The ukulele is a unique 4-stringed instrument most often played acoustically. It’s become much more popular in recent years, so I thought it’d be helpful to highlight some of the best ukulele players for those looking for inspiration.
You’ll recognize some “big names” on this list who play other instruments aside from the ukulele (making them talented multi-instrumentalists), while others are ukulele masters and specialists. Either way, if you’re a ukulele player yourself or just enjoy ukulele songs and music I think you’ll get a lot of value and inspiration out of this post.
Let’s jump right into this list of the 25 Best Ukulele Players of All Time:
George Harrison was an English musician, singer-songwriter, and music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles.
However, Harrison was also a gifted multi-instrumentalist and quite skilled on the ukulele, as you can hear in the video above.
Leroy Smeck was an American multi-instrumentalist musician.
His skill on the banjo, guitar, and ukulele earned him the nickname “The Wizard of the Strings.”
Pete Townshend is an English musician, singer and songwriter most famous for being a co-founder, leader, guitarist, and principal songwriter for the Who, one of the most influential rock bands of the 60s and 70s.
Townshend has written more than 100 songs for 12 of the Who’s studio albums. Today, he sometimes performs on the ukulele.
Priscilla Ahn is an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who often performs with a ukulele.
She released her single “Dream” from her debut album, A Good Day, produced by Joey Waronker for EMI’s Blue Note Records, in 2008.
George Formby was an English actor, singer-songwriter and comedian who became known to a worldwide audience through his films of the 1930s and 1940s.
On stage, screen and record he sang light, comical songs, usually playing the ukulele or banjolele. He eventually became the UK’s highest-paid entertainer.
Zach Condon is a ukulele player famous for founding the Indie Rock band Beirut, who performed with a full brass section in New York, in May 2006, in support of their debut album.
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole / “Bruddah Iz”
Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole, also called Bruddah Iz or just simply IZ, was a Hawaiian musician, singer, songwriter and Hawaiian sovereignty activist.
He achieved commercial success outside Hawaii when his album Facing Future was released in 1993.
Terry is a gifted ukulele player who now teaches others.
He is the creator of Uke Like The Pros and Rock Like The Pros, online instructional sites aimed at helping people become better ukulele and guitar players.
Terry has written 3 instructional ukulele books.
Sara Beth Bareilles is an American singer-songwriter, actress, author, and producer. Bareilles released her debut studio album Careful Confessions in 2004.
She received further recognition with the release of her second studio album Little Voice.
Billie Eilish is an American singer and songwriter. She first gained public attention in 2015 with her debut single “Ocean Eyes”, which was subsequently released by Darkroom, an imprint of Interscope Records.
What many people don’t know about Billie is that she is also a gifted ukulele player.
Jake Shimabukuro is an American ukulele virtuoso and composer known for his fast and complex finger work on the ukulele.
His music combines elements of jazz, blues, funk, rock, bluegrass, classical, folk, and flamenco.
Colbie Marie Caillat is an American singer-songwriter.
Caillat rose to fame through social networking website Myspace. At that time, she was the number one unsigned artist of her genre.
After signing with Universal Republic Records, she released her debut album, Coco, in July 2007.
Zooey Claire Deschanel is an American actress, model, musician, and songwriter. She made her film debut in Mumford and had a supporting role in Cameron Crowe’s film Almost Famous.
Some of her film appearances showcase her musical talent, but many people are still unaware of her skill on the ukulele.
Herbert Butros Khaury, also known professionally as Tiny Tim, was an American singer, ukulele player, and musical archivist.
Joseph Roger Brown is an English entertainer. As a rock and roll singer and guitarist, he has performed for more than six decades.
Brown was a stage and television performer in the late 1950s and has been a recording star since the early 1960s.
Eddie Vedder is an American singer, musician and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist and one of four guitarists of the rock band Pearl Jam.
He also appeared as a guest vocalist in Temple of the Dog, the one-off tribute band dedicated to the late singer Andrew Wood.
Arthur Morton Godfrey was an American radio and television broadcaster and entertainer who was sometimes introduced by his nickname The Old Redhead. He often played the ukulele on his appearances.
Sam Brown is an English singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and record producer. Brown is a ukulele player and was a blue-eyed soul and jazz singer.
Amanda MacKinnon Gaiman Palmer is an American singer, songwriter, ukulele player, and performance artist who is the lead vocalist and lyricist of the duo The Dresden Dolls.
Clifton Avon “Cliff” Edwards, nicknamed “Ukulele Ike”, was an American actor, musician and singer. He enjoyed considerable popularity in the 1920s and early 1930s, specializing in jazzy renditions of pop standards and novelty tunes.
He is best known for his number one hit with “Singin’ in the Rain” in 1929.
Daniel Ho is an American musician, composer and producer specializing in innovative approaches to Slack-key guitar, ukulele, and Hawaiian music.
Ho has recorded 18 solo albums, some of which have won or were nominated for Grammy Awards, and has produced over 50 albums.
Gregory A. Hawkes is an American musician best known as the keyboardist for the rock band The Cars. He attended Berklee College of Music for two years, majoring in composition and flute.
Today, he often performs on a ukulele.
Jack Johnson is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor, record producer, documentary filmmaker, and former professional surfer. Johnson is known primarily for his work in the soft rock and acoustic pop genres.
He often plays acoustic guitar and ukulele.
Taylor Swift is an American singer-songwriter. Her discography spans multiple genres, and her narrative songwriting, which is often inspired by her personal life, has received widespread media coverage and critical praise.
Grace Avery VanderWaal is an American singer-songwriter and actress. She is known for her distinctive vocals and has often accompanied herself on the ukulele.
Lennon & McCartney
Both Lennon & McCartney of Beatles fame were skilled ukulele players. You can hear Paul McCartney playing ukulele in the clip above.
James Hill is a classically trained Canadian musician who has focused on the ukulele, both as his primary instrument and as a method of music instruction for school children. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of British Columbia.