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.
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:
Example 1 (MIDI)
Or you could go all out and start using more unexpected notes:
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.
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:
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.