Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ is a classic and epic song that has sold several million copies worldwide and has been covered and re-recorded by countless musicians over the years. It has been featured in several films and TV shows, and there are more than 300 known renditions in several different languages.
The original version recorded by Cohen in 1984 is not a ukulele-driven song, but over the years, renditions of the song have developed that feature a uke as it’s centerpiece. There aren’t that many chords but there are still some very interesting changes along with a unique timing structure. Fortunately, the slow tempo of the song helps to make it an easy song to learn on the ukulele.
In this article, we will focus on Leonard Cohen’s’s rendition of ‘Hallelujah’ translated for ukulele, along with some useful tips for learning the chords, timing and strumming pattern. As epic of a song that it is, it’s not a very complicated to song to learn on the ukulele, so let’s get started!
Learning the Timing and Strumming Patterns
The timing revolves around a 12/8 timing pattern, which might seem unusual if you aren’t familiar with it, but it’s not a complicated timing pattern to master with a little practice. 12/8 means that you have 12 beats for every measure, and the core of the song requires you to strum downward four times for each measure. As mentioned, the song is played rather slowly, which is especially advantageous since 12/8 beats tend to sound better when played slowly in the first place.
Also, since it’s a slower song with a lot of space in between the chords, you have plenty of room to throw in your own extra strums without cluttering up the general structure of the song. Once you confidently learn the song, you add your own creative spin on it and make it your own.
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Learning the Chords
‘Hallelujah’ can be played using any type of ukulele and any type of strings. So, whether you have a baritone, soprano or tenor, and whether you have high-G or low-G strings, you can pick up whatever uke you have handy and start learning the song.
As for the chords themselves, there are many variations of the song that have been developed and taught over the years, but in this lesson, we will be learning the originally recorded version which is in the key of C.
At the beginning, start with a C chord and strum twice. Then, move to an A-minor chord and stum it twice. Repeat this progression two times. The next chords are F, G, C and G in that order, and you want to strum each chord twice.
The next part of the song may seem like a bit of a handful, but again, start slowly at first. The next chords are C (strum twice), F (strum once), G (strum once), A-minor (strum twice), F (strum twice), G (strum twice), E (strum twice), and A-minor (strum four times).
Now, let’s get to the chorus, which isn’t too tricky. In this order, the chords are F (strum four times), A-minor (strum four times), F (strum four times), C (strum twice), and finally G (strum twice).
After that, the song basically repeats itself with the same chords, timing and strumming patterns.
Practicing and Mastering the Song
‘Hallelujah’ is a beautiful song with hints of sentimentality and sadness, and it’s a song that has definitely stood the test of time over the years. And, even though it wasn’t originally written as a song to play on the ukulele, it translates extremely well without losing any of that beauty, sentimentality or sadness.
As mentioned, it’s not a terribly difficult song to learn how to master as long as you take your time and continue to practice it regularly. The more you play it, the more confident you will become, and the more enjoyable your playing and learning experience will be.