Riffs for Ukulele

One of my favourite things to do on a ukulele is blast out a riff that everyone knows but no one has ever heard on the ukulele. And, to be frank, are sometimes wholly unsuited to it. They’re always fun to play and provoke smiles. Over the years I’ve tabbed up a load of these. So here’s a mega post of them.

The idea with these riffs isn’t to play the whole song or that the suit the ukulele particularly well. It’s to throw them in to your playing for a bit of light relief and audience recognition (like the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain on Orange Blossom), to provoke the ‘I didn’t think you could play that on the ukulele’ or just for shits and gigs. Because of that, the riffs aren’t always arranged in the original key but the key that suits the ukulele best. And don’t request the rest of the song!

Five Riffs Series

Acoustic Riffs/Intros: Mumford and Sons, Nick Drake, Jose Gonzalez, Tracey Chapman, Black Crowes.
Black Keys: 10am Automatic, Act Nice and Gentle, Tighten Up, Your Touch, Modern Times.
Funk: The Meters – Cissy Strut and Funky Miracle, Stevie Wonder – Superstition, Funkadelic – Hit It and Quit It, Rick James – Super Freak.
Grunge:Soundgarden Spoonman, Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box, Pearl Jam – Alive, Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike, Alice in Chains – Them Bones.
Hip Hop Part 2: Jay Z and Kanye West – Ni**as in Paris, Dr Dre – Still DRE, Missy Elliott – Get Ur Freak On, Usher – Yeah, Panjabi MC – Beware.
Hip Hop Part 2: Kanye West, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Killer Mike, Jay-Z, Eminem
Hip Hop Part 3: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, MC Hammer, Nas, Warren G, Das Racist.
Jack White: White Stripes – Hardest Button to Button and Icky Thump, Raconteurs – Salute Your Solution, Dead Weather – Treat Me Like Your Mother, Tom Jones – Evil.
Manchester: Stone Roses – Waterfall, Happy Mondays – Loose Fit, Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart, Chemical Brothers – Galvanize, The Fall – Right Place, Wrong Time
Punk Pop: Paramore, Blink 182, Green Day, Sum 41, Panic! at the Disco.
REM: Losing My Religion, Shiny Happy People, Pop Song 89, Driver 8, Pretty Persuasion.
The Who: Can’t Explain, Substitute, Pinball Wizard, The Seeker

Single Riffs

AC/DC – Back In Black
AC/DC – Hells Bells
AC/DC – Let There Be Rock
AC/DC / James Hill – Thunderstruck
Aerosmith – Walk This Way
Alice Cooper – School’s Out
Audioslave – Cochise
Beastie Boys – Fight for Your Right To Party
The Beatles – Come Together/Day Tripper
Biz Markie – Just A Friend
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaper
Chic – Good Times/Rapper’s Delight
Chic – Le Freak
The Clash – Straight to Hell / MIA – Paper Planes
Cream – Sunshine of Your Love
The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
The Darkness – I Believe In A Thing Called Love
Deep Purple – Smoke On the Water
Deee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart
Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus
Dillinger Escape Plan – Milk Lizard
Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
Donna Summer – Hot Stuff
Electric Six – Gay Bar
Eric Clapton – Layla
Free – All Right Now
Girls Aloud – Love Machine
Gogol Bordello – Not A Crime
Guns n Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine
Hanson – MmmBop
Happy Mondays – Step On
Harold Faltermeyer- – Axel F
Ian Dury – Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll
Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
Jay-Z – Death of Auto-Tune
Jimi Hendrix – Fire
The Hives – Hate To Say I Told You So
Judas Priest – Breaking the Law
Kasabian – Vlad the Impaler
The Killers – Mr Brightside
Lady Gaga – Poker Face
Led Zeppelin – Kashmir
Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way?
Metallica – Enter Sandman
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Metallica – Seek and Destroy
Michael Jackson – Beat It
Motorhead – Ace of Spades
Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy
Muse – Plug In Baby
Nirvana – Come As You Are
Nirvana/UOGB – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train
Pearl Jam – Jeremy
Phoenix – Lisztomania
Pink Floyd – Money
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows
Rage Against the Machine – Freedom
Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name Of
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Suck My Kiss
Rolling Stones – Satisfaction
Slayer – Raining Blood
The Sonics – Have Love, Will Travel
System of a Down – Toxicity
They Might Be Giants – Older
Thin Lizzy – Boys are Back in Town
U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
Vampire Weekend – Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (Riff)
The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs – Pin
Yes – To Be Over