23 Sad Ukulele Songs For Those Down Times

Sometimes you’re in the mood for something sad. A song that will soothe your soul and help you interpret your feelings.

Or maybe you’re interested in learning a few tear-jerkers to include in your live set list, which is also valid.

Well, whatever you might be up to, you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for beautiful, sad ukulele songs (various pop and rock songs included) that will tug at your heartstrings.

Let’s get to that list, shall we?

“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by John Denver

Chords in this song: C, D, G

So far as sad folk / country songs go, this one hits the spot. The music, combined with the lyrical content, evokes those deep, tear-jerking emotions we often feel when we know we’re going to be leaving someone, even if it’s only temporary.

Unlike some songs on this list (and many other sad songs), this one has a hint of hope in it. If you read the lyrics, it sounds more like John is saying he’s leaving on tour and he’s going to miss his loved one, but not that he isn’t coming back. Phew.

Either way, though, this is a beautiful, evocative, haunting number. For all those times you’re traveling and touring and are homesick, there are few songs as resonant as Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane.”

And in case it seems intimidating, it’s good to know that this song only uses three chords!

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Hurt” by Johnny Cash

Chords in this song: Am, C, D, F, G

As you might already know, this was originally a song by Nine Inch Nails. Johnny Cash made it his own, though, and there’s just something undeniable about the weight of his well-weathered voice on this track, recorded shortly before his death.

The lyrics are kind of “emo,” but Cash still manages to pull it off. You really believe him when he sings “I focus on the pain / The only thing that’s real.” Can’t say I would respect that coming from a different source.

The song is mostly about how we can’t help but hurt others. Not a theme that’s unique to this song, it seems many people feel that way, that they can’t do anything without hurting themselves or hurting others – that hurt is inevitable.

Cheer up, though, because we can also do a lot of good in the world, and the ukulele is a cheerful instrument, so spread the joy, too!

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman

Chords in this song: C, Cmaj7, D, Em, Em7, G

Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” hit it big at the tail end of the 80s, an age dominated by new wave, synthpop, and hair metal. This reflective folk-rock song kind of stuck out like a sore thumb, and honestly, it feels like it was a bit ahead of its time, as it would have (and did) fit in perfectly with the chart-topping hits of the mid-90s.

Sad is certainly a matter of opinion, and let’s face it, a lot of people perceive certain songs as being “sad” just because they have a minor chord progression. I’ve done my best to select songs here that are sad in some way, shape, or form, especially lyrically.

And “Fast Car” is mostly about escapism. Whenever running away from present circumstances, effectively, you’re running away from yourself. Once that sinks in, you realize there is no escaping after all. That’s a different kind of sadness.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton

Chords in this song: A, Am, Bm, C, Db, D, D7, E, Em, E7, Fm, Gb, Gbm, G

The story behind Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven” has been told many times. And Clapton himself said he wrote many songs mourning the untimely death of his young son who fell to his demise. This wasn’t the only one, but it’s the one that stuck out.

Obviously, songs of mourning are always a little sad if not a lot sad. Losing someone isn’t always easy, and it can often feel like losing a part of yourself.

In addition to being a beautiful, sad song though, it just so happens that it’s a great one to learn on the ukulele. Time to work on your fingerstyle playing!

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Adam’s Song” by Blink-182

Chords in this song: Am, C, Dm, F

“Adam’s Song” is a moody number, especially for a fun-loving punk rock outfit like Blink-182. But what it demonstrated was that there was more depth to this fart sniffing, immature humor loving trio.

The meaning of the song is spelled out for you in the first verse. These lines seep beneath the surface: “I’m too depressed to go on / You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.”

Yes, this is a song about depression and suicide. With that in mind, if you are feeling depressed now, please find help immediately. Don’t wait. Your life is more important than you even realize.

Ironically, this is a fun song to learn and play.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTab

“Un-break My Heart” by Toni Braxton

Chords in this song: Bm, Em, A, F#, Dm, Gm, C, G, A#

This melodramatic breakup song was a big deal in 1996, and it even won Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (among other awards).

Listening to it, even now, though, should go to explain why. “Un-break My Heart” can still give you shivers, and Braxton’s contralto voice shines like a polished gem, reminiscent, in this case, of Whitney Houston.

The original features some stunning acoustic guitar work. Duplicate this on your ukulele, and you’re sure to provoke a few tears.

