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:

Click to buy
  • 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 —

Christmas ukulele book, "Happy Holiday"
Click to buy
  • 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 Holidayswhich 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.

click to purchase

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.

I like this one so much that I’ve created a special mini-course to help you learn the songs in time for Christmas! Take a look over here at the Ukulele Christmas Book Club.

So…

Hope that helps! Be sure to report back and let me know about your favorites for next year’s round-up!

your pal,

    2 replies to "Christmas ukulele songs and songbooks – my recommendations"

    • Danno Sullivan

      Another reader sent a suggestion for “‘Tis the Season for Ukulele.” Anybody else tried it? https://www.danielward.net/shopping/pre_order_tis_the_season_for_ukulele/

    • Danno Sullivan

      Long-time member, Betsey, wrote in with these great recommendations:

      My absolute hands down favorite is:

      Christmas Ukulele, Hawaiian Style by Randell Ames https://amzn.to/2OKMJMA

      The reasons I especially like this book is because it presents each melody on the musical staff, plus the words, the chord names and chord tablature in the right places over the notes where the chords should be played (i.e. a complete lead sheet), plus it has tablature for playing the melody and/or a simple arrangement – all on one page. So you don’t have to turn to another page or another source to look anything up. It’s all there in front of you.

      A close second choice is:

      21 Easy Ukulele Songs For Christmas (Beginning Ukulele Songs) by Rebecca Bogard, Jenny Peters, Loreta Crum: https://amzn.to/33KLelq

      The reason why I don’t rate this as high as the first book is because the chord tablature is only at the top of the page – so if like me, you don’t always remember the finger position of the chords you need to move your eyes from your place in the music back to the top of the page to get the finger position for the chord and then try to catch up with the song being played. Otherwise it’s a great book.

      ***
      Most ukulele sheet music or sheet music books are usually lacking one or another of these things, all of which I find equally important. These two books are good for people like me who have grown up reading music and like to jam but are not necessarily familiar with the music being played.

      I’m not familiar with a lot of pop music, but if I have the melody on the staff plus the words, chord names and chord diagrams all in one place, I can sight read and play the music right off the bat without having to learn the melody or rehearsing it.

      These books worked great for me when I went to a Christmas eve party a few years ago, uke and books in tow, and was able to lead everyone in some Christmas carols without previously playing the music. In addition, other folks who had brought their instruments, like a fiddle, recorder, flute, concertina and a keyboard were able to look over my shoulder and share the music because the lead sheets in the books are universal – actually the guy playing the clarinet was out of luck 8-(

      Another good thing: both of these books are available on kindle so everyone can get a copy at the last minute if they want to.

      I hope this helps!
      Betsey

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