Category Archives: All UkulelePlay! Blog Posts

12 Carols of Christmastime : Lyrics/Chords & Video


All 12 Carols in one video on Facebook (opens in new window), or All 12 Carols in separate videos in a YouTube playlist (opens in new window), or watch here:


These carols were selected and adapted from my two ukulele Christmas books, The Two Chord Christmas Songbook and Christmas on 34th Street. They were chosen firstly on their merit as great carols, secondly as fairly well-known songs of the season and thirdly to offer good variety in a set that makes sense for performing/caroling. The order of the songs may seem random, but they are placed so that no two songs are in the same key in a row and the carols alternate between slow and fast-paced tunes. None of the carols has more than 4 chords and a number have only 2, which makes them ideal for beginners. You need only add a bit of interesting strumming/fingerpicking or some chord inversions to keep intermediate and advancing players interested. I’ve posted the lyrics/chords below.

I created the videos as teaching aids for my students and we’re planning a carol sing & strum mid-December for which I created the lyric/chord charts. I thought the material might be of use to others, so here it is! Merry Christmas! and Happy Caroling!



[F]He is born, the divine Christ Child,
Loud let us sing to [C7]greet His coming;
[F]He is born, the divine Christ Child,
Sound the pipes, let the [C7]trumpets [F]play.

1. [F]We have waited a [C7]thousand [F]years
Since the prophets’ [C7]first foretelling;
[F]We have waited a [C7]thousand [F]years,
Hail, our new-born [C7]Lord this day. [CHORUS]

2. [F]How the light a[C7]bout Him [F]shines,
round this perfect [C7]child of heaven!
[F]How the light a[C7]bout Him [F]shines,
Sweetly casting [C7]fear away. [CHORUS]

3. [F]Starlit is His [C7]humble [F]crib,
Ox and ass be[C7]side Him sleeping;
[F]Starlit is His [C7]humble [F]crib,
See His throne, a [C7]bed of hay. [CHORUS]


What [Dm]child is this, who, [C]laid to rest,
On [Dm]Mary’s lap is [A7]sleeping?
Whom [Dm]angels greet with [C]anthems sweet
While [Dm]shepherds [A7]watch are [Dm]keeping?
[F]This, this is [C]Christ the king,
Whom [Dm]shepherds guard and [A7]angels sing;
[F]Haste, haste to [C]bring him laud,
The [Dm]Babe, the [A7]Son of [Dm]Mary!

So [Dm]bring him incense, [C]gold, and myrrh;
Come, [Dm]peasant, king, to [A7]own him.
The [Dm]King of kings sal[C]vation brings;
Let [Dm]loving [A7]hearts en[Dm]throne him.
[F]Raise, raise the [C]song on high,
The [Dm]virgin sings her [A7]lullaby;
[F]Joy, joy, for [C]Christ is born,
The [Dm]Babe, the [A7]Son of [Dm]Mary!


O [F]Christmas Tree, [C7]O [F]Christmas [Dm]Tree,
How [C7]steadfast are your [F]branches! :||
Your [F]boughs are green in [C7]summer’s clime
And through the snows of [F]wintertime.
O [F]Christmas Tree, [C7]O [F]Christmas [Dm]Tree,
How [C7]steadfast are your [F]branches!

O [F]Christmas Tree, [C7]O [F]Christmas [Dm]Tree,
What [C7]happiness be[F]falls me! :||
When [F]oft you’ve given [C7]us delight
In brightly shining [F]Christmas light!
O [F]Christmas Tree, [C7]O [F]Christmas [Dm]Tree,
What [C7]happiness be[F]falls me!

O [F]Christmas Tree, [C7]O [F]Christmas [Dm]Tree,
Your [C7]boughs have truly [F]taught me; :||
That [F]hope and love will [C7]ever be
The way to joy and [F]peace for me.
O [F]Christmas Tree, [C7]O [F]Christmas [Dm]Tree,
Your [C7]boughs have truly [F]taught me.


[G]Go, tell it on the mountain
[D]Over the hills and [G]every[C]where
[G]Go, tell it on the mountain
[C6]That [G]Jesus [D7]Christ is [G]born.

