Unusual hobbies: Ukulele Essentials

This is a followup to Unusual Hobbies: Teach Yourself Ukulele.

If you read the original article and you followed the advice I gave, then you have a ukulele, and you can probably play quite a few chords with a variety of strumming techniques.  You probably also know a few songs.  Congratulations on learning to play a fun, quirky, and beautiful instrument!

Here’s where we up the ante: There are five songs that I consider essential for any ukulele player to learn.  These songs are the most requested and the best for jamming with other ukers.  You may already know some or all of them, but if you don’t, you should learn them as soon as possible or I’ll revoke your ukulele card.

  1. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as played by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
    This song is the reason why a lot of my ukulele-playing friends chose to pick up the instrument in the first place.  I know it was for me.  There’s something about Brudda Iz’s high, beautiful voice accompanied by the simple chords on his uke that speaks to everyone.  This song is incredibly easy to play, and the chords are available on several ukulele websites.
  2. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
    Before I learned to play the ukulele, one of my friends had fallen in love with this song and was trying to learn it on his guitar.  Months later, when I started learning to uke, I found a tutorial video of this.  This is my most requested song, even though most of it is just a repetition of the same four chords; it is very easy to learn.
  3. “Drop, Baby, Drop” by Sean Na’auao
    If you ever jam with serious ukulele players, you absolutely must know this song.  Don’t ask questions; just shut up and learn it.  It’s easy to fake it with a four-chord pattern, but if you want to truly impress, learn to play the lead.
  4. “Surf” by the Ka’au Crater Boys
    This is another absolute necessity if you jam with serious ukers.  Again, it’s really simple if you learn the four-chord pattern, but learning the lead part or busting out your own improv solos can make this song quite challenging.
  5. “Aloha ‘Oe” by Queen Lili’uokalani
    For the true Hawaiian independence supporters, this song is very emotional.  A friend of mine actually refused to play it on request because it holds a special meaning for him.  Still, for many of us, this was the first ukulele song we ever heard.

I’m not saying that these are all of my favorites, but these are the songs you should know.  They are, in my opinion, true prerequisites to calling yourself a ukulele player.

Do you play ukulele?  What do you think?  Did I miss any important ones?  Leave me a comment!


7 thoughts on “Unusual hobbies: Ukulele Essentials

  1. When I was a kid I knew several songs on the Ukelele! My grandpa had one sitting in our beach house, and one rainy summer he entertained me with “lessons”… dang, I think I need to rush out and get a new one! 🙂 I wish I could remember the songs I knew, I bet I will wake up in the middle of the night with the sudden recollection…

    1. If you remember, let me know!
      Had this list been my favorite songs to play, it would include “The Rainbow Connection”, “Moon River”, and “Back Home Again in Indiana”. Still, I really like the songs that are up there. Most of them are fun to play because people want to hear them or people want to play along with you when you play them.

  2. Great selection there, including a couple I didn’t know. We also play Aloha ‘Oe & Rainbow Connection in our local group, PLUC.

    In the UK, an expected crowd-pleaser is I’ll See You In My Dreams.

    Especially touching is the tribute played by Joe Brown in George Harrison’s memorial concert:

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