If you’ve just picked up your ukulele, one of the first things you’ll need to do is tune it.
Proper tuning is essential for producing the right sounds and playing in tune with others. While there are a few different ways to tune a ukulele, using an electronic tuner is one of the easiest and most accurate methods.
In this article, we’ll go over the step-by-step process for tuning your ukulele with a guitar tuner, including different types of tuning and helpful tips on how your ukulele to stays tuned for longer.
After this article, you’ll know how to tune your ukulele with ease.
Basics on tuning ukulele
Tuning a ukulele is a simple process that involves adjusting the tension of the strings until they are in the correct pitch.
First of all, you need to understand Standard Ukulele Tuning.
Standard ukulele tuning
Standard ukulele tuning is G-C-E-A, starting from the top string (the one near your face) to the bottom string (closer to the floor).
- The G string is 4th string
- The C string is 3rd string
- The E string is 2nd string
- The A string is 1st string
Tuning your ukulele according to its type
It’s important to note that there are different types of ukuleles, which have different tunings similar to the tuning of the top four strings of a guitar.
Tuning a Soprano Ukulele
The soprano is the smallest and most common type of ukulele, with a standard length of 21 inches and a bright, cheerful sound. It is well-suited for players of all levels and styles.
Soprano ukuleles typically have four strings, usually tuned to G-C-E-A, with G being the lowest pitched string and A being the highest.
Tuning a Concert Ukulele
A concert ukulele is a slightly larger type than the soprano, with a standard length of 23 inches. It is often considered to be the “middle ground” of the ukulele family, with a sound that is fuller and more resonant than the soprano but not as deep as the tenor or baritone ukuleles.
Like the soprano, the concert ukulele typically has four strings, and it is usually tuned to G-C-E-A, with G being the lowest string and A being the highest.
Tuning a Tenor Ukulele
A tenor ukulele is a larger type of ukulele with a length of 26 inches. It is known for having a deeper and fuller sound than the soprano and concert ukuleles and is often preferred by players who want a ukulele with more volume and projection.
Like the other two ukuleles, the tenor ukulele typically has four strings, and its standard tuning is G-C-E-A.
Tuning a Baritone Ukulele
The baritone ukulele is the largest type, with a standard length of 30 inches. It is known for having a deep, rich sound similar to a classical guitar. It is often preferred by players who want a ukulele with a more mellow, low-pitched sound.
Unlike the other types of ukuleles, the baritone ukulele typically has four strings tuned to D-G-B-E, with D being the lowelowest-pitcheding and E being the highest. This tuning is similar to tuning the highest four strings of a guitar, making it easier for guitar players to transition to playing the baritone ukulele.
Tuning a Bass Ukulele
The bass ukulele, also known as a UBass, is a relatively new addition to the ukulele family, with a longer neck and thicker strings than a standard ukulele, which allows it to produce a deep, resonant bass sound.
Unlike traditional ukuleles, which are typically strung with nylon strings, bass ukuleles are usually strung with thicker, rubberized strings similar to those used on a bass guitar.
Bass ukuleles come in various sizes, ranging from around 18 inches to 30 inches in length. They often feature a larger body and a longer scale length than other types of ukuleles in order to produce low-pitched sounds.
The most common tuning for a bass ukulele is the same as the four lowest strings of a standard bass guitar: E-A-D-G. This tuning produces a deep, resonant sound well-suited for playing bass lines and chords.
Alternate tunings for ukulele
You can use several alternate tunings to achieve different sounds and styles while playing your ukulele.
Here are a few common alternate ukulele tunings:
D-Tuning for ukulele (A-D-F#-B)
D-Tuning, also known as “Canadian tuning,” is an alternate tuning for the ukulele commonly used in Canadian and Celtic folk music.
In D-Tuning, the ukulele is tuned to A-D-F#-B instead of the standard G-C-E-A tuning.
Low-G Tuning for ukulele
Low-G tuning is an alternate tuning for the ukulele that involves replacing the high G string with a lower-pitched G string. This results in G-C-E-A tuning, but with the G-string tuned an octave lower than in standard tuning.
Low-G tuning is often used in jazz, blues, and other genres where a deeper sound is desired.
Slack-Key Tuning for ukulele
Slack key tuning is an alternate tuning for the ukulele popular in Hawaiian music. Also known as “open G” tuning, it involves tuning the ukulele’s strings to G-C-E-G, which results in a soft, sweet sound perfect for fingerpicking and strumming.
Once your ukulele is in slack-key tuning, you can play chords and songs using the same fingerings as in standard tuning. Still, the sound will be softer and sweeter due to the lower-pitched strings.
Slide Tuning for ukulele
Slide tuning is an alternate ukulele tuning used for playing slide (or bottleneck) style. The tuning is usually open, meaning you will produce a chord when you strum the strings without pressing down on any frets.
Slide tuning for ukulele can vary depending on your preference. Still, some common tunings include D-G-D-G, D-A-D-F#, and C-G-C-E.
Once your ukulele is in slide tuning, you can use a slide to play melodies and chords up and down the fretboard. You can also experiment with different slide materials and techniques to create a wide range of sounds and styles.
Tuning Baritone ukulele to GCEA
As we already mentioned, Baritone ukuleles are typically tuned to a lower pitch than soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles, using a different tuning of D-G-B-E.
However, a baritone ukulele can be tuned to the G-C-E-A, if you use a different set of strings that are designed for GCEA tuning.
Keep in mind that the baritone ukulele has a different tonal quality than smaller ones, so it may sound different.
