23 Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners – And How to Play Them

The best way to learn how to play the ukulele is working your way through some of your favorite songs. Not every song, though, is geared toward the beginner player.

After playing guitar for more than 20 years, I picked up an ukulele at the height of the pandemic to learn something new. And what was the first thing I did after tuning it up? I played through a ton of songs, from the Beatles to today’s pop hits.

By doing so, my fingers got used to the different chord structures (remember, ukulele has four strings, while guitar has six) and I didn’t have to look at the tab or chord outline as much because I started remembering where my fingers needed to be. Now when I want to play a C or G chord, for example, I can just do it without thinking.

The same can happen for you. I researched tabs of dozens of songs on sites like Ultimate Guitar that are perfect for beginner ukulele players, and then whittled the list down to my 23 favorite.

Here Are 23 Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners:

Riptide by Vance Joy

Why it’s good for beginners:

This pop hit is made up of only four chords — Am, G, C and F — that are close together between the first and third frets.

How to practice it:

The trickiest part with Riptide is the strumming rhythm. Play along with the recording to get a better feel for the rhythm of the song 

What to look out for:

The bridge. The rhythm of your strumming changes here. Thankfully, the same chord progression continues from Am to G to C to F. That progression is consistent throughout the entire song.

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz

Why it’s good for beginners:

This Jason Mraz hit features a relaxed tempo and very manageable chord changes. It’s essentially one chord for each line of the song that falls on the two of each bar.

How to practice it:

Just practice shaping the chords so you’ll be ready to confidently strum that progression from C to G to Am to F.

What to look out for:

Jason Mraz throws in a D7 on the tailend of the second verse, which leads into the final chorus. A D7 chord includes includes a C note at the top of your A string (third fret)

Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo

Why it’s good for beginners:

Israel Kamakawiwo made modern ukulele really popular with his iconic rendition of this classic song. For many new uke players, this is the first song they tackle.

How to practice it:

Listen to Kamakawiwo’s strumming rhythm and really dial it in. The percussive expression of that strumming pattern is what makes this song.

What to look out for:

The C to Em chord progression is the trickiest in the whole song and it repeats a lot. Ukulele necks are small, which can make hitting the right frets more difficult on that transition.

Still Haven’t Found (What I’m Looking For) by U2

Why it’s good for beginners:

An ukulele obviously isn’t going to replicate the hard-rock sound of U2, which allows you to take some artistic liberties when learning this song. Also, you only need to know three chords.

How to practice it:

Know the chords and then be open to strum any pattern you like while you sing the lyrics.

What to look out for:

Nothing too tricky here. Just know how to shape the three chords.

Let It Be by The Beatles

Why it’s good for beginners:

Working your way through the great Beatles songbook is a fantastic way to learn any instrument.

How to practice it:

Slow your tempo down so you strum that first chord on the one beat of each bar with confidence.

What to look out for:

The turnaround at the end of each verse and chorus switches from an F chord to a C to a G to a C pretty fast and in a unique rhythm. It’ll require some extra practice.

Desperado by The Eagles

Why it’s good for beginners:

This Eagle song teaches you about the importance of learning 7th chords.

How to practice it:

There are a handful of chords to learn for this song (12 total with all of those 7th chords!). Work your way through those chord shapes before tackling this long song.

What to look out for:

The transition from D to D7 to G to G7 all falls along the single lyric, “Desperado.” You’ll need to work on that rhythm to make sure it all fits.

Itsy Bitsy Spider (children’s song)

Why it’s good for beginners:

It’s good for beginner ukulele players to learn some fun songs, which can come in handy for when you’re with kids.

How to practice it:

Make sure you know when you switch from the G chord to the D7. You’ll be tempted to switch between the words itsy and bitsy, but have some restraint until you sing “Went up the water…

What to look out for:

Nothing too tricky with the actual ukulele playing in this one. Check out the additional lyrics if you’re not familiar with the entire song.

Rainbow by Kacey Musgraves

Why it’s good for beginners:

The ukulele can be played across several genres, including popular country songs like this.

How to practice it:

Instead of focusing on strumming a rhythm, simply strum each chord once as you sing these beautiful lyrics.

What to look out for:

This song is played in the key of Eb, which is not an easy key for beginners. Learn how to shape the following chords: Eb, Cm, Ab, Bb and Fsus4.

Sesame Street Theme Song

Katie, a Sesame Street character, reaches out to children in the audience during a performance May 28, 2014, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The show was designed to shine a light on difficult situations a military child may face while allowing parents the opportunity to address stressful situations that may arise while serving in the armed forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Scott Saldukas)

Why it’s good for beginners:

Another fun children’s song to put in your repertoire. Also great for perfecting your strumming skills.

How to practice it:

Without shaping the chords, practice strumming to the beat of the song and humming the lyrics. Once the rhythm feels like muscle memory, then practice the chord shapes.

What to look out for:

Practice chord progressions that start with an E chord, which is a little tricky to not only shape, but also to transition to other chords from.

Your Song by Elton John

Why it’s good for beginners:

It features a nice mix of major and minor chords, along with transitions from minor-seventh chords.

How to practice it:

Don’t worry about any strumming patterns right now. Strum each chord once as you sing through the lyrics.

What to look out for:

Timing on this song can be tricky since the vocals come in at a different time as the instrumental section. 

Amazing Grace

Why it’s good for beginners:

It’s always good to have some traditional songs, like Amazing Grace, in your back pocket. It’s also a good song to really hear how a 7th chord is supposed to work and sound.

