Beginning Ukulele Book Reviews

Beginning Ukulele Book Reviews

Beginning Ukulele Books Reviews for 7 Popular Books

7 Beginner Ukulele BooksSo, you want to learn how to play the ukulele. Where do you start? How do you get the basics under your belt so you can choose the music you want to play and eventually teach yourself? If you are wondering about these questions then collection of beginning ukulele book reviews is for you.

We take a close look at 7 popular ways to begin your ukulele journey. We’ll give you a lot of information about what’s in each book and explain who each of these methods is best for.

There is a lot to learn in music. In some ways learning music is like learning a language with a whole new alphabet, grammar, vocabulary and sounds. You also need to know what skills you must master in order to progress in music such as how to practice. Finally, you also have to learn how to tune your instrument and take care of it.

What to Expect in a Beginning Ukulele Book

Each author of a “how to play ukulele” book writes with a certain type of beginner in mind. The pace of the book and what comes first depends on the type of beginner the author is imagining. Authors might be writing for a person with little or no music background. Or they might imagine a person who already plays several instruments and is adding ukulele to their bag of tricks. They might write their book for someone who reads music well or for someone who does not. They might also question if a beginning player wants to learn to read music or whether this skill is really necessary for a ukulele player.

You, the learner, want to find a book that fits your learning style and background, and teaches you the ukulele skills you would like to know, such as singing and strumming chords, fingerpicking melodies, reading ukulele tablature, and/or standard music notation. You also want to find an approach that you will enjoy with music that you want to play and/or sing.

In these beginning ukulele book reviews I’ll describe how various method books approach the best way to learn all of this material.

Music Basics When Beginning Ukulele

Learning tends to progress faster if you master one small thing at a time. But even the simplest music contains three main elements, which are

  1. melody (the tune, what someone would sing)
  2. harmony (the chords)
  3. rhythm (the beat)

For the best results, it seems as if the author of a beginning music book would need to decide which of the three to focus on first. However, the choice ends up being pretty straight forward.  All music has some sort of rhythm, otherwise, it sounds random. Therefore our hypothetical author needs to cover rhythm first.

In terms of ukulele music, strumming chords cover two elements – harmony and rhythm. Fingerpicking melodies one note at a time also covers two elements – melody and rhythm.

What Criteria Did We Use in These 7 Beginning Ukulele Book Reviews?

We will answer the following questions for each book in our beginning ukulele book reviews: 

  • How does it teach chords?
  • How does it teach reading melodies?
  • Are there a lot of pictures that help the learner?
  • How quickly does the book progress?
  • Are there online lessons or a video course? Are there audio tracks?
  • Who is this book best suited for?

How Do We Write Down Music in a Beginning Ukulele Book?

In order to communicate how a song goes in a book, there needs to be some way of writing down sounds.

With that being said, on ukulele and other fretted stringed instruments such as guitar, there are shortcuts that are unique to these instruments. For example, songwriters will often write only lyrics and chord letter symbols to express a song. In fact, John Lennon and Paul McCartney worked this way. They felt that if they could not remember the melody the next day, then it must not have been a very good melody and did not deserve to be a song.

However, most of us are not as talented as they were. So we use a variety of symbols to write down the details of how a song goes.

Different Symbols to Write Down Music

  • Chord stamps (symbols) to show where to put our fingers on the ukulele to create the desired chord. Examples of chord stamps are shown below. chord symbols
  • Standard 5 line music staff to show the rise and fall of the melody. The standard music staff is a widely accepted way of showing pitch in music. It can take quite a lot of time to master.example of music notation
  • Ukulele tablature is sometimes used instead of or in addition to the standard music staff to show the melody. Tab can be helpful for beginners because it shows you where to put your left-hand fingers on your ukulele in order to play the pitches of the song. Tab is a lot simpler to learn to read than standard music notation, and once you get the idea of it you can improve quickly. example of ukulele tab staff
  • Standard rhythmic notation to show how fast or slow notes or strums should be in relation to each other. music notes no staff
  • Tempo markings to show how fast the song should go. Sometimes the speed of the music is described with a word (“Moderate”) and sometimes it is shown with a number which is called the metronome marking. The metronome marking below is saying there should be 158 beats per minute.

And here they are! The 7 Beginning Ukulele Book Reviews

The authors intended each of these books for a different type of ukulele beginner. We have ordered our beginning ukulele book reviews from easiest to hardest.

  1. 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way
  2. Ukulele For All
  3. Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method
  4. Hal Leonard-Ukulele Book 1
  5. Essential Elements for Ukulele
  6. Ukulele Primer by Bert Casey
  7. Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Tips and Tunes

1. 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way

This method has a lot of written introductory material and is encouraging to the learner. There are online videos to teach the songs and all the concepts presented.

This method begins with one-chord songs and simple strumming patterns. The authors delay the changing of chords until students can sing and strum a steady beat at the same time. When two-chord songs are introduced, there are thirteen two-chord songs, so students can really get the hang of the change from F to C7.

The authors teach the reading of melodies using ukulele tablature alongside the singing and strumming of songs for some (but not all) of the songs. There are visuals that show how the alignment of the ukulele strings relates to the horizontal alignment of the lines on the tab staff.

Chords presented in this method are C, A Minor, F, C7 and G7. 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way is the first book of a series which includes: Easy Ukulele Songs: Five with Five Chords, 21 Easy Ukulele Songs for Christmas, 21 MORE Easy Ukulele Songs: Learn Intermediate Ukulele the Easy Way, and 21 Easy Ukulele Folk Songs.

What to Look Out For:

These books teach the chords with both an upright and sideways presentation of the chord symbol. This visualization of the chord stamps is unique to this method.

While the upright presentation is the standard way for showing chord stamps, the sideways presentation is how the strings and fingers look when you are actually holding your ukulele. There is also a picture of a hand making the chord shape for each chord taught.

There is both a musical terms glossary and a chord glossary in each book. Strumming patterns remain simple with only four basic strums covered.

This book is best for someone who is new to playing an instrument, and who does not read music. Its progression is slow and steady. There are online video lessons for each song and for the concepts (including tuning) presented in the book.

There is also a YouTube channel that teaches a lot of the information in the books.

Are you struggling with strumming?

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2. Ukulele For All

This book starts with singing and strumming each song. There are four introductory pages that present how to hold the ukulele, how to put fingers on the strings to make chords, how to strum and how to read tab.

Ukulele for All also teaches chord stamps by presenting the diagram sideways and with a picture of a person’s hand.

The teaching of tab reading is also unique in that it shows how the horizontal strings of the ukulele relate to the lines of the tab staff. Students are easily able to visualize where to put their fingers on the strings of the ukulele.

The book starts with one-chord songs and has a chapter for each of three beginning chords (C, A Minor, and F.) Songs that change chords are delayed until the fourth chapter.

What to Look Out For:

The authors teach tab notation alongside the singing of melodies and strumming of chords. They also keep the strumming patterns simple throughout the book. Finger-picking of accompaniments is presented in Chapter 8. Students are also encouraged to sing rounds to create harmonies within a one chord song.

There is also a chapter on the 12-bar blues where students are encouraged to improvise their own solos over a bass line.

The book comes with proprietary software that includes video lessons for each song and for the concepts (including tuning) presented in the book. The software also includes audio for the songs that can be slowed down for practicing. Students can also record themselves and submit recordings to their teacher.

The book is intended for either classroom use or for private instruction. If a student prefers melodies, the student can work on that. If a student likes to sing and strum chords, the student can work on that, since both versions are presented with each song. There is a Teachers’ Edition of the book available with detailed suggestions on how to work with groups of students at different levels.

Chords presented in this method are C, A minor, F, C7 and G7.

This book is best for someone who is new to playing an instrument, and who does not read music. Its progression is slow and steady. It includes video lessons.

3.  Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method

This method book claims to be the most popular standard ukulele method and upon looking through it, I can see why. There are 8 introductory pages showing the parts of the ukulele, how to hold the ukulele, how to strum and how to place your left-hand fingers on the strings to make chords.

