Digging Up a Rich Stash of Ukulele Music in the Public Domain

The ease of finding music to play, videos to stream, and a supportive community have been some of the reasons why the ukulele has taken off in popularity again. We can thank the internet for that. More specifically, we can thank the countless people who contribute by sharing their passion for all things uke.

For all of the home-brewed videos on YouTube and free tab sites, there’s also a fantastic stash of ukulele music in the public domain. Public domain works are things like songs or method books that for one reason or another have lapsed copyrights and now belong to the public. In today’s digital age, these public-owned, freely available works can be a huge source of material for playing and inspiration.

Of course, 100 years ago was the beginning of the first wave of ukulele mania on the mainland and songwriters quickly began churning out songs and method books that capitalized on the instrument’s charm and popularity.

Some sites, like IMSLP, specialize in making public domain music available to the curious public. With scores by composers like Bach and Beethoven, it’s a very popular source of music for the classical music community, but it’s also a good source of vintage ukulele music.


Take this one for example, The Kamiki Ukulele Method, from 1917. Like many old instructional manuals, it doesn’t have tab, but it does have a tremendous amount of music and a great guide to vintage strumming styles. If you have any standard notation-reading chops, there is something to be learned from Kamiki.

Since the IMSLP has such a strong classical presence, it’s no surprise that there’s also a PD version of Bach’s amazing Cello Suite No 1, arranged by Thomas Preece.

So, check out some of these links, share your own in the comments, and jump into the WABAC Machine for music the way our (great) grandparents played it. It’s sure to impress your friends at your next ukulele club meeting!