as the 1-4-5 on pop and rock. And while you may not be ready to play complex jazz standards on the uke, we have some easy songs with the 1-2-5.
A modern example of this is Meghan Trainor’s hit, she uses this progression throughout the entire song. It is very easy to play and the only issue will be the D if you aren’t used to it. It is also common to see the I-ii-V as ii-V-I like in Beyonce’s “7/11.” It is hard to play a jazzy R&B blues song without the use of some of these chords.
Experiment with different strums, maybe try playing any bass notes in the strum. Sometimes the easier repeating the progression is, the more creative we have to get while playing the song. As usual practice will get you a good rhythm to make it through to the end, so it not sound repetitive.
The classic rock progression is I-bVII-IV and as it is named you will find it in a lot of old rock tunes. It often shows up as E-D-A, but you are new to ukulele and those E chords can take time. But that is ok, all we have to do is switch it to the key of D to get D-C-G. And what better song to pick than this Zevon hit. You don’t even need to see the chord changes, it’s that easy!
Each verse runs down D-C-G-D and the howl is D-C before jumping back to G. All you need to do is find a suitable strum, downstrokes to fit the beat of the song with some upstrokes thrown in before switching chords. If you count your 4/4 time and play along, it shouldn’t take long to find a suitable rhythm. This is a great example to start realizing some songs are simple to play by ear!
This song is totally worth playing just to get to howl during the chorus. You will find other tunes with this progression like “Born This Way” and “Gloria.” Sometimes when it looks like D-C-G or E-D-A it will be easy to miss what is flat, so do a double check with the chart above.
One chord progression The Beatles loved to use was this particular I-II-IV-I. If you look back up at the chart you will see the second chord is a minor or lowercase ii. Here we use a major II instead. By making that a major we get another upbeat progression. It’s also used for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
In this case the I-II-IV-I Is on the first two lines of the verse and here they use a II7 or a D7. The regular D7 is a barre chord so you can try 2020 as a cheat (instead of 2223). It does deviate from that progression but the switch between the Am and F is not difficult. As you advance you will start playing songs that have more changes.
If you like The Beatles they even have another tune starting in this progression “You Won’t See Me.” This is also a common chord substitution used by songwriters. Instead of playing a minor, use a major or vice versa.
The I-iii-IV-V is often used in rock ballads and another 50’s style type chord progression. In this song Elton John uses it in the verse. Em is not an easy chord to hit fast, but when you are at the C first it makes it a lot easier. And the chords in the chorus are also relatively easy making this a song great for beginners.
If you like David Bowie he uses this chord order in “Ziggy Stardust” and some in “Changes.” The movement of the iii-IV-V or 3-4-5 makes for a great descending bass line as you play. That is what gives this progression an epic feel and makes it useful in rock. Other songs that use this are “Take My Breath Away” and the arena 80’s hair rock hit “Heaven.”
These chords of i-bVII-bIV-V are sometimes known as the flamenco progression, often seen as Am-G-F-E. But as usual musicians find other ways to use them and here Ray Charles turned it into an R&B hit. You may recognize other songs as you play it like “Walk Don’t Run” and “Sultans of Swing.”
Pay close attention to how the chords are being changed; the I chord is a minor and the VII and IV are taken a half step back. And normally the V here would be a minor v with Em. But by making some chords flat and changing major to minor we can get a lot of tension and resolution leading to a rocking song.
Because this song has a walking bass line it will be helpful to maybe pluck the lower strings with your index finger or thumb before letting the chord ring out. You want to simulate that steady jazz quarter note rhythm, a staple of jazz and R&B.
You may recognize this as it is the Axis of Awesome progression with a bVII in place of the vi. It often shows up as A-E-G-D but here we have G-D-F-C, a much easier key for your ukulele. In other songs you will see the biii like an Eb in the key of C. But that the Eb is just as hard as the E, so you may want to change keys.
Those flat chords and notes are really the basis for blues and all of its offspring we have mentioned so far! This particular tune is a very quintessential 90’s R&B style, and the title/lyrics inspired by a Paul McCartney song.
