Learn To Play Hawai'i Aloha: Arrangement and Lesson

Learn to play Hawai'i Aloha on the ukulele, that you can learn for yourself and teach others. Continuing on with our recognition of the 'ukulele's birthday this week, celebrating the arrival of the Ravenscrag in Hawai'i in 1879.

Hawai'i Aloha, written by Christian minister Lorenzo Lyons (d. 1886), is the much-adored "unofficial anthem" of Hawai'i. It is sung in the streets, at private gatherings, at public events, and even at the opening sessions of the Hawaii State House of Representatives and Hawai'i State Senate.

When you travel to Hawai'i you may find yourself participating in a performance of this beautiful song. Singers join hands in a circle and gently sway to the melody. In the final measures of the piece, all participants raise their hands above their heads. It is a moving and meaningful ritual for native Hawaiians, Hawai'i residents, and visitors alike.

Read and listen

Visit Hawai'i Aloha on Wikipedia to read through the full translation. 

Listen to Iz Kamakawiwo'ole perform Hawai'i Aloha.  

How do you play Hawai'i Aloha on the ukulele?

Download your free score of Haiwaii Aloha On The Ukulele (PDF) so you can learn how to play it for yourself and of course, teach it too!

Key of F (C6 tuning: g, c, e, a)
Key of G (D6 tuning: a, d, f#, b)

If you want to learn more on the Ukulele, then be sure to check out Uketropolis.com, an online haven of ukulele courses! You can learn how to play jazz ukulele online, take beginner ukulele classes or intermediate classes!


How To Teach Hawai'i Aloha On The Ukulele

Interested in teaching and sharing this beautiful song? Here are some helpful tips. 

Focus On

Posture and breath support
Ear training


Hawaiian is a beautiful language full of fun-to-sing vowels. Vowels in Hawaiian are pronounced like this:

a = ah (as in “above”)
e = eh (as in “bet”)
i = ee (as in “bee”)
o = oh (as in “okay”)
u = oo (as in “cool”)


Here's a quick way to get good singing posture from your students: "sit on the edge of your chair as if you were about to jump up and touch the ceiling." Your students will sit with their feet flat on the floor and with their backs off their chairs.

Scaffold melody and lyrics

Have your students say the words in rhythm before they sing. Then, sing the melody to the syllable "loo," "la," or "lay." Finally, sing the melody to the Hawaiian words as printed.

Suggested arrangement:

  • Intro: vamp (strum for a few measures) on the first chord. Begin singing on cue from teacher/leader.
  • Sing once through the melody as printed
  • Instrumental: have some students pick and others strum for measures 1-15.
  • Sing the chorus
  • Tag: repeat the last line "Mau ke aloha..." to finish

Pop quiz!

Hawaiian language pop-quiz: What do the Hawaiian words "`uku" and "lele" mean? Answers: `uku (pronounced "oo-koo") means "flea"; "lele" (pronounced "lay-lay") means "jumping."

Additional suggestions and comments

  • It's customary to add an "echo" of the melody in measures 21-24. 
  • Challenge all students to observe the phrasing of the melody, i.e. "breathe only in the rests."
  • Challenge your advanced students to create and sing a harmony part above the melody.

If you like the material in this free lesson, you might also like Ukulele in the Classroom, a free series of 'ukulele method books by James Hill and J. Chalmers Doane. Learn more about this trusted methodology and download the books here. 

Header image details:
North shore seascape
Ron W. http://www.1219photography.com/
Creative Commons attribution license  


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