Many thanks for all the comments :-)
The song I was working on was "Sweet Dreams" by The Eurythmics (also covered by Marilyn Manson).
The version that says "capo on the 3rd fret" doesn't seem to be accessible via Chordie any more but from what I have said in my first post, the key would have been [Em] but with "capo on the 3rd fret" in the notes, taking it to [Gm] - which sounds dreadful on a gCEA uke! (ie. played as [Gm] without a capo)
I am guessing that everyone who has replied will know the following already, but for any new readers who don't know this already . . .
- GCEA strung uke, eg. a tenor uke, is like a guitar with a capo on the 5th fret - but missing the two "fat, deep strings" (sorry, I know bugger-all about guitars!)
- a gCEA uke (eg. soprano, concert) is similar except the g string is an octave higher.
The current versions of "Sweet Dreams" via Chordie are in [Cm] - which I think sounds awful on a gCEA uke, eg. http://www.chordie.com/chord.pere/www.g … 20351.html
This version in [Em] is in my Chordie Songbook and from the url it looks as if I have used the Chordie renderer myself and it is not accessible via Chordie Search (and it doesn't mention a capo):
http://www.chordie.com/chord.pere/?url= … ranspose=0
That one is the version I learned on a gCEA uke. When picking, I play [Em] this way 0-4-0-2. Chordie renders [Em] like that but most uke players use 0-4-3-2. When strumming I switch between the two versions and that gives a nice effect.
On the tenor uke, GCEA, where I would pick an open g on the smaller ukes, I need to pick the E string, fretted at the 3rd fret, to get the high g because the open low G sounds rubbish there.
The only version I could find now citing "capo on the 3rd fret" is this one, in [Am], taking it to [Cm] again:
http://www.guitarsongs.info/ROCK/euryth … dreams.htm
IMHO, on a uke, this song sounds fine in [Am] and [Em], quirky-so-so-mmm-not-sure-about-it in [Dm], rubbish in [Cm] and [Gm] and I won't even attempt [Bm] and [Fm]. (Flats and sharps? The only one I always have a peek at is [F#m], because it's dead easy on the uke and sounds lovely, but not for this song.)
I like [Em] to pick and sing "Sweet Dreams" it as it makes a nice "medley sandwich" with "Sweet Dreams" as the bread and "People are Strange" in [Em] as the filling.
As a "stand-alone" song on the gCEA uke, [Am] is easiest for strumming - with the usual uke-cheat of playing easy [E7] instead of nasty [E].
I have got better at playing since I first posted my question - as you'd hope! Although I am still pretty rubbish at bar chords.
Something that has helped is playing along at a session where most of the other instruments are guitars. I normally use a uke capo to mirror what the guitarist are doing, so that I only have to do one transposition in my head. However, another uke player pointed out to me that if the guitarists have their capos on the second fret then they are usually playing in [A] so I have started not using a capo on the 2nd fret when they do and been transposing to "uke + 2 semitones" in my head! Just recently, my brain started to do that nice thing where it performs the double-transposition in one mighty leap and shoots the results down into my hands as if by magic :-) Only for 2nd fret capo songs in [A] so far but it's a start.
Sometimes the background, "tinkly" sound of a picked uke with a capo makes a nice contribution to a strummed "guitar song" with a capo on a higher fret, eg. 4th.
As far as using the capo to change the key to suit the singer's voice is concerned . . . the uke is already so high that I have never done this, I just change the key and if I can't find a key that I can both play and sing then I have ditched the song ;-( Maybe I should try using a capo when that happens, to see if it might work OK with some songs.
I haven't recorded how I play Sweet Dreams yet but when I do I will post a link here as a "thank you" for all the help and comments.
Finally, there is an interesting discussion here about using the capo on the 3rd fret of a guitar:
http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/foru … p?t=136831
Play the Ukulele: The most fun you can have doing something badly!
"I'm not going to say I'm no Jim Morrison, I'm not going to say I'm no John Lennon - I'm not going to say I'm like The Monkees neither! - 'I'm a Believer!' - Some people say I make a pretty good musician - but I've always argued that's going to take me a long time . . . "
Wild Man Fischer