Sometimes slow and blues type songs can be a little hard to get a strum for, it’s not going to be fast like in rock. And if it is too slow it won’t work on the ukulele. Luckily this TLC hit happens to sound awesome and is perfect for beginners. You will also see this progression used in “Rio” and “Brown Eyes”
There are also many chord progressions that have two minors in a row instead of moving right into a major. This popular song here has been covered by Elvis, UB40, and recently Twenty One Pilots. Another band that has inspired people to pick the ukulele up.
While the movement isn’t repeated this classic song moves from the vi into the iii for added expression. In the key of C you will have to worry about the Em chord and that is all. It does move into harder chords once you get to the chorus. The good ol’ B7 is back again, so hopefully there will be no problem.
If you like the UB40 cover then give the song a bit more of a reggae/ska type strum. Or maybe get crazy and play a punk version! The Billie Eilish song “Bellyache” has a repeated I-vi-iii order going back to a tonic chord instead of a IV or V.
This also has two minors in a row and was used in jazz standards like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and the Nilsson hit “Without You.” There are some potential new chords here, but nothing too difficult. The F#m is a breeze and as usual that E may give you trouble depending on the voicing you use.
The Boss is a great songwriter but not all his hits are ukulele suitable. He’s very similar to Dylan at times with writing long rambling continuous chord progressions. The only problem is that it only works for folks like Dylan and Springsteen. When we try it, it doesn’t sound as cool!
This song calls for a capo, which means a way to press all the frets down as if you were moving the nut of the ukulele up. Some uke players welcome capos, others scoff at them, but if they help then try them out. On the music here it wants to have a capo on the first fret so we are playing in C#/Db instead of C. Or you can play the Db key without the capo!
One of the best ways to change a normal I-IV-V up, is by extending your chords. Instead of using just 7th chords try 9th, suspended, augmented, and any chord manipulation to get a good song. Even if you don’t understand the musical concepts you can still pay attention to how they sound when they pop up in songs you are playing.
Here Billie Eilish uses a major 7th on the root chord on her popular song “8.” Of course she does use manipulated vocals so that may affect how you cover it! Here it is in the key of Eb, but by this point you should be able to experiment and see if other keys work for you. Use the chart above!
And if you have taken up ukulele because of Eilish, she has plenty more tunes suitable for ukulele. She even has her own ukulele model now with Fender, their styles have a guitar like headstock if you are looking for that type in the future.
Of course Ed Sheerhan is a popular artist for playing on the ukulele as his songs have that laid back pop and folk vibe. As we advance we will come across many songs that don’t follow the same chords all the way through, however we should still be able to spot the progressions above.
This song can be found played in a few different keys, here it is in G. If you notice the chorus follows a variation like above with a vi-IV-I-V. If the jump of the D to Em is too much, try it in another key like C. Many sites have a way to easily change keys, and even if not that chart above will easily help.
As far as the strumming for this song it helps to give the first beat a little of a bass pluck with the thumb before a normal index finger strum. This is easier on guitar as ukuleles have a high string before the low one, usually a G to C. You can find low G note uke strings if you like a little more bass in your sound.
By now you should be noticing that folk, pop, and some rock are perfect for your ukulele. Bob Dylan’s classic is no exception. The chords may seem like a lot but they are all entry level and they mostly have easy changes. As the lyrics and words change so do the chords making it better for timing.
Here he mixes three different very popular progressions above; the verse is both I-IV-V and I-IV while the chorus throws an Am in with IV-V-I-vi. A good songwriter that really wants to make a song stick will use all the best tricks that appeal to the ear!
Other Bob Dylan tunes will sound great on your ukulele too. Just remember he has long songs with many repeating verses so the song can get tedious. You need to find strum patterns and emphasize certain parts of your singing to keep it going. That’s one reason a harmonica goes well with his tunes, something to break the lyrics up!
Daisy Bell was written way back in 1892 and is still going strong. This is a tune that should be familiar to many, and the first thing to notice is that it is in 3/4 time. So when you count your time and work on a decent strum it is 1-2-3, 1-2-3 instead of the normal four beats we have been using.
This song may seem complicated when you first see it but fear not the chords change in rather easy ways at times. An F to an F7 is a simple matter of putting your middle finger down. Later changing the F to Dm is a similar process. The hardest chord is the Bb but when you move from the F to Bb you simply press your finger on the bottom two strings as you from the chord.
