Eat My Uke

Fingerstyle Ukulele – 6 Easy Songs You Can Learn Right Now

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Sammy Turton, otherwise known as 4StringBoy online. He’s an exceptional ukulele player that immediately caught my attention with his intricate and interesting fingerstyle uke arrangements.

We share a remarkably similar taste in music so I thought it would be a great idea to get him on the site and deliver a guest post teaching you how to whack the strings just like he does. 

Sammy Turton 4STRINGBOY

Hello Sammy!

Sup kids! Let’s get into some fingerstyle ukulele with some of the greatest riffs ever to embrace the rock world. These 6 riffs have been handpicked by me and placed in order from easiest to hardest – all are achievable if you take it slow!

These are the songs we are learning to play

Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
Muse – Sunburn
Mumford & Sons – The Cave
Vampire Weekend – Campus
Radiohead – Street Spirt
Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun

Fingerstyle is all about a correct right-hand technique, and so I’m going to explain my take on it – every riff you see (apart from one) use this right-hand technique. If you choose to use a different technique then that’s absolutely fine, but I want to explain how I tackle it.

What's going On With the Right Hand?

I always use : Thumb – Thumb – Index – Middle on the right hand, which is my thumb for strings 4 & 3, index for string 2 and middle for string 1.

Some people close to play Thumb – Index – Middle – Ring. Which is a great technique but never been for me! See a little demo below of me demonstrating the technique:

Ready? Let’s f**king smash this!

Smashing Pumpkins Tonight Tonight

This riff is based around a G major shape, and that’s mostly it! To get that Em/C, put a G together and remove your index finger, and to play the Em we’re gonna be crazy (trust me) and keep your G chord, but add your pinky to the 4th fret on the 3rd string – you don’t have to remove your index finger either!

The right-hand technique is a great introduction to using each finger individually, so to start with just get the pattern comfortable on the first chord/bar and then start moving into the other chords.

You can check out my full arrangement here.

TABS

Correct Speed

Slower

Muse Sunburn

Now this riff is very similar to Tonight Tonight, the main difference being the tempo is much faster, and the chord shapes require some movement. I’m afraid there no shortcuts for the left hand, but just like the previous riff try to get the right-hand pattern down on the first bar (2 chords) and once comfortable, then move on. Again, start slow!

TABS

Sunburn - muse - ukulele tabs

Correct Speed

Slower

Mumford & Sons The Cave

Now then, this initially may look scary but it’s all about that right hand – the left-hand movements between a Fadd9 and Dm require very little movement, and the right-hand patterns are actually quite repetitive. I preach this daily but you must take things slowly when they are new – consistency and accuracy are key rather than speed, once you can it smoothly slowly, raising the tempo is an easy game!

If you’d like a full tutorial on this song, it is part of my ‘Stage 1 – The Basics’ online course.

TABS

the cave - mumford and sons - ukulele tabs

Correct Speed

Slower

Vampire Weekend Campus

Campus is a very clever riff, it essentially is a G major scale – and that’s it! The way we need to tackle this riff is very different, so let’s talk about the right hand first.

The right-hand technique requires our thumb to be glued to string 4, so that means the index finger will take over string 3 and string 2, with the middle sticking to string 1. That means you have one small hand movement as you move your index from string 3 to string 2, but it shouldn’t feel too strange.

Let’s talk about the left-hand technique. As this is a G major scale, the way that we should tackle scales on the ukulele is via a finger per fret technique – this means your index finger is always on the 7th fret, middle always on the 8th, ring always on the 9th, and pinky always on the 10th. If the stretch bothers you, try placing your thumb right behind the ukulele neck, with your thumb pointing towards the ceiling. This opens up your hand to enable more stretching!

After each initial fretted note, you’ll get an open 4th string with your thumb straight after, which turns Campus from a G major scale to an excellent riff.

You can check out my full arrangement here.

TABS

campus - vampire weekend - ukulele tabs

Correct Speed

Slower

Radiohead Street Spirit

This riff is a little more tricky on both hands – but again, taking it slow should mean you can get it down! Here we’re looking at the Chorus section of my arrangement of the song – this gives us a good finger exercise!

For the right-hand the technique is as I described at the start, so for the entire second line you will mainly just be using your index and middle fingers for plucking. This may be initially tough, but it is important to get these fingers as independent as possible.

On the left hand I use my pinky for the 7th fret, middle for the 5th, and index for the 3rd and 2nd fret. In every even number bar, we have a pull-off from the 2nd fret to open, so a nice strong index pull-off works for this.

You can check out my full arrangement here.

TABS

street spirit - radiohead - ukulele tabs

Correct Speed

Slower

Soundgarden Black Hole Sun

Now on paper, this might not look like the most difficult riff, but I’ve put it last as it’s the most sporadic in patterns and requires a lot of barring – so may be a little tricky on the left hand!

Let’s talk about the chords – the Em/G should be barred with your index finger, and the F and Eb are technically the same shape just at a different place on the fretboard (full barre with pinky 3 frets higher). The Gm chord is just an Em 3 frets higher (woohoo!) And the Dsus4 is actually a G chord without your middle finger (which is also named Gsus2).

The right hand has many different patterns going on, but I find that if you stick to the Thumb – Thumb – Index – Middle then you’ll be just fine. The first two bars do require a thumb-thumb movement which may strange but is very good practice.

TABS

Correct Speed

Slower

Summary

And that’s it! You have 6 varied fingerstyle riffs that will challenge you in different ways – but hopefully not too challenging!

If you’d like more fingerstyle exercises from me, you can check out my #fingerstylefursday exercises on my Youtube channel or on Instagram.

Good luck, take it slow and have fun!

Find Sammy on Social Media

The Basics

In this section, we will cover everything you need to know about starting to play the ukulele.