1. While [G]shepherds [C]kept their [G]watching
O’er [D7]silent flocks by [G]night,
Be[G]hold through[C]out the [G]heavens
There [D]shone a [C]holy [D]light. [D7] [CHORUS]

2. The [G]shepherds [C]feared and [G]trembled
When [D7]lo above the [G]earth
Rang [G]out the [C]angel [G]CHORUS
That [D]hailed our [C]Savior’s [D]birth; [D7] [CHORUS]

3. Down [G]in a [C]lowly [G]manger
The [D7]humble Christ was [G]born;
And [G]God sent [C]out sal[G]vation
That [D]blessed [C]Christmas [D]morn. [D7] [CHORUS]


I [F]saw three [C7]ships come [F]sailing [C7]in
On [F]Christmas Day, on [C7]Christmas Day;
I [F]saw three [C7]ships come [F]sailing [C7]in
On [F]Christmas Day in the [C7]morn[F]ing.

And [F]what was [C7]in those [F]ships all [C7]three,
On [F]Christmas Day, on [C7]Christmas Day?
And [F]what was [C7]in those [F]ships all [C7]three,
On [F]Christmas Day in the [C7]morn[F]ing?

Our [F]Saviour [C7]Christ and [F]His la[C7]dy,
On [F]Christmas Day, on [C7]Christmas Day;
Our [F]Saviour [C7]Christ and [F]His la[C7]dy,
On [F]Christmas Day in the [C7]morn[F]ing.

And [F]all the [C7]bells on [C7]earth shall [F]ring,
On [F]Christmas Day, on [C7]Christmas Day;
And [F]all the [C7]bells on [F]earth shall [C7]ring,
On [F]Christmas Day in the [C7]morn[F]ing.

And [F]all the [C7]Angels in [F]Heaven shall [C7]sing,
On [F]Christmas Day, on [C7]Christmas Day;
And [F]all the [C7]Angels in [F]Heaven shall [C7]sing,
On [F]Christmas Day in the [C7]morn[F]ing.


Infant [G]holy, Infant [Am7]lowly,
Lying [G]crad[C]led [D7]in a [G]stall.
Oxen [G]lowing, little [Am7]knowing
That the [G]Babe [C]is [D7]Lord of [G]All.
Swift are [C]winging, [Am7]Angels [D7]singing,
Nowells [Em7]ringing, [Am7]Tidings [D7]bringing
That the [G]Babe [C]is [D7]Lord of [Em7]All,
[D7]That the [G]Babe [C]is [D7]Lord of [G]All.

Stars were [G]gleaming, shepherds [Am7]dreaming
And the [G]night [C]was [D7]dark and [G]chill.
Angels’ [G]story, manger [Am7]glory,
Shepherds [G]heard [C]it [D7]on the [G]hill.
Ah, that [C]singing! [Am7]Hear it [D7]ringing,
Earthward [Em7]winging, [Am7]Christmas [D7]bringing.
Hearken! [G]We [C]can [D7]hear it [Em7]still!
[D7]Hearken! [G]We [C]can [D7]hear it [G]still!

See the [G]clearness and the [Am7]nearness
Of the [G]bles[C]sed [D7]Christmas [G]star,
Leading, [G]guiding, wise men [Am7]riding
Through the [G]des[C]ert [D7]dark and [G]far.
Lovely [C]showing, [Am7]shining [D7]growing,
Onward [Em7]going, [Am7]gleaming [D7]glowing,
Leading [G]still, [C]our [D7]Christmas [Em7]Star.
[D7]Leading [G]still, [C]our [D7]Christmas [G]Star.


[F]Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open [Bbadd9]sleigh
O’er the hills we [C]go
Laughing all the [F]way.
Bells on bobtail ring
Making spirits [Bbadd9]bright.
What fun it is to [C]ride and sing
A sleighing song to[F]night. [C7]Oh!
[F]Jingle bells jingle bells
Jingle all the way!
[Bbadd9]Oh, what fun it [F]is to ride
In a [G7]one horse open [Cadd9]sleigh!
[F]Jingle bells jingle bells
Jingle all the way!
[Bbadd9]Oh, what fun it [F]is to ride
In a [C7]one horse open [F]sleigh!

