During the pandemic of 2020-2021 an initial list of 20 old timey songs I wanted to sing grew to these 132 traditional and folk songs, spirituals, shanties, gospel, country, bluegrass and work songs from the American, English, Irish, Scottish, Hawaiian and other traditions, all from 1926 and earlier, compiled by a fellow beginner. Yes. I have much to learn. And ain't that great.
The first songs I learned on the ukulele were the ones I use in daily prayer, found now in Fr. Steve's Three-Finger Chord Ukulele Hymns (ISBN 978-1-937081-65-2, IDJC Press, 2018, 2019).
I call them Three-Finger Chords because they are formed using only the index, middle, and ring fingers of the left hand (or the right hand for left-handed ukers). I have not given up on the more difficult chords, but this lets me play these songs in the meantime.
If you are a total beginner, see the back cover for eight suggested steps, one at a time. The best advice I was given from the beginning was play every day for at least fifteen minutes. The Trappist monk Thomas Merton contended that we can concentrate on anything difficult for a quarter hour. When learning a new chord and find yourself pushed to your limit, stop; and come back to it the next day.
All of these songs are believed to be in the public domain. Lyrics to many of the songs have been altered. Most of the songs include a link to a video, most from YouTube, to play with and learn the tune, some suggesting the use of a Capo.
The eighth draft was completed on April 22, 2021 (Earth Day).
2021, paperback, 8.5" X 11", 173 pages, $15.95
This sample includes 33 of these songs.
To print as a double-sided notebook, print pages 2-51.
If you hit a snag, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adobe Acrobat document [8.5 MB]
Here are 138 Hymns for Daily Prayer arranged for Ukulele Chords using three fingers: Index, Middle, and Ring. The hymns follow 93 traditional melodies, and most are from the public domain plus 10 by the author, who recommends learning C, Am, F, and G7 Chords to learn "Away In A Manger," and going from there.
How it happened
(A Different Kind of Twelve Steps):
1. Got an ukulele that will stay in tune ($50+). 2. Got one of those electronic tuners (<$10). 3. Learned the chords C, Am, F, and G7. 4. Played Away In A Manger (#18) many times. 5. Kept the ukulele next to my recliner. 6. Chose other songs and learned more chords. 7. Explored 3/4 time and 4/4 time. 8. Experimented with picking patterns. 9. “Figured out” chords on these songs. 10. Watched many ultranet videos. 11. Practiced with chord progressions. 12. Saw Jake Shimabukuro at the Ryman. Happily Addicted?
Dear Ukulele Companion-Beginner,
The Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote that as pray-ers we are always beginners. Don’t yet know if that is true of an ukulele player, for this book is by an uke newbie. Our Hey Deddy Charlie Wolf used to say that everyone ought play some instrument. I tried learning the guitar with half of my brothers; it didn’t take. Tried the cello in seminary; didn’t take. Gave the piano a fair shot as a new priest; didn’t take. When brothers and cousins were guitaring Christmas before last, and I spoke of old attempts at guitar, brother Danny strummed C, G, and F, and said that’s all I need to learn to begin. A light came on. Gave myself an uke for Christmas, and it stared at me accusingly until the October vacation, when I learned C, G, and F, and for six months have played the thing every day.
These songs (from Hinge Hour Singer) have been part of my daily life for twenty-five years in the Liturgy of the Hours, a prayer form used by Catholic priests, religious, and a growing number of lay faithful, so right away I wanted to start singing them with ukulele chords. Peppering brothers Greg and Danny last Thanksgiving about how to do this, they both said, “You’ll figure it out.” When Greg became annoyed, I kept asking questions until he stood to walk away as I said, “I want to know what chords to use to play Creator of the Stars of Night! I want to play Creator of the Stars of Night!” He turned and kind of yelled, “Of course you do! And who wouldn’t!” Brother’s button pushed. Success.
Still able to play only chords using the index, middle, and ring fingers of my left hand, that is all you will find in this book. Brother Kevin assures me the more difficult chords will come later. So this book is by a beginner for a beginner who just wants some chords to play Creator of the Stars of Night and a bunch of other traditional hymn melodies. This should truly be considered only a place to begin, for you, companion-beginner, may very well want to sing in a different key, or choose a more beautiful strumming or picking pattern, or change some lyrics back to their originals, or construct some better chord progressions. - Steve Wolf, May 30, 2018
2018, paperback, 8.5" X 11", 153 pages, $11.95
The first printing on May 20, 2018 and the second printing on November 30, 2018 had some chord progressions and lyrics which came to make me uncomfortable, so I did a third printing on August 29, 2019. These updated songs are made available especially for those who bought the 2018 printings.
Adobe Acrobat document [23.5 MB]
This free sample includes the Three-Finger Chords, the Table of Contents, 26 Hymns using the beginning chords of C, AM. F and G7, and 94 Chord Progressions.
Adobe Acrobat document [17.9 MB]
TOTAL BEGINNERS ONE-HOUR INTRODUCTION WORKSHOP
is available in the Nashville area; by the end you will be able to play You Are My Sunshine and then the other songs in the samples below and above:
(contact Steve Wolf at email@example.com)
Download and print basic Three-Finger Chords for Righties and Lefties.
Adobe Acrobat document [148.2 KB]
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane - In March 2020, the weekend before the pandemic hunkering down began, I spent the weekend at Cedars of Lebanon State Park for the Breaking Up Winter event (cancelled for 2021) of the Nashville Old Time String Band Association. Thanks to Martin Fisher from MTSU, who did recordings on vintage wax cylinder equipment and simultaneously on a digital recorder. (I do this song now in a lower key, and it doesn't hurt as much.)
MP3 audio file [4.4 MB]
Long-time family friend and real musician/songwriter Stacy Lawson does a monthly podcast on songwriting and creativity. If you can find 30 minutes, enjoy three songs and some conversation: Lord God Sabaoth El Adonai, based on Ezekiel 36:24-28; Wanted to Tell, based on coming out to my Dad 28 years ago; and Blessed Be Lullaby, a grieving song based on 1st Peter 1:3-9 after sudden deaths of two dear friends. Released May 1, 2020
Adobe Acrobat document [118.5 KB]
Also check out Stacy's podcasts with older brother Danny Wolf, younger brother Kevin Wolf, and a song based on a poem Psalm of Holy Honesty from seminary days by cousin Karen Slater and Gloria Guzman. Visit also stacylawsonmusic.com.
drawn from the Prologue of the Gospel of John.
Adobe Acrobat document [79.0 KB]
Eric Dahlhauser was one of my business partners when I was a CPA and tax accountant at Carter, Young, Wolf & Dahlhauser. (We were Nashville's 13th largest CPA firm. Impressed?) He was and will continue to be one of my teachers in how to be a human being. When Eric died recently, a flood of memories washed over me, and then new ones shared by his family. The melody follows the bluegrass song DOOLEY by Mitch Jayne and Rodney Dillard from the 1960's, played by the Dillards, a.k.a. the Darling Family on Andy Griffith.
Adobe Acrobat document [78.8 KB]
Words and Chords for Ukulele, drawn from Chapter 5 of New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton on a Monk Monday, December 10, 2018, 50th anniversary of his death in 1968.
Adobe Acrobat document [81.0 KB]