A lovely song to while away the summer – with some links to stuff that you might find useful for finding and learning other songs!
There are some beautiful ukulele versions of “Sunny” on the internet, both sung and instrumental. None of the versions here have been recorded as a tutorial, with the purpose of teaching someone how to play the song. I just liked these ones. There are many other versions that I liked too but I had to stop somewhere and 10, including Bobby Hebb’s original, seemed like a good place to draw the line.
My top pick for the easiest arrangement to play and sing is by NGUYEN DINH Quoc-Huy.
1. “Sunny (ukulele cover)” by Quoc-Huy.
The best version of Quoc-Huy’s to listen to is on Soundcloud. You can also download a copy of the mp3 file from the player embedded here or from the Soundcloud website if you want to listen to it off-line.
(If you see a message above saying, “This track is currently not available”: try this link instead https://soundcloud.com/quochuync/sunny-ukulele-cover/ )
Quoc-Huy has posted the same recording on YouTube but, so you can see the chord changes, for practice playing these songs, I would suggest using Riffstation:
Sunny by Quoc-Huy on Riffstation:
As you can hear, Quoc-Huy uses arpeggios, gently stroking the strings, instead of strumming. He also picks individual strings “finger-style” in between each arpeggio. You can strum if you like but this is a nice, slow song to practice arpeggios and picking out a few notes.
There is only one place where there is a quick chord change – and it is optional anyway if you are singing as the voice can carry the change well enough. This is the [C] to [Am] change in the last line of each verse:
[E7]Oh, Sunny one so true, I [C]love [Am]you. [F] [E7]
Tip 1: If the switch from [C] to [Am] is too fast for you, just miss out the [C] and hang on to the [E7] until you get to the [Am].
Tip 2: An easy way to get to the [C] from the [E7] is to slide your ring finger down a fret on the A string, lifting off the other fingers at the same time. That might help because the [C] to [Am] change just afterwards is a nice, easy change even if it is a bit quick.
Update! 10 Aug: Just had a chat with @quochuync on Twitter and he said he misses out the [C] here anyway :-)
I have posted a songsheet on “The Ukulizer” for Quoc-Huy’s simple arrangement in the Key of [Am].
- Chords used: [Am] [C] [F] [E7]
- You choose the layout of the songsheet yourself before you print it.
- Here is one way you can choose to print it:
Sunny [Am] The Ukulizer – chords inline
Ukulizer Songsheet: Http://www.ukulizer.com/ukulizer.php?file=/songs/Sunny
(I have mentioned The Ukulizer before in this blog post:
“Free and easy online tools to make song sheets with automatic chord grids | @ukegeeks | ukulizer |” )
You can change the songsheet key on the Ukulizer site. That means you can print songsheets of this arrangement for versions of this song in other keys, not just [Am].
If you fancy trying one of the versions that, like Bobby Hebb’s original, climbs up a key twice as it goes along then you would need to print out three versions in different keys and do a bit of cutting and pasting!
(If you spot any errors in the songsheet, please email me or leave a comment below as I can easily edit the Ukulizer songsheet.)
2. “Sunny – Ukulele Cover (A Bobby Hebb Song)” by lagaringer
Gorgeous vocals by lagaringer, who has collaborated on other songs with our “Summer Wind” friend from last year, Floyd Amason.
Sunny by lagaringer on Riffstation and Chordify:
This is an interesting one – Riffstation and Chordify give quite different results when they try to auto-detect the chords.
(I have left a comment for lagaringer on YouTube, asking if she would not mind telling me what chords she is using!)
3. “Sunny – Ukulele” by Ukester Brown
Ukester Brown, a prolific producer of songsheets as well as videos, has produced a songsheet for his version. Like the original by Bobby Hebb, it starts in [Em], climbs to [Fm] and then [F#m] before ending in [Gm].
Sunny – Ukester Brown’s Songsheet:
Sunny by Ukester Brown on Riffstation:
4. “The Ukelites: Sunny”
The Ukelites version, another corker, is close to Ukester Brown’s as their starting point was his songsheet – but it is also very different, of course. Uke and Ubass this time:
Sunny by The Ukelites on Riffstation:
5: “Sunny bad uke cover” by Giles Curtis
The last of the ukulele versions with vocals – plus he has a glass of wine in the sunshine! Spot on! This also isn’t as half as bad as he makes out. He can do it a lot better than me and most of the rest of us here, anyway. This was the one that got me thinking about picking “Sunny” – after I happened across his only other video on YouTube so far: “Ice Cream Man bad cover” :-) (I always feel like adding the word “abysmal” to my recordings, so he had my sympathy from the get-go!)
It is a slightly different arrangement to Quoc-Huy’s (No 1 above) but the same songsheet should work OK.
Sunny by Giles Curtis on Riffstation:
6. “Sunny – Ukulele solo” by WS64 (instrumental)
No tabs for this splendid instrumental to the sound of torrential rain and thunder rolls, WS64 (aka Wolfgang Schneider) doesn’t do tabs – but he does do several other very handy online music tools!
Sunny by WS64 on Riffstation:
7. “Sunny – solo ukulele improvisation” by Ken Middleton (2010)
Another very atmospheric interpretation! No tabs as this is an improvisation but Ken “Living Water” Middleton has lots of free ukulele tabs for fingerstyle/picking on his website:
Sunny solo by Ken Middleton on Riffstation:
8. “Sunny – improvisation for 2 ukuleles” by Ken Middleton (2009)
Apparently, Ken thinks this is a duff one! If I could play this badly I would be very happy!