[G]Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open [C]sleigh
O’er the hills we [D7]go
Laughing all the [G]way.
Bells on bobtail ring
Making spirits [C]bright.
What fun it is to [D7]ride and sing
A sleighing song to[G]night. [D7]Oh!
[G]Jingle bells jingle bells
Jingle all the way!
[C]Oh, what fun it [G]is to ride
In a [A7]one horse open [D7]sleigh!
[G]Jingle bells jingle bells
Jingle all the way!
[C]Oh, what fun it [G]is to ride
In a [D7]one horse open [G]sleigh!


[F]Jolly old St. [C]Nicholas,
[Bbadd9]Lean your ear this [Dm7]way!
[Bbadd9]Don’t you tell a [F]single soul
[C]What I’m going to say.
[F]Christmas Eve is [C]coming soon!
[Bbadd9]Now, you dear old [Dm7]man.
[Bbadd9]Whisper what you’ll [F]bring to me;
[C]Tell me if you [F]can.

[F]When the clock is [C]striking twelve.
[Bbadd9]When I’m fast a[Dm7]sleep,
[Bbadd9]Down the chimney [F]broad and black,
[C]With your pack you’ll creep.
[F]All the stockings [C]you will find
[Bbadd9]Hanging in a [Dm7]row;
[Bbadd9]Mine will be the [F]shortest one,
[C]You’ll be sure to [F]know.

[F]Johnny wants a [C]pair of skates.
[Bbadd9]Susy wants a [Dm7]sled,
[Bbadd9]Nelly wants a [F]picture book;
[C]Yellow, blue and red;
[F]Now I think I’ll [C]leave to you
[Bbadd9]What to give the [Dm7]rest;
[Bbadd9]Choose for me, dear [F]Santa Claus,
[C]You will know the [F]best.


[Dm]Willie, take your little drum,
With your whistle, Robin, [A7]come.
When we hear the fife and [Dm]drum,
Turelurelu, [A7]patapatapan;
When we hear the fife and [Dm]drum:
Make your Christ mas [A7]frolic[Dm]some!

[Dm]Thus the men of olden days
Loved the King of Kings to [A7]praise;
When we hear the fife and [Dm]drum,
Turelurelu, [A7]patapatapan;
When we hear the fife and [Dm]drum:
Let your joyful [A7]voices [Dm]hum!

[Dm]God and man are now become
More at one than fife and [A7]drum;
Listen to this fife and [Dm]drum,
Turelurelu, [A7]patapatapan;
Listen to this fife and [Dm]drum,
And you never [A7]will suc[Dm]cumb!


[C]What shall we [G7]give to the [C]Son of our [G7]Mary?
[C]What can we [G7]give that the [C]Child will en[G7]joy?
[C]First, we shall give Him a [G7]tray full of [C]raisins,
Then we shall offer sweet [G7]figs to the [C]Boy.
Tampatamta, give a [G7]tray full of [C]raisins,
Tampatamta, and sweet [G7]figs to the [C]Boy.

[C]What can we [G7]give the Be[C]loved of [G7]Mary?
[C]What can we [G7]give to her [C]beautiful [G7]Child?
[C]Raisins and olives and [G7]nutmeats and [C]honey,
Candy and figs and some [G7]cheese that is [C]mild.
Tampatamta, olives, [G7]nutmeats and [C]honey,
Tampatamta, and some [G7]cheese that is [C]mild.

[C]What can we [G7]sing Him? A [C]song of sweet [G7]beauty?
[C]What if we [G7]sing as those [C]angels a[G7]bove?
[C]”Peace and goodwill to the [G7]sons of the [C]morning,
Glory and praise to the [G7]Author of [C]Love.”
Tampatamta, all ye [G7]sons of the [C]morning,
Tampatamta, praise the [G7]Author of [C]Love.


If [F]anybody asks you who I am,
[Bb7]who I am, [F]who I am,
If anybody asks you who I am,
[Bb7]Tell him I’m a child of [F]God.

