3 Easy Ukulele Songs Kids Can Play with Just 2 Chords

I wrote this article for takelessons.com, a great San Diego-based company and website for teachers of all kinds of disciplines.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo your adorable child has an adorable new uke. Pretend jam sessions were big fun for a few days, but now what? Like in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, it’s time to learn to play!

The Getting-Started Secret: 2-chord Songs

Kids can make fast progress and get hooked on their success with simple 2-chord songs in the key of C. And with you singing along, presto, the joy of family music-making begins! Deep in our collective past, music time was a very satisfying part of family life. We’ll connect you and yours to all that goodness with these 3 easy ukulele songs for kids.

C & G7Chord diagrams for C and G7 give you and your child all the info you need to get started. 1=left hand index finger, 2=middle finger, 3=ring finger. Voila! For now, make simple down strokes, or “strums”, on the beat using right index fingernail or thumb pad, whichever feels better. (For tips on tuning, check out this takelessons.com blog post on how-to-tune-a-ukulele.)

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

First up, this super-simple version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat only requires one switch from C to G7 and back to C. Bonus: it has a positive, peaceful message. So sweet and light, but actually deeply wise! The slashes after chord names show you where to strum.

ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT

C       /       /             /
Row, row, row your boat

/           /             /           /
Gently down the stream.

/           /           /           /
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

G7     /       C       /
Life is but a dream.

Big Tip for Fast Success

Start beginners with just the C chord. Have the young player-in-training pat the beat on the body of the instrument when it’s time for the G7 chord. Kids like the percussive move, and it teaches them to do something different for a certain number of beats and then get on back to C. After C sounds good (press harder until it does), with ease in the transition from strumming to patting, and the percussive move has lost its initial pizzazz, add G7 to the mix. Sing along, re-connecting with the kid in you. Woohoo!

London Bridge is Falling Down

Next up, London Bridge is Falling Down is a great teaching tool. Its quicker tempo and multiple verses reinforce successful strumming and chord changes. G7 shows up regularly this time, moving the young player forward. Again, the enjoyment of your relaxed participation will promote regular engagement. I’m always telling kids—and their parents—that learning an instrument isn’t something you can “cram” for. It’s all about repetition, which makes the magic of skills development happen. Thus the importance of creating an environment in which regular playing time, even just 15 minutes at a time, is satisfying and fun.

LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN

C           /             /         /
London Bridge is falling down,

G7       /         C       /
falling down, falling down,

C           /             /         /
London Bridge is falling down,

G7     /     C       /
my    fair  lady.

Build it up with silver and gold…
Gold and silver I have none…
Build it up with needles and pins…
Pins and needles bend and break…
Etc. There are countless versions and verses.

Three Blind Mice

Three Blind Mice is another perennial favorite, its carving-knife drama memorable and even scandalous to 21st century kids. Encourage the practice that leads to mastery, and remind beginners that they can always go back to patting the instrument for a bit when transitions are challenging. If you’re singing along, your purposeful, expectant pause for the next chord will prompt your young player-in-training to go for it. Then forge happily ahead. Again, keep it fun!

THREE BLIND MICE

C       /       /       /
Three blind mice,      

/        /       /       /
three blind mice,

G7     /             C     /
see how they run,      

G7     /             C     /
see   how they run.

C         G7         C           /
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,

C             G7             C           /
who cut off their tails with a carving knife.

C           G7             C                 /
Did ever you see such a sight in your life

C     G7     /       /
as three blind mice.

(And there are lots of variations on the next-to-the-last line. Did you ever see… You never did see… Choose the one you and your child like best.)

So there you have it, 3 easy ukulele songs that will get your young player making music fast. You’ll enjoy yourself, too, since what some folks say is true: the uke really is a happiness machine.

____________________

Teresa Young teaches private music students in Los Angeles and coaches savvy folks in accomplishing passion-based goals in healthy new ways. Her clients include Boomers seeking fulfillment in the second half of life and GenXers and Millennials looking for meaning from the start. She coaches by phone, in person, and via Skype outside the U.S.

 

Bodhi on Uke B&W