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How to Play Stand By Me on Your Ukulele

This Often-Covered Classic Takes Just Four Chords!

by Kevin Rossi

Looking for an easily recognizable classic that’s simple to learn, and even simpler to play? Look no further! All you need to play Stand By Me is 4 easy chords and one chord progression. That’s it!

Ben E. King’s 1961 hit has been covered by many artists since its original release – Artists like John Lennon, Seal, U2 and Bruce Springsteen, and more recently Florence and the Machine, which has helped make it such a recognizable song to people of all ages. The song has also been sampled by artists like Sean Kingston and Miley Cyrus.

So what are we waiting for? The night (or day, depending on when you’re reading this) has come. Don’t be afraid, if you stand by me, you’ll be playing this classic in no time!

Chords

Alright, as previously stated, to play Stand By Me you need just 4 chords. These 4 chords are C, Am, F, and G7.

It doesn’t get much easier than that!

But hold on! Before you go running off with these chords, trying to play along with the original recording, it is important to note that the version I’m teaching you today is in the key of C, while the Ben E. King version is in the Key of A.

In order to play along with the recording, you would need to play, A, F#m, D and E7.

Yeah, not so easy. Moving forward, I’ll be using the chords for the version in the key of C, but if you are feeling ambitions, feel free to swap C for A, F#m for Am, D for F, and E7 for G7!

Strumming Pattern

Next up we have the strumming pattern. And the great news is, we only need one strumming pattern for the entire song!

The pattern goes like this: D- DU -U DU

 

The important thing to notice here is the lines or dashes in the pattern. If you look closely, you will notice that the strumming pattern is broken into 4 pairs. See it? And each pair is essentially made up of one down strum followed by one up strum. The lines, or dashes in this strumming pattern are where the 1st up strum, and the third down strum would be. Because they aren’t marked as D or U, we don’t play these, but the dashes are there to indicate that that space is to be left empty. Does that make sense?

The best way to practice this is to start strumming DU DU DU DU over and over again, and then trying to play the pattern D- DU -U DU, and when there’s a dash, complete the strum, but don’t hit the strings on that beat. Eventually you will get used to skipping those strums, but practicing this way can really help you nail the rhythm.

Bonus Tip: If you have mastered the above strum pattern and are looking for something a little flashier, try adding muted strums to the rhythm. Like this: D- XU -U XU. The X’s represent a muted strum.

Chord Progression

Now let’s look at what order we play the chords in, and for how long we play each chord. Not surprisingly, Stand By Me uses only 1 chord progression throughout the entire song, so once you’ve got this down, you know the intro, the verse, and the chorus!

In this chord progression, we play the above strumming pattern 8 times – twice on C, followed by twice on Am, once on F, once on G7, and once again on C.

So that looks something like this: C / C / Am / Am / F / G7 / C / C

That’s it. Just repeat that till the cows come home (or until you run out of lyrics or your arm gets tired).

Here is a chart with lyrics to help you as you figure out the chord progression and how it fits with the lyrics!

For more lessons on chords, techniques, and songs to help you along on your own uke journey, make sure to check out our site www.ukelikethepros.com. We offer you a bunch of great ukulele content that comes hand-in-hand with an awesome ukulele community that will support you in this journey.

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