The [F]little cradle rocks tonight in glory,
[Bb7]in glory, [F]in glory,
The little cradle rocks tonight in glory,
[Bb7]Christ child born in [F]glory!

[F]Peace on earth, Mary rock the cradle,
[Bb7]Rock the cradle, [F]rock the cradle,
Peace on earth, Mary rock the cradle,
[Bb7]Christ child born in [F]glory! [CHORUS]

The [F]Christ child’s passing, singing softly,
[Bb7]Singing softly, [F]singing softly,
The Christ child’s passing, singing softly,
[Bb7]Christ child born in [F]glory! [CHORUS]

If [F]anybody asks you who you are,
[Bb7]who you are, [F]who you are,
If anybody asks you who you are,
[Bb7]Tell him you’re a child of [F]God.


[C]Silent night! Holy night!
[G7]All is calm, [C]all is bright,
[F]Round yon Virgin [C]Mother and Child!
[F]Holy Infant, so [C]tender and mild,
[G7]Sleep in heavenly [C]peace!
Sleep in [G7]heavenly [C]peace!

[C]Silent night! Holy night!
[G7]Shepherds quake [C]at the sight!
[F]Glories stream from [C]heaven afar,
[F]Heav’nly Hosts sing [C]Alleluia!
[G7]Christ, the Savior is [C]born!
Christ, the [G7]Savior is [C]born!

[C]Silent night! Holy night!
[G7]Son of God, [C]love’s pure light;
[F]Radiant beams from [C]Thy Holy Face,
[F]With the dawn of re[C]deeming grace,
[G7]Jesus, Lord, at Thy [C]Birth!
Jesus, [G7]Lord, at Thy [C]Birth!

Graph paper and the ukulele, it seems like such a simple idea, but…

Graph paper and the ukulele, it seems like such a simple idea, but I’ve never seen anyone use it before now (and I’ve seen a lot of ukulele ideas, tips and tricks). This idea comes from Patrycja Kozak, a member of the Ukulele Players (Uke Players) group on Facebook (shared with permission). She uses a graph paper notebook as her “song / chord / tip book,” and once you see it, you realize the perfect suitability of graph paper for this kind of notebook:

19275241_1957544054478447_3138238292150080779_n 19146179_1957544181145101_6111370444494042573_n 19113804_1957544177811768_3352115695060266552_n

As you can see, the graph paper provides a perfect template for chord diagrams, and still allows you to write notes on the grid as if you were using lined paper. Thanks Patrycja for sharing!

Blue Skies Sing-along Video with Chords & Lyrics

“[Blue Skies] was composed in 1926 as a last-minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy… [It] was an instant success, with audiences on opening night demanding 24 encores of the piece…” ~Wikipedia

There are a boatload of chords in this song and some unusual progressions that come off as fresh but not weird (might be why it has stood the test of time so well – I particularly like the Cadd9 followed by the Daug). Here are the chords and their frettings:

[G 0232] [G7 0212] [C6 0000] [C7 0001] [Gsus4 0233] [Bm 4222] [F# 3121] [F#7 3424] [D7 2223] [B7 2322] [Em 0432] [Baug 0332] [C#m7b5 0102] [Cadd9 0005] [Daug 3225] [Bb7 1211] [Cm7 3333] [Cm 0333] [Eb7 3334]

Reading the above fret number chord diagrams for standard ukulele gCEA tuning:
1st digit = g string fret number
2nd digit = C string
3rd digit = E string fret number
4th digit = A string fret number

Blue Skies by Irving Berlin


[G]I was [G7]blue, just as
[C6]blue as [C7]I could [G]be [Gsus4] [G]
[G]Ev’ry [G7]day was a
[C6]cloudy [C7]day for [G]me [Gsus4] [G]
[Bm]Then good [F#]luck came a
[F#7]knocking at my [Bm]door [D7]
[G]Skies were [G7]gray, but they’re
[C6]not gray [C7]any[G]more [B7]

[Em]Blue skies [Baug] smiling at [G]me
[C#m7b5] Nothing but [G]blue skies [Cadd9]
[Daug]do I [G]see [B7]
[Em]Bluebirds [Baug] singing a [G]song
[C#m7b5] Nothing but [G]bluebirds [Cadd9]
[Daug] all day [G]long