Not only are the changes easy movements, the song lends itself to slowing down at points like singing “cra-zy” on the F to Dm. It is a relatively easy song to play and it is very suitable for the ukulele sound. The ukulele craze is roughly the same age as this song, so it makes sense this would be such a great tune to play.
This is another ukulele favorite on many chord sites and a good song to practice in the key of D again. Here you will notice the chorus goes back and forth between the I and vi, a very common and loved sequence by most listeners.
Here in D we have the F#m which is a very easy switch. The Bm with its barre chord may be a little tough at first, but like most barre chords you just need to strengthen the finger.
A simple variety of the down, down-down-up-down type strum should suffice to play this basic love song. A great tune to play for a live set as someone will always enjoy it and it deals with chord progressions that you should be getting used to by now.
And another uber popular ukulele song is this Leonard Cohen hit. This is a popular song for many acoustic instruments, on any given night in a college town you can find someone playing this! Probably the most popular version is the Jeff Buckley one.
One of the reasons this song is so beautiful is thanks to the simple rules of western music we have been showing you. The lyrics of the song literally mention the minor, fourth, and fifth aspects! Now maybe some of you have finally realized what the song was talking about! And it is quite an easy song to play.
There is an Em but it is only a few times with a jump from G, it shouldn’t be anything too difficult after some practice. The key is to find a nice slow strum and not be in a rush. You have likely heard this song many times below so you can figure out your own interpretation in no time at all. A creative cover of a song is always better than the perfect cover.
So far we have been helping you avoid the dreaded E chord, because this is an easy ukulele song list right? But the fact is we need to learn it. By now you’re mostly using C and G keys and so you’re missing out on a rock sound sometimes. Many upbeat pop tunes use E, B, and A so why not practice them?
This song is from the band Ween and many recognize it as the SpongeBob movie song, it doesn’t follow the I-IV-V exactly but it still uses the E-A-B. The way it is shown to make the E chord is 1402, but some find it easier to use 3331. With the index finger on the bottom string and your middle finger pressed against the top three. It takes some practice to build strength, don’t expect results overnight.
From that position it is quicker to move into a B at 4322, and then of course the A chord is very easy. Once you have the E and B change down this song becomes a nice upbeat number to play. And if you like odd but fun songs Ween has plenty more ukulele friendly music.
Now you can also play songs in the key of A thanks to using that E chord, as the I-IV-V in A is A-D-E. The A and the D go great together for easy movement, only the E is the problem! If you want to try replacing the E with E7 (1202) it is easier and sounds better. If you are a great singer and you want some ukulele tunes with superb vocals, then Sam Cooke is always a good pick.
He is known as the King of Soul, which is a slowed R&B genre that focuses on great melodies and vocals. This song is very easy for the most part except for the couple E’s. But if you keep practicing, it will sound fine and never be a problem again!
If you are looking to perform with your ukulele, these types of songs are necessary. Early feel good rock or jazz standards are the way to go, especially if you are singing. A Sam Cooke hit will always make someone tap their feet and hum along.
And speaking of playing songs that people want to hear, we can’t leave the most popular one off the list. While it was originally performed by Judy Garland, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole made it the gold standard for playing on the ukulele. It was part of a medley with “What a Wonderful World.” Ever since it has been on countless movie soundtracks and it is also the inspiration from many new uke players.
You will notice familiar chords and have no problem if you play it slow, the lyrics and changes fit well. Again if you plan to play in public, this is a major song to know as someone will want to hear it. And you will have no problem finding examples on YouTube and elsewhere as all ukulele players are required by law to play a cover of it!
The one secret that gave him a great sound was that he used a low G string. Normally a uke is tuned high G, low C, high E, and high A. With a low brass covered wound nylon string you can get a low G instead; they are only a few bucks. Just remember they sound great for some songs, but not for others. Just make it easy and buy another ukulele!
Another ukulele gold standard, and just a great song all around. When it comes to that time of year, no matter what your beliefs, people will want to hear that song. The good news is that the chords are easy and it has no major issues. If you notice lap steels often have a similar Hawaiian sound and that is because they are both tuned to C6. If you strum your ukulele with all open strings it is a C6 chord!
