I grew up on Beatles music and have many favorite Beatles songs. Yet I don’t go out of my way to play Beatles songs on the ukulele. Many of their songs are surprisingly tough to play—the chord changes are complicated and not typical. Lately, though, I’ve begun to appreciate the richness and harmonic complexity of their music.
I’m learning to play the song “Blackbird” from excellent YouTube video tutorials by Cynthia Lin (the tutorial is divided into three videos). This song isn’t easy and yet if you can play barre chords, you’ll be alright. There are no chords that twist your fingers into pretzels. She takes you step-by-step through the song, which has two fingerpicking patterns that are pretty straightforward.
You can download the chords and tab for fingerpicking from a link that’s with her video and donate what you want, or get it for free. (I donated $5 but it’s worth a lot more.) I am so impressed by what she’s put together. Not only does she give you the tab for the fingerpicking parts (and the counting patterns for the rhythm) but she also gives you the fingering for the chords (left hand), divides the songs into its various parts (intro, bridge, verses, etc.)
It turns out that “Blackbird” is based on a bit of Bach’s Bourrée in e minor. John and Paul liked to play this well-known Bach piece on the guitar to show off at parties. The lyrics were inspired by the civil rights struggles at the time in the US, and as Paul has said, it’s a song of empowerment: take these broken wings and learn to fly.
So in honor of the song’s fiftieth anniversary (written in 1968), I’m excited to tackle it on the uke.
I plan to revisit more Beatles songs this summer, but this one will keep me busy me for a while.
Playing fingerstyle ukulele, with information about the songs and where to find the ukulele tablature so that you can play these songs yourself.