Counting Stars by One Republic – Ukulele Tutorial

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Counting Stars is one of pop supergroup OneRepublic’s biggest hits. While the original recording doesn’t feature any ukulele, the song’s upbeat tempo and straightforward chord progression makes it a great choice to adapt to the instrument. By varying strumming patterns, dynamics and intensity throughout the song, you can make a powerful version of the original recording with just your uke.  

Learning Counting Stars on the ukulele is a great choice for beginners looking to expand their repertoire of songs or to refine their playing techniques, especially chording. The song is based around a few simple chords which are also widely used in popular music, like A minor, F, and so on. Being comfortable playing these chords opens up songs from a huge range of genres to jam along to.  

If you’ve been wondering how to play Counting Stars on ukulele, then this article is all you need. We cover the chords for the song, go through a variety of strumming patterns, and discuss different ways you can use the ukulele to breathe new life into the song.  

For this tutorial, we transposed the song into a different key, which makes the chord shapes and fingerings much simpler on the ukulele than in the original key. As such, you won’t be able to play along to the original unless you tune your ukulele up four steps or put a capo on the 4th fret.  

Find more easy ukulele songs here >>> 57+ Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners (using basic chords)

Chords 

Below, you’ll find the Counting Stars ukulele chords for this tutorial. Again, we’ve transposed the song into a different key in order to make the chords simpler to play, you can think of this as the easy version of Counting Stars ukulele chords.

The chords are essentially the same throughout the song; you’ll be playing through Am, C, G, and F almost the whole way through (there’s also a sneaky Dm in the breakdown).

Am ukulele chord
C ukulele chord
G ukulele chord
F ukulele chord

The main deviation from this is in the bridge, which we’ll get to later. These chords are all very simple to play and are based around open strings, meaning beginners should be able to tackle Counting Stars without too much difficulty.  

Chorus  

One interesting thing about Counting Stars is that it essentially starts with its chorus before heading into the verse. There’s no intro or any other section that leads into the song.  

[Am] Lately, I’ve been, [C] I’ve been losing sleep 

[G] Dreaming about the things that [F] we could be  

But [Am] baby, I’ve been, [C] I’ve been praying hard  

[G] Said, no more counting dollars 

[F] We’ll be counting stars  

Verses 

The chord changes for the verses are the same as the chorus, with the exception of a couple at the end of each verse. However, the timing for the chord changes is slightly different to the chorus, so make sure to listen closely to the original in order to really nail the timing.   

I see this [Am] life like a swinging vine 

Swing [C] my heart across the line 

[G] In my face is flashing signs  

Seek it out [F] and ye shall find  

At the end of each verse towards the chorus, you’ll find the chords change slightly, before heading back into the main chord progression in the chorus.  

[Am]~[C] I feel something so [G] right, doing the [F] wrong thing 

[Am]~[C] I feel something so [G] wrong, doing the [F] right thing  

[F] I could lie, could lie, could lie  

[F] Everything that kills me makes me feel alive  

This variation at the end of the second verse is one line shorter:  

[Am]~[C] I feel something so [G] right, doing the [F] wrong thing 

[F] I could lie, could lie, could lie  

[F] Everything that kills me makes me feel alive  

Breakdown  

Finally, there’s a breakdown towards the end of the song which is mostly a percussion and vocal feature. Still, you can play along with the following chords: 

[Am] Take that money, watch it burn 

Sink in the river, the lessons learned   

Take that money, watch it burn 

Sink in the river, the lessons learned   

Take that money, watch it burn 

Sink in the river, the lessons learned   

[F] Everything that [Am] kills me makes me feel alive  

Bonus Melodic Line  

If you’d like to work some fingerpicking into your performance or just want an extra challenge, you can try playing a more melodic accompaniment for part of the song instead of strumming the chords the whole way through. This tutorial teaches you a relatively simple, fingerpicked line to play throughout the chorus.

View the complete ukulele chord chart for Counting Stars here.

Strumming Patterns 

It’s important to keep in mind that Counting Stars is a reasonably upbeat song. If you’re a beginner, playing the chord changes up to speed might feel a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you’re used to playing slower pieces.  

Straight Strumming Pattern 

This is the most straightforward way to play along to Counting Stars. All you need to do is strum along to the upbeat and downbeat and keep good time. If you like, you can add additional upstrokes or downstrokes to make the pattern a bit more interesting rhythmically.  

D U D U D U D U 

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 

More experienced players might like to try playing the whole strumming pattern with downstrokes. This can be a bit more physically challenging than alternating between upstrokes and downstrokes, but sounds heavier and is a nice way to complement the driving beat behind Counting Stars.  

Four-on-the-floor Strumming Pattern  

This strumming pattern is punchy and a great way to add a percussive dimension to your playing. We think this works best with the bigger moments of the song, like the chorus, so you might want to try switching things up and trying another of the strumming patterns for the verses or more subdued sections of Counting Stars. 

Essentially, you want to play the chord on the downbeat and then rest on the offbeat. This really helps give your playing a strong, driving feel, which is helpful when playing ukulele in a band context as your sound can get lost a bit amongst the more powerful, larger instruments.  

D – D – D – D –   

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 

As you can see, this pattern looks simple enough. However, it’s crucial that you play with good time and confidence with this particular strumming pattern, because it sounds a bit more exposed than constant strumming does. If you don’t, your playing might get lost among the mix, and if your playing isn’t rhythmically accurate then it may be somewhat obvious compared to other playing styles.   

Final Notes  

Practice makes perfect! If you’re struggling with playing along to Counting Stars at tempo, then the best thing you can do is try to play the song at a slower tempo. Practice going through the chord changes, and make sure to focus on the parts that you find to be the most challenging.  

By practicing the passages that you struggle with the most at a slower speed, you should find that you get more and more comfortable playing these particular passages as time goes on. Then, you can slowly increase the tempo that you are playing at until it matches the original tempo of Counting Stars. Not only will this help you play the song better, but it’s also a great exercise in keeping time and will help you improve your overall musicianship.  

Video Tutorial  

Below are some video tutorials that show you step-by-step how to play through the entirety of Counting Stars:

Enjoyed this tutorial?

If you enjoyed this song tutorial, you might like messing around with these ukulele songs as well:

Or, check out our full list of easy ukulele songs for beginners for even more songs to play.

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about the author
Lizzie Westlake
A ukulele player and writer with a passion for helping others. There's nothing Lizzie loves more than sharing the joy of music, especially with kids. She also plays a variety of string and wind instruments.