Strumming and singing songs is delayed 16 pages until the basic reading of single notes on the tab staff is solid for the student. There is a tab staff underneath the standard musical notation to help you find the melody notes more easily.

The pictures are large and well-spaced. The presentation on tab reading has good visuals.

What to Look Out For:

The first song with chord changes is “Good Night Ladies.” This song uses two chords F and C7 which is an easy 2 chord pattern. The book progresses slowly and steadily, eventually teaching the student seven chords (C, F, C7, G, D7, and G7.)

The author introduced strumming patterns independently of reading melodies and progress from basic to more complicated. The strumming patterns remain pretty simple.

The book ends with “Over the Rainbow” in a slightly simplified version using the chords that have been taught in this book.

This book is best for someone who is new to playing an instrument, and who does not read music. Its progression is slow and steady, and it includes both a DVD and online video lessons.

4. Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book 1

This book by Lil’ Rev is a solid beginning ukulele method. It starts with reading tab melodies. When chords are introduced, several pages in, the student learns C, F, and G7 all at once. There is a little bit of time to learn basic strumming patterns before applying chords to a song, but the first song uses all three chords. From there, new chords are introduced fairly quickly.

Chords taught in this book are: C, F, G7, E Minor, D7, G, Bb, A Minor, B7, D Minor,  A7 and A.

What to Look Out For:

There are lots of wonderful pictures on how to hold the ukulele and how to strum. Lil’ Rev teaches some really cool strumming techniques, such as tremolo, single roll stroke, finger and thumb strum and the index finger strum. He explains these techniques well with pictures, arrows and counting.

The book is nicely laid out and there is a basic chord glossary at the end. There are no audio or video lessons that I could find, but Lil’ Rev has a website and YouTube channel where he teaches a lot of the strumming techniques he uses in this book. He has workshops and YouTube videos and is a great teacher! (I’m planning on learning some of these techniques now that I’ve been playing for many years.)

When I was first learning ukulele I worked through this book. I didn’t have trouble with the left-hand chord changes, but found the many different strumming patterns difficult. This book might be best for someone with fretted instrument background such as the guitar or mandolin.

5. Essential Elements for the Ukulele

Marty Gross does a great job of teaching the ukulele in this book. Students learn to read music well. They learn the following chords: C, G7, F, Am, D7 (Hawaiian style) C7, Bb, Dm, F7, A7, Em, E7 and G#+. There is even a section on movable barre chords!

From my point of view, this book progresses quickly. Students are expected to read notes rather than the tab staff. Also, the first two chord song uses C to G7. G7 is a three finger chord and is hard for a lot of beginning players to master.

What to Look Out For:

The songs in this book are pretty awesome, for example: The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Octopus’s Garden, La Bamba, The Rainbow Connection and Marianne. There are audio demonstration tracks on an audio CD, which is probably helpful because not all the songs have suggested strumming patterns printed. There is a strumming chart and a chord glossary at the end of the book

This book would work well in a private lesson setting or with older students in a small group setting. It would also work well with someone who has played many other instruments before.

The book comes with an audio CD.

6. Ukulele Primer For Beginners: Book and DVD

Bert Casey does a great job at teaching singing and strumming the ukulele. The book is nicely laid out. There are great pictures showing how to hold your ukulele, how to strum and how to place your left-hand fingers on the strings. He has a unique way of showing the songs by having two staves: one for the melody line and one for the strumming pattern. This is really helpful when the strumming patterns get more complicated and don’t easily match up with the rhythm of the  melody.

The book comes with a DVD. There is also access to online video lessons.

This book assumes you will either know the songs, watch the videos to learn them or that you can read music so you can “hear” the songs in your head before you add the strumming pattern. There is no tab for the melodies.

What to Look Out For:

The author presents many strumming patterns which move sequentially from easier to more complicated. The patterns are easy to read and understand. When the book gets to more complicated patterns, there is a good base upon which to build. Bert shows the student a lot of muted strums, a technique called “chunking.” His presentation is clear, so it is easy to figure out how to go about learning this technique. In my experience, a student can sound quite polished when they learn these kinds of strumming patterns. I will probably go back and practice all of these and the patterns in Lil’ Rev’s book to add to my own repertoire of strumming techniques.