[G]Never saw the [Bb7]sun
[Cm7]shining so [G]bright
[Cm]Never saw [G]things
[Eb7]going [D7]so [G]right
[G]Noticing the [Bb7]days
[Cm7]hurrying [G]by
[Cm]When your in [G]love
[Eb7]my how [D7]they [G]fly [B7]

[Em]Blue days [Baug] all of them [G]gone
[C#m7b5] Nothing but [G]blue skies [Cadd9]
[Daug] from now [G]on [Gsus4] [G]

For Educational Purposes Only

Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Fats Waller Cover) w/ Lyrics & Chords

AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (Fats Waller Cover)
Posted for educational purposes only.

Chords in this song: C 0003, C#dim7 0101, Dm 2210, G 0232, C7 0001, F 2010, Fm 1013, Am 2000, G7 0212, E7 1202, A7 0100 & D7 2223

Reading the above fret number chord diagrams for standard ukulele gCEA tuning:
1st digit = g string fret number
2nd digit = C string
3rd digit = E string fret number
4th digit = A string fret number

[C] No one to [C#dim7]walk with
[Dm] All by my[G]self
[C] No one to [C7]talk with
But [F]I’m happy [Fm]on the shelf
[C] Ain’t misbe[Am]havin’
[Dm]I’m savin’ [G7]my love for
[E7]you [A7] [D7] [G7]

[C] I know for [C#dim7]certain
[Dm] The one I [G]love
[C] I’m through with [C7]flirtin’
It’s [F]just you I’m [Fm]thinkin’ of
[C] Ain’t misbe[Am]havin’
[Dm]I’m savin’ [G7]my love for
[C]you [Fm] [C] [E7]

[Am] Like Jack Horner
[F] In the corner
[Am] Don’t go nowhere
[A7] What do I care?
[G] Your kisses [Am]are worth
[D7]waitin’ [G7]for
[A7]Be[D7]lieve [G7]me

[C] I don’t stay [C#dim7]out late
[Dm] Don’t care to [G]go
[C] I’m home a[C7]bout eight
Just [F]me and my [Fm]radio
[C] Ain’t mis[Am]behavin’
[Dm ]I’m savin’ [G7]my love for
[C]you [Fm] [C]

Home Host Ukulele Bootcamp for your Town and Get Ukulele Gear

Uke 'N Play 3x7 - PinterestI’m touring along the Wasatch this Summer in the months of July and August 2017 and I’d love to bring a ukulele experience to your town. I get a place to teach; you bring ukulele joy to friends and family while earning some ukulele swag:

  • Offer your home (or other space) with room to seat 15-20 people : get free attendance for yourself or a loved one.
  • Help find the minimum 4 additional attendees by inviting your friends : get a free 2-Chord Camp Songs book.
  • Help find 8 attendees : get the book and a free chromatic tuner.
  • Help find 15 attendees : get the book, tuner and a free Eddy Finn Minnow Ukulele.

Details on Camps:

  • Bootcamps are 2.5 hours in length and cover all the basics to get you started on the ukulele, including tuning, your first four chords, ten songs, the c-scale and much more.
  • Cost per attendee is fifty-five dollars for traveling bootcamps. Ukuleles, tuners, straps and books are available at an additional cost.
  • Available dates include Friday mornings, afternoons or evenings in July or August as well as the following Saturday mornings: July 1, 8, 22, 29, August 12, 19 & 26.
  • Camps will travel to cities along the I-15 corridor from Bountiful to Nephi (will travel farther for larger groups – or with a travel stipend).

How to Book a Bootcamp:

  • Send a photo or description of your space to hold the bootcamp in, along with dates that would work for you to
  • Once we agree on a date and time, I’ll send a sign up link and five-dollar off coupon code you can send to your friends (when folk use the coupon I’ll know you sent them to the form).

