Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells (Redux) (Tab)

Richard Durrant’s planned collaborative performance of Tubular Bells at Wukulele next week had me going back to my arrangement of it and the accompanying comments about how dumb I am because there are easier ways to play it. Well, I always listen to my readers. I’ve gone back, reworked it and come up with a more difficult way to play it.

Campanella Version

Tubular Bells (Tab)

This time I’ve arranged it campanella style (so there’s one note per string) which seems appropriate since we’re talking about bells. It’s really important that you keep all the notes ringing into each other. So your index finger needs to be glued to the C string and your pinkie on the E string.

Campanella Version (MP3)

Easy Version

Tubular Bells (Easy Version)(Tab)

I’ve never quite understood the big deal about easy when it comes to music. The most common uke-related question on Yahoo Answers is, “How easy is it to play?” It’d be nice if, just once, someone asked, “Can I use the ukulele to wordlessly express the very core of my being?” or, “Can a ukulele make a sound that will bring great men to tears at the revelation of the fragility of perfect beauty?”

But if you must have an easy version, here you go. Just know that you’re the reason fairies die.

Easy Version (MP3)


Arch Larizza has sent me his version of the riff:

Tubular Bells (Arch Version)

The time signature he uses is much easier to count out. But it does mean the E note moves about in the bar (which fries my brain and ends in me screwing it up). It’s a matter of personal preference which way you prefer to think of it.

When I’m counting this out I think:

1 and 2 and 3 and a

For the 7/8 and this for the 9/8:

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and a

View Comments


  1. J-Hob October 3rd, 2010 7:54 pm

    The difference between the two is like night and day! The easy version is far too pizzicato for the song, the campanella version just sings.

  2. cardboardfrog October 3rd, 2010 11:55 pm

    the campanella really is so far superior.
    awesome work!

  3. Ron Hale October 4th, 2010 12:55 am

    But what if the very core of your being can
    be wordlessly expressed by one simple down strum on a C chord, Al? That’s all it takes for some of us.

    Whenever music gets too complex, too full of itself, it simplifies. Happened after Bach, happened after rock got too elaborate, lost its soul and its roots.

    The ukulele doesn’t need Jake, doesn’t need James, doesn’t need the rise in the general level of technical proficiency and complexity we see today in order to survive. But it will wither and die if it loses simplicity. Those simple three chord songs are the heart and soul of our instrument. That’s where the real fun is, where the camraderie comes into play.

    The part of ukuleledom where we ooh and aah over the flying fingers, where we freak out when, as James says in Mighty Uke, the sound coming out of the ukulele doesn’t synch-up with the motions producing those sounds, is exciting, but ultimately is just a sideshow.

    All it takes to bring great men and women
    to tears at the revelation of the fragility of perfect beauty is simple bird song.

    Each time someone plays a kazoo with a ukulele, a fairy dies (in agony).

  4. L.bo Marie October 4th, 2010 3:22 am

    mmm, very big fan of the campanella version… but likely the easy version is something I’ll be able to handle.

    I’ll now jump up and madly start chanting “I do believe in fairies, I do! I do!” to undo the damage.

  5. L.bo Marie October 4th, 2010 3:30 am

    after actually looking at it.. the first one isn’t that bad after all… I suppose fairies will get to live another day.

  6. muz October 4th, 2010 8:09 am

    Ron i think the issue is more about under achieving, if you are always looking for the easiest and not the most effective way to do anything you wont be reaching your potential.

    To me the joy from an instrument was always being able to move forward and improve, its those times when i work out how a certain riff goes or how to make something complex flow together nicely.
    I don’t see how this should be different on the ukulele.

  7. Ken Middleton October 4th, 2010 9:54 am

    Excellently done, Al. Are you going to be playing it at the fest this weekend? In any case, see you there.

  8. Mike October 4th, 2010 1:27 pm

    Of course I want to bring great men to tears at the revelation of the fragility of perfect beauty. But if it can be easy to play as well, that’s a nice bit of gravy on the side. And I agree with Ron about the kazoo. Well said, sir!

  9. Alec October 4th, 2010 5:48 pm

    Wow Ron badly said.

  10. Ken Middleton October 4th, 2010 6:12 pm


    I have just read your comment. What exactly are you saying? I am not sure I agree with it. But maybe that’s just me.

    The ukulele doesn’t need anyone. It is just a chunk of wood with strings on. It only makes music when someone plays it. When some people play the chunk of wood it can be staggeringly beautiful. You have named two such players. When others play it, it may not sound so good.

  11. Alec October 4th, 2010 7:10 pm

    Ken, well said.

  12. ida g October 5th, 2010 5:15 am

    Ron, you’ve given me a new perspective about the uke. I’ll keep it in mind when I see/hear Jake on the 17th. Can there be co-existence?

  13. Mimi October 5th, 2010 7:46 am

    Not sure where exactly to put a request but I would LOVE it if you did the chords for Joshua Radin’s Brand New Day…

  14. Woodshed October 5th, 2010 12:09 pm

    J-Hob: Thanks, John.

    cbf: Cheers!

    Ron: I think there’s a huge difference between simple and easy. It’s not easy to play something simple and sound magnificent. Both Jake and James can play a simple round of chords and make it sound incredible.

    L.bo: Glad you managed to save a few fairies.

    muz: Nicely put. That’s what I would have said if I was more eloquent.

    Ken: I’m not playing (at the main event at least) but I’ll see you there.

    Ida G: Enjoy the show.

    Mimi: Don’t know the song, I’m afraid.

  15. Alec October 5th, 2010 1:38 pm

    Things often sound better with more complicated arrangements, like the harder Campanella version of this (although this Campanella arrangment is hardly for the super athlete alone). Some things sound better played simply on any instrument, some things sound better more intricately or complicated. The ukulele isn’t defined with simple playing at it’s core (personally the three chord uke songs often bore me – except that Antarcitca It Song and most of Ken’s folky versions of songs, but I would never say the soul of the uke is John King – it’s whatever you think it is.)

    Anyway, sometimes it’s fun to master something really difficult, regardless of whatever standard of beauty. Shreding is fun. So’s listening to Ken’s version of Murder in the City.

  16. Alec October 5th, 2010 1:42 pm

    Plus the idea that music is determined to simplify is untrue. You could just as easily say “once music gets to simple, too unchallenging and boring, it gets complicated” and cherry pick examples.

  17. Alec October 5th, 2010 1:50 pm

    And to Al’s point, I’d wager one reason Jake and James can make a simple chord progression sound beatiful is the hours spent mastering the entire instrument and a variety of styles. For example, learning right hand difficult techniques would likely improve your tone on simple things, ditto your strumming/plucking hand.

    If those guys (including Ken) didn’t spend thousands of hours playing difficult things as well, but only spent the same amount of time doing simple progressions, I bet those progressions would sound and feel lot less beautiful.

  18. Alec October 5th, 2010 1:54 pm

    antarctica takes it, I mean.

  19. Alec October 5th, 2010 2:20 pm

    Although I envy anyone who can wordlessly expreess the very core of their being by one simple down strum on a C chord. That sounds awesome. I wish I could. Sure would save me a lot of trouble.

  20. mark October 27th, 2013 10:33 pm

    Had a Uke Hunt bit of madness last weekend. I came up with Tubular Bagpuss Lives Twice…


    Many thanks for the tabs.


  21. Woodshed October 28th, 2013 7:33 am

    mark: Excellently done!

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