Best Ukulele Songs of All Time - Into Strings (2023)

Today I’m here to talk about the best ukulele songs ever! As with any type of music, it can be hard to sift through all the songs that have been played on the ukulele and written for the ukulele. These are the 10 best according to me, judged by overall sound, technique, cultural impact, and popularity.

I’m Ryan Burns, a ukulele player and songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. I’ve been playing and teaching ukulele for the last 10 years. I have a degree in Ethnomusicology from the University of Illinois and have studied at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Quick Look: Best Ukulele Songs of All Time

#1 Best Ukulele Song Overall: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

  • Best Traditional Ukulele Song: Aloha Oe
  • Best Pop Ukulele Song: Riptide
  • Best Cover Ukulele Song: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
  • Best Beginner Ukulele Song: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
  • Best Intermediate Ukulele Song: Dream a Little Dream of Me
  • Best Advanced Ukulele Song: While My Guitar Gently Weeps


So, sit back and take a look at all of these great ukulele songs from many different genres, eras, and styles of music. I hope you enjoy it!

What Makes a Great Ukulele Song?

There are many different ways to classify what a great ukulele song is. One way of choosing is based solely on how great the playing is and how technically proficient you need to be to play it. There are certainly some songs on the list from that category.

(Video) The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Best Ukulele Songs of All Time - Into Strings (1)

On the other hand, another way you could categorize these songs is by how popular and culturally relevant they are. Many of these songs became a solid part of the popular consciousness and made the ukulele instantly recognizable when you hear the first notes.

Types of Ukulele Music

The ukulele is a Hawaiian instrument with Portuguese roots. It has been used in countless types of music. In the last century, it has been used in genres from traditional Hawaiian music to modern pop.

Traditional Hawaiian

The first place where the ukulele was used was in traditional Hawaiian songs. This music is a fantastic sounding relic of a rich cultural heritage, which uses many strumming and picking techniques reminiscent of Portuguese Fado music.


The ukulele became very popular in the early 20th century in America for acts in Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley. Although many of the songs in this genre are a bit campy, there were many talented and virtuosic musicians known for their playing in that era.


Throughout the rest of the 20th-century, artists in pop, folk, and rock music continued to use the ukulele to create gentle sounding songs in contrast to harsher guitar-based songs. Many popular singer-songwriters use the ukulele very prominently, such as Jason Mraz and Ingrid Michaelson.


For classical music, the ukulele is often used similarly to a classical guitar. Both are nylon string-based instruments, so the technique is roughly the same despite differences in size.

Cover Songs

One of the most popular uses for ukulele is as a vehicle for playing cover songs. Countless artists and YouTube musicians have recorded covers of famous songs on the ukulele due to its intriguing and gentle sound that fits perfectly with many voices.

10 Best Ukulele Songs

As I said, this is in no way a complete list. How could anybody narrow down any type of music to just 10 songs? But, these are 10 of what I find to be the best and most important ukulele songs of all time.

1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow

  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Music type:Pop cover
  • Artist:Israel Kamakawilo’ole
  • Year released:1939 (original), 1990 (cover)

Somewhere Over The Rainbow is one of the most iconic ukulele songs of all time. It was originally recorded in one take in 30 minutes at 3 AM in a Hawaiian recording studio. Israel Kamakawilo’ole was unknown at the time, but ten years later, the song caught fire and he gained international fame.

The song itself is notable for its simple but driving ukulele part and playful approach to the lyrics and structure of the original song. It’s an incredibly fun song to play and sing along with, and it’s instantly catchy and recognizable.

(Video) The Prettiest Ukulele Song in the World (NEW TUTORIAL)

2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

  • Difficulty:Hard
  • Music type:Rock cover
  • Artist:Jake Shimabukuro
  • Year released:1968 (original), 2006 (cover)

While My Guitar Gently Weeps is an iconic song that really put Jake Shimabukuro, the Japanese-American ukulele virtuoso, on the map. It was originally only a YouTube video shot in Central Park in NYC, but it led to recordings, appearances, and tours worldwide.

