View Full Version : Essential Songs

Plane Ignerints
09-09-2015, 12:47 AM
So I've continued practicing and I have learned a few songs here and there as well as making up my own. What would you consider to be the top 5 or 10 songs that any uke player should know how to play in his sleep?

09-09-2015, 01:26 AM
#1 on most lists "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Izzy.
#2 " I'm Yours" Jason Maraz
*Then some old standards, ie, Five foot Two, You are my Sunshine, Ain't She sweet..
*A few Beatles songs, When I'm 64 or Let it be.

The most important songs are the one you like. The ones that grab you, the ones you just got a burning desire to learn how to play.

09-09-2015, 01:44 AM
Nice idea for a thread. I'll be really interested to read other what other people suggest.

Currently, after three whole months of playing the uke, I am putting together a pdf songbook (strictly for my own personal use) containing tunes that I would like to include in my 'core repertoire'. I would like to learn these songs well enough to be able to play them from memory at some point in the future, but for now my songbook is basically a fake book.

Here's a list of ten of the songs, with some vague notes about why each one was selected:

Yesterday - arguably the Beatles' simplest and most effective ballad with straightforward chord changes and the easiest outro ever
Enjoy Yourself - darkly humorous sing-a-long, laughing in the face of impending mortality is good for the soul
Jambalaya - two-and-a-half chords, good sing-a-long, party-themed
Hallelulah - surprisingly straightforward tune, potentially one to impress with if you're a half-decent singer
When I’m Cleaning Windows - pretty much a legal requirement for any English uke player - a cheeky bit of fun
Waterloo Sunset - one of the greatest pop songs ever written, basic c-chord progression with a few bells and whistles
I Fought The Law - can be played CFG, rock-n-roll/punk crossover, always good to include something a bit subversive
Puff the Magic Dragon - y'know, for kids...
A Message To You Rudy - good catchy sing-a-long, add kazoos and have some fun
The Wild Rover - good for rowdy crowds who like making a bit of a noise

09-09-2015, 03:35 AM
I'm saying the ten songs that you like to listen to.

09-09-2015, 03:39 AM
Of course I had to start with TIPTOE THRU THE TULIPS and UKULELE LADY in F, then SHE'S SO SWEET and MEADOWLANDS in C. The Beatles' THINGS WE SAID TODAY in Cm and the Stones' PAINT IT BLACK and COMPLICATED in Dm are straightforward. BLUE SKIES in Em and GIRL FROM IPANEMA in Bb work well, as does FREIGHT TRAIN in F. Those are my standards.

09-09-2015, 06:25 AM
In my opinion, there's no such thing as an "essential" ukulele song. I think that what many people consider "essential" ukulele songs are often those that stereotype ukes as a novelty instrument on which you play corny, tin-pan alley and stale standards type of songs. While I do play some of those types of songs, I kind of resist efforts that reinforce or play to that vintage stereotype. Of course this comes down to personal taste but of the suggestions so far, I'd have little to zero interest in playing the majority of them even though a lot of people would consider them to be what they'd expect to hear from a ukulele player. It's sort of the "one man's trash is another man's treasure" kind of concept. The top 5 or 10 essential ukulele songs are the top 5 or 10 songs that you most enjoy playing. It's going to be different for everyone.

09-09-2015, 06:41 AM
I would say, play songs that you like that is within your playing ability, don't try to run before you can walk, but the main thing that I found as a beginner was to play songs that I wanted to learn, some songs have tricky progressions but believe me keep practicing regularly and then practice some more and you will be surprised at how quickly these harder progressions get easier, have a great journey it will be worth all the hard work

09-09-2015, 06:49 AM
+1 on the "play what you like" comment. For me it's all about standards. The first 3 tunes I learned were Autumn Leaves, Fly Me to the Moon (with original intro), and There Will Never Be Another You. It's hard to express how much I'm enjoying my Ukulele journey!

09-09-2015, 06:52 AM
I think that what many people consider "essential" ukulele songs are often those that stereotype ukes as a novelty instrument on which you play corny, tin-pan alley and stale standards type of songs. While I do play some of those types of songs, I kind of resist efforts that reinforce or play to that vintage stereotype.
Completely with you on this. I think that's why I don't generally dig uke jams, where there can be a preponderance of corny music that I would never listen to in a million years (shame, cuz folks are nice). I heard Jake give this tip in an interview. "Play what YOU like". Pick songs that you love and learn them. You'll practice more and progress faster.

09-09-2015, 07:16 AM
Guava Jam:

09-09-2015, 07:23 AM
It also depends on whether one wants to accompany their singing, or if they dazzle someone with their skills as a ukulele player. And whether they are trying to impress others, or just impress themselves. That all plays into the selection as well. I'm into folk songs from the sixties and seventies myself, and I consider my ukulele playing the accompaniment.

