Stand By Me – Ukulele Tutorial

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Stand By Me is an R&B/soul classic, known for its moving lyrics, distinctive bassline, and dynamic vocal performance by none other than Ben E. King. The original recording doesn’t feature any ukulele, but we feel that the instrument perfectly complements the spacious, breezy instrumentation that backs up Ben E. King’s voice.  

You’ll likely notice that, apart from the bassline and the string outro, the instrumentation in Stand By Me is quite sparse and minimalistic. This gives the vocals of Ben E. King enough room to develop throughout the course of the song, without distracting or detracting from his performance at any point. 

As such, we’ve tried to develop a tutorial on playing ukulele along to Stand By Me while truly honouring the vibe and atmosphere that the original recording captures. While you can have a lot of fun simply strumming away along to the chord changes, adopting a slightly more rhythmically complex strumming pattern can really take your playing to the next level, as well as preserving the authenticity of the original feeling that Stand By Me is so known for.  

Fortunately, Stand By Me is based around four chords which stay the same the entire way through the song. This makes it a fantastic choice for beginners who are looking to learn new songs to play along to on the uke. If you’re a newer player who’s been wondering how to play Stand By Me on ukulele, then look no further! 

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

Chords 

As mentioned above, the harmony of Stand By Me is based around the same four chords. The first three, C, Am, and F, are very simple to play, featuring mostly open strings. The last chord, G7, may be challenging for players who aren’t used to playing chords with slightly awkward shapes.  

C ukulele chord
Am ukulele chord
F ukulele chord

This can also make the change to and from G7 challenging to play up to tempo. If you feel that you’re struggling with consistently nailing this chord, then the best thing to do is slow down the tempo and practice until it feels comfortable and natural. Once you’ve committed this chord to muscle memory, then playing it should almost feel like second nature to you.  

However, if you’re finding G7 too tricky to play consistently, then you can swap it out for a simple G chord. Some tabs and tutorials use a G chord instead of a G7 and the overall sound will be fairly similar regardless of which G chord you end up choosing.

G ukulele chord

Intro 

[C] [Am] [F] [G7] [C] 

Stand By Me starts off with a short intro, followed by the first verse.  

Verse 

Then, we come to the verse. Note that the chords of the verse and the chorus are the same, which is part of the reason that the transitions between the verses and choruses in Stand By Me are so seamless.  

[C] When the night has come [Am] and the land is dark 

And the [F] moon is the [G7] only light we [C] see 

No, I won’t be afraid… No, I- I [Am] won’t be afraid 

Just as [F] long as you [G7] stand, stand [C] by me  

Chorus 

[C] So darling, darling, stand, by me  

Oh oh, [Am] stand by me  

Oh [F] stand, [G7] stand by me, [C} stand by me  

Instrumental 

Between the last verse and the ending of the song, there is a short instrumental section. The instrumental features the same chords in the same order as the intro: C, Am, F, G7, C 

Ending  

Finally, there is a short last verse which trails into the outro.  

[C] Whenever you’re in trouble, won’t you stand by me 

Oh, [Am] stand by me, oh [F] stand by me, [G7] stand by me, [C] stand by me 

View the complete easy version ukulele chord chart for Stand By Me here.

Strumming Patterns  

You can apply a few different strumming patterns to Stand By Me. Try playing around with the patterns we’ve compiled for this article and see which one you like best.  

Strumming Pattern #1  

This simple strumming pattern involves playing on both the downbeat and the upbeat. It’s a good way to get a feel for the song and chord changes, but we’d recommend trying the other strumming patterns that we’ve listed in order to get a feel that is truer to the original recording. 

U D U D U D U D 

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 

Strumming Pattern #2 

This second strumming pattern can be a bit tricky, because it requires you to time your strums and rests properly, rather than simply strumming on the on and offbeat throughout the whole song. Still, we feel this pattern is a better fit to the overall song, and matches better to the original instrumentation in Stand By Me. 

You’ll likely notice that, apart from the bassline and the string outro, the instrumentation in Stand By Me is quite sparse and minimalistic. This gives the vocals of Ben E. King enough room to develop throughout the course of the song, without distracting or detracting from his performance at any point. 

D – D U – U D U 

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 

Percussive Strumming Pattern  

If you’re a more advanced player and are looking for something more challenging, then you could try this next strumming pattern, which aims to mimic the bassline that Stand By Me is so known for. While you can leave the ghost note out, we feel it’s a great way to add some edge to your strumming and really accent the groove of the bassline.  

D – X D – U D U 

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 

Final Notes  

Stand By Me’s ukulele chords are simple enough that you can have a lot of fun with trying different strumming patterns and playing along to the original. The instrumental in the original recording is quite delicate and minimalistic, so try to reflect this with your ukulele playing, as well as seeing what sounds best to you.  

Video Tutorial 

Here’s a very thorough and comprehensive video tutorial for playing Stand By Me on ukulele: 

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.