Two cheerful things that go well together: Ukulele and Christmas
Ready to squeeze in some last-minute Christmas ukulele cheer? Some uke songs by the fireside, or, for those of you with fingerless gloves, outside caroling?
Christmas songs can sound absolutely wonderful on ukulele, even if you're just learning. But you can throw in a little fingerpicking to get a magical tinkling that suit these songs wonderfully, especially the ancient carols.
Need a ukulele Christmas songbook for yourself, or as a gift for another uke lover?
Because I teach so many uke classes, I see many, many books that students pick up and bring in, and while we are lucky to live in times that give us many uke books to choose from, overall, the Christmas ukulele books I see feel minimal, rushed, and sometimes downright shoddy.
Christmas-specific uke books are no exception. There are plenty of bad ones (here’s the full Amazon list, if you search for “Christmas Ukulele”).
There *are* some good Christmas ukulele books
Jumpin’ Jim Beloff’s songbooks are always worthwhile, in my opinion, and his Christmas books are no exception.
Jumpin' Jim's Ukulele Christmas
I think this one is just dandy. This is mostly traditional Christmas songs like:
- Auld Lang Syne
- Deck the Halls
- The First Nowell
- Jingle Bells
- Joy to the World
- O Come, All Ye Faithful
- Silent Night
These old carols are surprisingly fun to play. They tend to have a lot of nice-sounding chord changes that match the melody, and that helps to make the song sound like song.
Jumpin' Jim's Happy Holidays
This is the one to get if you want the modern pop songs of Christmas —
- Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
- Sleigh Ride
- Winter Wonderland
- Baby, It's Cold Outside
- Blue Christmas
- Frosty the Snow Man
- I'll Be Home for Christmas
- Jingle-Bell Rock
- Little Saint Nick (Beach Boys)
- Mele Kalikimaka
Other Ukulele Christmas books?
The nice thing about the Jumpin' Jim books is that they are usually doctored a bit to be “uke friendly.” Easy playing keys means mostly familiar chords (which doesn't always mean easy singing, unfortunately), and Jim often puts in nice extras that aren't strictly required but can zesty little tidbits to your playing.
There are many other Christmas uke books out there. The only other one that I have personally used and liked enough to recommend is this Hal Leonard collection, Christmas Songs for Ukulele.
That said, it covers most of the same ground as Happy Holidays, which I prefer.
And what about
Ukulele Christmas Songs for Beginners?
Most of the songs in the books already mentioned aren't too tricky — although beware of “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” in the Christmas Songs for Ukulele book.
For real beginners, you might take a look at 21 Easy Ukulele Songs For Christmas.
The songs are divided by the number of chords required to play them — so if you know only three chords, you can just play from the 3-chord song section.
Overall, it's a nice collection of songs, and, unlike the other Christmas uke books mentioned, includes tablature for the melody, which is a nice touch, but a bit odd, perhaps, in a book geared toward beginners.
Here's my new favorite this year:
Christmas Classics for Solo Ukulele is EXACTLY what you would expect from the title. It's a wonderful collection of “Christmas classics” (no Rudolph or Rockin' Aound the Christmas Tree here!), presented with very nicely thought-out arrangements in notation and uke tab.
Tab is not too tricky once you get the hang of it and by playing “solo,” you'll be playing the melody line, which can sound surprisingly lovely on the uke.
Hope that helps! Be sure to report back and let me know about your favorites for next year's round-up!