Ukulele Video Lesson - Imagine

This week's featured ukulele video lesson is John Lennon's Imagine. Imagine is, arguably, John Lennon’s signature song and is inarguably the most popular of all of his singles. The song’s melody and content have become not only strongly associated with Lennon himself, but with the era in which it was released.

Imagine presents an opportunity to learn one of the most well-known songs in the world and, at the same time, one that is relatively simple and not terribly difficult to play.

Learning to play this ukulele video lesson

The piano riff carries the hook in this song, so much of the work of the ukulele player will be providing the underpinning for it. The song uses Cmaj7 and F during the verses, but the refrain, which begins with the words “Imagine all the people”, transitions to F, Am, Dm, G7, and E7, so there are enough chord changes to make this song interesting for all players.

During the verses of the song, the piano and the vocals are very much at the forefront of the music and the lyrics in this song are meant to be heard. During the refrain, however, the backing music becomes a bit more energetic, the bass becomes prominent and, for the ukulele player, there’s an opportunity to carry the chord changes and to emphasize the subtleties of this really quite brilliant melody.

Pay particular attention to the beats where the music stops and, for a very short rest, Lennon’s voice is the only instrument heard. These small rests are important to introducing the next section of the song in all cases, and carry the listener from the refrain to some of the most memorable parts of this piece.

The strumming style for the song should be gentle, soft, and it is an excellent opportunity to practice dampening the sound of the instrument with one’s hand and to otherwise control the dynamics of the instrument. It should be integral to the entire sound of the piece, while remaining subtle enough to be difficult to discern from the rest of the ensemble, unless one listens closely.

Song History

Imagine is one of the most famous songs in the world. It is broadly used as an anthem for peace, hope, unity among human beings and nations and, of course, it is also very much associated with the politics and ideology of the hippie era.

Part of the subtlety and, really, beauty of this song is actually a deliberate move on Lennon’s part to try to introduce the ideas espoused in the song to a broader audience. John Lennon intended people who heard the song to understand its message but also wanted to make certain that it was presented in a way that was accessible to most everyone.

There is a video for this song, which features John Lennon and Yoko Ono sitting at a piano in an entirely white room, with a white piano and with Ono opening the blinds to allow the sun to stream in. The video is very well known and, in fact, contains some of the most iconic images of John Lennon, meaning that Imagine not only is one of the most well-known songs in the world, but that it also has one of the earliest and most well-known music videos, as well.

Imagine is widely regarded as being culturally, historically and, of course, musically significant. There are few songs in the 20th century that are played as much as Imagine. It has been covered by many artists, and even been parodied by artists such as Richard Cheese, who released a lounge version. The song was released in the US in 1971 and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.

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