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How to Play ‘Lava’ on Ukulele

It’s simply ukulele and vocals, which makes it very appealing for uke players of all ages

by Michael

‘Lava’ is a musical short film that was initially attached to PIxar’s animated hit feature-length film, ‘Inside Out.’ Since its release in 2015, ‘Lava’ has garnered worldwide popularity as a short film, and the song of the same name has also gained a great deal of success on its own, especially among ukulele players.

The song strips things down to the basics; it’s simply ukulele and vocals, which makes it very appealing for uke players of all ages and skill levels who want to learn how to play it.

SPOILER ALERT: THIS IS NOT THE ISLAND STRUM!!  


Plus, the song contains only three chords, which makes it even more appealing and easy to learn. The original version uses the island strumming technique, but in this article, we’re going to focus on playing ‘Lava’ using a more standard strumming pattern.

Play Lava with a Free Sing Along!

Read More: How to start playing the Ukulele in 2022?

So, we’re going to show you how to play ‘Lava,’ as well as giving you some useful tips along the way. As beautiful and heartfelt of a song that it is, rest assured, it’s definitely not a complicated tune to learn how to master, and you’ll have an enjoyable learning experience along the way.

Learning the Chords

As mentioned, there are only three chords in ‘Lava’ and it can be a very easy song to nail down with a little practice. The chords are C, G7 and F, in that order. So, start with the C chord, then transition to the G7 chord, and then to the F chord. (Keep in mind that you will have to go back to the C chord, so be sure to practice that chord transition.)

Be sure to start slowly at first and to go at your own pace. If you are a beginner, learning chords will take some practice, and switching from chord to chord will take even more practice. But, if you start slowly, you will be able to move around your fretboard and change chords seamlessly before you know it.

Play along with the free practice track of Lava in the key of C:


Learning the Strumming

Even though the original version of ‘Lava’ uses an island strumming style, we at Uke Like The Pros thought that a more standard style of strumming would be more appropriate for this beautiful song. (Don’t worry, it’s not complicated.) Whereas the island strumming version of the song has a more playful style, playing the song with standard strumming gives the song some additional depth and heaviness.

So, starting with the C chord, in the first beat (or measure), strum downward for three full strokes, followed by one half-measure up stroke, and then one half-measure down stroke. Then, after switching to the G7 chord, repeat the same strumming pattern; downward for three full strokes, followed by one half-measure up stroke, and then one half-measure down stroke. Then, move to the F chord and strum downward for three full strokes, followed by one half-measure up stroke, and then one half-measure down stroke.

Watch and learn the free lesson and sheet music for Lava:

Now, the fourth section is the trickiest one, but not a complicated one. You simply move back to the C chord for a half-measure, then to the F chord for another half-measure, then back to the C chord to start the next starting point. Again, it may seem tricky at first, but with practice and patience, it will become more and more easy the more that you play.

If you are looking for more song lessons, sign up for our song library for access to more song tutorials, music sheets and backing tracks of your favorite songs!

Practicing and Mastering the Song

‘Lava’ is a beautiful and very popular song that utilizes its brilliant simplicity to make one of the most popular ukulele songs in recent years. It’s an easy song to learn, but pay attention to the strumming patterns and the chord changes if you want to play it well.

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.

Also, be sure to check out our collection of online lessons, books, and our online store for all your ukulele needs.

And become a patreon member to get the additional backing track for ‘Lava’ to enhance your ukulele playing experience.

Enjoy your playing!

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