Nothing beats a long day of work, a hectic afternoon of running errands or just the boring winter doldrums like picking up a ukulele and strumming away the blahs.
But if you’re only beginning to explore this whimsical instrument then you’re probably wondering where to even start.
Thanks to the good ol’ internet, your resources are limitless but a great place to begin digging in is with 4 chord ukulele songs you’re already familiar with that are a ton of fun to play too, like the ones on this list of ten simple ukulele pop songs that can be played on your uke.
Chances are, you’ve probably already heard these tunes on the radio or in the background of TV commercials. They may sound complicated at first but with the guidance of YouTube instructors who will show you where to place your fingers to form a chord, what direction to strum and the ability to pause as often as you need to until you’ve got it down, you’ll be playing these pop hits in no time!
1. All About that Bass – Meghan Trainor
Chords Used: A, Bm, E7, D
From her humble beginnings tapping out tunes on GarageBand as a kid to her epic 2016 Grammy win for Best New Artist, Meghan Trainor has found herself being compared to the likes of pop queens Taylor Swift and Katy Perry with only two (!!) major records and just a handful of tours under her belt. With her witty lyrics, cheery beats and overall charming style both onstage and in the studio is it anyone’s surprise that she’s found such soaring success in a short amount of time?
While Trainor may be all about that bass, we’re all about that uke. So here’s a super simple four chord version of Trainor’s sub-thumpin’ super hit “All About That Bass” to strum out on your ukulele.
2. Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen
Chords Used: G, E minor, C, D
She’s a broadway star, Canadian Idol finalist and SNL musical guest, but we’ll always know Carly Rae Jepsen and her iconic eyelash skimming bangs for that one little melody we can never quite stop humming, courtesy of the Grammy nominated “Call Me Maybe.”
Thinking back on the songs that define a summer of long weekends, fun with friends and family and sunshine until bedtime, Jepsen’s hit definitely tops out as one of 2012’s most definitive songs. This bouncy track is as easy as an afternoon on the beach and can be played with just four chords and a ton of pop-infused energy.
3. Photograph – Ed Sheeran
Chords Used: Am, F, C, G
Hailing from the quaint market town of Framlingham, Suffolk, England pop artist Ed Sheeran has been climbing the charts since his debut major-record release in 2011.
While Sheeran began his foray into music as a choir boy before he’d even turned five, he’s best known for his lilting pop-rock, dance beats and swoon-worthy lyrics on tracks like “Thinking Out Loud”, “Shape of You”, “Perfect” and of course 2014’s radio-hit “Photograph.”
“Photograph” plays like a slightly blurred trip down memory lane, recalling love found in the fast-moving days of young adulthood but played with gentle down strums that slow the pace of the song right down into a breezy tune that can easily be played with only four chords – Am, F, C and G.
4. Hey, Soul Sister – Train
Chords Used: E, B, C minor, A
Beginning in 2006, pop quintet Train took a much needed break from performing fan favorites like “Drops of Jupiter”, “Meet Virginia”, “Calling All Angels” and “When I Look to the Sky” to spend more time with their friends and family and pursue solo passion projects. The hiatus didn’t last long though and somewhere in there they must have started to miss each other and all of the hit-making that happens when they’re together because by the late summer of 2009 the band was back with the irresistibly fun “Hey, Soul Sister.”
Apparently, it was worth the wait. The track earned the band a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals as well as a Billboard Music Award for Top Rock Song. Strum your own playful uke version using just four novice chords.
5. Stay With Me – Sam Smith
Chords Used: C, Am, F, Dm
Ask Sam Smith who his greatest influences are and he’ll give a full catalog of legendary vocalists like Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. But with a voice as sublime as his surely he too tops a few lists of influential singers. Indeed, Smith’s heavenly pipes are so beloved that he made it into the Guinness Book of World Records after his debut album In The Lonely Hour sat on the UK Top 10 Album Charts for over a year straight at sixty-nine weeks – the first album to break that record.
This boom of adoration is in no small thanks to Smith’s sweet yet devastating single,“Stay With Me”. Croon along to the pop ballad with these four chords. Who knows, maybe one day when you’re interviewed for your great musical success you’ll tip your own hat to Sam Smith.
6. Hot N Cold – Katy Perry
Chords: G, D, Am, C
When Katy Perry’s second single from her pop debut was released it was met with some pretty tough words from the critics who claimed that, among other things, it simply didn’t live up to the larger-than-life persona of its gospel-singer-gone-rebel songstress. But if there’s one thing to learn about music, it’s that the critics don’t always hold the key to mega success. In true Katy Perry form, her panned “Hot N Cold” became a global sensation, going platinum in Canada, Denmark and Austria.
The spirited, choppy tune is as fun to play on the ukulele as it is to listen to. With four uncomplicated chords you’ll be jamming out to this unlikely hit in no time.
7. What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction
Chords Used: C, F, G
If you’ve ever watched even one episode of American Idol or The X Factor then you know that Simon Cowell doesn’t hand out fake compliments…or even real ones most of the time. So when the pop group One Direction was signed to Cowell’s own label back in 2010, it was obvious that these guys were going to be good. And they were. Their first four albums debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 charts.
Unfortunately for fans, the members are on a bit of a hiatus for the next couple of years as they pursue their own solo efforts. Lucky for you, you can strum this One Direction favorite, “What Makes You Beautiful” in just under four chords while the world waits for the group’s much-anticipated reunion album to drop.
8. Call it What You Want – Taylor Swift
Chords Used: D, A, E, F#m
When Taylor Swift burst onto the scene in her floor length ball gown, all cascading tendrils of blonde strapped with a guitar and a voice that could summon every woodland creature of the land, did any of us really think we’d find her here, a decade later, throwing shade to her haters and turning each track she touches into an instant hit? Maybe.
But what we probably couldn’t envision then was that the country star would go from spinning twangy love songs to a slew of spoken-word pop tracks like 2017’s “Call it What You Want”, the second single off Reputation.
While it may not seem like a tune that translates well to the uke, the instrument lends a certain softness to T Swift’s lyrics that make it, along with these four easy chords, a particularly lovely interpretation.
9. All of Me – John Legend
Chords Used: Em, C, G, D
One of the “Big Three” consulting firms is the renowned Boston Consulting Group, a mega company that just so happens to be the former employer of piano soul-pop star, John Legend, who worked there until he hit it big as a solo performance artist. With a solid college education and short-lived but prestigious career behind him, Legend graced the world with singles like “I Know Better”, “Once Again”, “Love Me Now” and one of 2013’s greatest musical triumphs, “All of Me”.
The song, which is dedicated to his then-fiance, now wife, plays hauntingly on the piano yet transitions rather effortlessly to the ukulele with just four chords – Em, C, G and D, so you can serenade your own sweetheart.
10. Riptide – Vance Joy
Chords Used: Am, G, C, F
Once an up-and-coming football player back home in Melbourne, Australia, James Keogh traded in his sports shorts and birth name for a uke and the moniker Vance Joy, setting out to infuse the world with his own brand of lively indie-pop.
If you love to play ukulele then you’ve probably heard Joy’s sleeper hit, “Riptide”, which was an instant success in Australia before making it’s way to the the rest of the world via a GoPro ad. The jubilant rendezvous through the perils of new love was inspired by a family trip to the coast during the artist’s childhood. Imagine yourself on your own holiday down by the waves and strum your way through the playful ditty with these four chords.