Sometimes you just want to rock your brains out.
You might think that an ukulele isn’t up for this task, but you’d be wrong.
Especially with the advent of electric steel string ukes that are essentially mini electric guitars, the ukulele can easily play punk, metal, grunge, pop-rock, and other heavy genres.
Even if you only have a normal, acoustic uke, you can still cover rocks songs if you have an open mind and some clever sensibilities.
Here are some of my favorite rock songs to play on the ukulele, ranging from easy to challenging.
Everlong by Foo Fighters
In addition to being one of the coolest rockstars in the world, Dave Grohl, of Nirvana fame, is a likeable dude who also writes great power ballads such as “Everlong.”
This song uses some really interesting chords and is one of the hardest songs to play on this list, but it’s also one of the prettiest sounding.
I even made a video to show you how to play this one!
I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty
As far as classic rock goes, Tom Petty is one of my favorites. His rock-solid songwriting and hooky melodies, paired with effective, simple instrumentation means that it’s pretty easy to play a convincing version of “I Won’t Back Down” on your uke!
This song uses a simple chord progression and is a great beginner song if you know how to hold an Em chord.
The hardest part is getting the off-beat chord change in the right place. Play along with the recording until you’ve got it!
21 Guns by Green Day
As a child I remember a handful of albums that really grabbed my attention. Supernatural by Santana was the first and years later, American Idiot by Green Day arrived to remind me how cool music could be.
My love for that album has endured, but I also spent my due time listening to its follow-up, 21st Century Breakdown.
The hit single off this album is 21 Guns and I wasted no time learning how to play it on my ukulele. Here’s my instrumental interpretation:
I made a tab that approximates this performance for the pickers out there that want to have a crack at some killer contemporary punk.
One Rainy Wish by Jimi Hendrix
How could you make a list of rock songs and not include a little Hendrix? You can’t.
“One Rainy Wish” is one of Jimi’s most beautiful compositions. It’s more mellow than most of his songs, but fit’s wonderfully on the uke.
I taught this to one of my students many years ago by request and made up a sheet that was in a key I could sing well. The verses are in the hard key of Eb, but the chorus/bridge flips into a mixolydian C sound which uses easier chords.
Undone (The Sweater Song) by Weezer
Like a lot of late-era millennials, I first heard Weezer on the Rockband video game with their hit, “Say It Ain’t So.” Little did I know that the blue album was full of tons of other awesome (and even better) songs!
My favorite of these is “Undone (The Sweater Song).” My brother and I love to blast this song and sing the silly chorus.
A uke can capture the dissonant picking riff perfectly. When the distortion comes in, you’ve got to either kick on a distortion pedal or pretend you’re capturing that sound. Either way, it’s lots of fun.
This one is for more advanced players since you need to re-tune your uke to pick the riff.