In his video, you get a sense of what kind of talent Jake brings to the ukulele. He combines fingerpicking, advanced Fado style strumming, complex chords, and melodies. It elevated an already great song to another level.

3. Aloha Oe

  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Music type:Traditional Hawaiian
  • Artist:Queen Lili’uokalani
  • Year released:1878

Before it was annexed by the United States, Hawaii was a sovereign nation, and the ruler was Queen Lili’uokalani. She was also an avid musician, poet, and songwriter, and she wrote and performed one of the most iconic songs in Hawaiian culture, Aloha Oe.

The song itself is a simple folk song in the Hawaiian language. Easy strumming patterns and chords make this a great song to learn as a beginner. Not only is it fun and easy to play, but it’s also a great introduction to learning more about the ukulele and Hawaiian culture.

4. Riptide

  • Difficulty:Intermediate
  • Music type:Pop
  • Artist:Vance Joy
  • Year released:2013

One of the catchiest and instantly recognizable pop songs of the last decade, Vance Joy’s Riptide is an undeniable earworm. Vance Joy is an Australian musician (and former Australian rules football player) with a great sense for melodies and voice.

Riptide is for the most part a fairly easy three-chord song with a basic strumming pattern, although there are certain sections that you can add touches to make it fun and interesting to play. Add to that the soaring falsetto vocal melodies, and it makes for a great song.

5. Tonight You Belong to Me

  • Difficulty:Intermediate
  • Music type:Early jazz
  • Artist:Multiple (written: Billy Rose and Lee David; performed: Gene Austin, Patience and Prudence, Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters)
  • Year released:1928

As with many ukulele songs, Tonight You Belong to Me has a long and interesting history. Originally written and performed in 1928 for various crooners including Gene Austin and later Patience and Prudence, it was later played on ukulele and brought to new popularity in the movie The Jerk.

The song has many interesting twists and turns on the ukulele, which accentuate the melody with several different shifting strumming patterns. On top of that, the whimsical harmony lines make this a wonderful song to sing as a duet.

(Video) Jake Shimabukuro - "Bohemian Rhapsody" - TED (2010) - ukelele cover

6. I’m Yours

  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Music type:Pop
  • Artist:Jason Mraz
  • Year released:2008

I’m Yours is another instant earworm that really took the pop music world by storm when Jason Mraz first debuted it. With its fast syncopated lyrics and laid-back beach bum vibes, it instantly draws you in with its first little ukulele lick.

This is always one of the first songs I teach my ukulele students because the majority of it is just four chords and a simple strumming pattern. But, as you look closer, there are lots of extra touches you can add. Singing this one at the same time takes a bit more work because of the rapid-fire lyrics.

7. Bohemian Rhapsody

  • Difficulty:Hard
  • Music type:Rock cover
  • Artist:Queen (original), Jake Shimabukuro (cover)
  • Year released:1979 (original), 2011 (cover)

Here’s another unbelievably virtuosic performance by Jake Shimabukuro, who seems to be able to take any song and make it into an instant classic. Of course, the original version of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen is iconic in its own right, too.

Once again, Jake combines complex strumming and picking patterns and utilizes the entire ukulele to create a sound that seems to transcend the small instrument into a almost full band. It’s not for the faint of heart, but endlessly worth the listen.

8. House of Gold

  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Music type:Pop/rock
  • Artist:21 Pilots
  • Year released:2013

2013 was a good year for ukulele-infused pop and rock music. The same year as Riptide from Vance Joy came out, so did House of Gold by 21 Pilots. This song is a bit of a departure from their other rap and electronic-infused rock music, but is an absolute gem of a tune.

Despite a few tricky chords, a key change, and some vocal jumps, House of Gold is a pretty approachable song to play. Most of it is one strumming pattern and only a couple of tougher chords. It’s another favorite to teach and to play.