Ukulele Tab: Ukulele Tabs and Chords

“To Be With You” by Mr. Big

Chords in this song: F#m, A, Dsus2, G, E, D, C

This hard rock supergroup found more favor with a Japanese audience than a North American one. It could be that they were a little late to the shred happy hair metal era. But even in North America, where people are less familiar with Mr. Big, they still tend to know this song – “To Be With You.”

And while it sounds upbeat and even kind of happy, it’s basically a song about unrequited love. And there’s no happy ending in this song. We’re basically left to wonder ourselves. It’s a cliffhange.

Perhaps there is a happy ending on the other side of events, but this song is not going to tell us. That kind of suspense can kill you, even if not literally.

Ukulele Tab: Ukulele Tabs And Chords

“You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift

Chords in this song: Am, C, D, G

I mean… by now, unless you’re under Taylor’s spell, you’ve figured out that most if not all her songs are about sad breakups, unrequited love, and relationships gone awry, right?

And again, like Mr. Big’s “To Be With You,” this is kind of a deceptive song, because it sounds fun and upbeat. Peek at the lyrical content, though, and you’ll see that it’s also about love not reciprocated. And it’s quite relatable.

This is also a simple pop song that’s great for beginners. Every uke enthusiast should give it a try because you can adapt the same chords to countless other pop songs, even some on this list.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

Chords in this song: Bb, Cm7, Eb

There’s sadness underlying a lot of Fleetwood Mac songs, not just “Landslide.” But this is one of those that’s especially memorable, because it’s not just about heartbreak – it’s also about how fast things can change and pass us by in life. Thanks for making me sad, Fleetwood Mac.

Lindsay Buckingham’s Travis picking style is perfectly complementary to the lyrics and subject matter of the song. Plus, it was (and still is) an inspiration to many.

Of course, that makes it an excellent song to adapt to the ukulele (to work on your fingerstyle) too.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion

Chords in this song: C, D, Em, G

Canadian singer Celine Dion is mostly an acquired taste (especially among her native people), but she certainly made her mark with “My Heart Will Go On,” which was featured heavily in the unforgettable late 90s movie Titanic.

Overall, this is a song about loss and letting go. And it could certainly be argued that it’s a positive song about sad events.

It might sound like a complex song, but at its core, it’s a four-chord wonder. That, combined with the fact that it features a slow (ballad) tempo, makes it an easy song for beginners to pick up as well.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” by Dionne Warwick

Chords in this song: C, Am, F, G, Em, A7, C#m, D

“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” was written by composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. It was originally written for the 1968 musical Promises, Promises, but the most well-known version is probably this one, by Dionne Warwick.

You may also remember that Bacharach performed it with Elvis Costello on the vocals in the movie Austin Powers 2.

The song has a jaunty, whimsical quality to it, but of course, the lyrics are all about how falling in love is nothing but trouble. Honestly, not much needs to be said beyond the melancholy title.

Ukulele Tab: Ultimate-Guitar.Com

“The Scientist” by Coldplay

Chords in this song: Bb, C, Dm, G, Fsus2

There are many ways to express how a broken heart feels. Coldplay, though, may have been one of the first to run with the science analogy (though the concept of “chemistry” shouldn’t be lost on anyone).

In that sense, “The Scientist” might be kind of an emo song. Because there are a lot of emo songs out there that try to add poetry to what is fundamentally a rite of passage. We all go through disappointment and heartbreak. It is what it is.

Overall, though, it’s not a hard song to play. It’s a great one for beginner to intermediate players to give a go.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.

Melancholy tunes for your uke

Chords in this song: A, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, Gb, G

This one is quite “on the nose,” but come to think of it, aren’t most R.E.M. hits kind of sad (e.g., “Losing My Religion”)?

R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” reminds us that we all go through difficult times. And it lets us know that we should keep hanging on, even when we feel like giving up.

A great song for practicing your ukulele fingerpicking.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day

Chords in this song: Bm, C, Dm, D, Em, G

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” is about Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s father’s death. He was only 10 years old when it happened.

Loss is obviously a tough thing to process. It doesn’t matter what age you’re at but being a youngster losing a parent always comes with some challenges moving forward.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to be awake and present to what’s happening in your life. And that sentiment is all too relatable in this tune.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan

Chords in this song: Am7, C, D, G

This Cowboy classic has been covered by everyone from Eric Clapton to Bob Marley. It helps that it’s a great jam song, no doubt, and at its heart, it’s debatable as to whether it’s sad. Though it should be said that it’s basically about the final moments of life.

