Happy Helpful Guide to the Ukulele – Step 5: Your First Song!

Step 5: Your First Song

Step 5 is where you may start to feel like you’re really playing; it’s time for your first song! Although it’s a simple song, “Frere Jaques” is a great place to start as you will be more successful playing something familiar with only two chords. Additionally, in this step you will learn about the down and up stroke. At this point in the Guide, we also introduce the down and up strokes.

The French children’s song “Frère Jacques” or “Are You Sleeping” can be accompanied using just one chord, such as the C major chord. Find your voice by playing the C-open string or the first string (A-string pressed on the 3rd fret). This is the note C that begins the song.

exercise 13: “frère jacques“

1. Use C-chord and down strum accompaniment.
2. Finger the C chord. Count 1, 2, 3, 4. Sing. The first note is on C.

Are you sleeping
Are you sleeping
Brother John?
Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing Morning bells are ringing Ding, ding, dong Ding, ding, dong

For some people, it’s easy and comfortable to sing this song with the C-chord accompaniment. For others, it may be more comfortable to sing the song a little higher or lower. Let’s now introduce two-fingered chords of F and A major. For these chords, observe which is easier: putting your index finger down first or your middle finger – or both at the same time?

F and A ukulele chords

exercise 14: more chord practice

1. Switch between Am – A – F
2. Play four downstrokes on each chord, accenting the first beat. Repeat several times.

ukulele chord charts

exercise 15: singing a one chord song

• First note: Form the F chord. The first note is F.

• Where is F?

– In the F chord: Where your index finger (1) is pressed

Are you sleeping
Are you sleeping
Brother John?
Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing Morning bells are ringing Ding, ding, dong Ding, ding, dong

introducing the upstroke

  • The upstroke is represented by the letter U. Capital U is a means to emphasize it. Smaller u means not so loud.
  • There are several ways to execute the upstroke. Soft sound: hold your hand like scissors. Use the flesh of your index finger to do the up- stroke, if you are using the flesh of your thumb to do the down stroke.
  • Louder sound: Use the nail of your thumb if you are using the nail of your index finger or several fingers to do the down stroke.

exercise 16: down and up strokes

  • Start with down strokes only, with one stroke per count.
  • Keep repeating until you don’t need to look at your left hand to play the chord sequence.
  • Try other right-hand strum patterns. Notice the last right-hand pattern requires an accented down and up on the fourth count.

ukulele chord charts

exercise 17: strumming D-U with lyrics

Try the entire song first with the C chord and the following strum patterns, to mimic the syllables. Then with F. Then with A chord. Recall D = down stroke. U = up stroke. – = No stroke. The English verse is not an accurate translation of the original French.

fere jaques ukulele

This song can easily be sung in a round. One person or one group starts and the other joins in the middle (third line of the lyrics).

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