9. Dream a Little Dream of Me

  • Difficulty:Intermediate
  • Music type:Pop
  • Artist:Written: Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwartz, performed: Mama Cass
  • Year released:1931 (written), 1968 (performed by Mama Cass)

Like many of the great ukulele songs, Dream a Little Dream of Me is a song from the classic American standards songbook that was updated later by using the ukulele. The version in the video below featuring Mama Cass is my favorite by far. It features wonderful fingerpicking on the ukulele.

Though it can be played with strumming, I particularly like playing this song with a languid fingerpicking style to accompany the warm vocal lines. With some fun and interesting chord changes, this is a really fun song to play and sing no matter the instrument, and especially for the ukulele.

(Video) Learn Every Ukulele Blues Song in 9 Minutes

10. You & I

  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Music type:Pop
  • Artist:Ingrid Michaelson
  • Year released:2008

Again we have a repeat year, showing that every once in a while the ukulele draws the world of pop music into its gentle and enticing clutches. Ingrid Michaelson is known for her enchanting voice and often playful songs accompanied by the ukulele.

You & I is another great song to sing as a duet with harmonies coming in near the end of the song. The ukulele part is not too hard to play, but paired with the melody line makes for a really wonderful song to play on any occasion.

Best Ukulele Players

The best ukulele players of all time draw from many eras and genres. There are three that I think have a combination of technique, authenticity, and popularity that help them rise above the rest.

Best Ukulele Songs of All Time - Into Strings (2)

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Also known as “Izzy” or “IZ,” he was one of the most popular and beloved musicians of his generation in Hawaii. Not only was he a great player with a fantastic and clear voice, but he was a fighter for Hawaiian native rights and brought Hawaiian music to mainland America.

Jake Shimabukuro

Shimabukuro is a Japanese-American ukulele player and composer who is by far one of the best ukulele players and instrumentalists of any instrument in the world. His virtuosic covers of While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Bohemian Rhapsody, among others, brought him international fame.

Cliff Edwards

Cliff Edwards was a musician from the early twentieth century, also known as “Ukulele Ike,” who was known for his jazzy rendition of standards and novelty songs. With his unique style and voice, he gained wide popularity in the 1920s and might be best known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket from Pinnochio.

Review This Post

Table of Contents

  • What Makes a Great Ukulele Song?
  • Types of Ukulele Music
  • 10 Best Ukulele Songs
  • Best Ukulele Players
  • In Conclusion

In Conclusion

The ukulele is a fantastic instrument with a rich heritage. It has enthralled generations with its sweet and enticing tones. Ukulele players have written and interpreted countless fantastic songs for this great instrument.

(Video) World's Best Ukulele Player

I hope you enjoyed reading about the best ukulele songs of all time and have agreed on some of these 10 songs and how important and great sounding they are. If you liked this, please read more about these players in my article about the best ukulele players of all time.

Feel free to comment below with questions, comments, or thoughts, and let us know about your favorite ukulele songs that didn’t make the list. Thanks again, and I hope you have a wonderful day!


What is the most recognizable ukulele song? ›

1. Hey, Soul Sister. This Train hit is one of the most popular ukulele songs around.

What is a famous song that uses ukulele? ›

The Undeniable Usefulness of the Ukulele
  • Train – "Hey, Soul Sister" ...
  • Colbie Caillat – "I Do" ...
  • Jason Mraz – "I'm Yours" ...
  • Paul McCartney - "Ram On" ...
  • Taylor Swift – "Fearless" ...
  • Ingrid Michaelson – "You and I" ...
  • Panic at the Disco - "I Have Friends in Holy Spaces" ...
  • Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole - "Somewhere over the Rainbow"
Jun 13, 2018

What is the easiest song to play on a ukulele? ›

8 Easy Ukulele Songs You Can Learn In One Day
  • With or Without You – U2.
  • Stand By Me – Ben E. King.
  • One Love – Bob Marley.
  • I'm Yours – Jason Mraz.
  • Soul Sister – Train.
  • Three Little Birds – Bob Marley.
  • Count on Me – Bruno Mars.
May 13, 2022

What are the 5 most common ukulele playing mistakes? ›

  • Strumming From The Elbow. Almost every beginner strums from the elbow. ...
  • Not Checking Notes. ...
  • Flat Fingers. ...
  • Not Keeping Your Strumming Arm Moving. ...
  • Tensing Up. ...
  • Bonus Tip: Tap Your Foot.
Aug 31, 2021

What size ukulele does Billie Eilish use? ›

It's a 15-inch scale-length concert uke, built in sapele, with an open-pore satin finish.

