Somewhere Over The Rainbow Ukulele

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Ukulele Lesson

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…

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Chords

Strumming Pattern

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…

somewhere over the rainbow strum pattern

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).

Song Structure

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.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Songsheet

Strum Like A Pro

ukulele-strumsIf 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).

Buy How To Play Ukulele Strums

Grab my free Ukulele Go! beginners pack.

37 thoughts on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow Ukulele Lesson

  1. Just one question Ukulele Go as I’m still learning

    What does the T mean, when you say
    1 2 & & 4 &

    1. It means the beats of the music. In 4/4 time, you count the beats: 1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4,
      1 2 3 4 and so on. You subdivide an “and” between the beats: 1 (and) 2 (and) 3 (and) 4 (and), while keeping the 1 2 3 4 at the same pace.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. I like the strumming pattern. My question is, “ How should I strum it?” With a down strum with 3 fingers and the up strum with the thumb? Please let me know ! Thanks again.

  3. Another question: in the chorus there seems to be a missing line or 2. “And the dream that you dare to,”. Then what?

    1. Hey Daniella,

      Almost all chords have multiple ways to play them – which ones in particular are you struggling with?

  4. Sabaidee (the greeting from Laos)

    thanks a lot for your sharing, i fall in love this instrument ‘ Ukulele ‘ – it’s so cute and can carry it with us to everywhere.
    Ukulele is not popular in Laos yet and just only some knew – if i could play i will play to the kids, let them sit around me then playing the kids song which it could make them know how is beautiful sound of Ukulele.
    i have one ‘ type: Soprano’ – not know how to play yet but keeping practice on how to hold, remember the chord … …
    >> i used to practice playing the guitar but it’s very difficult for me, so i found that’ Ukulele is suitable for me then.


    1. Wow, all the way from Laos – that’s fantastic. Hard to believe anyone reads this website let alone people thousands of miles away. Keep on practising!

  5. I’m an American Practicing in Shanghai China thanks ! This song is loved allí over the world. Bringing people together…

  6. Just learning love this instrument for its sound and want so much to be able to play somewhere over the rainbow Hawaiian

  7. What a terrible thing to do to a beautiful tune!! Poor old Harold Arlen must be spinning in his grave. it’s dreadful.

  8. Hi Dave, no offense just trying to help, but your lyrics really are mixed up, After way up high, it should be theres a land that i heard of once in a lullaby. instead you have and the dreams that you dream of then the same line is repeated after Blue birds fly. So respectfully, i think you need to look at them again and revise.

    1. I’ll take a look and correct, although I am aware there are a few versions I’ve heard where verses are changed.

  9. This looks good; clear instructions. I’m going to give it a go as it was my late Mum’s fave and always brings a tear to the eye.

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