We had a good laugh at the Hawaiian Style Grill ʻukulele jam years ago about ending a song. At the end of a tune one of the Bruddahs was joking:
“Everybody makes as if it’s a big deal ending a song. It’s not – just stop!”
But that got me to thinking (that can be scary!) about the many different ways to end a song, starting with “stop.”
Stop This Train:
By far, the easiest way to end a song is just to stop wherever you are. Don’t just stop like you made a mistake, stop like you mean it. As long as it’s solid and everyone is together, you can always use this as a very dramatic ending. Stopping on an off beat or chord can help heighten the expectation. You have got to have it together as a group if you want to pull this off in a kani ka pila setting so it might help to make some plans before hand. I like this kind of ending if used out of the blue. Then the audience is like, “Wow! Where did the song go?”
Root > 5 > Root:
A classic ending that has been used millions of times in all styles of music is the root chord, 5th chord, root chord progression. It always works. From the end of a song section go to the root and strum once, go to the 5th chord in the key and strum once, then back to the root. Just like this:
G/ D7/ G/
Play the last strum but follow it with a walk-up. To find the walk up, play a closed version of the ending chord and slide it down two frets. If you’re in C this would be a Bb. Strum, then slide the shape up one fret, strum, and then you are back to the root chord for one last strum. Sometimes it sounds nice to strum a fancy jazz chord after the walk up to finalize the ending.
C/ Bb/ B/ C/
Brush back and forth across the strings in a fast tremolo strum on the last and/or second to last chord. This is the classic rockstar ending when everyone plays as loud as then can and then jump off of something to hit the final chord.
Fading out the end of a song is something that is best done on a recording, but it can be fun to try live. You really find out how well you can articulate your ʻukulele quietly. This is where knowing your volume levels comes in handy. Play the outro over and over (maybe soloing over the top) and get quieter and quieter until you can’t hear the song anymore.
One of my favorite outros takes some practice and a lot more thought than the rest, but makes for a great final product. Write a riff or melody that can be played right up to the very end and then the song stops on the last note.
Jazzy Outro in Bb
This is a classic, swing Hawaiian style ending that utilizes some clever movements way up the neck.
A |-1-----13----13----13-----| E |-1-----8-----9-----10-----| C |-2-----10----10----10-----| G |-3-----8-----9-----10-----|