Does Billie Eilish use ukulele? ›

Eilish's ascent to pop stardom started with the ukulele, the first instrument she learned to play and write songs on, making this an ode to her humble beginnings in the music world.

Which ukulele sounds most like a guitar? ›

The baritone size is great for all skill and experience levels, but especially for those with large hands and fingers. The baritone ukulele has the deepest, fullest sound with the most low end, sounding similar to an acoustic guitar.

Why is ukulele so easy? ›

The ukulele is easier to learn than the guitar and other stringed instruments like the mandolin. Its soft nylon strings are gentler on your fingertips and don't create finger pain like guitars do. The small size reduces wrist tension because the notes are reachable without stretching.

What famous singers play the ukulele? ›

Without further ado, here are the top 10 Artists You Didn't Know Play Ukulele.
  • Taylor Swift. ...
  • George Harrison. ...
  • John Lennon. ...
  • Steven Tyler. ...
  • Cyndi Lauper. ...
  • Pete Townshend. ...
  • Johnny Marr. ...
  • Eddie Vedder.
Feb 18, 2020

What song does everyone learn on the ukulele? ›

Can't Help Falling in Love” is considered by many as the ultimate ukulele song. Definitely a must know for any uke player.

Should I play ukulele If I can't sing? ›

There's no need for you to be a good singer when playing the ukulele; you can simply pick up the instrument and start your musical journey. The best thing about the ukulele is that it's easy to learn!

Is ukulele easy than piano? ›

The ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to learn how to play. It is much easier than the similarly shaped guitar, the piano, violin, or any wind instrument! The ukulele has only four strings, rather than the guitar's six strings.

Is guitar easier if you play ukulele? ›

Yes it will for several reasons: You will be learning to get your fingers into seemingly awkward positions that will help you learn the guitar later. Coordination of strumming and fretting hands will be used on both instruments. music theory is the same on both instruments.

Is ukulele good for brain? ›

Music Benefits the Brain

While learning the ukulele, your brain is actively trying something new, which forces it to focus, concentrate, create and problem solve. Plus, during practice, you are continuously dealing with memorizing patterns as well as repetition, which are some of the things that keep the brain nimble.

Why do ukuleles go out of tune so fast? ›

Ukuleles come pre-strung with nylon strings which have never been brought up to pitch! They will go out of tune immediately due to the elasticity of the nylon and the looseness of the knot holding it in place. Many players will keep re-tuning endlessly until the strings get broken in.

How many hours a day should I practice ukulele? ›

For an elementary student or for one who is around intermediate level, 30 to 45 minutes per day is often a good amount. For a teenager or adult student, or for one who is more advanced, an hour a day is more appropriate. Professional musicians often practice several hours a day.

Does Taylor Swift play the ukulele? ›

For those who don't know yet, Taylor Swift can play many instruments. The world-renowned artist also loves to accompany his sweet voice with various stringed instruments such as guitar (classical and electric), piano, banjo and ukulele.

What type of ukulele did Elvis play? ›

In addition to the Gibson J-45 used in previous Paramount films, Elvis uses a ukulele in several scenes, specifically, a soprano ukulele with the standard practice of a blacked out logo. Types of ukuleles are classified according to their size, of which there are basically four: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.

Did Marilyn Monroe play ukulele? ›

1959: Marilyn Monroe practices ukulele for 'Some Like It Hot' | Mashable.