09-09-2015, 07:48 AM
"Raindrops keep fallin' on my head" seems to be a good one everyone knows.
"Yesterday" is okay, I need to actualy make an effort to memorize the chords.

I would try to pick something you can make yours. No one wants to hear everyone doing the same ukulele songs.

09-09-2015, 08:15 AM
I'm saying the ten songs that you like to listen to.

I'd take that a step further, and say the ten songs that you most enjoy playing ​:)

09-09-2015, 08:47 AM
I agree with everyone who said you should pick whatever 10 songs you like the best. But that doesn't make for a very interesting forum thread, does it? So let's talk about what songs are useful to know, assuming you don't spend all of your time hiding at home. One of the music teachers here tells the kids to "always keep a song in your pocket." Which is great advice. Here are the songs in my pocket, memorized and ready to go in case somebody asks me to play a song:

One Hawaiian song, because props to roots. Aloha Oe is a lovely song if you learn the verses. I like Lahaina Luna. You might prefer something up-tempo.

One great old song from the 20's-30's, because props and because people always seem to love these. I have two that never fail me: Dream a Little Dream of Me and I'll See You In My Dreams.

At least two jam songs you can play with other uke and guitar players. Easy, repeating chord patterns and a chorus so people can join in even if they don't already know the song. Wagon Wheel is invincible. Bad Moon Rising. Leavin' on a Jet Plane. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere. You Can't Always Get What You Want. Friend of the Devil.

12-bar blues. Learn the basic 12-bar chord pattern in the keys of C, G, A and D. Now you can jam all night.

As many folk songs as you can stand, because people who are singing are, in general, happier than people who are not singing. Midnight Special. This Land is Your Land. Pay Me My Money Down (2 chords, learn this first!) Goodnight Irene. Everything on Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions albums.

At least one good ol' country song. Your Cheatin' Heart. Walkin' After Midnight. Other songs that have an apostrophe replacing the letter "g." Every song written by Hank Williams.

One song written in the 21st Century, because Millenials are people, too. I'm Yours. Ho Hey. Hey Julie. I'll Follow You into the Dark.

Bruddah Iz's Somewhere Over the Rainbow because everybody asks for it, and I'd rather play it than friggin' Tiptoe.

Happy Birthday. Because it is easier to play it than to gracefully avoid playing it.

Of course, the songs that belong in your pocket will be different. Play the songs you love, and the songs that you feel confident playing.

09-09-2015, 09:51 AM
I agree with everyone who said you should pick whatever 10 songs you like the best. But that doesn't make for a very interesting forum thread, does it?


Less commentary on the subjective nature of musical appreciation and more song titles please :P

It seems to me that playing music can sometimes be more about pleasing an audience than pleasing yourself, even to the point of being willing to play songs that might be considered corny and/or clichéd.

Say, for instance, someone insists that you bang out a few tunes at a family party or down the pub or wherever, and you really can't talk your way out of it...

What's your killer set gonna be?

09-09-2015, 01:02 PM
My audience often seems to be the over 80 and under 5 group, but I occasionally get some Boomers and Millennials. So...

Smile (one of my mom's favorites)
Lava (toddlers love this one)
Hokey Pokey (ditto)
We'll Meet again (usually no one but me knows it, but I play the Stephen Colbert Comedy Central farewell show video and they get it)
Hey Jude (Boomer bait for sing along - everybody can do the chorus)
Blue Moon (mom's crowd)
Country Roads (I am in West Virginia, so it must be a law or something to request it)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight (toddlers love this one, too, and they love to do background vocals)
Greensleeves/What Child is this (depending upon the season)
Singin' in the Rain (so many people know this one which is weird)

09-09-2015, 05:45 PM
Happy Birthday to You
Silent Night
A few Foster's songs, Swanee River, Camptown race.
A few Beatles songs, When I'm 64, Let it be.

09-10-2015, 01:40 AM
I had been playing guitar for 25+ years before picking up a ukulele, and I started by working out both chord-melody and vocal arrangements for Beatles tunes. Can't say that those won't serve me well for a long time to come. It's just hard to go wrong with The Beatles. The more I know and learn from them them better.

So The Beatles is where I started building my top 10 must learn tunes, and I knew they'd work in front of a crowd or would just be fun to play while sitting around the house.

Plane Ignerints
09-10-2015, 03:15 AM
Thank you everyone for your suggestions and input. I should probably have qualified that I hope to play on a stage one day, and I'm just wondering what tunes any serious player would "have to know" in case someone shouts out a request.

As far as personal favorites, I am trying to build a traditional uke/bluegrass/mariachi/Carolina Beach/rock repertoire while continuing to write. I wish I had pursued this years ago instead of being "sensible"