Ukulele Tuning – A Brief Guide

The ukulele is more popular than ever: it’s cool and has a character of its own. But before you can play melodies on your ukulele, you have to tune it, just like any other instrument. Find out everything you need to know with our guide on ukulele tuning.

This guide to ukulele tuning covers soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles. These are some of the things you will learn:

Contents

  • Quick and easy: tuning a ukulele
  • Tuning a ukulele with a tuner
  • How to tune a ukulele without a tuner
  • How often do you have to tune a ukulele?

Quick and easy: tuning a ukulele

A brief guide to tuning a ukulele

Soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles are tuned the same way. The most common tuning for ukuleles is C with the strings at g, c, e, and a, also called Hawaiian tuning.

Other variations are D tuning (a, d, f#, b) or baritone tuning (d, g, b, e). Looking at the ukulele from the front, the G string is on the far left and sounds higher than the C string next to it. Almost all ukuleles come with this so-called “reentrant tuning” by default.

Tuning the ukulele with a tuner

What tuner is the best for the ukulele?

It doesn’t matter if you use a clip-on tuner or a traditional tuner with a built-in microphone: the process is the same.

When you pluck a string, the tuner’s needle, LED, or display tells you if the note is too high or too low. Keep in mind that it is important to use a tuner capable of chromatic tuning, as pure guitar tuners do not cover all the notes needed to tune a ukulele. However, there are also special ukulele tuners that must be set to C tuning. If the tuning mode is set to guitar, the C string will not be recognized, as normal guitar tuning does not include a C. The same applies It applies to apps for a smartphone, of course.

Now play the first string and check if the tuning is too high or too low. If it’s too low – meaning the needle or display is left of center – you need to increase the string tension. To do this, turn the corresponding tuning peg counterclockwise. If the tuning is too high, turn it in the opposite direction.

Ukulele Tuning – A Brief Guide

If the needle is to the left of the center, the tuning is too low, and the string needs to be tightened by turning it counterclockwise.

Ukulele Tuning – A Brief Guide

If the tuning is too high, you have to loosen the strings by turning them clockwise.

Ukulele tuning without a tuner

You can also tune a ukulele by ear without the need for a tuner. This is especially useful for making quick adjustments, for example, if a string goes out of tune during a concert. With a little practice and a good ear, tuning a ukulele this way is no less fast and accurate than using a tuner. Start by getting a reference pitch from a partner or another instrument. The note on the second fret of the g string is an a and therefore corresponds to the first open string. The fifth fret of the e string is also the same a. To tune the C string, simply compare the tuning at the fourth fret of the C string to the open e string. Here’s a little diagram:

How often do you have to tune a ukulele?

Check the tuning every time you pick up the ukulele. Changes in temperature and humidity can cause strings to go out of tune. New strings go out of tune very quickly at first and have to be returned quite often.

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