Ideas/Short Tabs/Intros

Sometimes it takes a little inspiration to get out of a hole. I find that sometimes all I need for a boost is an idea. These ideas include new intervals, chords, tempo, dynamics, string skipping, and more. The ideas themselves come most of the time from songs I hear. Of course I can’t keep track of all these ideas because most of the time I don’t even have a chance to try them out on my ‘ukulele! They just pop in and out of my head and I ponder them as the day goes on. The ideas that really make me stop and think turn into a trip to my “studio” where I will fiddle on the ‘ukulele. These are the ideas I remember (for whatever reason). Later if I remember that I remember I will try and post a tab and explanation so that you may benefit from these ideas too. This is where I will accumulate posts about “‘Ukulele Ideas”.

All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix

Here is a good exercise in bends and releases presented by our favorite guitar friend – Jimi Hendrix. All Along the Watchtower is probably my favorite Hendrix song and I finally took the time to figure the intro out. The song is in Cm with the chords going: Bb//>Cm///(rest)Bb//>Ab/// (the “>” means slide or shift smoothly to get a slide feel. Ab only uses the top three strings in this song).

Tune your ‘ukulele with a low G:

A |--------------------------------------
E |----6-8-8b10-8b10-8b10-10r8-6---------
C |-/5---------------------------7-5-5-5-
G |--------------------------------------

A |------------------------------------
E |---------------------------------/8-
C |----3-5-5b7r-5b7-7r5-3---7h9p7------
G |-/5--------------------5-------8----

“There must be some kind of way out of here….”

The break:

A |-3-3-5p3-x-|-1-1-3p1-x-|-----------------
E |-3-3-3---x-|-1-1-1---x-|-4-4-2-2-4-4-2-2-
C |-3-3-3---x-|-2-2-2---x-|-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-
G |-5-5-5---x-|-3-3-3---x-|-5-4-5-5-5-5-5-5-

Take You For a Ride by Koa’uka

Koa’uka (ko-a-oo-ka) uses an ‘ukulele riff to add depth to “Take U For A Ride” off of their album Just Doing Our Thing. The riff itself is very simple, but it might take some practice to get the notes to fall on the right beat (and your fingers will probably get tired!). This is played throughout the song over Bb Cm Bb Cm (strum: D U lift so that the U only rings for a little bit). There are only two places in the song where the picking stops. At “Well I remember when you told me…” and the rap “Jump up in da Nissan baby we can shoot da cruz…” where instead of Cm they play some sort of variant with a C#:

A |-4-
E |-3-
C |-3-
G |-5-

If you can think of what chord this is considered, let me know. Here is the riff. Happy jamming!
Bb            Cm              Bb           Cm
A |--------------8-10-8-8-10-8-|--------------8-10-8---|
E |-6-6-6-8-8/10---------------|-6-6-6-8-8/10-------~8~|
C |----------------------------|-----------------------|
G |----------------------------|-----------------------|

If you like contemporary Hawaiian music I would highly recommend this album.

One by Metallica

One – off of …And Justice For All – is probably my favorite Metalica song just because it includes a relatively undistorted intro and verse. There are a ton of cool fills in the intro, but this one is the one that got stuck in my head. The first Am chord is a quick arpeggio down, muting each note before you head to the next. Then a big interval jump to A, with a fairly standard run down to C.

A |---7-12-10-8-7h8p7---
E |--8----------------8-
C |-9-------------------
G |---------------------

Living in Paradise by Daniel Ho

The intro to Living in Paradise off of Daniel Ho’s “Sunny Spaces” album is a great example of how many things can be combined to make a neat ‘ukulele riff.

  • Pull-offs
  • Pedal tones
  • Octaves
  • and a repetitive picking pattern

A |-4p0-----4p0-----4p0-----|-5p0-----5p0-----5p0-----|
E |-----0-------0-------0---|-----0-------0-------0---|
C |-------1-------1-------1-|-------2-------2-------2-|
G |-------------------------|-------------------------|

A |-7p0-----7p0-----7p0-----|-5p0-----5p0-----5p0-----|
E |-----0-------0-------0---|-----0-------0-------0---| Repeat
C |-------4-------4-------4-|-------2-------2-------2-|
G |-------------------------|-------------------------|

Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson

Cliffs of Dover is one of the most phenomenal instrumental songs that you will hear. Eric Johnson really pulled out all of the stops in this song. The intro is one of the most impressive parts because Johnson whips through different time signatures and tempos before finally falling into the rhythm of the main stanza. To play this whole song on the ‘ukulele proficiently would be a massive task. I have seen a cover, but the song needs more justice. This is just a small part of the intro, but I was really fascinated with the string skipping and how the different voicings lead into each other. A low G string is going to represent the guitar part better than a high G.

A |-----2-----3-----5-----7-----9-~10~-
E |------------------------------------
C |---4-----4-----7-----7-----9--------
G |-0-----2-----4-----5-----7----------

Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty

Here’s the simple chord progression to “Free Fallin’” that, to this date I think is one of the most fun to play. This is what the “Full Moon Fever” album version sounds like:

A |-0---1---|-1-0----|
E |-1---1---|-1-1--1-|
C |-0---0---|-0-0--0-|
G |-2---3---|-3-2--0-|

And for the John Mayer nuts, here’s his cover from “Live, Where The Light Is”. His version is a bit more ad libbed so this is an approximation:
A |---------|----------------|
E |-1---1---|---1--0-----0h1-|
C |-0---0---|-2----0---0-----|
G |-2---3---|-3----0-0-------|

The bare-bone chords are like this:

.....F     Fsus  Bb    C
A |--0-----0--|--1-----3--|
E |--1-----1--|--1-----3--|
C |--0-----0--|--2-----4--|
G |--2-----3--|--3-----5--|

Just repeat that through the song. The lyrics are here.

Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison

What does Roy Orbison have to do with the ‘ukulele? Nothing that I know of! But I was watching his Black and White Night DVD yesterday (very good by the way if you like that style of music) and got the Pretty Woman riff stuck in my head, so… Here is the intro riff in three different keys. The original starts on the lowest note of the guitar, so I transposed it with a low G as the lowest note, middle C the lowest note, and the original which starts on E (not so low on the ‘ukulele, hence the other two keys). You can stop on the fifth note twice and then go into the whole riff for the full effect.

Key of A (original key):

A |-------2-5-9-7-5-
E |-0-0-4-----------
C |-----------------
G |-----------------

Key of F:

A |---------1-5-3-1-
E |-------3---------
C |-0-0-4-----------
G |-----------------

Key of C:

A |-----------0-----
E |---------1---3-1-
C |-------2---------
G |-0-0-4-----------

Repeat as many times as you like. The original chords can be found here:


By Brad Bordessa

brad bordessa avatar

I’m an ‘ukulele artist from Honoka’a, Hawai’i, where I run this site from a little plantation house in the jungle. I’ve taught workshops internationally, made Herb Ohta Jr. laugh until he cried, and once borrowed a uke to jam with HAPA onstage in my boardshorts. More about me