It’s that time of the year to grab your ukulele and learn a few Christmas classics. Here are three tunes to wrap your fingers around in order of difficulty: I Saw Three Ships, Deck the Halls, and What Child is This?
Ukulele Strumming Patterns in 6/8 Time “I Saw Three Ships” from the Ukulele Christmas Songbook
Here is a lead sheet for “I Saw Three Ships” for ukulele. A lead sheet is when you have the melody, lyrics, and chords showing the music’s essential elements. The strumming pattern is not always shown in this sheet music format, so you might have to figure out a pattern that works for the song.
The first step to figuring out a strumming pattern is to look at the time signature. Of course, there are many ways to accompany any song on the ukulele, so feel free to experiment with different strumming patterns. I Saw Three Ships is in 6/8 time, which means there are 6 beats per measure. There is a strong pulse on the first beat and a weaker pulse on the fourth beat of the bar:
You can count in your head or tap your foot: 1-2-3-4-5-6. Or you can just tap or count on the first and fourth beats: 1 – – 4 – – You should feel two main pulses or accents on the first and fourth beat of every measure.
Ukulele Strumming Patterns in 6/8
Here are six common strumming patterns in 6/8 time:
Christmas Ukulele: I Saw Three Ships Tab and Chords
Ok, here is your chance to try out some of the 6/8 strumming patterns from above on the Christmas classic “I Saw Three Ships.” Click here to download the free pdf ukulele tab
TIP: Remember to keep your strumming hand moving in the 6/8 pattern at all times. Don’t stop the pattern when you switch chords. Try to keep the rhythm steady and count in your head or tap your foot on the bar’s strong and weak beats.
I Saw Three Ships – Fingerpicking Version
Ok, here is a reasonably easy fingerstyle version of “I Saw Three Ships.” Keep your thumb on the 3rd and 4th string and use your index and middle finger on the 1st and 2nd strings.
TIP: Notice the thumb frequently alternates on the strong and weak beats between the 3rd and 4th strings.
“Deck the Halls” from the Ukulele Christmas Songbook
Deck the Halls is another holiday classic you can learn that everyone knows. This arrangement is in the key of D. There are some quick changing chords, especially in measures 11 and 12, that will take some practice. The first step is to memorize the chords so you can focus on keeping a steady rhythm instead of thinking about what finger to use.
TIP: Stick to a chord fingering that works and try to land all the fingers on the fingerboard together.
What Child is This? from the Ukulele Christmas Songbook
Ok, now for the final and most challenging ukulele piece: What Child Is This? This version can be played with a pick or fingers. You will need to use most of the fingerboard and play quite a few chord shapes to master this tune. The arrangement is in the key of Cm (Eb), which might not be a key you play in regularly but will provide an opportunity to learn some new ukulele chords.
TIP: Memorize the Cm, Eb, and Bb chord shapes as they repeat throughout the piece.
For more ukulele tabs, check out The Ukulele Christmas Songbook with thirty of the most loved holiday favourites arranged for beginner to intermediate ukulelists. Each song is shown in lead sheet format, meaning the melody with tablature and notes, lyrics, and chord diagrams are included. Twenty songs have a more advanced fingerstyle arrangement for players looking for a fuller-sounding chord melody with chords and melody together.
There is also a useful 30-page ukulele reference section that includes a chord library of the most common ukulele chords, strumming and fingerpicking patterns, chord and arpeggio fingerboard diagrams in every key, and a collection of ukulele scales and scale patterns to warm-up your fingers.
Please leave any comments or suggestions for more ukulele blog posts below.
The Ukulele Christmas Songbook
The Ukulele Christmas Songbook has thirty of the most loved holiday favourites arranged for beginner to intermediate ukulelists. Each song has ukulele tablature, chords, lyrics and notation. There is also a 30+ page ukulele reference with chords, scales, strumming, fingerpicking and fingerboard arpeggios.