Learn to play "White Sandy Beach of Hawaii" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (IZ) on Ukulele

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Hey UUers!

For many of you, winter is still in full swing - so this month we're sending you a warm postcard from Hawaii with an episode of Uke Lessons. This time, it's "White Sandy Beach of Hawaii" by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole and we've pulled out all the stops. A while back, we released a Whiteboard Requests lesson for this song, so if you're looking for a less intense, less in-depth lesson on how to play it, be sure to check it out. But this time, Aldrine covers the chords, fingerpicking, chord patterns, and the Intro and Outro picking and fingerpicking patterns to really get you playing this song like the original.

As a note: in the original song, Braddah IZ plays a Low G ukulele and in this tutorial, Aldrine shows you how to play it using a High G ukulele. The main fingerpicking pattern that Aldrine teaches for High G is "CEGA EC" but if you are playing a Low G, you can use "GCEAGCEA" instead.

Be sure to play along with the Play-Along video and use YouTube's onboard slow-down function to really see what Aldrine is doing:

How to Slow Down YouTube

This is also a song we often play on the Aloha Friday Jam, our weekly virtual ukulele club streamed on YouTube Live, so be sure to learn the song and play along with us live! Have an awesome time with this, practice hard, & rock on

-UU Staff


  1. This is a well thought and presented lesson. However, picking 6 notes per chord has me puzzled. This would fit a song in 3/4 or 6/8 better. The original song is written in 4/4 and listening carefully to IZ playing it he seems to be playing 4 notes per chord, which is logical.

    I can’t resolve this and will play the song with either 4 notes or eight notes per chord, or it will lose the 4/4 feel. The chords and sequence presented are spot on.

    Appreciate any explanation…..

    1. Hey Kevin,

      that’s kind of a hard question to answer, but we tried to in our latest Live Lesson:

      If you don’t watch the Live Lesson, Aldrine Adjusted the song, so he could play it on a high G and to also incorporate the intro picking that IZ does and the rhythm Iz uses when singing. In the original, Iz is playing a low G, but since Aldrine’s Ukuleles uses a high G, he adjusted to start the fingerpicking pattern on C. Aldrine also needed to change the rhythm of the picking to match how Iz sings the melody line.

      I’ll try to write out how the fingerpicking rhythm works in tab form:
      1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

      Sometime Aldrine also uses a pattern like this:
      1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

      The melody pattern alone is something like this:
      + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

      Heads up, it starts on the + of the previous measure. If you look at the other notes in the melody, they line up rhythmically with how Aldrine plays the fingerpicking pattern. If you did a pattern like Iz (low to high 8th note fingerpicking), it would still line up, but you wouldn’t hear the melody notes ring out.

      Fingerpicking Pattern closer to Iz’ background fingerpicking pattern:
      1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

      All this added information might be confusing, but I hope that helps answer your question. The simple answer to your question is that Aldrine played what felt good to him, and playing a 4 or 8 note pattern isn’t wrong either.

      -Kahai (UU Staff)

      1. I’ve listened to the live lesson about 20 times, with the examples of the ‘lesson’ verson and Iz’s 4-beat version and I can’t for the life of me hear the triplets or 12/8 rhythm that Aldrin and Magic Mike talk about. To me it sounds like straight 4/4, with the 6 notes being played as eighth-notes in a different rhythm as follows:

        1 and 2 and (gap) and 4 (gap)

        Maybe my ears are just broken, though πŸ™‚ Magic Mike is ALWAYS right!

        1. Hey Paul,

          I think Mike was explaining in general how a 4/4 song could have a 3 note or 6 note rhythm pattern using triplets, and Aldrine continued to use triplets to describe the rhythm. An example of triplets in 4/4 is the Vamp strumming Aldrine did for I Kona:

          You are exactly right about the rhythm. It’s 3 eighth notes, 1 quarter, 1 more eighth, and a quarter. I tried to write it out so the rhythm above the tab would be spaced to the notes, but I forgot that the comments condenses the space, so it looks weird.. Hopefully this looks better:

          The Melody Rhythm should look like this:

          Good catch. This is one of those songs that is so nuanced that it’s hard to explain sufficiently using music theory. There probably are some triplets that I missed somewhere, and if you try to count along to the original song, Iz will sometimes cut a beat short so it’s like 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +. That’s what makes the song deceptively hard. While the chords and notes are pretty straightforward, the groove is something that is probably easier to feel than to dissect and analyze. Good job again!

          -Kahai (UU Staff)

  2. I have a tenor with a low g, what chords should i play? I tried the gceagcea but the ea is really high. Thanks!

  3. Great lesson thanks!

    I’m just looking at the intro fingerpicking in the tab. When you get to the B flat chord, the 6th note in in the tab refers to the 2nd fret on the G string (an A note), is this correct? I couldn’t see Aldrine play this in the video and was wondering if it should it be 3rd fret on the G string (an A sharp/B flat)? Or I am just missing something?

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