How To Play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen on Ukulele

by Rodrigo Sanchez, Mar 8, 2021 . 4 min read

How To Play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen on Ukulele

In this article we’ll explore how to play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen on ukulele. This song was originally released by Cohen in 1984 for his album Various Positions.

However, his recording of “Hallelujah” did not become very popular. John Cale later recorded it in a version that proved to have more success than Cohen’s. More importantly, Cale’s version caused a strong impression on Jeff Buckley, eventually leading him to record “Haleluyah” in his seminal album Grace. Buckley’s recording of “Hallelujah” made this song a classic, in great part because of its inclusion in the movie Shrek. With that being said, let’s learn how to play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen in ukulele


“Hallelujah” is a simple song that uses only five chords that take you on a journey. These chords are C, F, G, Am, Em. These are all easy ukulele chords that you probably know by now. Check out our ukulele app that shows you these and many more chords, as well as a wide variety of exercises to accompany you in your learning process. 

Playing the chords

The first chord is C, and to play it, simply place your ring finger on the first string third fret. Yup, it’s that easy! For F, place your index finger on the second string first fret, and your middle finger on the fourth string second fret. For G, place your first finger on the third string second fret, middle finger on the first string second fret and the ring finger on the second string third fret. Then we have A min. Simply place your second finger on the fourth string second fret. You like that, don’t you? The final chord is Em. Place your index finger on the first string second fret, the middle finger on the second string third fret and the ring finger on the third string fourth fret. 

Strumming pattern

You can play “Hallelujah” with a strumming pattern, a fingerpicking pattern or a combination of both. Even though both the strumming pattern and the fingerpicking are easy, the strumming might suit you better if you are just starting out. 

The basic strumming pattern is down, down, up, up, and you’re gonna repeat that for the entire duration of the pattern. For the fingerpicking, rest your thumb above the fourth string and rest the index, middle and ring finger on the top three strings. Remember that your index is finger 1, your middle finger is 2 and your ring finger is three. The pattern is 3, 2, 1; 3, 2, 1. Add your thumb at every other 3 (at the same time as your ring finger hits). 


Now that we have the chords and strumming and picking patterns, let’s look at the form. The form is just the order in which the sections of the song are played. The intro starts with the chords C, Am, C, Am. That’s also the first two lines of the lyric. The following two lines use the chords F, G, C, G. The following two lines use C, F, G, with the F and G lasting only one beat. That is followed by Am and F. The verse ends with G, Em, Am. 

The chorus goes F, A, F, C, G, C with the C and F lasting only two beats.  “Hallelujah” then repeats in the same order for the following verse. 

It is easy to learn how to play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen in ukelele. And it always amazes me how such a simple song can affect culture and society so deeply. With just a few chords you can play a variety of beautiful songs for ukulele, enjoying and sharing the beauty of music with your loved ones. Feel free to leave us a comment with some other ukulele songs you’d like to learn. 

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