Play an Accessible Chord-Melody Arrangement of “April Showers”


The 1921 song “April Showers” was an early hit for singer/actor Al Jolson, as well as a dance-band staple of the time, recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra to none other than ukulele wizard Roy Smeck. 

Check out more music to play here

This arrangement is a simple version written in the chord-melody style—as the term suggests, simultaneously covering the melody and the chords in a self-contained way.

Before you tackle the arrangement, slowly strum through the chord frames shown above the staves. You might be surprised at how this basic exercise can help you overcome tough fingerings before you have the added complexity of also playing single notes. 


Once you’ve got the chords under your fingers, play the song using only downstrokes with your thumb. Roll through the notes in each chord, rather than strumming them briskly, to help the melody note on the A string ring out over the top. At the same time, pick the single notes with a little more force than usual, so that they sound at equal volume with the chords.

A benefit of the chord-melody approach is that it can lead you to playing common chords in new ways. In the first eight measures of the A section, a repeating three-note melody (D–C# –D) is followed by a chord. Here we cycle back and forth between D7 and G chords, using two different voicings for each, as directed by the changing melody notes. 

Measures 13–14 will likely be the most challenging part of the arrangement, as you need to slide up the fretboard for the seventh-fret E. While playing each A9 chord, reach with your fourth finger to grab that note, at the same time moving up your first and second fingers to form the A7 chord. 

The B section starts the same as the A, and the next challenge occurs in bars 29–31, where you need to strum only up to the E string to bring out the melody. Take your time working through this passage and the rest of the song, adding a few new measures each day, and you’ll be swinging through the whole chord-melody arrangement before you know it.

Music by Louis Silvers, lyrics by B. G. De Sylva

"April Showers" ukulele music notation by Christopher Davis-Shannon