It’s Christmas time and we know you want to play Blue Christmas on your ukulele! An incredible Christmas song by Elvis Presley.
Originally recorded in 1948 by Doye O’Dell, Blue Christmas really came to fame after it was recorded and released by Elvis Presley in 1957. Even though the tempo and lyrical content of the song is a little on the sad side, over the years it has grown to become one of the most beloved and revered holiday songs in modern times.
Elvis has often been associated with Hawaii because of the motion pictures that he filmed there during his heyday, such as ‘Blue Hawaii,’ ‘Girls! Girls! Girls!’ and ‘Paradise, Hawaiian Style.’ So playing Blue Christmas on the uke is a very fitting rendition of the song.
Again, the song is definitely a sad one as far as the lyrics are concerned, but playing it on the ukulele gives it a happier and more pleasantly heartfelt feeling. And, rest assured, if you play it in front of an audience or at a holiday gathering, it definitely won’t bring anyone down.
In this article, we will focus on a simple rendition of Blue Christmas, including the chords, the timing, and strumming patterns, as well as giving you some helpful tips on how to play it. There aren’t too many chords to learn, and since it’s meant to be played a little slowly and quietly, it’s one of the easier holiday classics to learn how to play. So, let’s get started!
Learning the Chords
There are only six chords to play in Blue Christmas, which are F, C, F7, B-flat, G, and C7. It doesn’t matter if you’re uke is tuned with a high G or a low G setup, and the chord changes don’t happen very quickly, so it’s very easy to take your time when learning it. You’ll find that the chords do switch around quite a bit but, again, there are only six chords in the song, so be sure to go slowly at first.
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Also, when you are first learning the song, it’s a good idea to only play it with gentle, downward strokes until you get the hang of the chord patterns and changes. With that in mind, the chords for the first verse are F for 8 beats, C for 16 beats, F for 12 beats, F7 for 4 beats, B-flat for 8 beats, G for 8 beats, and then C for 8 beats.
The second verse is almost identical to the first verse until the very last 8 beats. These last 8 beats are broken down into F for 5 beats, C7 for 1 beat, and then F for 1 beat. (After you strum the final F, you can simply let it ring out for an extra beat.)
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Switching between chords may take some practice before you can do it without too much effort, but after a while, it will become more about muscle memory as opposed to something that you have to concentrate on. And, the more you play and practice the song, the faster and more seamless you will get overtime.
Learning the Strumming
Blue Christmas is in 4/4 time with a strumming pattern based on an 8th note pattern. Again, it’s meant to be played slowly and quietly, so be sure to take your time with the strumming in conjunction with the chord changes. It may seem like you have your hands full with all of the chords and their beats, especially if you’re a beginner, but it’s very easy to master the song with a little practice.
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Once you get the hang of the song using only downward strums in 4/4 time, you can experiment by cutting your downward strokes into half beats and adding in upward strokes in between each downward stroke. One of the great things about playing Blue Christmas on the uke is that it sounds great in both 4/4 time and 8/8 time, which means that whether you play long or short strums, it won’t affect the overall timing or tempo of the song.
Practicing and Mastering the Song
Blue Christmas is a classic holiday song that definitely has a more modern appeal than many of the other, more traditional songs. And, even though Elvis Presley wasn’t the first to record it, his association with Hawaii and ukuleles have made an immensely popular song to play on the ukulele.
So, while you are learning how to play it, be sure to take your time, focus on your strumming and chord changes, and above all, make sure that you enjoy your learning experience.
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Enjoy your playing!