Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music for a Found Harmonium (Tab)

Music For A Found Harmonium (Tab)

I’ve loved this tune for many years (after hearing Colin Reid’s version of it) so when I found Penguin Cafe barrister Geoffrey Richardson was a uker I decided I had to find a way to play it on the uke. How hard could it be? Five months later…

The first thing you need to do to play this arrangement is tune the g string up to a (so it’s aCEA). This lets me do one of my favourite things on the uke: play the same note on every string then do a bit of very close harmony. The picking pattern for this section is thumb, index, thumb, middle.

In the main section of the tune I’m picking what was the g string with my thumb, the E string with my index finger and the A string with my middle finger. As for the left hand, I use my ring finger on the E string, middle finger for for A string 4th fret and pinkie for the fifth fret. This makes it easier to slide down for the second phrase.

The middle section of the tune (starting at bar 16) is the one I had most problems with. For the picking I’m using the same finger set-up as the previous section but with the thumb covering the G and C strings.

The strumming section was a late addition to the arrangement – I thought it needed something more forceful to finish it off. As I result, I haven’t got this section nailed down as much, so you might have to feel your own way through this section.

View Comments


  1. Armelle November 17th, 2009 6:39 pm

    I wonder how many years of ukulele practice I will need before I can play a tune like this one !

    Looks like a real dance for the left-hand fingers !

    I think I’ll stick to listening to you playing it for quite a while… It’s a really lovely tune.

  2. Donnie Bubbles November 17th, 2009 7:10 pm


    Thanks for doing this song, and extra thanks for the explanation of how you are playing it – should help a plodder like me muddle through it a little easier. Can’t wait to try it out tonight!

  3. Nick B-C November 17th, 2009 9:54 pm

    …Fabulous tabbage…I have time…I’m in no hurry…It will happen some day…

  4. mictoboy November 17th, 2009 10:08 pm

    this piece of music has been one I have aspired to play since i first picked up the ukulele. your intro is fantastic and I shal certainly be giving it a whirl


  5. Jimmy November 17th, 2009 10:42 pm

    Aw I love this song! It was the credits song for Napolean Dynamite, yeah? Gosh!

  6. Fuke November 17th, 2009 10:54 pm

    Haha, I thought that this wasn’t sounding quite right – after a couple of confused play-throughs, I read through your blurb. Tune the G string up.

    I am an idiot.

  7. Angus Drake November 18th, 2009 10:35 am

    I have been ever so passionate about Penguin Cafe Orchestra for a VERY long time. I have numerous tabs for found harmonium, but nothing like this, this is simply brilliant! I am every so grateful that you have the drive to complete this masterpiece.

  8. alec - howtoplayalone November 18th, 2009 10:47 am

    Awesome! That is a fantastic song, and a great arrangement. Those extra fingering tips are really useful too. I was just looking through this site

    trying to decide what to learn next. Thanks so much, more like this one!

    Armelle – it’s not that hard! Take the first couple of bars and play them over and over for a couple of hours (or more or less – I do it when I watch a movie at home) and then add another couple of bars. If you don’t bite off too much and get discouraged, you can get it eventually (playing it really smoothly and prettily might take years though!). Plus the next songs learn easier and quicker.

  9. alec - howtoplayalone November 18th, 2009 10:56 am

    Woodshed – the link to Colin Reid’s version seems to be set to ‘private’ btw.

    Also, If you use GuitarPro to tab these, is there a setting to include the regular notation too, without having to do extra work? It would be cool to have the sheet music, if it does it essentially automatically.

    Thanks for the song!

  10. Raycefan November 18th, 2009 11:46 am

    I am new to both the Uke and this site, but there are a LOT of people who seem to frequent the site who are VERY good in my opinion, at ciphering songs and figuring out the tabs and chords, etc. Therefore, MY KINGDOM FOR THE TABS TO THIS SONG!!!!:

    I have searched the net far and wide and can’t even seem to find anyone, anywhere, playing or attempting to play it on the Uke, and that is a travesty! Anyway, if someone could/would attempt it, a thousand thanks from me would be in order!

  11. Roger Greenawalt November 18th, 2009 2:02 pm


    That’s a very nice arrangement. Unisons on multiple strings, what a great device.

    Wished you lived in NYC, I’d have you over to my studio on a regular basis.


  12. Armelle November 18th, 2009 5:08 pm

    @alec : on second thought, I will give it a try although I fear this is still out of my depth. Thanks for the tips !

    @Al : I really appreciate the detailed explanations you’ve given for this tab. Thanks !

  13. Bertrand November 18th, 2009 6:34 pm

    The great late Simon Jeffes himself was a notable and noted ukulele player.

  14. Woodshed November 18th, 2009 9:37 pm

    Armelle: Keep practicing ;)

    Donnie: Hope it’s going well.

    Nick: Thanks.

    mictoboy: Good luck with it.

    Jimmy: Was it? I don’t remember.

    Fuke: Not listening to what I say is usually a sound strategy.

    Angus: Thanks very much.

    alec: I did used to include the standard notation but it seemed to confuse more people than it helped.

    Raycefan: Might have a go at that some day.

    Roger: Sweety, I think I’d last about two weeks in New York.

    Bertrand: I didn’t know that. Is there anywhere we can hear him playing it?

  15. benj September 26th, 2011 12:23 am

    Discovered this tab just before I was planning to go to sleep, it’s now 2 hours later and it doesn’t look like sleep’s going to happen any time soon.


    Same thing happened last week with Beirut – Elephant Gun, this site will be the death of me…

    (LOVE the site, if you ever get the urge to tab any more Decemberists songs it would make me disproportionately happy – though to be fair most that aren’t easily figured out seem to be un-ukeable [see Red Right Ankle], but I trust in your 4 string voodoo)

  16. David December 23rd, 2014 12:08 pm

    It looks like 5 years never got a response from Bertrand about Simon Jeffes of Penguin Cafe Orchestra playing the ukulele. This video (at 3.40ish) has a trio of ukes playing the lovely Paul’s Dance.
    (You may have seen this by now… merry christmas anyway.)

  17. David December 23rd, 2014 12:12 pm

    PS there’s 17th century folk dance type things done in the style of La Bamba on ukuleles performed directly after it. Just so you know.

  18. Woodshed December 23rd, 2014 9:21 pm

    David: Thanks for the link. Excellent stuff.

  19. Helen October 30th, 2015 8:55 am

    Amazing! x

  20. Woodshed October 30th, 2015 10:36 am

    Helen: Thanks!

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