While My Guitar Gently Weeps Tutorial

Jake Shimabukuro‘s version of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps is deservedly the most popular ukulele video on YouTube. It accounts for three of the top five most viewed videos. Unsurprisingly, this has lead many others to record their version of the tune. Which would be great if they didn’t all try to ape Shimabukuro’s version – even the sections which are obviously improvised. None of these come close to Jake’s. So, in the hope that you’ll use it to come up with your own interpretation, I’ve tabbed out a basic chords and melody arrangement for you to spruce up however you see fit.


While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Bare Bones Version (tab)


While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Bare Bones Version (MIDI)

The first difference you’ll notice between this and the Jake version is the key. I worked this out in the original key of Am on a d-tuned ukulele (so it’s in Gm on a c-tuned uke) whereas Jake’s version is in Cm. Feel free to transpose it into any key you like.

The first way to start making the tune your own is to harmonise the melody. You can use thirds, fifths or any note that you like the sound of from the G minor scale for the first section and G major for the second. For example:
While My Guitar Gently Weeps example 1
Example 1 (MIDI)

Or you could go all out and start using more unexpected notes:
While My Guitar Gently Weeps example 1
Example 2 (MIDI)

The simplest way to do this is to use chromatic notes to move between chords (such as in bar 3 of this example). Unexpected notes add a sense of tension and movement to the tune but they have to be used carefully. Be sure to always resolve to a vanilla Gm chord at the end of the phrase or the progression will feel like it’s still moving.

You may want to add a strummed section to the song. There are plenty of chord inversions to choose from. Here are a couple:
While My Guitar Gently Weeps example 3
While My Guitar Gently Weeps example 4

In both these examples I’ve used Ebmaj7 for the final chord. This means that three notes are ringing through the chord changes while just one is descending.

My favourite way to arrange a tune is to image it played in a different style. The version I’m working on has a sort of bluegrass banjo style. Here’s the opening section of it:
While My Guitar Gently Weeps example 5
Example 5 (MIDI)

I hope that this has given you a few ideas for your own arrangement of the piece. I doubt there’ll be a ukulele version of this song that doesn’t owe something to Jake’s version – even my bare bones version borrows elements – but giving it your own twist will lift it above the second-rate Shimabukalikes.

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23 Comments

  1. sione August 22nd, 2007 11:45 am

    hey look at these tabs man its hella bad man. check it out.

  2. Joe January 19th, 2008 9:04 pm

    i like example five the best

    although they all sound brill!

    thanks

  3. Uke Hunt Is One | Uke Hunt May 12th, 2008 6:01 pm

    [...] While My Guitar Gently Weeps Tutorial My plea for people to stop aping Jake’s version and come up with their own. Lots of people [...]

  4. illjimae April 27th, 2009 3:35 pm

    awesome…. but like i can’t find the original for some reason T.T… like the real artist playing this…

  5. Curt Sheller May 3rd, 2009 11:01 pm

    I have my own version and it is in the original key of Am and A major. You can check out my TAB and video at:

    http://www.CurtSheller.com/scores/uke/WhileMyGuitarGentlyWeeps.shtml

    Curt

  6. paytoncawagas(ukulele underground) July 28th, 2009 12:22 am

    how do u read this?????lol

  7. jonathan pedraza May 15th, 2010 5:43 pm

    what tuning is this?(can you be specific,and start from the top string please?)

  8. BeachMonkey August 16th, 2010 8:29 am

    Im so glad to see this. I had been looking for months and almost gave up i was so tired of failing to live up to Jake and his godlike abiulities so thanks for simpling it up for me

  9. UkePeas October 4th, 2010 12:03 pm

    Does anyone know where i can find a more advanced version, more like jake’s version, obviously not exactly the same because he wouldn’t like that now would he :P

  10. ArchieCGM January 1st, 2011 3:43 am

    Dear Mr WoodShed, may you upload a video of you playing the downloadable PDF so I can try and compare with my own playing, Thankyou.

    ps. I have the whole of tablature of a very similar version of Jake’s performance

    contact acg.martin@googlemail.com

  11. Woodshed January 1st, 2011 11:37 am

    ArchieCGM: That’s a bit against the goal of this article which is to play it your own way.

  12. ArchieCGM January 1st, 2011 6:35 pm

    sorry about that woodshed, I’m a beginner

  13. Liam February 9th, 2011 7:58 pm

    Hey Woodshed, I picked up the uke a little more than a month ago after watching Jake’s version of this song. Obviously, this was the first song I wanted to learn. Long story short, it was too difficult and I gave up. Glad to see a simpler version. I don’t have any prior musical experience, so I’m having some trouble reading the tab. Is the top string of the tab the A or G? Thanks again for writing up this tab.

  14. ct February 19th, 2011 3:51 pm

    ref requests for better versions of jakes, songster do a quite acurate tabbed version , the strum goes off a bit but the notes are there for you to wing it ! you cant print it all unless you subscribe , but you can print 3 lines at a time if your willing to use the ink !!

  15. Sam May 30th, 2011 3:48 pm

    Wow, sounds beautiful man. Simple enough not to give me a headache complex enough to make the chord strummers at my school feel bad :)

  16. Woodshed June 2nd, 2011 11:23 am

    Sam: Glad I could help you embarrass your friends!

  17. Erik June 6th, 2011 5:12 am

    Good work again Woodshed, im new to this site so im still a little bit confused. Is this played in low or high G? Saw some other notes of gently weeps, and it was tuned to low g.

    Last: I got a Lanikai LU-21T recently including some white aquila string, and I do not know if its low or high g. This hole concept of tuning its a nightmare. :)

  18. Woodshed June 6th, 2011 8:15 am

    Erik: Everything on here is high-g unless I say otherwise. If all the strings are white, then they’ll be high-g.

  19. ukuhippo July 9th, 2012 9:54 am

    A search on the net for this brought me here. Of course. Where else.
    Very nice Woodshed, and kudo’s for the midi files, it really helps actually playing the tabs.

  20. Woodshed July 9th, 2012 10:18 pm

    ukuhippo: Glad you found it useful.

  21. Teddy September 1st, 2012 5:39 pm

    I just wanted to say thanks for this, I used a slightly improvised version of your tab for my solo performance in GCSE Music, and didn’t mess it up too badly, so anyway, thanks.>

  22. Woodshed September 3rd, 2012 12:26 pm

    Teddy: That’s excellent! Hope you got a good grade.

  23. Kriskind December 17th, 2012 10:31 am

    Its hard .is it the frisk one is plucking or strumming

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