Does Elvis play ukulele? ›

Elvis Presley built a legendary career around his unforgettable voice, but it wasn't his only instrument. What instruments did Elvis play? He played guitar, bass and piano, and often toyed with instruments like the drums, accordion and ukulele.

Did the Beatles play ukulele? ›

GREENAWALT: Well, the Beatles began in John Lennon's mind, and his first musical instrument was ukulele - his mom played it. And when he met McCartney -and they were just teenage boys - McCartney had to teach him guitar chords. He only knew ukulele chords. Hence, Lennon's stuff really is easy to play on ukulele.

Is ukulele louder than guitar? ›

In general, guitars are louder brighter, and have more bass than ukuleles. This is mostly due to the guitar's bigger body, larger pitch range and high-tension steel strings. Guitars are often played with a pick which produces more volume and brightness.

Is ukulele harder than acoustic? ›

Conclusion. Technically speaking, the ukulele may be an easier instrument to learn due to its softer strings and smaller size. As such, the ukulele would be easier for younger children as it is more comfortable and less of a stretch on their fingers.

What is the closest instrument to a ukulele? ›

Mandolin and Ukulele are both stringed musical instruments belonging to the lute family.

What age is best to learn ukulele? ›

What is a good age to start playing guitar or ukulele? Most music experts recommend introducing the guitar or ukulele to kids aged six and older. By that age, motor skills, dexterity, and finger strength crucial to playing these instruments will typically be developed in a child.

Can I learn ukulele in a month? ›

The answer is, to learn the basics, which includes switching between C – F – Am – G, and playing a simple strumming pattern in the right hand, it will take between 1- 4 months. If you've played another instrument before the ukulele, (especially the guitar), then it will be much faster.

Who is most famous for playing the ukulele? ›

11 Famous Ukulele Players You Should Know
  • Israel 'Iz' Kamakawiwo'ole.
  • Jake Shimabukuro.
  • Taimane Gardner.
  • George Formby.
  • James Hill.
  • Eddie Kamae.
  • May Singhi Breen.
  • Arthur Godfrey.
Sep 17, 2021

Who made the ukulele famous? ›

One of the most important factors in establishing the ukulele in Hawaiian music and culture was the ardent support and promotion of the instrument by King Kalākaua. A patron of the arts, he incorporated it into performances at royal gatherings.

Did John Lennon play ukulele? ›

Before learning to play the guitar, John's mother Julia taught him chords on a banjo-ukulele. This was before he progressed to an acoustic guitar, which he played with The Quarrymen. John was even recorded playing the ukulele, in the song from the Yellow Submarine Soundtrack "All Together Now".

What are ukulele players called? ›

ukulelist (plural ukulelists) Someone who plays the ukulele.

Is the ukulele actually Hawaiian? ›

Though the ukulele is a Hawaiian instrument, it is actually a modification of Portuguese instruments called the machete do braça, braguinha, rajāo, and cavaquinho.

Which sounds better guitar or ukulele? ›

Sound: Acoustic guitars produce a loud, full sound, due in part to their larger size and nickel-coated strings; ukulele music is lighter and brighter than the richness of guitar music. Meanwhile, an electric guitar player can produce an array of different sounds thanks to guitar amps and effects pedals.

Is ukulele A happy instrument? ›

Whatever the limit the ukulele reigns as the “world's happiest instrument ” laughs Hanner. “Steve Martin used to say you couldn't sing a sad song on the banjo. Imagine singing 'pestilence suffering pain' on that instrument ” he says. To Hanner and many others the same is true for the ukulele.

Is ukulele easier for kids? ›

If you're looking for a beginner's instrument for your child, consider the Ukulele. Not only is it unique and fun, but it's easier for younger children to get started on the Ukelele. The fun nature of this instrument keeps kids interested and engaged in lessons and in learning more about music.

Is ukulele the easiest instrument? ›

UKULELE. No list of the best musical instruments for beginners would be complete without the ukulele. It's seen a big rise in popularity over the last few years because it's even simpler to learn than the guitar.

