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Ukuleles for Songwriting

| More in Acoustic Guitars, Songwriting, Ukulele
Ukuleles for Songwriting

When most people think of ukuleles, they think of a rudimentary musical instrument for children - when in fact it is so much more than that. Ukuleles can be used as a tool to write chord progressions and melodies for songs with ease. The nylon strings are easy on the fingers and allow you to focus more on the songwriting process than the physical act of playing the instrument.

One of the most common chord progressions in pop music is C-G-Am-F and those are usually the very first chords people are taught on the ukulele. C and Am only use 1 finger, F uses 2 fingers, and the most complicated of these chords is G, requiring 3 fingers. A beginner can usually pick up a ukulele and learn how to comfortably play these chords within a couple of hours.

Other benefits of the ukulele are how compact and lightweight the instrument is, making it easy to travel with. Compared to other stringed instruments such as guitars or violins, the ukulele is also a more budget-friendly option.

One of the most common reasons people give up on learning an instrument is not seeing instant results and getting frustrated with the instrument. Ukuleles are great for seeing instant results and building the confidence and drive to continue learning. Most chords on the ukulele require all 4 strings to be played, whereas guitar may omit certain strings, thus increasing how difficult it is to play and forcing you to focus more on the physical aspect of playing instead of having all of your attention on the songwriting process.

Complicated songs can all be broken down into the most basic chords and easily transposed to the ukulele. Learning a song on guitar or piano with complex chords requires lots of practice to be played with ease, whereas ukulele players break those complicated chords down to simple ones that are easier to play. Songs are also transposed to the ukulele by changing the key to a more player-friendly version that, once again, provides motivation to the player to keep playing and growing as a musician.  

As previously mentioned, one of the most common chord progressions in pop music is C-G-Am-F. Using this chord progression with the most basic strum pattern is a great practice tool for songwriters. Constantly playing this progression and humming random melodies is a great jumping-off point for writing a great song. Melodies are often viewed as the most important part of a pop song and the thing that the listener will remember the most.

A great tip for songwriters is to hum a melody of a song you already know over the chord progression and make minor changes to set it apart from the original. When doing this to the same melody, over time you will find that all your small changes add up and the melody is completely different.

Once you have your chord progression and melody, it’s time to start writing lyrics to said melody. Another tip for songwriters is to use existing lyrics of a song you like over your new melody. Once you have done that, you can alter your melody or lyrical structure to ensure that all of the elements of your new song work and flow together.

A great example of a song with C-G-Am-F and a simple melody is “Girls Like You” by Maroon 5. Using this song as an example, you could play this common chord progression while humming the melody. Once you’re able to do that, you can add or remove notes of the melody, and you can also remove a chord to fit the melody or add a chord once you get a little more comfortable with the instrument. Check out some chord books.

Ukuleles can be beneficial for beginners and advanced players, as it is a physically easy instrument to play. Writing songs on the ukulele frees your mind to be more creative and focus more on melodies and lyrics instead of focusing most of your mental energy on the physical chord changes and rhythmic patterns.

If you’re a songwriter looking to expand your creative writing process, pick up a ukulele today and take your songwriting to the next level!


Some of the Sweetest Ukes Available to Rent or Purchase:

Denver DUKE Soprano Ukulele in various colours – buy for $54.99

Leho LHUS-MM Mahogany Series Arch Back Soprano Ukulele – rent for $8/month, buy for $99.99

Kala KA-15S Satin Mahogany Soprano Ukulele - buy for $113.99

Epiphone Hummingbird Uke – buy for $289


Kevin Munsie has been a Long & McQuade employee for 2 years and a drummer for 20. He attended Metalworks Institute for Drum Performance & Technology. He also plays guitar, bass, piano and the ukulele. He owns and operates a recording studio in Kingston called Wolfe Island Studios where he records, mixes and masters his own music.

Being a multi-instrumentalist enables Kevin to play all instruments on his recordings, and he is a session musician for other artists. Songwriting is Kevin's favourite part of being a musician and he has challenged himself to write 1 song a week for all of 2023. Most of Kevin's songwriting starts on the ukulele.


Keywords: UkuleleUkeSopranoTenorSongwriterSongwritingGuitarStringsChordsL&MLong & McQuade

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