Learn to play "Smooth" Ukulele Version (Santana ft. Rob Thomas)

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Print the Lyrics and Chords for "Smooth" (link)
Download the TABS - "Smooth" Ukulele Picking(.pdf)

Hey UUers!

We did it you guys - we made it through the last year all in one piece! To celebrate and welcome 2021, the very first lesson of the new year is a smooth ukulele version of "Smooth" by Santana ft. Rob Thomas. It's got all kinds of crazy riffs and advanced picking (Aldrine ran his uke through some Santana-esque distortion), but if you just want to play the chords, it's actually a pretty simple song that beginners can pick up fairly easily.

Check out the Play Along video above to try it out for yourself and if you need a little help learning this on your uke, start with STEP 1 below:

STEP 1 - Chords

First, you'll need to know 6 chords on your ukulele:

Am(2000), F(2010), E7(1202), Dm(2210), Bsus(4422), E7(4242)

Technically, it's just 5 chords since E7 appears twice as a different inversion. (Following the Bsus, the second E7 is a simpler chord switch compared to the first version of E7). Memorize each chord and make sure you can switch between them quickly and comfortably. For more info and practice with these chords, check out the video below:

To help learning these chords, here are a few tips:

1. Break the chords in to groups.
Am, F, E7 (Group 1). Dm, F, E7 (Group 2). Bsus and E7 (Group 3). Practice switching between the chords in each group in order, and practice moving between groups.

2. Repeat tough switches, especially F to E7
Most of the chord switches are pretty simple (Am to F just involves adding one finger, Dm to F just involves removing one finger). Focus on any switches that are tough for you and repeat the switch until it is smooth. F to E7 happens a lot and the change is fast, so get really comfortable with that switch.

3. Practice with simple down strums
and focus on the switches. You want to get the chord switches down as quickly and cleanly as possible, so don't worry about your strumming hand just yet.

When you've got the hang of these chords try playing along with the Play Along video top of the page. Use simple down strums and switch chords whenever indicated. Awesome, you just played the beginner version of the song! When you can switch chords in time, move on to Step 2.

STEP 2 - Rhythm

The rhythm for this song is a little tricky because it uses chord switches on some of the "UP" beats to create a Latin vibe.

Follow the steps below to get everything in order:

1. Use a simple "down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up" strum
(4 beats per measure, one "down, up" per beat). Try this out with your Am chord.

2. Switch to F on the third "up" strum.
Start with Am for the first "down, up, down, up, down," then switch to F on the "up." This may feel weird at first, because you're probably much more comfortable switching chords on down strums, but that's the point! Get this smooth and many "fancy" rhythms will be a lot easier for you.

3. Switch to E7 on the fourth "up" strum
. The switch between F and E7 is really fast, so you'll have to play the F chord in the up strum, let go of the chord and strum down, then play the E7 on the next up strum. Take it really slow and repeat this change as many times as you need to in order to get it down naturally.

4. Continue with another full measure of just E7
. Each group of chords is 2 measures long, so finish out the two measure phrase just staying on the E7 chord.

5. Add accents to the down beats of 1 and 2, and the up beats of 3 and 4
. Just for more flair, add accents (strum slightly louder) on certain beats.

If you've never had to change chords on up strums before, this song is a great incentive to learn and practice this! Once you get the groove down, it is insanely fun to play. Try it out by playing along with the Play-Along at the top of the page. Great job, you just played the intermediate version of this song!

STEP 3 - Fingerpicking

In addition to the basic strum, during the verses, there is also a fingerpicking that you can do. The fingerpicking mimics the piano parts in the original recording of this song and really utilizes a Low G, so if your ukulele is strung Low G, you're in luck! This one is just for you.

Aldrine shows how to play the "Smooth" ukulele fingerpicking part in the video below:

Try out the fingerpicking along with the Play-Along at the top of the page and have fun with some fingerpicking magic.

STEP 4 - Picking

For the Play-Along video, Aldrine does a pretty good job of replicating all of Carlos Santana's guitar parts during the song. For the lesson, we'll focus on 4 main picking parts for you to master (download the TABS to follow along in detail):

Intro Picking
(happens right at the beginning after the drums start)

Chorus 1 Picking
(happens right after the first Chorus)

Chorus 2 Picking
(happens right after the second Chorus)

Outro Picking
(happens right after the last Chorus)

For all of you advanced players wanting to tackle these smooth ukulele picking parts, be sure to use the TABS along with Vimeo's built-in slow down function (the little gear icon in the lower right hand corner of the video player).

Click the Gear Icon on Vimeo videos

To really get that Santana guitar sound, Aldrine recorded his ukulele parts using the following pedal chain:
1. Dunlop Crybaby Wah
2. Boss MT-2 Metal Zone
3. Boss FDR-1 Fender '65 Reverb
4. L.R. Baggs Venue DI Acoustic Preamp

Also shout outs to the talented Puremarkska, who was featured playing everything from melodica to a kitchen steamer basket to a stainless steel coffee tumbler. His last appearance on a UU Ukulele Play-Along was over 10 years ago when we did a lesson for "Come Together" by the Beatles, so if you like this, be sure to check that out as well.

Happy 2021 UUers! A huge MAHALO to all of you for helping us get through the past several months together and may the new year bring many more discoveries, connections, and musical memories for you through the power of UKE. Have fun & keep strummin'

-UU Staff


  1. Supper job guys! So much fun to play. Thanks again for lunch last year; sorry I’ll miss you this year but see you next year for sure.

  2. You guys looked like you had a lot of fun making this play-along. One of your best jobs in the past several years.

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