2

Since the ukulele has only 4 strings, which is less than the guitar, does that mean that some pop songs are not able to be played on the ukulele?

  • 1
    In what way do you think it may not be possible? – Tim Nov 17 '18 at 16:02
7

Any song can be adapted to be played on any musical instrument.*

That having been said, some musical instruments have more limited abilities than others, and require more adaptations from the original. And it's a matter of opinion how far you can go adapting your song to a different instrument until it is no longer the same song.

As you mentioned, a ukulele can only play 4 tones at a time, compared to 6 on a guitar. In addition, a ukulele's strings are tuned to a higher pitch than a guitar's, which means that guitars can play lower notes than are possible on a ukulele. So if your question is whether there are pop songs with guitar parts that cannot be duplicated exactly on a ukulele, then yes, most guitar parts cannot be played exactly the same on a ukulele.

However, there are corresponding ukulele chords for most guitar chords. These chords do sound different on a ukulele than they do on a guitar, but can be played in a song and sound just fine.


* I'm sure someone could play Beethoven's 5th on a triangle (at least the rhythm), and a few people listening might even be able to name that tune.

  • "Any song can be adapted to be played on any musical instrument." Eh, I don't think so... You don't even think so yourself: "And it's a matter of opinion how far you can go adapting your song to a different instrument until it is no longer the same song" – Tim H Nov 19 '18 at 8:30
  • This is just not true. I have a native american flute which is tuned to a traditional scale and you really can't play european music on it at all. My daughter has a diatonic xylophone so she can't play anything in a minor key.Then there are pentatonic recorders, hang drums etc. – Bob Nov 19 '18 at 10:57
  • Yes, this answer is a bit of hyperbole. Yet, even though your daughter’s xylophone can’t play a minor key, she can adapt songs and play them in a major key. That was my point. A guitar can play some notes that a ukulele can’t, and yet you can still play any song you want, it just may need to be modified a bit. I can’t play chords on my recorder, but I can still play the melody of any pop song I want. – Ben Miller Nov 19 '18 at 12:29
  • If you play a minor song in a major key you're not playing the same song. – Bob Nov 20 '18 at 13:50
  • @Bob That's really a matter of opinion. Something that has become popular on Youtube is to perform songs in a minor key that were originally written in a major key. Chase Holfelder is one performer that has made a name for himself doing this, such as on The Star Spangled Banner. – Ben Miller Nov 21 '18 at 21:31
2

You can give a reasonably convincing version of just about any style of music on uke. Here's just two of my friends proving the point - Andy Eastwood with his rendition of 'William Tell' overture, and Mandi Harkett with her Opera-lele

http://www.andyeastwood.com/

https://iloveclassicalukulele.com/opera-lele/

Pop songs? No problem!

2

The big problem with converting guitar music to ukulele is the voicings that guitar uses. Any guitar chord van be voiced on ukulele. Some, however, are more difficult than others. Even extended chords like C13 can be accomplished on ukulele rather convincingly, but often the problem is how to connect these chords smoothly, with voice-leading and some chords being hard to invert on ukulele.

Ultimately, it comes down to how accurate you want to be with any arrangement of a song. It's unlikely that you'll be able to play the exact same chords as the original guitar, but that shouldn't mean the song is impossible to play. You'll never be able to perfectly recreate a pop song on any instrument. But that doesn't mean it's impossible to arrange it, you just have to be creative in how you make the sounds you hear using the restricted string set of an ukulele.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.