Finally, there is great information in the appendix on how the guitar relates to the ukulele, some music theory, a chord library and a strumming pattern library.

This book is probably best for someone who has background on other fretted string instruments such as guitar. The opening material is going to be difficult if you are a complete ukulele beginner. The strumming patterns, while cool, are going to be difficult to coordinate with the songs until you have more experience singing and strumming.

The book does come with both a DVD and online videos. The online videos are good with close-ups on the player’s hands so you can see and hear what to do.

7. Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Tips and Tunes

This was the book I used to teach myself the ukulele. It is recommended by Dr. Uke. The book is nicely laid out and is small, so it can easily fit into a ukulele case. It has a folksy feeling.

As with all of Jim Beloff’s materials, it gets right into playing the songs after only a couple of pages of introductory material. He covers a lot of music theory in two pages, which a beginner might or might not understand depending on their background.

The first song uses a C to the G7 chord progression, which can be a difficult one for many beginners. There is no tab for the songs, so the author assumes you can read music to figure out how the melodies sound. Tab can be helpful for beginners because it shows you where to put your left-hand fingers on your ukulele in order to get the pitch of the song. The author presents the strumming patterns above the notes, so it is not too difficult to figure out how to do them.

What to Look Out For:

The book progresses through many key signatures and teaches you the following chords: C, G7,Cmaj7, C6, C7, Am, F, G#7, D7, Gdim, Gmaj7, Em7, A7, Edim, Em, etc. (This book had more chords than any of the others I reviewed.) Jim does give you the option of leaving chords out by putting them in parentheses. This was helpful because I found keeping the flow of the singing, strumming and so many chord changes difficult as a beginner. Also, there are no video lessons.

I was able to learn a lot with this book, but I did not become a fluent strummer until I worked with simpler material. This book is probably best for someone with a lot of music background, but not necessarily fretted string instruments.

I have played piano and violin most of my life, so I found the left-hand coordination and music theory in this book straight-forward. At first, I found the right hand strumming more difficult. I play about 10 stringed instruments in my job as an orchestra teacher and I find that the right hand’s job (bowing, strumming, picking) differs more from instrument to instrument than the left hand’s does.

To become fluent with my ukulele skills, I needed to work more with the kinds of things Bert Casey and Lil’ Rev teach. I also knew that my students who are new to instruments generally would need a slower and more gradual approach which is why I wrote my books the way I did.

Summing Up the 7 Beginning Ukulele Book Reviews

All of these ukulele books have their strengths. They are all well thought out and sequential. The best course of action for you, the ukulele beginner, is to discover what kind of learner you are. Then choose the beginning ukulele book that suit you best after reading our beginning ukulele book reviews.

Of course I am biased, but I think if you are a complete beginner with music your best bet would be to buy one of my books, either 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way or Ukulele for All.  Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method would also work well for you.

If you have experience with guitar, you might prefer one of the more difficult books such as Essential Elements, Bert Casey’s Ukulele Primer, or Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Tips and Tunes.

In my own musical journey, I have often worked through several books at once to work on different kinds of skills. I hope after reading these beginning ukulele book reviews that you will be able to find the book or books that work best for you!

Here are links to purchase each of the books on Amazon. (full disclosure: I’m paid a small commission when you click these links  but it does not affect the price you pay.)

If you still haven’t quite found a ukulele book you like from these, check out other recommended books here. Or check this for ukuleles and this for ukulele accessories.

Down by the Riverside Ukulele Tutorial with Tabs

Down by the Riverside Ukulele Tutorial with Tabs

DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE UKULELE TUTORIAL

In order to play along with this Down by the Riverside ukulele tutorial, you’ll need only four chords. The ukulele chords are C, F, G7 and C7. As for the strumming pattern – Jenny follows a D-DU-UD-U (D-down, U-up) repetition. Finally, Jenny also plays solo ukulele for both the verse and chorus parts. 

