Learn to play "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye on Ukulele

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Print the Lyrics and Chords for "What's Going On" (link)
Download the TABS - "What's Going On" Ukulele Intro Picking TAB(.pdf)

Hey UUers!

In this month's Ukulele Play-Along, Aldrine does a cover of a classic - "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye on ukulele! Click PLAY and if you need a little help learning to play this song on your ukulele, start with STEP 1 below:

STEP 1 - Chords

First, try out the 2 main chords you need to play this song:

Emaj7(4446), C#m7(4444)

Practice switching between the two by adding and removing the 6th fret on the A string. As with most bar chords, be sure to position your thumb on the back side of the neck, pointing towards the headstock for better leverage.

For the rest of the verse and chorus, you'll need to learn the next 3 chords (F#m, B, and B9#5). The last chord (Am11) will be used for the instrumental break in the middle of the song and during the outro.

F#m(2120), B(4322), B9#5(2334), Am11(2435)

Familiarize yourself with these chords and learn how to switch between them. The B to B9#5 switch is the fastest change in the whole song, so be sure to get that motion down solid. For more instruction on how to hold the chords and switch between them, check out the video below:

Once you get comfortable holding each of these chords and switching easily between them, move on to Step 2.

STEP 2 - Rhythm

Feel free to use a simple "down, down, down, down" strum (1 down per beat), or "down-up, down-up, down-up, down-up" strum (1 down-up per beat) to get started. As long as you're in sync with the tempo of the song, you'll be fine. If you would like to get a little more fancy and play the same rhythm that Aldrine strums in the Play-Along video, it will take a little more practice finding the groove. Before you get started, you'll need to know how to chunk (for more info on that, check out the Uke Minutes lesson on Chunking). The strumming rhythm also requires you to release the pressure on your fretting hand. Try holding the Emaj7 chord, then releasing the pressure so that your fingers stay in place but rest lightly on the strings to mute them. Then reapply the pressure, and lightly release again.

When you're comfortable with chunking and applying and releasing the pressure on your chords, watch the video below for more info on how to recreate Aldrine's strumming rhythm for "What's Going On":

Now, try playing along with the Play-Along at the top of the page, adding either the basic strum or the intermediate rhythm to your chords. Great job, you can now play the song!

STEP 3 - Picking

Finally, add a little extra by playing the intro picking to this song. There are just a few notes to the picking, however the rhythm of the notes can be a little tricky to master. Aldrine explains the notes in the video below:

After memorizing the notes in their correct order, practice the timing and rhythm of the notes using the following picking practice video:

Try it out, using your ears to match the rhythm, and when you're able to pick in a way that sounds pretty close, play along with the Play-Along at the top of the page. Awesome, you just played the advanced version of this song!

That's it! Have fun with this one, it has a lot of really interesting and pretty-sounding chords in it, so master them and impress your friends! And as always, if you have any questions or need help with this song, feel free to contact us at any time. Good luck, rock on, and keep strummin'

-UU Staff


  1. Hi,

    Love the song. Do you have the picking tab for the other part of the song when the Am11 is being strummed?

  2. I love this song.

    For the strumming in the switches between C#m7 -> F#m and F#m -> B -> F#m -> B , is Aldrine just playing those notes out and not muting?

    1. Hey blee80! During the switches between those chords, Aldrine might not be using his pinky to mute, but he is lifting off on the pressure of the chord, which mutes the strings. As long as you are lightly touching the strings while you transition between chords, the strings won’t ring out and you’ll get that muted sound as you continue strumming. Hope that makes sense – let us know if you have any other questions or need clarification!

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