An ‘About the Teacher’ You Can Copy and Share:

  • M. Ryan Taylor has helped hundreds upon hundreds of folk get their start on the ukulele. In addition to teaching ukulele camps for the Timpanogos Arts Foundation, Orem SCERA and the Spanish Fork Youth Arts Festival, Ryan is the organizer of The Original Utah Uke Fest (since 2012) and director of the Ukulele Youth Choir of the American Fork Children’s Choir as well as UFO HUM (Ukes for Others: Happy Ukulele Movement), an adult ukulele service group that performs regularly across the Wasatch Front. Over his years of teaching bootcamps, Ryan has refined a fast-paced and fun learning experience for those wanting to get going with the ukulele.

I Want Uke! Tee

I Want Uke on TeeChipI Want Uke T-shirt. New!

Uncle Sam invites Uke to show your true colors. Pick your color and get your shirt here: for just $18.

Sizes Small-6X in a variety of cool and warm colors.

July 4th will be here before you know it. Order yours now and be prepared. :-)

Cry Out, Cry Out : a new song

If you’ve been reading the blog lately, you’ll know I’ve been working on memorization. I started work on this song a couple weeks ago and wanted to get this out for Palm Sunday and just barely made it (lyrics and chords below the video – twitter me covers @mryantaylor – just 4 chords!). Hope you have a lovely Easter week. YouTube at and audio at (for sharing). Hope you enjoy it!

Cry Out, Cry Out
Music & Lyrics by M. Ryan Taylor

{Verse 1}
I was [C]born to this [Am]world by blood and [F]water, [C]
Yet the [C7]world turned my [F]heart into a stone, [Am]
In the [C]darkness I [Am]called on my Re[F]deemer, [C]
Where the rock once op[Am]pressed me a new [F]heart has grown. [C]

[C]Cry out, cry out, lift your [F]palms to the [C]sky,
Cry out, cry [C7]out, sing and [F]let your voice [C]fly!
The Kingdom is [Am]coming on the [F]wings of a [C]Dove,
Cry out, cry [C7]out, sing the [F]praise of His [C]love.

{Verse 2}
Hear Him [C]calling these [Am]stones to be his [F]children, [C]
See the [C7]wonder of [F]what they will become, [Am]
Feel the [C]cool of the [Am]Fount of Living [F]Water [C]
As they shout and sing [Am]praises to the [F]Holy One. [C]


{Verse 3}
Come and [C]lift up your [Am]praise, ye broken [F]hearted, [C]
Come and [C7]lift up your [F]sorrows to your King, [Am]
Ev’ry [C]sorrow He [Am]turns to hymns of [F]gladness, [C]
Lay them down at His [Am]feet and feel the [F]music ring. [C]

Copyright © 2017 M. Ryan Taylor | Vocal Works Publishing


Memorizing Songs : a compendium of ideas for building your set list

Music-brainLast spring I set out to memorize a half hour set of original songs to perform at an outdoor concert in just a few weeks. I was rewarded with a successful performance (for the most part), and was all ready to make a habit of regularly memorizing new music, but then life happened . . . a summer full of performances with my ukulele ensemble, another Original Utah Uke Fest to organize, music to prepare for the fall season for my children’s choirs, then our house was flooded and by the time we got that all fixed up it was Christmas and time to prepare music for the next semester.

So, here I am, a year later and ready to take another shot with a goal to memorize two songs a week (four down already). I’d love to increase that number, so I’ve been poking around online to collect tips on memorizing faster with better retention. Below are my summary notes from a number of articles; please visit the originating articles for more in-depth information on the techniques.

The Techniques

Singer’s Secret talks specifically about lyrics in this article:

  • Listen and copy the phrases of the song, using a reference recording and a minus track as your tools.
  • Slow down and make sure you understand what you are singing about.
  • Write the lyric down yourself, by hand. Note: I know this works. It’s so tempting to just copy and paste off a website (guilty as charged), but the act of writing the lyric out long-hand helps me embed the song in my memory.

Pamelia Phillips offers another lyric suggestion:

  • Turn your lyric into a monologue, “If you keep forgetting the words, speak through the text quickly until you no longer stumble on the words. You can also use key words in phrases to help you remember what comes next. Create a system to help you remember the order of each phrase’s key word. Just knowing whether the list has some common characteristics can help you remember key words to get to the next phrase.”