To learn more about how to play the song on ukulele including melody tab, join us on Facebook. You can watch a Facebook live lesson for Down by the Riverside ukulele tutorial later this week. If you miss the live session, check the recording on the videos section of our Facebook page.

By the way, subscribe here for weekly ukulele newsletters. Most importantly,  you’ll receive notification about the featured ukulele tutorial for the week with the lead sheet. If you want music sheet for the past tutorials, contact us.

DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE SONG HISTORY

Although Down by the Riverside was first published in 1918, its origins are believed to date back to the American Civil War or even earlier. Accordingly, African American slaves sung Down by the Riverside as a work song with lines from other spirituals. Some historians also refer to the song as Ain’t Gonna Study War No More. While the lyrics of the verses sometimes differ on the song’s many versions, the lines of the chorus are mostly the same. The following line gets repeated on the chorus: I ain’t gonna study war no more. Because of this message of promoting peace, many musicians also use the song as an anti-war protest.

Down by the Riverside is one of the songs from our latest book 21 Easy Ukulele Folk Songs which you can purchase here.

NOTABLE RECORDINGS OF DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE

With such a great message and an upbeat rhythm, no wonder many artists and musicians have covered the song. For instance, Elvis Presley recorded Down by the Riverside on two occasions. He first recorded the song in 1956 on an impromptu jam session with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, later dubbed as Million Dollar Quartet. Presley also included the song in a 1966 soundtrack album called Frankie and Johnny. Other notable recordings of the song include those of Louis Armstrong, Lead Belly, Bing Crosby, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Nat King Cole and Van Morrison.

Do you want to sound convincing on folk songs? You know basic chords and strumming patterns. And you’re interested in folk music. You’d like to take it to the next level.

Get your copy now!

Silent Night Ukulele Tutorial for Fingerpicking Melody and Chords

Silent Night Ukulele Tutorial for Fingerpicking Melody and Chords

It’s the day before Christmas and we bring you a beloved Christmas carol with this Silent Night ukulele tutorial.

SILENT NIGHT UKULELE TUTORIAL

First of all, you’ll need only three chords for Silent Night: C, G7 and F. Because the song is in ¾ time, the strumming pattern follows D-DU-D (D-down, U-up) repetition. Secondly, Jenny gives tips on fingerpicking the chords in the video. So that’s two ways you can play the song. Thirdly, Jenny fingerpicks the melody, also known as solo ukulele. You can either sing and go with the simple D-DU-D pattern or practice fingerpicking. In a cool split-screen part in the video, Jenny works with the D-DU-D strum pattern on one screen and does the melody fingerpicking on the other screen.

Jenny will go over how to strum the chords and how to fingerpick both the chords and the melody in a Facebook live session on Thursday, December 27th at 4:30 PM Central. Also, Jenny will talk about how to create your own chord melody or solo ukulele (both chords and melody) version of Silent Night.

Join us here and subscribe so we can notify you of new ukulele tutorials and send you music sheets.

FROM A GERMAN ORIGINAL “STILLE NACHT”

Silent Night is an English translation of the German original entitled Stille Nacht. For many years, many have thought that Silent Night was composed by one of the most famous classical composers such as Beethoven, Mozart or Haydn. But in 1995, musical researchers have uncovered a handwritten manuscript of Stille Nacht estimated to have been made in the 1820s.

Accordingly, Father Joseph Mohr, wrote the lyrics of this now very famous Christmas carol in 1816 while assigned to a church in Mariapfarr, Austria. Two years later, while working as a priest in a local church in another Austrian village called Oberndorf, he discovered that the church organ has been damaged by flooding. Subsequently, he brought his Stille Nacht lyrics to a church organist and composer called Franz Xaver Gruber. So Gruber created the music for Stille Nacht to be performed on Christmas Eve at Father Mohr’s Saint Nicholas Church.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Silent Night is one of the songs in our best-selling and award-winning book 21 Easy Ukulele Songs for Christmas. So don’t forget to get your copy.

All of us at ukulele.io are sending our happy Christmas wishes to all ukulele lovers out there. Happy strumming!