How to practice it:

Just learn how to play the three chords in the song: C, F and G7.

What to look out for:

The chord progression isn’t the most predictable. You’ll need to run through the verse and chorus a few times to get used to it.

Stand By Me by Ben E. King

Why it’s good for beginners:

It’s four chords and a highly recognizable song with an easy strumming pattern.

How to practice it:

Practice the transition from the G chord to the Em chord. They are the two hardest to shape.

What to look out for:

The chord structure and strumming pattern never really changes throughout the whole song, so as you master this classic, try working in some alternative strumming patterns to switch things up and make this song your own.

Three Little Birds by Bob Marley

Why it’s good for beginners:

If you own an ukulele, you need to know how to play Bob Marley. Luckily, most Bob Marley tunes, like Three Little Birds, use a three-chord structure. 

How to practice it:

After learning the three chords — A, D and E — work through the main riff of the song, which you can find in the tab.

What to look out for:

Reggae songs feature unique rhythm and strumming patterns. Listen to some Bob Marley to get a better feel for that rhythm.

Redemption Song by Bob Marley

Why it’s good for beginners:

It can help you hear the differences between a minor chord and a minor-seventh chord.

How to practice it:

One line at a time. This song is all about expression and feeling the chord changes.

What to look out for:

The riff throughout the song is pretty tricky. Once you’ve mastered the chords, try tackling that riff.

One Love (People Get Ready) by Bob Marley

Why it’s good for beginners:

Everyone knows the words to One Love, making it a great song to know when you’re fiddling around on your ukulele at a party.

How to practice it:

It’s another basic three-chord song, so it really comes down to figuring out the strumming pattern. On the chorus, really dig into your strings to make more of a percussive sound when strumming.

What to look out for:

This song is straight forward. If you want to make it more challenging, find alternative chord voicings higher up on the neck.

Grenade by Bruno Mars

Why it’s good for beginners:

A majority of this song is played using minor chords. It also touches the more complicated Bb chord, which is good to learn.

How to practice it:

Get confident with the Dm to Am chord transition. It’s the most prevalent in the song.

What to look out for:

The hardest part of this song is figuring out when to hit the next chord because a lot of the vocals lead up to the one beat. Listen to the recording of it to really dial into that timing and rhythm.

The A Team by Ed Sheeran

Why it’s good for beginners:

With more than 1,500 reviews on Ultimate guitar, Ed Sheeran’s A-Team is a highly popular tune that ukulele players want to learn.

How to practice it:

You’ll want to use a capo for this song so the chords are easier to shape. 

What to look out for:

On the verses, the transition from the D chord to the Em is pretty quick. Think of the D chord as more of a setup for that Em, which carries into the next line.

Ho Hey by the Lumineers

Why it’s good for beginners:

About 95% of this song is transitioning back and forth from a C chord to an F chord.

How to practice it:

Learn that C- to F-chord transition. That’s it.

What to look out for:

Don’t get too anxious to hit the F chord. You only strum it on the last down beat of each line.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

Why it’s good for beginners:

Any musician needs to know this iconic song. Thankfully, there are some easy versions out there for ukulele, too.

How to practice it:

You need to learn how to play a F, Dm and Bb chord, which is a little outside the typical G-C-D or A-E-D chords that are featured in a lot of these songs.

What to look out for:

Learning those chords is the hardest part of this song.

Hey Jude by The Beatles

Why it’s good for beginners:

It’s a straightforward song with an easy strumming pattern.

How to practice it:

Hey Jude is in the key of F, which isn’t the most common for beginner songs. Make sure you know how to play an F and Bb chord.

What to look out for:

On the verses, you strum that first F longer than you think. Be patient before strumming the next chord.

Hey Soul Sister by Train

Why it’s good for beginners:

Train recorded this song with an ukulele, which elevated its popularity among uke players.

How to practice it:

It’s all about the rhythm of the strumming pattern for this song. Listen closely to Train’s recording of the song to figure it out.

What to look out for:

The chords are easy — C to G to Am to F. You need to figure out the strumming pattern to make it sound really good.

Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison

Why it’s good for beginners:

Another fun party song. Van Morrison’s music lends itself nicely to beginner players.

How to practice it:

This song is faster than it sounds. Start slow and work up speed.

What to look out for:

The transition from each chord is faster than you think and kind of sneaks up on you. Be ready to make that transition. Also know how to play a D7 chord as you build into that chorus.

Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

Why it’s good for beginners:

Who said hard rock couldn’t be played on the ukulele? This is an opportunity to make a song your own and really hone in on the chords and lyrics of a classic grunge rock song.

How to practice it:

You’ll want to get good at muting chords with the palm of your strumming hand to really get that rocker feel on the ukulele.

What to look out for:

The rhythm of this Nirvana song can be complicated if you’re not totally familiar with it.

Start Playing Your Ukulele Today

Most of the songs above simply show you a chord shape, but some do include actual tabs. If you’re not sure how to read tabs, we have you covered!

Use this list of songs as a roadmap for your ukulele journey. You’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll pick up chord shapes.

Also, make sure to check out out our guide to the best ukulele brands, and our recommendation for the best ukulele for beginners.

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Image Credits:

The Beatles image: Grand Parc – Bordeaux, France from France, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Sesame Street image: US Air Force from USA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Amazing Grace image: Joshua Coach oh Ommen from Vista, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Bob Marley image: Eddie Mallin, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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