Tennyson Williams has a five-point method that starts with breaking the song down into bite-size chunks (this is basically what I did last year with my half-hour set):

  1. Isolate and memorize one phrase of the song.
  2. Work on the phrasing for this section until you’re satisfied with it musically.
  3. Repeat the above with the next phrase.
  4. Practice the transitions between phrases.
  5. Rehearse the song as a whole.

StringKick makes a strong argument for rehearsing a song from end to beginning as a more efficient way to memorize a song, claiming that practicing with the end in mind can cut your memorization time down by half and be more fun and motivating: “with the backwards strategy, things get easier and easier as you go along. It’s like rolling down hill.”

Jazz saxophonist Bob Reynolds uses a Trello-like system on a white board to learn 20+ songs in a week (he definitely got my attention with this article). He also is an advocate of transcribing the song into your head, rather than onto a sheet of paper using looping software. This Kanban-style project approach involves:

  • A white board
  • Painter’s tape
  • Different colored sticky notes (to ‘triage’ the songs into different categories)

The SonicBids blog offers a 4-step process that includes:

  1. Mapping the structure of the song
  2. Practicing one section at a time (paying particular attention to transitions)
  3. Running through the song with a recording
  4. Running the song without the recording (no safety net)

Aside from a few paragraphs about why you should be memorizing your songs, Hub Guitar offers these suggestions:

  • Divide and conquer : breaking it down into bite-sized pieces means you’ll have a strong middle, not just a strong beginning and ending.
  • Experiment with different methods of memorization and ditch the ones that don’t work for you.
  • Do small gigs to put yourself to the test.
  • Be choosy about what you memorize as it takes effort to do it. Only memorize what you love or what you need to for professional reasons.
  • Review: rotating your songs so they can be played in any order. Three different ideas on how to review your songs based on your goals.

Dorit on Guitar World suggests “the best way to start memorizing a song you didn’t write is to listen to it as much as possible.” I know that sounds like common sense, but as someone brought up on sheet music, I can say that for some of us it is not so common. Other suggestions include:

  • Memorizing the lyrics as a monologue, without the rhythms of the song.
  • Write out the chord progressions on their own and practice them separately.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Begin with the end.

GuitarHabits posts a list of ten ways to help memorize lyrics (visit the site if some of these feel cryptic to you):

  1. Go into detail with your analysis of the lyrics.
  2. Let the feelings of the song become part of you.
  3. Write down the song repeatedly.
  4. Visualize the song.
  5. Learn the lyrics separately from the melody (monologue it).
  6. Use karaoke to your advantage.
  7. Repeat the words in short phrases.
  8. Go slowly.
  9. Sing yourself to sleep.
  10. Create a list.

WikiHow also has a number of suggestions on how to memorize a song:

  • Listen to the song repeatedly
  • Read/study the lyrics
  • Map out the song
  • Learn the melody
  • Analyze the lyrics in more depth
  • Study the song in sections
  • Create memory aids to help you sing the song back. Among the flashcard ideas, this one struck me as one that I might enjoy, “If you want to challenge yourself to come up with all of the words on your own, try drawing pictures on the flashcards that depict specific sections of the song to help you remember the lyrics.”
  • Sing with a recording
  • Sing without a recording

Off Beat Band blogs on how to memorize songs (this is one of my favorites as it offers some ideas not seen elsewhere and tells a good story as well):

  • Be correct (don’t learn the song wrong).
  • Use mnemonics and emotional triggers to remember lyrics.
  • Practice the harder parts more often.
  • Stop after you can play the song through and wait until tomorrow to review it.
  • Review regularly, but don’t play a song 100 times in a day (counterproductive).
  • Make a list of songs you’ve memorized. Review one time a day, no more. Correct any parts that gave you problems and move on.
  • Don’t use crutches (lyric sheets, tabs, sheet music, fake books, etc.).
  • Try using Spaced Repetition Software, like Anki, to review songs.


