Ukulele Fingerstyle Songs For Beginners: Learn the 16th Century Lament ‘What If A Day’

By Mustafa Kamaliddin

What If a Day, a Month, Or a Year is a piece originally composed for the lute in the 16th century. This fingerstyle arrangement of the short art song is good for beginners in that it is simple, uses only five chords, and employs some good starting points for a couple new techniques.

Check out more from our Fingerstyle Songs For Beginners series here

One of those techniques is block-chord style, which involves plucking the chord using your right hand fingers planted on the strings instead of strumming the chord.


Here are some of the skills you will learn and use in this tutorial:

  • Holding a bass line while the melody lines changes
  • Alternating right hand fingers on melodic notes
  • Applying 5 basic chord shapes: Dm, A, F, C, and E7
  • Playing chords in block-chord style
  • Practicing alternating between eighth-note and quarter-note rhythms

This is a grade 1 piece, and as such I would say that if you are a complete beginner this should take you six weeks to learn. But if you’ve played few beginner arrangements already, then you should be able to finish this within four weeks.

Though the original composer is unknown, it is worth mentioning that various composers have used the melody in their own arrangements over the years, including John Dowland. Personally, I love how the ukulele has the capacity to produce tones resonant with those of 16th century instruments like vihuelas, lutes, and baroque guitars.

Good luck!

Mustafa Kamaliddin is a ukulele and guitar teacher specializing in fingerstyle playing. You can see more of his videos in his Ukulele Fingerstyle Basics Course and on his YouTube channel.

ukulele music notation fingerstyle "What If a Day"

book cover for ukulele basics – chords and harmony

Ukulele Basics: Chords and Harmony is a collection of six easy-to-follow but in-depth lessons on the basics of chords and harmony. Instructors and Ukulele magazine contributors Jim D’Ville and Fred Sokolow, as well as the great composer/player Daniel Ho, will guide you through easy chord variations, harnessing the power of certain chords, demystifying the famous Circle of 5ths, and understanding moveable chord shapes.