Before we proceed to the Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen ukulele tutorial, it’s important to have a great start. So let’s first get you a copy of the music sheets. Download a copy of the lyrics and chords sheet here.
And of course for our solo ukulele enthusiasts, you can download a copy of the tab sheet here.
HALLELUJAH UKULELE TUTORIAL
So let’s begin with the Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen ukulele tutorial starting with the chords. The song has only five chords – C, A minor, F, G and E minor. And it also has a fairly simple strumming pattern: down-up, down-up, down-up, down-up flow. But in the third verse, you play the chords in an arpeggiated style. That is, playing each note of a chord – one at a time. See how Jenny illustrates this style in the video. In addition, Jenny also does a very cool solo ukulele that you don’t want to miss.
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While Leonard Cohen is more famously known as a singer and songwriter, he actually started as a writer in the 1950s. He worked as a poet and a novelist until the late 1960s when he also started his music career. Although some people may not realize it, Cohen is the songwriter of Hallelujah, an ingeniously written composition widely credited as the archetype of secular hymns.
Cohen started with an astonishing eighty verses of lyrics for Hallelujah. He cut this to a final four-verse recording which was released in 1984. But the alternate verses and lyrics sometimes come up not only in Cohen’s shows but in the hundreds of versions that came after.
Cohen wrote brilliant lyrical narratives about Biblical characters. These include King David with his “secret chord” and Bathsheba incident and Samson and Delilah with their tragic love affair. These narratives coupled with thoughtful lines about love, despair, dejection and redemption makes for an interesting and thought-provoking song.
While “Hallelujah” was not a commercial hit initially, famous musicians such as Bob Dylan and Velvet Underground’s John Cale recognized the beauty of this Cohen composition. Bob Dylan performed the song in some of his shows in the late 1980s. John Cale, on the other hand, recorded a version of it in 1991 in a Leonard Cohen tribute album. Cale’s version included lyrics which were different from Cohen’s earlier version. Cale requested the lyrics of the song from Cohen. Cohen then sent him several pages of the song’s original verses. Consequently, Cale got to pick which verses suited him.
Jeff Buckley, influenced by Cale’s version, released a cover recording in 1991. Songwriters and critics alike regard Buckley’s soulfully sung version as one of the greatest songs of our time. Buckley’s “as near perfect as you can get” rendition contributed to the song finally getting worldwide recognition.
VARIOUS COVERS AND INTERPRETATIONS
In fact, more than 300 singers from various countries has covered “Hallelujah” to date. What’s interesting is that these different covers convey different interpretations and tones depending on the performer. These range from sorrowful to joyous, fragile to uplifting and religious to sexual. Also, many movies and TV programs have now featured “Hallelujah”, the most notable of which is the commercial hit and first Shrek film in 2001.
Finally, let’s not forget to mention that the famous ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro also included a solo ukulele cover of “Hallelujah” in his 2011 “Peace, Love, Ukulele” album. Much as the song’s lyrics are definitely unforgettable, its melody and chord progression are also most noteworthy.
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