 

You want to fill your home with Christmas cheer! You know a few chords and strumming patterns. And you’d like to play the melodies too.

Look no further. Our Christmas book offers all this and more!

Get your copy now!

What Songs are in 21 Songs in 6 Days?

What Songs are in 21 Songs in 6 Days?

Many have been asking what songs are in 21 Songs in 6 Days so here goes the list. It also includes the 10 bonus songs added in the print edition!

What songs are in 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way?

So here’s the complete list:

  • Are You Sleeping?
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Three Blind Mice
  • Have You Seen the Ghost of John?
  • Hey, Ho, Nobody Home
  • Ah, Poor Bird
  • Frère Jacques
  • Chatter With the Angels
  • A Ram Sam Sam
  • Shoo, Fly, Don’t Bother Me (in keys of F & C)
  • Hush, Little Baby (in keys of F & C)
  • Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow (in keys of F & C)
  • C, then G7 Etude
  • He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
  • Polly Wolly Doodle
  • Jingle Bells
  • Yankee Doodle
  • For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
  • Oh, When the Saints
  • I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
  • Red River Valley

Ten Bonus Songs (print edition):

  • Banana Boat Song (Day-O) (in the key of F and C)
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie
  • Buffalo Gals (in the key of F and C)
  • Clementine (in the key of F and C)
  • Down in the Valley (in the key of F and C)
  • Goodbye Old Paint (in the key of F and C)
  • Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley (in the key of F and C)
  • Jambalaya
  • The Streets of Laredo (in the key of F and C)
  • The Yellow Rose of Texas

Ukulele Songs Perfect for Beginners

We’ve carefully selected these songs so that they are familiar and easy to play. Many customers agree as they have sent feedback that 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way  “enables you to get to playing right away and have fun doing it” and that it is “great for a novice.”

 
 
 
This ukulele book starts from simple songs and moves gradually to the more complicated ones – perfect for incremental progress. 21 Songs in 6 Days is our beginner and classic ukulele book, but we also have five other books which all feature carefully selected songs – 21 Easy Ukulele Songs for Christmas, 21 More Songs in 6 Days:Learn Intermediate Ukulele the Easy Way, Easy Ukulele Songs (Five with Five Chords), 21 Easy Ukulele Folk Songs and Ukulele for All. 

Are you struggling with strumming?

With our book and course, you’ll become a fluent 3-chord strummer.

Get your copy now!

How to Play Nearer My God to Thee – Easy Ukulele Song

How to Play Nearer My God to Thee – Easy Ukulele Song

LYRICS & CHORDS SHEET + TAB SHEET

On the following video on how to play Nearer My God to Thee,  Jenny presents several strum patterns in two different keys. If you’re the sing and strum type, you can try that with a couple of strum patterns or finger-picking. Get the lyrics and chords sheet in the key of C here.

Jenny also plays a solo melody for one verse. So if you prefer the ukulele to do the singing for you, get a copy of the melody tab sheet in the key of G here.

 

HOW TO PLAY NEARER MY GOD TO THEE ON THE UKULELE

Nearer My God to Thee is a great song for beginners to learn on the ukulele since it only has three chords. Jenny does a ‘sing and strum’ in the key of C and a ‘solo melody’ in the key of G. This way you have the option to play in either key or even both if you like.

For the key of C, we have the chords C, F and G7 while for the key of G, we got G,  C and D7. Jenny does an all-down strum (four beats per measure) on the first verse. To vary up a little bit, she tries a down (1), down (2), up-down (3), down-up (4) on the second verse. In addition, she also does a fingerpicking strum on the third verse. Finally, she shows a simple chord melody on the last verse. So without further ado, check out the video below to learn how to play Nearer My God to Thee.

CHRISTIAN HYMN

Sarah Fuller Flower Adams wrote the text of the famous Christian hymn Nearer My God to Thee in the early 1840s. Sarah Adams was one of two daughters of radical publisher Benjamin Flower. Upon the death of her father, Sarah and her sister Eliza became wards of a family friend, William Johnson Fox.