Although there is quite a bit of overlap, there are some unique ideas that I’d like to give a go. I’ve already downloaded Anki and plan to try it out. I also liked the article that highlighted a Trello-like white board. Creating some visual aids could be fun as well, but might be too time-consuming for my schedule. It was interesting to learn that practicing in reverse order may actually save time. Something most of the authors agree on is to break it down into small chunks which I believe is sound advice.

Hope you enjoy this survey of articles and find something helpful in your memorization efforts. If you have additional ideas, please leave a comment. :-)

An exciting innovation for beginners . . . check out the Populele

Populele = a very cool idea, LEDs in the fretboard teach chord shapes, etc. . . .

The Beauties of a Lyric Sheet w/Chords : Ex. What a Wonderful World

As someone that grew up in a very ‘classical’ family (meaning my dad was a band director and we had lots of traditional sheet music available to us all the time, piano lessons from an early age and the expectation that we would choose an additional instrument well before entering high school), winning me over to the beauties of a simple lyric sheet with chords took quite a long time. I still believe traditional notation is important and it would be great if everyone learned how to ‘read’ music, as it is such a big part of our lives, but a lyric sheet with chords also has some distinct advantages:

  • If you already know a melody, there’s really no point of having it notated if it is already in your brain.
  • Lyric/chord sheets are easy to create/edit in a simple word processor or even on a sheet of paper, allowing you to make quick changes to reflect your interpretation of the song.
  • May eliminate page turns.
  • Simplifying the bare bones ‘lead sheet’ (that has a melody notated in addition to lyrics and chords) may help facilitate memorization for singers who are accompanying themselves (like myself).

What a Wonderful WorldOn this last point, take a moment to look at a traditional lead sheet of What a Wonderful World from Sheet Music Plus. There are THREE lines of information here:

  1. The lyrics
  2. The melody above the lyrics
  3. The chords above the melody

This is awesome if you don’t know the song, because you can learn a basic sketch of it from this information. However, it is lousy at forming a mental picture of the song in your mind because you’re trying to deal with 3 separate lines of info (trying to read left/right and up/down at the same time). By getting rid of the melody (which hopefully, we already know) and condensing the chords and lyrics of the song to a single line, we make it easier to memorize the chord patterns in the song. For example, as you look at the first lines of each of the verses of this song, the chord pattern and the one place it deviates (an A7* before the third verse) become really obvious and easy to commit to memory:

What A Wonderful World
By George David Weiss and Bob Thiele

I see [D]trees of [F#m]green, [G]red roses [F#m]too
[Em7] I see them [D]bloom for [F#7]me and for [Bm7]you
And I [Bb]think to myself [Em7] what a [A7]wonderful [D]world [Bm7] [Gmaj7] [A7]

I see [D]skies of [F#m]blue and [G]clouds of [F#m]white
[Em7] The bright blessed [D]day, and the [F#7]dark sacred [Bm7]night
And I [Bb]think to myself [Em7] what a [A7]wonderful [D]world [G] [G] [D]

The [A7]colors of the rainbow so [D]pretty in the sky
Are [A7]also on the faces of [D]people going by
I see [Bm7]friends shaking [F#m]hands saying [Bm7]how do you [F#m]do
[Em7]They’re really [F#dim7]saying [Em7]I [F#dim7]love [Em7]you

[A7]I hear [D]babies [F#m]cry, [G] I watch them [F#m]grow
[Em7] They’ll learn much [D]more than [F#7]I’ll ever [Bm7]know
And I [Bb]think to myself [Em7] what a [A7]wonderful [D]world [Fdim 2020] [B7]
Yes I [Em7]think to myself [A7] what a [C#dim7]wonderful [D]world [G6] [Gm6] [D]

In this version, I was also able to quickly fix errors the original transcriber made in both lyrics and chords, change the key, substitute some jazzier chords, and note that an Fdim (without a 7) is fingered 2020 on the ukulele fretboard.

That said, traditional lead sheets and full scores still play an important role in musical learning, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. :-)

*Of course, another way of looking at the A7 is that it really belongs to the end of the bridge section, in which case it should be moved to the end of ‘I love you’ in the previous line. If you think of it this way, all three first lines of the verses have an identical pattern.