September 1, 2014

Ukulele tabs for 'Wake Up' by Arcade Fire

A terrific song. What I’m most interested in capturing are not only the chords, but a way to continually strum them so that the melody can be heard. Here’s the intro (and verse) chords, tabbed in a way that emphasizes the melodic notes.

Audio sample of me playing

Here’s a clip of me playing this on ukulele, using the exact tabs I have below.

For easy reference, you can jump to these points in the recording to match the tabs below:


Here’s how I approach the intro. The main goal is to emulate the sound of the vocal melody using only my ukulele. After playing a few bars of normal C to get things warmed up, I’ll play as tabbed below:



      Em                   F           C


I don’t do anything special for the verse aside from playing the chords. The progression is the same as the intro, but simpler (the Em I have in the intro tab probably doesn’t really exist in the “proper” chords for this song).

| C . . . | C . . . | Am . . . | Am . . . |
| F . . . | F . . . | C  . . . | C  . . . |


Here’s how I play the bridge/interlude that occurs in the middle of the song. While the tab below reflects the notes I play, it doesn’t show my strumming pattern. I’ll let you pick the strumming pattern of your choice, to which you can add the chords below.

One key tip I have: for the Eb chord, keep your ring finger on the 3rd string (the C-string) and use that finger to barre the 3rd fret for the Eb+6 variation that comes after it. Also on the Eb, no need to barre the complete first fret with your index finger (I tend to barre the highest two strings, if anything). I find that this makes you less nimble if you worry about barring the 3rd string as well.

      Eb                               C 
     "With my--- light--ning bolts a---glow---ing...

  "...I--- can-- see--- where I--- am..."

  "...Going to be, when the    reaper, he   reaches, and..."

 -|---0----0---0---0----|-    ...begin outro, stay on C
  "...touches  my  hand"

Outro, part 1

First, there’s this instrumental transition section. I emulate the melody as follows. Note, the strumming for this entire section is different from the earlier part of the song – you’ll now (likely) want to pick up the strumming tempo and be a bit more upbeat.

C-|---0--------0---0---|-  ...strum this as long as you want before moving on
      C      Cadd4 

And to transition to each chord in this section, I like walking down on the highest string (while fully strumming) as follows.

      C                       Em

     (Em)                     F 

     (F)                      C 

Outro, part 2

Finally, moving on to the “with my lightning bolts a-glowing” section of the outro, you can emulate the melody (along with your strumming) by using the exact same progression from the intro tab.