Ken’s YouTube description:
“A “quick and sloppy” improvisation based on the song “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb (1965).
This turned out a lot better than I expected. Lots and lots of gorgeous wrong notes. The ending is particularly awful. I didn’t do a second take on either part.
I had also half ripped off my thumb nail. It was held on with super-glue. Unfortunately, I also glued by nail to my thumb so I couldn’t really use it.
I am using my Kanile’a K1 Concert and my Kala JazzUke.”
Sunny – 2 ukes improvisation by Ken Middleton on Riffstation:
9. “Sunny – on Electric Ukuleles” by Friends of Old Puppy (instrumental)
Groovy one to end the ukulele extravaganza! Friends of Old Puppy has Billy Wilson on (Risa) electric tenor ukulele, Steven Strauss on (Risa) electric soprano ukulele, Ed Johnson on wash-tub bass (“gutbucket”), and Cynthia Wilson on drums.
Sunny – on electric ukuleles by Friends of Old Puppy on Riffstation:
10. “Bobby Hebb – Sunny”
And finally – Bobby Hebb himself!
Sunny – Bobby Hebb on Riffstation:
YouTube Playlist of all the above:
Sunny on Wikipedia:
“Sunny” is a song written by Bobby Hebb. It is one of the most covered popular songs, with hundreds of versions released. BMI rates “Sunny” number 25 in its “Top 100 songs of the century.
Hebb wrote the song in the 48 hours following a double tragedy on November 22, 1963, the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Hebb’s older brother Harold was stabbed to death outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb was devastated by both events and many critics say that those events & critically the loss of his older brother inspired the lyrics & tune. According to Hebb, he merely wrote the song as an expression of a preference for a “sunny” disposition over a “lousy” disposition following the murder of his brother.
Hebb has said about “Sunny”: “All my intentions were to think of happier times & pay tribute to my brother – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low. After I wrote it, I thought ‘Sunny’ just might be a different approach to what Johnny Bragg was talking about in ‘Just Walkin’ in the Rain.’
Some other nifty tips and links:
“Sunny” chord progression on Song Trellis:
“Sunny” Jazz Chords pdf from a free music teaching website:
“Sunny” Jim Carey’s Ukulele Songbook Version:
(The whole Jim Carey Songbook is here – it is a BIG file!)
“Sunny” in [Am] – slightly different arrangement to Quoc-Huy’s:
Make Your Own Ukulele Chord Solos: Ukulele Hunt Interview with Michael Strachey aka reyalpEleluku aka “The Backward Ukulele Player” (Music self-played is happiness self made):
Soundcloud and YouTube Tips:
- You can get free Soundcloud and YouTube accounts
- You can record or upload your recordings: audio to Soundcloud and video to YouTube – but only if you want to, it’s not compulsory
- Soundcloud: Some people allow free downloading of their sounds, so you can save them as mp3 files and listen to them off-line
- YouTube: no official way to download audio or extract video
- You can “favourite” other people’s sounds or “Like” their videos, which makes it easier to find them again
- You can make “playlists” of sounds or videos (like creating an LP from a bunch of singles – showing my age here!)
- You can find good ukulele sounds by joining a Soundcloud Group like “Ukulele”: Https://soundcloud.com/groups/ukulele
- When you find people whose sounds or videos you like, you can “follow” them on Soundcloud or “Subscribe” to them on YouTube
- You can converse with people who have posted their recordings on both sites, by commenting publicly on “sounds” or videos or by sending private messages
Alternatives: Soundcloud and YouTube are not the only free audio and video upload sites but they are probably the most popular ones. A couple of others worth a look:
Https://instaud.io/ is a new, very basic Soundcloud alternative. Good for uploading audio to share via a link, eg. on Facebook; no “social” interactive side to it.
Http://vimeo.com/ is a well-established, free, family-friendly and “professional” alternative to YouTube – but also tending to be used more to “upload and link” than anything else. It is very well set-up to be more social, with interest groups and what-not, but that side of it has either not taken off or just not very much in areas that I have explored.
Riffstation and Chordify:
These are both free online tools and are very similar in purpose, ie. showing you “auto-detected” chords for songs. However, the interfaces are very different.
- Riffstation is better if you want to see chord diagrams as well as the names of chords (the default is for guitar so select the little icon of the ukulele to change to uke chords GCEA). On Chordify you cannot see both at the same time.
- Chordify also auto-detects chords for Soundcloud urls as well as YouTube.
- Chordify lets you download a free pdf of the chords it has detected.
- Riffstation has a software version that you can buy to download to your computer.
- Chordify is only online and has a “premium” version that gives more functionality.
- If you sign up for a free account with either of these sites, the songs you select are saved to your “Library” on the site so you can find them again.
Tip: It helps a lot with these chord detector sites if you already know what key the song is in. They do make mistakes. If you know what key the song is in it is easer to spot and correct errors. Although they can sometimes come out with different results, this is the first time I have seen anything quite as dramatic as they way they each handled lagaringer’s version of “Sunny”.
Again, there are free alternatives and some are specifically aimed at ukulele players, eg. “Sheep Entertainment Ukulele Playalong“. So far, I have found these sites harder to navigate and/or more fiddly if you want to add new songs, ie. rather than just playing what has already been added by other users.
There are also several apps that do much the same job as these sites. The only one I have used, and so far I have found that it detects chords more accurately than either Riffstation or Chordify, is Chord Detector by Martian Storm.
. . . Phew! If you are a “Sunday only” person – see you on Sept 14th. If you do Thursdays too – see you soon!