Today I’m here to talk about the best ukulele songs ever! As with any type of music, it can be hard to sift through all the songs that have been played on the ukulele and written for the ukulele. These are the 10 best according to me, judged by overall sound, technique, cultural impact, and popularity.

I’m Ryan Burns, a ukulele player and songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. I’ve been playing and teaching ukulele for the last 10 years. I have a degree in Ethnomusicology from the University of Illinois and have studied at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Quick Look: Best Ukulele Songs of All Time

#1 Best Ukulele Song Overall: Somewhere Over the Rainbow 


So, sit back and take a look at all of these great ukulele songs from many different genres, eras, and styles of music. I hope you enjoy it!

What Makes a Great Ukulele Song?

There are many different ways to classify what a great ukulele song is. One way of choosing is based solely on how great the playing is and how technically proficient you need to be to play it. There are certainly some songs on the list from that category.

ukulele specialty

On the other hand, another way you could categorize these songs is by how popular and culturally relevant they are. Many of these songs became a solid part of the popular consciousness and made the ukulele instantly recognizable when you hear the first notes.

Types of Ukulele Music

The ukulele is a Hawaiian instrument with Portuguese roots. It has been used in countless types of music. In the last century, it has been used in genres from traditional Hawaiian music to modern pop.

Traditional Hawaiian

The first place where the ukulele was used was in traditional Hawaiian songs. This music is a fantastic sounding relic of a rich cultural heritage, which uses many strumming and picking techniques reminiscent of Portuguese Fado music.


The ukulele became very popular in the early 20th century in America for acts in Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley. Although many of the songs in this genre are a bit campy, there were many talented and virtuosic musicians known for their playing in that era.


Throughout the rest of the 20th-century, artists in pop, folk, and rock music continued to use the ukulele to create gentle sounding songs in contrast to harsher guitar-based songs. Many popular singer-songwriters use the ukulele very prominently, such as Jason Mraz and Ingrid Michaelson.


For classical music, the ukulele is often used similarly to a classical guitar. Both are nylon string-based instruments, so the technique is roughly the same despite differences in size.

Cover Songs

One of the most popular uses for ukulele is as a vehicle for playing cover songs. Countless artists and YouTube musicians have recorded covers of famous songs on the ukulele due to its intriguing and gentle sound that fits perfectly with many voices.

10 Best Ukulele Songs

As I said, this is in no way a complete list. How could anybody narrow down any type of music to just 10 songs? But, these are 10 of what I find to be the best and most important ukulele songs of all time.

1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Music type: Pop cover
  • Artist: Israel Kamakawilo’ole
  • Year released: 1939 (original), 1990 (cover)

Somewhere Over The Rainbow is one of the most iconic ukulele songs of all time. It was originally recorded in one take in 30 minutes at 3 AM in a Hawaiian recording studio. Israel Kamakawilo’ole was unknown at the time, but ten years later, the song caught fire and he gained international fame.

The song itself is notable for its simple but driving ukulele part and playful approach to the lyrics and structure of the original song. It’s an incredibly fun song to play and sing along with, and it’s instantly catchy and recognizable.

2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Music type: Rock cover
  • Artist: Jake Shimabukuro
  • Year released: 1968 (original), 2006 (cover)

While My Guitar Gently Weeps is an iconic song that really put Jake Shimabukuro, the Japanese-American ukulele virtuoso, on the map. It was originally only a YouTube video shot in Central Park in NYC, but it led to recordings, appearances, and tours worldwide.

In his video, you get a sense of what kind of talent Jake brings to the ukulele. He combines fingerpicking, advanced Fado style strumming, complex chords, and melodies. It elevated an already great song to another level.

3. Aloha Oe

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Music type: Traditional Hawaiian
  • Artist: Queen Lili’uokalani
  • Year released: 1878

Before it was annexed by the United States, Hawaii was a sovereign nation, and the ruler was Queen Lili’uokalani. She was also an avid musician, poet, and songwriter, and she wrote and performed one of the most iconic songs in Hawaiian culture, Aloha Oe.

The song itself is a simple folk song in the Hawaiian language. Easy strumming patterns and chords make this a great song to learn as a beginner. Not only is it fun and easy to play, but it’s also a great introduction to learning more about the ukulele and Hawaiian culture.

4. Riptide

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Music type: Pop
  • Artist: Vance Joy
  • Year released: 2013

One of the catchiest and instantly recognizable pop songs of the last decade, Vance Joy’s Riptide is an undeniable earworm. Vance Joy is an Australian musician (and former Australian rules football player) with a great sense for melodies and voice.

Riptide is for the most part a fairly easy three-chord song with a basic strumming pattern, although there are certain sections that you can add touches to make it fun and interesting to play. Add to that the soaring falsetto vocal melodies, and it makes for a great song.

