When I first saw Carl Ray Villaverde’s ukulele cover of Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, I knew I had to work it out. Once I made that decision, I noticed two problems:
1) He uses a low-G ukulele and I don’t have one.
2) He’s a million times better at playing the ukulele than I am. There’s one part of the song that’s not only faster than I can play, it’s faster than I can hear.
So, equipped with a classical guitar capoed at the fifth fret and the certain knowledge I wouldn’t get it note perfect, I’ve given it my best shot.
As always, the main consideration is making sure the melody stands out against the the accompaniment. Carl Ray Villaverde provides a masterclass on it in this video. In the fingerpicking sections, the melody notes are pushed forward and the gaps between are filled with very softly played notes from the chords. The exception to this is the bass notes – usually those on the low-G string – which are often plucked more forcefully.
The job of bringing out the melody gets even tougher once the strumming starts. Luckily, he’s done some of the work for you. The chords in this section change more often than in the fingerpicked section – often changing each time the melody note changes – with the melody note on the A string. This makes it more like a harmonized melody than a chord accompaniment. You still have to make sure that the melody strums have more umph to them than the supporting chords. Villaverde’s main way of doing this is using a roll strum (or ‘rasguedo’ if you want to be fancy about it).
Good luck getting to grips with it. This arrangement would make a great basis for you to work out your own way of playing it. Particularly if you wanted to adapt it to re-entrant tuning.