Dan Zanes

Lesson >

The Cuckoo Bird - Uke

Chords, Rhythm and Fingerpicking

Dan Zanes Lesson >

The Cuckoo Bird - Uke > Chords, Rhythm and Fingerpicking

Good Day My Fine Feathered Ukulele Strumming Friends! Here’s we go with The Coo Coo Bird. This seems to have started in England way back when and eventually landed here in the U.S. where Clarence Ashley recorded an inspired version with his banjo in 1929. That will be our starting point. This song is just Dm and C chords and in this lesson we’ll look at some way to spice up the chords while strumming, vocal ideas for group singing, and a way to play it as a finger picking song. In other words, we’re going to town! For me, taking a simple tune with easy changes and going as deep as possible is where the creative joy really rises. This approach is a starting point and I know you’ll find ways to take this song and make it your own. Let me know how you’re doing, i’m here and I’m excited to hear you play this Social Music masterpiece.

Dan Zanes




Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Run-Through of Up Above My Head

Loop 1:14  What You Will Learn Today

Loop 2:12 Chords and Rhythm Breakdown

Loop 9:40 Fingerpicking Breakdown

Loop 13:25 Closing Thoughts

Loop 15:02 Practice Loop of Whole Song


Download the Sheet Music PDF






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Ryan Dec 13, 2017

Hi Dan,

Great lesson and I love the song choice.

I was working on your version a while ago, I came back to the song yesterday and it has now morphed into something a bit different.



Dan Zanes
Dan Zanes Dec 27, 2017

hey there Ryan!

wow...this is so great, man. I love the way you made it your own.

the picking is super solid and if you want a suggestion for where to go from here one thing would be to incorporate some hammer-ons and pull offs. the Dm chord has some good possibilities for pull-offs and the C chord has easy possibilities for hammer-on / pull-offs. It could be cool to make a solo section that goes through the changes...

really good work, man!

and i like the singing a lot too...the confidence comes through....

happy musical new year!

yr pal,


Ryan Dec 29, 2017

Thanks for the suggestions and encouragement, I will keep at it. 

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