Can you play ukulele professionally? ›

ou can definitely book ukulele gigs and become a professional ukulele player. Some of the most popular types of ukulele gigs include: Weddings. Restaurants.

Why do people love the ukulele? ›

Not only because it's easy to learn, especially compared to other instruments, but also because of its nature as a happy instrument, with the ability to raise morale in such difficult times. Beyond the cheerful sound of the instrument, ukuleles are also sold in a wide variety of fun colors and materials, like plastic.

Is ukulele easier than banjo? ›

A banjo is slightly easier to play than a ukulele because the strings are easier to push down and strum, thanks to being made of a thinner, lighter gauge wire.

How many hours does it take to learn the ukulele? ›

You'll most likely pick up the basics of a ukulele in 10 minutes. Put in mind though, it'll take around 3-6 months to be more comfortable playing songs, maybe less for easier tunes. You'll also definitely have room for improvement after that.

Is it better to play ukulele with fingers or pick? ›

Some educators recommend felt picks for children's delicate fingers. If strumming is painful, by all means, try using a pick. Fingerpicking. Rigid picks produce a harsh sound for strumming, but many fingerstyle players, like Hawaiian slack-key legend Led Kaapana, use thumb- and finger-picks to great effect.

Does it matter which hand you play the ukulele? ›

Traditionally, most ukulele players use their right hand to strum, while their left hand functions as the fretting hand. Even lefties tend to play the ukulele right-handed, as finding a lefty ukulele can be a challenge.

Who was the most famous ukulele player? ›

15 Of The Most Famous Ukulele Players You Should Know
  • Jake Shimabukuro.
  • Eddie Vedder.
  • James Hill.
  • Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
  • Eddie Kamae.
  • Taylor Swift.
  • George Harrison.
  • Daniel Ho.
Jun 3, 2022

Who is the fastest ukulele player? ›

Jake Shimabukuro (born November 3, 1976) is a Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso and composer known for his fast and complex finger work.

Did Queen Elizabeth play the ukulele? ›

Queen Elizabeth II today turns 96 today and she also celebrates her 70th year as Queen. We all know that she loves the ukulele and is a great fan of George Formby. In that regards you can catch us performing in her honour at the field behind Ivor Street/St.

Why is it called a ukulele? ›

These qualities had at some point earned him a nickname that translates as "jumping flea." In Hawaiian, the word is ukulele (from ʽuku, "flea," and lele, "jumping"). Mr. Ukulele became so closely associated with the instrument that his nickname became the name by which the instrument was known.

Who are 4 famous ukulele players? ›

11 Famous Ukulele Players You Should Know
  • Israel 'Iz' Kamakawiwo'ole.
  • Jake Shimabukuro.
  • Taimane Gardner.
  • George Formby.
  • James Hill.
  • Eddie Kamae.
  • May Singhi Breen.
  • Arthur Godfrey.
Sep 17, 2021


1. The Most Romantic Ukulele Chord Progression (and how to play it) | Romantic Vibe |
(Marco Cirillo Ukulele)
2. Taimane Gardner, the Ukulele Virtuoso | Taimane Gardner | TEDxMaui
(TEDx Talks)
3. Simple Ukulele Fingerpicking Pattern with Amazing Sounding Chords
(Marco Cirillo Ukulele)
4. This 10 Years Old Ukulele Kid Challenged Me to do WHAT?
5. Top 10 Fingerstyle Ukulele Covers
6. Top 5 Ukulele Songs - EASY CHORDS
(Andy Guitar)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Last Updated: 08/28/2023

Views: 6088

Rating: 4 / 5 (71 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Birthday: 1993-01-10

Address: Suite 391 6963 Ullrich Shore, Bellefort, WI 01350-7893

Phone: +6806610432415

Job: Dynamic Manufacturing Assistant

Hobby: amateur radio, Taekwondo, Wood carving, Parkour, Skateboarding, Running, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Pres. Lawanda Wiegand, I am a inquisitive, helpful, glamorous, cheerful, open, clever, innocent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.