Since Fox was a preacher, an orator as well as an editor, Sarah and Eliza often helped Fox in his works. While Eliza worked on the musical side of the chapel services, Sarah contributed on the writing of hymns. Nearer My God to Thee was one of the thirteen hymns Sarah wrote for chapel services in 1840 to 1841.

SEVERAL ASSOCIATED TUNES

Sarah’s sister Eliza first set the music to Nearer My God to Thee. However a later and more popular musical setting of the poem was made to the Horbury tune, one of over 300 tunes composed by hymn composer and minister John Bacchus Dykes. Many other tunes have also been associated with this Christian hymn such as Propior Deo, St. Edmund, Rothwell, Liverpool and Bethany.

While the Horbury tune was the most correlated setting to Nearer my God to Thee in the United Kingdom, the Bethany tune by American hymn composer Lowell Mason was the usual accompaniment to the song in the United States and other countries. Mason is also famous for the musical arrangement to one of the most famous Christmas songs Joy to the World.

FINAL SONG

Nearer My God to Thee was claimed by some survivors of the doomed RMS Titanic to have been played by the ship’s orchestra while the ship was sinking in 1912. This claim however was refuted by other survivors with one survivor reporting to have heard another song called Autumn.

The account about Nearer My God to Thee being sung by the musical band of the Titanic may have been influenced by a similar event in an earlier maritime disaster, the wreck and sinking of SS Valencia in 1906. The few survivors of the Valencia recounted how the stranded passengers on the sinking ship, mostly women and children bravely sang this memorable hymn.

If you enjoyed this post about “Nearer My God to Thee,” you’ll enjoy these related posts:

These posts will show you how to play other hymns on the ukulele.

Do you want to play hymns with confidence?

In our Hymn Kits you'll find something for varied learners, from beginners to a little more advanced.

Get your Hymn Kit today!

Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee Ukulele Tutorial

Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee Ukulele Tutorial

DOWNLOAD MUSIC SHEETS

As always, let’s start the Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee ukulele tutorial with the music sheets. Get a copy of the chords (and lyrics) sheet here.

And for the tab or chord melody sheet, get a copy here.

 

UKULELE TUTORIAL

Wouldn’t it be awesome to boast about knowing how to play a tune by Beethoven on the ukulele? With the help of our Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee ukulele tutorial, you can truthfully claim you do know a Beethoven tune on the ukulele. Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee is a popular hymn set to one of Beethoven’s melody in his final symphony. The melody is called Ode to Joy and it is part of Symphony Number 9.

 

CHORDS AND STRUMS

You can play the song using just three chords (C, G7 and an F) but there’s a part of the song (where the verse goes “Drive the dark of doubt away”) where it sounds better to play with the additional chords E7, Am, D7 and G. The additional chords are played a little bit fast so playing that verse gets a bit complicated so when you don’t feel like doing the complicated one, the three-chord version works just fine.

For the strums, Jenny provides three different methods you can try. First, we have the simple all-down strums, four beats per measure. Second, we have the down (1), down-up (2), down (3), down-up (4) strum. Finally, Jenny plays a simple chord melody for the third verse.

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POEM BY HENRY VAN DYKE

The actual title of the song is “The Hymn of Joy.” However, people are more familiar with the title “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” which is the song’s first line. Henry Van Dyke wrote the verses of the song in 1907.

Henry Van Dyke was a preacher and an educator. He worked as an English literature professor at Princeton University and also as a lecturer at the University of Paris. Also, he became a diplomat to Europe at the time of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency.

Van Dyke was also a distinguished author of short stories and poems. Aside from “The Hymn of Joy,” Van Dyke also wrote another famous poem “Time Is.” Lady Jane Fellowes read part of the latter poem in Princess Diana’s funeral.

BEETHOVEN’S ODE TO JOY

While Van Dyke wrote the verses to “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” or “The Hymn of Joy” in 1907, he first published the poem in 1911 (as part of the third edition of  his Book of Poems). When Van Dyke wrote the poem, he expressed his intent that the poem be sung to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy melody.