5. Tonight You Belong to Me

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Music type: Early jazz
  • Artist: Multiple (written: Billy Rose and Lee David; performed: Gene Austin, Patience and Prudence, Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters)
  • Year released: 1928

As with many ukulele songs, Tonight You Belong to Me has a long and interesting history. Originally written and performed in 1928 for various crooners including Gene Austin and later Patience and Prudence, it was later played on ukulele and brought to new popularity in the movie The Jerk.

The song has many interesting twists and turns on the ukulele, which accentuate the melody with several different shifting strumming patterns. On top of that, the whimsical harmony lines make this a wonderful song to sing as a duet.

6. I’m Yours

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Music type: Pop
  • Artist: Jason Mraz
  • Year released: 2008

I’m Yours is another instant earworm that really took the pop music world by storm when Jason Mraz first debuted it. With its fast syncopated lyrics and laid-back beach bum vibes, it instantly draws you in with its first little ukulele lick.

This is always one of the first songs I teach my ukulele students because the majority of it is just four chords and a simple strumming pattern. But, as you look closer, there are lots of extra touches you can add. Singing this one at the same time takes a bit more work because of the rapid-fire lyrics.

7. Bohemian Rhapsody

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Music type: Rock cover
  • Artist: Queen (original), Jake Shimabukuro (cover)
  • Year released: 1979 (original), 2011 (cover)

Here’s another unbelievably virtuosic performance by Jake Shimabukuro, who seems to be able to take any song and make it into an instant classic. Of course, the original version of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen is iconic in its own right, too.

Once again, Jake combines complex strumming and picking patterns and utilizes the entire ukulele to create a sound that seems to transcend the small instrument into a almost full band. It’s not for the faint of heart, but endlessly worth the listen.

8. House of Gold

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Music type: Pop/rock
  • Artist: 21 Pilots
  • Year released: 2013

2013 was a good year for ukulele-infused pop and rock music. The same year as Riptide from Vance Joy came out, so did House of Gold by 21 Pilots. This song is a bit of a departure from their other rap and electronic-infused rock music, but is an absolute gem of a tune.

Despite a few tricky chords, a key change, and some vocal jumps, House of Gold is a pretty approachable song to play. Most of it is one strumming pattern and only a couple of tougher chords. It’s another favorite to teach and to play.

9. Dream a Little Dream of Me

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Music type: Pop
  • Artist: Written: Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwartz, performed: Mama Cass
  • Year released: 1931 (written), 1968 (performed by Mama Cass)

Like many of the great ukulele songs, Dream a Little Dream of Me is a song from the classic American standards songbook that was updated later by using the ukulele. The version in the video below featuring Mama Cass is my favorite by far. It features wonderful fingerpicking on the ukulele.

Though it can be played with strumming, I particularly like playing this song with a languid fingerpicking style to accompany the warm vocal lines. With some fun and interesting chord changes, this is a really fun song to play and sing no matter the instrument, and especially for the ukulele.

10. You & I

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Music type: Pop
  • Artist: Ingrid Michaelson
  • Year released: 2008

Again we have a repeat year, showing that every once in a while the ukulele draws the world of pop music into its gentle and enticing clutches. Ingrid Michaelson is known for her enchanting voice and often playful songs accompanied by the ukulele.

You & I is another great song to sing as a duet with harmonies coming in near the end of the song. The ukulele part is not too hard to play, but paired with the melody line makes for a really wonderful song to play on any occasion.

Best Ukulele Players

The best ukulele players of all time draw from many eras and genres. There are three that I think have a combination of technique, authenticity, and popularity that help them rise above the rest.


Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Also known as “Izzy” or “IZ,” he was one of the most popular and beloved musicians of his generation in Hawaii. Not only was he a great player with a fantastic and clear voice, but he was a fighter for Hawaiian native rights and brought Hawaiian music to mainland America.

Jake Shimabukuro

Shimabukuro is a Japanese-American ukulele player and composer who is by far one of the best ukulele players and instrumentalists of any instrument in the world. His virtuosic covers of While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Bohemian Rhapsody, among others, brought him international fame.

Cliff Edwards

Cliff Edwards was a musician from the early twentieth century, also known as “Ukulele Ike,” who was known for his jazzy rendition of standards and novelty songs. With his unique style and voice, he gained wide popularity in the 1920s and might be best known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket from Pinnochio.

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In Conclusion

The ukulele is a fantastic instrument with a rich heritage. It has enthralled generations with its sweet and enticing tones. Ukulele players have written and interpreted countless fantastic songs for this great instrument.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the best ukulele songs of all time and have agreed on some of these 10 songs and how important and great sounding they are. If you liked this, please read more about these players in my article about the best ukulele players of all time.

Feel free to comment below with questions, comments, or thoughts, and let us know about your favorite ukulele songs that didn’t make the list. Thanks again, and I hope you have a wonderful day!