What makes it such a great jam song? Practically everything about it. The song has a basic four-chord structure, its tempo is slow to medium, the melody is easy to sing, there’s plenty of room for backing singers to chime in, and instrumentalists can take turns playing solos over the chords (in between the vocals).

An essential for all ukulele players.

Ukulele Tab:  UkuTabs

“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison

Chords in this song: C. Cadd9, D, Em, G

Oft cited as one of the saddest songs of the 80s, Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” nevertheless turns up the cheese factor to 11. You could take it seriously, I suppose, but I don’t know that most people do (it’s Poison, man…).

Even so, we can’t deny that the song is an achievement all its own. Once you hear it, you can’t forget it, and it was even referenced in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. And if you’re going to get your 80s / 90s pop culture references from anywhere, it should probably be that movie.

At its core, this is a song about how even something beautiful can have its downsides and come with some pain.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Careless Whisper” by George Michael

Chords in this song: A, Bb, C, Dm, Gm

Melodramatic, perhaps, but I think George Michael pulled off “Careless Whisper” with class.

This is a song about having cheated on someone you care deeply about. And we all know how all-consuming guilt can be. It’s quite tough to live with.

This song says it a lot better than many modern counterparts too.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“With Or Without You” by U2

Chords in this song: A, Bm, D, G

U2’s “With Or Without You” is quite ubiquitous, so it’s unlikely you haven’t come across it at some point.

The title itself evokes a sense of suspense. And it hints at the sometimes-tortuous nature of waiting on something or someone, not knowing whether they will show up when you need them most.

Knowing that U2’s songs often have spiritual undertones, this song probably represents more than just uncertain love, but also the spiritual significance of the challenges we encounter in life.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper

Chords in this song: Am, C, D, Dm, Em, F, G

This is one of those dramatic tunes that ultimately seems to have a happy ending. The repeated calls of “If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting” seems to indicate a relationship that – while it isn’t without its struggles – is going to survive the test of time.

And let’s not glance over the fact that it’s just a great song through and through. It’s an excellent example of what a ballad should be.

Ukulele Tab: UkuTabs

“If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago

Chords in this song: C, AM, Em, D, G, F, Bbm, Bm, E, Dm, Fm

Chicago is one of those bands that is clearly defined by a couple of eras. In their early days, their music tended more towards hard rock and psychedelic rock. And it was great in its own way. Then, they transitioned to a softer, adult contemporary and ballad-oriented sound, especially with the addition of singer Peter Cetera.

“If You Leave Me Now” reflects the latter, but in its early form. This is a sophisticated song, and that includes its chord progression. It’s an excellent sad song.

Ukulele Tab: Ukulele Tabs and Chords

“3AM” by Matchbox Twenty

Chords in this song: G, Cadd9, D, Em

Matchbox Twenty’s “3AM” has basically come to represent the band, and even lead singer Rob Thomas.

Listening to “3AM,” you probably always got the vague sense that it wasn’t a happy song, and you’d be right.

“3AM” was inspired by Thomas’ often troublesome relationship with his mother. When he was a teen, Thomas had to care for his mother while she got treated for cancer, and reportedly, their relationship was often volatile.

Ukulele Tab: Ukulele Tabs And Chords

“Save Tonight” by Eagle-Eye Cherry

Chords in this song: Am, F, C, G

As with John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” it’s clear that Swedish rock musician Eagle-Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight” isn’t all sad. But while you get the sense that Denver will be returning, Cherry won’t be.

This song could very well be autobiographical, depicting a Cherry whose career is taking off, and he’s about to leave in pursuit of his passion. That’s just speculation, mind you.

Either way, sometimes you need to move on. And even when it’s a good thing, it can still be sad.

Ukulele Tab: Tabs 4 Ukulele

“Bye Bye” by Mariah Carey

Chords in this song: G, Em, Bm7, C, G/B, Am7

Mariah Carey’s “Bye Bye” was written in tribute to her father, who passed away of cancer. In the opening, Carey even dedicates the song to “people who just lost somebody.”

For the most part, it’s a touching song about loss. One where you can cry it out and be soothed by the melodies.

Ukulele Tab: Ukulele Tabs And Chords

Top Sad Ukulele Songs, Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for songs that will heal those inner wounds, the above should do the trick!

We will all experience sadness in this life. The key is feeling it instead of escaping it. Acknowledging it instead of denying it. Letting it take its course of instead of trying to fix or medicate it.

We hope you enjoyed this list, and when you’re ready, cheer up!