Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s beautiful version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow is one of the most popular ukulele songs of all time. If you’ve ever read my about page I said I wouldn’t do it on Ukulele Go but here I am showing I’m a man with absolutely no principles. On with the lesson…
The song is so beautifully played and sung that pretty much everyone that owns a ukulele will naturally gravitate towards it at some point. At it’s heart it’s a pretty simple song but it’s worth investing some time on really perfecting the strumming pattern to get an authentic sound.
Just the 290 million views to date for this one, not too bad at all.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow Chords
Seven chords will see you through the song (co-incidentally the same number as colours in a rainbow) and whilst that is a few to remember they’re really not that difficult and some of you will be very pleased to hear that there are no barre chords in the mix.
Probably the most difficult to deal with are the E minor and the E7. If E minor is causing you problems then you can simply play a G chord and drop your pinkie finger onto the 4th fret of the C string.
Here are the chord boxes for you to get to grips with…
Ok here we go. There are a few ways to interpret the strumming pattern on this one and you can get away with just strumming DUDUDUDU throughout but we’re going to go a little bit beyond that in this lesson.
The pattern I like to play is a slight variation on the good old fashioned D DU UDU and looks something like this…
Notice that the first beat isn’t actually a strum at all though, what I’m doing is plucking the G string with my thumb at the start of each bar. It’s pretty clear to hear this when you listen to Iz play it, and although he’s playing low G, it works just as well on a ukulele strung with a high G. The pattern shown above sounds something like this when you play it…
One thing I will say is that when I listen, certainly at the start I can hear Iz catching the strings straight after the thumb pluck and on the 3rd beat also. That would make it more of a TUDUDUDU pattern but this can sound pretty clunky. Iz really uses dynamics on this pattern and some of his strums are barely audible at all but they do contribute quite a lot.
I’d recommend sticking with the pattern above if you’re just learning this one and eventually progressing to include the other strums further down the line. If you do want to try it with a more consistent pattern it would sound something like…
Whichever way you go with the strumming pattern, it remains the same pretty much throughout. There is a subtle shift away from such a rigid pattern towards the second half of the song but it’s mostly just changes in dynamics rather than a change in the actual pattern. As I always say, very it as much as you feel comfortable. The same pattern played the same way throughout can get a little boring (for you and your listeners).
To get the song structure grab the PDF song sheet that I’ve put together as a reference. It includes all the chord boxes and lyrics.
You’ll generally be playing the strumming pattern above twice per chord. The exception to this is the intro (just before the singing) where you play the strumming pattern only once per chord.
Strum Like A Pro
If you really want to progress your strumming at a rapid rate then I’d highly recommend taking a look at Al Wood’s downloadable ebook How To Play Ukulele Strums. For just $12 you get an in-depth guide showing you how to play 49 different strums with supporting videos and MP3 files. There’s also a really useful section that focuses on counting strums the easy way (something I wish I had when I was learning to play).