Campanella: The Best Way to Play Ukulele?

If you’ve been following my fingerstyle arrangements for a while you’ll have noticed – and probably been frustrated by – how much jumping between strings goes on. It’s certainly not the easiest ways to arrange tunes but it’s very effective and gives the uke a harp-like sound of close harmony notes ringing into each other.

What is Campenella?

The campenella technique was developed for the ukulele by John King who took long forgotten techniques for playing re-entrant instruments and gave them new life. In this style of playing you play one note of the melody on each string and let them ring into each other.

If you can avoid it, you never play two consecutive notes on the same string.

Here’s a standard way of playing a melody:

And here’s how you could play it campanellla style:

To get the full effect, it’s vital that you let the notes ring together. So you want to have your fretting hand moving as little as possible – holding chord shapes rather than playing single notes – and have your picking hand doing most of the work.

Why Play This Way?

The harp is my absolute favourite instrument (take a listen to Savourna Stevenson). If I had been richer and not so lazy as a kid you’d reading an article on Harp Hunt about how to make your harp sound like a ukulele.

I love to recreate that sound of notes cascading into each other on the uke.

It also creates a sound that is unique to the ukulele. Of course a uke is never going to sound like a harp. Playing single notes on the uke can often just sound like a guitar played high up the neck. Whereas the campanella sound couldn’t be achieved recreated quite the same on any other instrument.

How Do You Arrange This Way?

The way I do it is trial and error. When you play this way there are any number of different ways a simple line could be played.

The example we looked at earlier could also be played like this:

Or like this:

Finding the right one depends on a combination of playability, fluidity and note emphasis.

It’s also well worth keeping an eye out for open strings you could use. These will give you an opportunity to change positions whilst keeping a note ringing.

Campanella Arrangements

If you’re looking to play some campanella arrangements you have to get John King’s Classical Ukulele.

Some campanella arrangements on this site:

Sailor’s Hornpipe
Larry O’Gaff

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