How to Play Somewhere Over the Rainbow

by | Oct 10, 2015 | Kids and school, Video lessons | 4 comments

Somewhere Over the Rainbow The decision to record a cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was said to be a last-minute decision by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’ (Iz or Izzy) and his producer Jon de Mello. But what a great decision it was! Iz’s version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World holds the distinction of being the longest-leading number one hit on any of the Billboard song charts, having spent 185 weeks at number one on the publication’s World Digital Songs chart.

It reached #12 on Billboard’s Hot Digital Tracks chart the week of January 31, 2004 (for the survey week ending January 18, 2004). It passed the 2 million paid downloads mark in the USA by September 27, 2009. Then, it sold 3 million in the USA as of October 2, 2011. And as of October 2014, the song had sold over 4.2 million digital copies.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Video Tutorial

Here’s Jenny’s lesson on how to play Over The Rainbow  as covered by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

Click here to download a pdf of the lyrics and chord changes:

Over the Rainbow

The Hawaii state flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole’s funeral. His coffin lay in state at the state capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be awarded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official. Approximately ten thousand people attended the funeral. Thousands of fans gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997. Scenes from the funeral and scattering of Kamakawiwoʻole’s ashes were featured in official music videos of “Over the Rainbow” released posthumously by Mountain Apple Company; as of July 2015, the two videos as featured on YouTube have collectively received over 198 million views.

Because of his skillful ukulele playing and incorporation of other genres, such as jazz and reggae, Kamakawiwoʻole remains a very strong influence on Hawaiian music.


Is the strumming pattern confusing?

Back when Jenny was teaching ukulele to 7th and 8th graders, the students wanted to play “Over the Rainbow.” But the students learned “Five Foot Two” first. “Five Foot Two” uses the same strumming pattern and is easier to play. Also, we write the strumming pattern underneath the lyrics making it easier to coordinate the lyrics with the strumming. You can learn “Five Foot Two” and then learn “Over the Rainbow.” “Five Foot Two” is in our book Easy Ukulele Songs: Five with Five Chords.

Not sure how to read tab?  Want to get started playing melodies on your ukulele?  Then, sign up for our FREE STUFF here to get a FREE 7 video course on how to read tabs.

When you’re ready, our new book Easy Ukulele Songs: Five with Five Chords  will take you further into the wonderful world of tab and fingerpicking melodies.  It’s available as an ebook or a print book on Amazon.

Happy Strumming!


So, you’re pretty good at 3-chord songs now. You can do simple strumming patterns. You may even know some other chords. You’d like to take your playing to the next level.

Where do you go from here?

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  1. Brett Santucci

    Great job with a beginners version of the most popular ukulele song ever. For a more challenging and more accurate version of the song use the book titled "IZ – Israel Kamakawiwo'ole – The Songbook Collection – Guitar/Ukulele Edition.
    You'll notice that in this accurate arrangement there is no use of the Em chord. Instead the relative Major chord G is used which gives the song its distinctive sound. (Less "Wizard of Oz" like). There are also strum patterns displayed for different sections of the song which allow for a more accurate representation of the reggae style used by Brudda Iz. I hope this helps. Keep on strummin'!

    • Jenny Peters

      Thanks for your comments, Brett. I have noticed that Iz's actual reggae strum is more complicated than I play in this video, but you are correct: my goal is to make a lesson for beginners. Thanks for the compliment and stay in touch.

  2. LeAnn Zogg

    Good beginner’s, though bit different from what you are singing and playing – but doesn’t deter from a great beginning introduction to the song and the strumming pattern.

    • Lala - Customer Support

      Thanks! Happy strumming!


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