The mighty ukulele has the power to transform almost any song. Whether classic pop, old-school rock, or even songs from the shows, the uke can do it all. It always lends a charming, playful air regardless of the tune being performed.
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” might be the best example of that. When playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the ukulele, it gains a completely different vibe to the original.
Rather than creating a melancholic atmosphere, it shares a much sweeter and more hopeful, sadness. And good news, it’s not too difficult to play. So, let’s learn how to play Somewhere Over the Rainbow on ukulele.
We’re off to see the wizard…
It was Judy Garland who first made this song a classic. Featured in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, both the song and the movie were instant hits. Audiences were astonished by the mind-blowing fade from black and white into glorious technicolor as well as the touching music.
But it wasn’t until later that it became a ukulele staple. It could quite easily have faded into obscurity as later generations forgot about the great and powerful Oz. So, how did it become so iconic?
Enter Bruddah Ik
Or, as he’s more widely known, Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. Hawaii born and bred, Kamakawiwoʻole was passionate about native rights and independence. He felt strongly about preserving Hawaiian traditions and used his platform as an artist to champion indigenous people.
The voice of the island lives on…
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was a last-minute addition to his second solo record. It gained traction in a huge number of countries and remains one of the longest-lasting number one songs on any Billboard chart.
Sadly, Kamakawiwoʻole passed away in 1997; however, his legacy remains. His ukulele version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow continues to bring joy to listeners all over the world.
Ukulele Chords for Somewhere Over the Rainbow
I see trees of green…
This version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the ukulele is a mash-up. It contains parts of Louis Amstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” too. The two songs work well together, blending to create a harmonious, laid-back vibe.
And don’t worry, both songs are pretty straightforward. They use many of the same chords, so there isn’t too much to learn here.
What chords do you need?
There are eight in total. A, C, D, Dm7, Em, E7, F, and G. None of them are too tricky, and they all use the same part of the fretboard.
Let’s begin with the introduction. Start with C, which uses just one finger on the first string at the third fret. The next chord is Em. Played by putting one finger on the first string at the second fret, the next finger on the second string on the third fret, and the third finger on the third string on the fourth fret.
From there, change to F. That’s the second string at the first fret and the fourth string at the second fret. Then it’s back to C. The next part of the intro starts on that F. Then it’s an E7, with the first and third strings pressed at the second fret and the fourth string at the first fret. After that, play an Am on the fourth string at the first fret, then it’s back to F.
Dreams really do come true…
So, that’s most of the ukulele chords for Somewhere Over the Rainbow covered already. Now there are only two more you need. Firstly, D. Play this by covering the second, third, and fourth strings at the second fret.
The last chord is Dm7. Now, this one is a little harder than the rest. It may take your fingers a bit of time to get used to it. Pop your first finger on the second string at the third fret. The next two fingers go on the third and fourth strings at the second fret. Then your last finger can sit on the first strings at the third fret.
Why not check out this handy ukulele chord chart? Clear, easy-to-read diagrams make choosing the correct finger placement a piece of cake. Featuring majors, minors, sevenths, and more, it has everything you need to learn to play the ukulele.
Structure for Playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the Ukulele
Following the introduction is the chorus. The first line is C, Em, F, C, and the second is F, C, G, Am, F. The next two lines follow this same pattern, making it pretty easy to remember.
After the chorus comes the verse, that’s C, G, Am, and F, repeated. From there, move onto the short chorus of C, Em, F, C, then F, C, G, Am, F.
What a wonderful world…
This is when the second song comes into play. “What a Wonderful World” uses the same sequence of chords twice. It’s C, Em, F, C, F, C, A7, Em for the first two lines. Then the last one wraps things up nicely with F, G, Am, and F. And there you go, you just learned how to play Somewhere Over the Rainbow on ukulele.
Once you’ve mastered that, you’ll need a ukulele worthy of Bruddah Iz to play it on. Kamakawiwoʻole himself was a fan of Martin instruments such as this handsome ukulele. It may be a little on the pricey side, but for sound quality, it can’t be beaten.
Pattern for Playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the Ukulele
Don’t even think about any complicated fingerpicking. This song should evoke the sound of the islands. And that means strumming. If you want to learn to play Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the ukulele, your strumming pattern is the key.
This sounds best when using a down, down, up, up, down strumming pattern. That’s how Iz the great and powerful played it. And if you want to sound even more like him, give the G string a pluck at the start of every bar.
If you like it, then you’d better put a string on it…
Of course, you’ll need an awesome set of strings to get the perfect sound. These Martin Ukulele Strings are an ideal choice. Their bright tone will make you feel like you’re lying on Mākua Beach, sipping on fresh coconuts.
Love the Ukulele?
We can help you find just what you are looking for. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Luna Ukulele, the Best Lanikai Ukuleles, the Best Tenor Ukuleles, the Best Concert Ukuleles For Beginners, the Best Baritone Ukuleles, the Best Electric Ukuleles, and the Best Ukuleles for Beginners you can buy in 2021.
And make sure you take a look at our handy guides on How to Tune a Ukulele, How to Play Ukulele, Famous Ukulele Songs You Can Learn, and How to play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen on Ukulele for more useful information.
How to Play Somewhere Over The Rainbow on Ukulele – Final Thoughts
It’s impossible not to love “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” And it’s an absolute joy to play, too. Sure, it’s a little harder than beginner songs, but it’s a great way for someone looking to take the next step to level up their uke skills.
Just take it easy, and with a bit of practice, you’ll master it in no time. Who knows? After a while, you could be the next Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.
So, happy strumming, folks.