Tuning ukuleles with additional strings
Some ukuleles can have additional strings, most commonly six-string and eight-string.
The tuning for these ukuleles can vary, depending on the specific model and the player’s preference.
These ukuleles typically have two additional strings, either tuned to low G and low C or high A and high C. The standard tuning for six-string ukuleles is G-C-E-A, with the low G or high A string added to the bottom and the low C or high C string added to the top.
These ukuleles normally have four additional strings, either in pairs or as single strings. The most common tuning for eight-string ukuleles is G-G-C-C-E-E-A-A, with pairs of strings tuned to the same note except for the A strings, which are tuned an octave apart.
How to tune your ukulele with a guitar tuner
Tuning a ukulele with an electric tuner is the easiest and most accurate way. If you don’t have a special tuner for ukulele, you can use a guitar tuner to tune a ukulele. But not every guitar tuner is suitable for tuning a ukulele.
Chromatic tuners are a popular and effective way to tune ukuleles. These tuners can detect all 12 notes in the chromatic scale, making it easy to tune your ukulele to the correct pitch.
Here are some popular types of tuners you can use for ukuleles:
Tuning a ukulele with Pedal Tuners
Pedal tuners are chromatic tuners plugged directly into the guitar and do not use built-in microphones.
Note that if your ukulele is acoustic, there will be no place to plug in the tuner. These tuners are only suitable for electric ukuleles.
Tuning a ukulele using a Clip-on Tuners
These small tuners clip onto the headstock of your ukulele and use vibrations to detect the pitch of each string. They are compact and easy to use and are often very affordable.
Tuning a ukulele with Standalone Tuners
Standalone chromatic tuners can be used with any instrument, including ukuleles.
These devices are often larger and more expensive than clip-on tuners but can offer more advanced features, such as metronomes and tone generators.
Tuning a ukulele with Smartphone Apps:
There are many free or low-cost tuner apps available for both iOS and Android devices.
These apps use the microphone on your phone or tablet to detect the pitch of your ukulele strings and provide real-time feedback on whether each string is sharp or flat.
Step-by-step tuning your ukulele with a guitar tuner
Now that you already know the tuner you can use for the ukulele, we can proceed to the tuning process.
These are the easy steps for tuning a ukulele with a guitar tuner:
- Connect your ukulele to the input of the pedal tuner using a 1/4-inch cable.
- Make sure the tuner is set to chromatic mode. This will allow it to detect any note you play on your ukulele.
- Turn on the tuner and play the first string (the A string) on your ukulele.
- The tuner will display the note you played and whether it is sharp or flat. Adjust the tuning peg for that string until the needle or display on the tuner is centered or shows that the note is in tune.
- Repeat the process for the remaining three strings, adjusting the tuning pegs until the tuner indicates that each string is in tune.
- Once all the strings are in tune, you can play a few chords or a simple song to ensure everything sounds right.
Tips on how to keep your ukulele in tune
Here are some tips on how to keep your ukulele in tune:
Tune Before Playing
Make it a habit to tune your ukulele before every practice session or performance. This ensures that your ukulele is in tune and ready to play.
Play with a Light Touch
Playing too hard can cause your ukulele to go out of tune more easily. Try to play with a light touch and use only enough pressure to produce a clear tone.
Check Your Nut and Saddle
The nut and saddle are the two small pieces of material that hold the strings in place at the top and bottom of the fretboard. If these pieces are not properly fitted, the strings can slip and go out of tune. Check that the nut and saddle are properly seated and not worn or damaged.
Use a Capo Correctly
A capo is a device that clamps onto the fretboard and raises the pitch of the strings. If you use a capo, make sure that it is properly positioned and not too tight. A poorly placed or overly tight capo can cause your ukulele to go out of tune.
Use a Quality Set of Strings
Higher quality strings will stay in tune longer than lower quality ones. Make sure to choose strings that are appropriate for your playing style and the type of ukulele you have.
Properly String Your Ukulele
Make sure that your strings are properly wound around the tuning pegs and that there are no kinks or twists in the strings. This will help the strings stay in tune.
Stretch Your Strings
New strings need time to stretch and settle into their new tension. You can speed up the stretching process by pulling gently on each string and tuning it up repeatedly until it no longer goes flat. Be careful not to pull too hard or you could break the string.
Check Your Tuning Pegs
If your tuning pegs are loose, they can cause your strings to slip and go out of tune. Make sure that the tuning pegs are properly tightened, but not too tight.
Store Your Ukulele Properly
Store your ukulele in a case or a stand when not in use. This will protect it from changes in temperature and humidity that can cause the strings to expand or contract and go out of tune.
Keeping your ukulele clean and properly maintained will help it stay in tune. Wipe down your strings after each use with a soft cloth to remove oils and dirt, and check the tuning regularly to ensure that it stays in tune.
Using a guitar tuner to tune your ukulele is a convenient and effective way to ensure that your instrument is in tune and ready to play. With a few simple steps and the right settings, you can get the most out of your ukulele and ensure that you’re playing in tune. So next time you’re ready to play, grab your guitar tuner and get started!
How do I tune a ukulele without a tuner?
You can tune a ukulele without a tuner by using an online tuner, a tuning fork, a piano, or by tuning one string to another.
Why does my ukulele keep going out of tune?
Ukuleles can go out of tune due to changes in temperature, humidity, and string tension. Make sure to store your ukulele properly and tune it before each playing session to minimize tuning issues.
How often should I change my ukulele strings?
It depends on how often you play and how much wear and tear the strings experience. A good rule of thumb is to change your ukulele strings every 3-6 months or whenever they start to feel dull or sound flat.