One hard part is riffing on the same chord in the beginning of the verse, remember when you don’t make changes it can get awkward. If you use the regular D7 then it may be hard to jump to the G7 at first. You’ll notice this song has a lot of 7ths, which is typical of jazz and pop standards of that era.
Start by doing a low strum on the bass and then strum in triplets (dun da-da-dun) to get a feel for the rhythm. From there you will have to add the swing and feel necessary, so play along with the song to find the right way.
Christmas and holiday tunes are ones you really should know if you plan to play for others. Especially the 50’s era songs like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Blue Christmas,” they are crowd pleasers! But many songs of that era often have complicated chords, so you may find some needing more practice.
The ukulele and reggae are an island match made in heaven, as are the earlier genres of ska and rocksteady. The key to playing this is getting a good strum on the offbeats. When we play rock we often emphasize the 2 and 4, but in reggae the beats in between are what matters. If you like Bob Marley, most of his songs are suitable for the ukulele.
Notice here that we are back to the super popular I-V-vi-IV again, you can never escape it. And again that progression in the key of C is very easy and perfect for first time ukulele players. Even if you can’t get a good offbeat strum going this song is pretty forgiving for the new student.
This song is good to know when you are camping, if others are present with instruments it is a great jam song with the mostly repeating chords. C-G-Am-F are pretty basic chords for many of the musicians you will be running into!
Despite being a Paul McCartney song and written on the ukulele, not many players run into this song. It’s a great example of why you shouldn’t be afraid to jump into new keys. The ukulele only has four little strings and most chords never end up being that hard as long as you practice.
We mostly stay in safe keys for beginners like C and G so everyone can join in as those are the most common keys. But as you can see here a Dbmaj7 looks scary but it is really as simple as barring the first fret with your index finger and using your middle for the bottom third. The strum is also very easy if you play along with the song.
So the next time you see some A9 or Gbmaj don’t fret and just make the chord the best you can. And if you are having trouble at first you can always cheat a little and play the partial part of the chord you can finger. This will at least allow you to play through the song while you are learning.
Some of you may be thinking that I’ve forgotten about tablature! Of course not, and here is one of the best and easiest ukulele tabs to learn! When you play the ukulele you are usually playing chords, but as you progress you will want to start adding single plucked notes in to make it sound better.
To read tablature you simply put your finger where the number says on the right string, keeping in mind that the high A string is on top. As you advance in playing tabs you will find new techniques like hammer ons, pull offs, and other tricks to really spice your playing up. There are multiple tabs to find for this song, depending on where you play it on the fretboard. If you have a low G string you may have to use your ears to adjust.
The best way to practice tablature is to play chorded songs that have pieces of tabs like intros, bass lines, and riffs. Solos will also be a huge part of this practice, often using a scale of the same key the chords are in. This particular theme is also a favorite to know, especially when you can play it with the emotion it deserves.
Now that you’ve played all these songs, your definition of easy should have changed. This particular song may seem hard but you will find it is very easy. They say George Harrison loved the ukulele so much that he carried more than one around just in case he found someone who liked to play! And to this day Paul still plays this song on a ukulele to honor George’s memory.
If you can manage to practice this song and memorize it, people will think you are an incredible ukulele player. It’s one of those timeless pieces that seems a lot more complex than it really is, perhaps that is why it is such a beautiful song. It is no wonder that George Harrison loved the ukulele so much, on certain songs it is just so pretty, peaceful, and often happy. Even this serious love song has a bright feel thanks to the unique tuning of the ukulele!
Look up these exact progressions if you are needing for more song examples. You can also try one of the top 100 songs for beginners listed on ukuele-tabs.com, most of them use very common chord progressions. Keep in mind that a lot of chords online aren’t always accurate. Chords and tabs are made by contributors who have various playing levels and mistakes occur. Use your ear. The famous song “Hey Ya” is a key of G tune that moves from G-C-D and then to E, not the normal E minor. Some sites mix minors and majors up and entire chords at times.
That’s how you truly excel, by using your ears. And now that you know the basics of many popular songs you will eventually be able to hear these common changes. If you never took a further step into learning music, this knowledge alone will help make your ukulele a truly entertaining item. By being able to play a lot of songs you will look like and actually be a talented musician!