Billie Eilish has become a breakthrough pop sensation since her 2016 debut with the EP Don’t Smile at Me. One of the songs featured on that EP, “Ocean Eyes”, went on to become a minor commercial success for Eilish and introduced her to the mainstream pop world at large.
Built around just four easy chords, “Ocean Eyes” is a moody, spellbinding ballad which portrays the visual, deeply sensory experience that infatuation with another person can bring. The song combines a hazy, dreamy instrumental and harmonized backing vocals with a pentatonic-based lead melody that invokes Celtic folk music, creating a fascinating blend of modern and ancient musical ideas.
This article goes over the chords that you’ll need to know to play “Ocean Eyes” on the ukulele, as well as some different strumming patterns you can use to cover the song. We’ve also provided chord diagrams and a link to a video tutorial if you’d like to get an even more in-depth guide to playing the song.
Find more easy ukulele songs here >>> 57+ Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners (using basic chords)
“Ocean Eyes” Ukulele Chords
“Ocean Eyes” is a simple song, using only the ukulele chords of C, D, Em, and G for its harmony. This makes it a great choice for beginners to the uke to learn, especially given that all four of the songs’ chords are very widely used in other easy ukulele songs. Once you’ve learned to play “Ocean Eyes”, you’ll find yourself suddenly able to play a whole host of other songs from a range of different genres.
If you look at the chords listed below, you’ll notice that “Ocean Eyes” on the ukulele follows the same progression from start to finish. However, every second or third repetition of the progression is a variation on the original and ends with [G], [C] rather than [Em]. This gives the composition a sense of balance, as well as stopping it from feeling too predictable or repetitive.
While the [C] [D] [Em] chord progression is simple enough, the song moves through them quickly, along to the changes mirroring the cadence of the vocal melody. This can make the song feel a bit tricky to begin with, so, if you’re struggling with getting the timing of the chords down, you may want to practice it slowed down until you’re comfortable with the changes before playing it up to speed.
“Ocean Eyes” starts with a brief intro, which cycles through the main chord progression three times before pausing briefly on the chords [G] and [C].
[C] [D] [Em] (x3)
After the intro, the verse begins, following the same chord progression as before. Listen closely to the cadence of the main melodic line because the timing of the chord changes in the verses of “Ocean Eyes” is based on Eilish’s vocals.
[C] I’ve [D] been [Em] watching you [C] for [D] some [Em] time,
[C] Can’t [D] stop [Em] staring at those [G] ocean [C] eyes
[C] [D] Burning [Em] cities and [C] [D] napalm [Em] skies
[C] [D] Fifteen [Em] flares inside those [G] ocean [C] eyes
Your [G] ocean [C] eyes
While the chorus follows the same chord progression as the verse, the timing of the changes themselves varies. In the choruses in “Ocean Eyes”, the chord changes are more drawn out, so make sure to listen closely to the chorus before attempting to play along to it so you can hear how the timing of the chord changes differs from that of the verses.
[C] No fair [D] [Em] [C] [D] [Em]
You really [C] know how to [D] make me [Em] cry
When you gimme those [G] ocean [C] eyes
[C] I’m scared [D] [Em] [C] [D] [Em]
I’ve never [C] fallen from [D] quite this [Em] high
Falling into your [G] ocean [C] eyes
Those [G] ocean [C] eyes
After the second chorus, there’s a short instrumental bridge. Once again, this section follows the main chord progression that the rest of the song uses.
[C] [D] [Em] (x3)
[C] [D] [Em] (x3)
[G] [C] [G] [C]
After the instrumental, the song ends with a final repetition of the chorus, which tapers off and becomes more stripped-back as the song draws to a close.
Below, you’ll find some strumming patterns that you can use to play along to “Ocean Eyes”. Being that the original recording doesn’t feature any ukulele at all, you can take some artistic license in terms of which strumming pattern you use or how you use it. You may want to combine different strumming patterns for different parts of the song. Alternatively, you may want to come up with your very own strumming pattern!
Strumming Pattern #1
This strumming pattern is very simple and might not look very exciting to play. However, we feel that it really complements the sparse, tasteful instrumental that “Ocean Eyes” features. By simply playing on the downbeat, you can really let each chord ring out to attain a more atmospheric, airy effect.
However, don’t be deceived; it can be tricky to keep good time while simultaneously playing a less busy part. When you play fewer notes on an instrument, mistakes and inconsistencies tend to become more obvious, due to each note being more exposed. So, be very mindful of your timing!
D – D – D – D –
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Strumming Pattern #2
Here’s another strumming pattern that you can use to play “Ocean Eyes”. This one is a little steadier and more consistent than the other one we’ve included in this guide, making it easier to time overall. If you’d like to give this strumming pattern a little more character and a percussive quality, you can choose to chuck or tap the uke rather than resting on the off beats.
If you’re finding this strumming pattern less exciting, you might want to experiment with alternating between it and the other strumming pattern we’ve outlined. This is a great way to extend yourself on the uke, as well as making your performance more interesting for your audience, too.
D – D U D – D U
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &