How to tune your ukulele

There’s no doubt that tuning the ukulele would make the world of difference if you are a beginner.

Even if you are making a big progress with the techniques and you are putting a lot of effort into learning your chords, if you don’t keep in mind tuning your ukulele your songs won’t sound good, and if your ukulele is way out of tune the songs might not make sense at all, to begin with.

There are a lot of different ways to tune your ukulele. We will be covering them in this article so without further ado, let’s just jump into it.

How To Properly Tune Your Ukulele

1. First things first, you need to know the basic open strings tuning:

A quick way to sum it up would be G - C – E - A

From low to high; the 4th string is tuned G, the 3rd is tuned C, the 2nd is tuned E and the 1st is tuned A.

However, tuning a ukulele depends on its size. There are 4 different sizes of ukuleles; soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone.

The first 3 ukuleles are usually tuned as mentioned above but the baritone is tuned D - G - B – E.

If you have your ukulele tuned as mentioned above, it is in standard tuning and this is the tuning you need to play most of the songs.

Something that is popular among a lot of guitarists and ukulele players, is that in standard tuning, a ukulele is tuned to sound the same as the top 4 strings of the guitar. This is essentially true if you have a capo on the fifth fret of your guitar.

2. Using an electronic tuner to tune your ukulele

This is the simplest and easiest way to tune your ukulele.

I have been playing the ukulele for 8 years, and in my humble opinion, it’s perfect for beginners because simply, there’s no way that this could be wrong in addition to being accurate.

The first way to use an electronic tuner is to get an application on your smartphone.

This might be a little difficult if you are tuning your ukulele in a noisy place but that’s hardly the case and personally, I find it pretty convenient.

Another thing that you can try is clip-on tuner clamps.  

These clips work a little differently from the applications because instead of detecting the pitch through the microphone, these clips detect the vibrations when you clamp them onto the headstock of the ukulele.

These clip-on tuners have the advantage of not being affected by the noise you have around you while tuning your ukulele and you can definitely use them in a roomful of noise without any trouble whatsoever, which is the reason why this is the most popular and practical method used by ukulele players every day.

The last and most professional way to tune your ukulele using an electronic tuner would be plugging it into a pedal tuner.

3. Tuning your ukulele to a piano

Another simple way to tune your ukulele is to depend on your ears and tune it to a piano.  

It is really easy once you get used to it because, for some people, it can take a little while to get used to it especially if they have never played the guitar or the piano before so they have no experience whatsoever how the notes sound like.

G C E A corresponds to sol do mi la. If you are tuning this to a piano,  go to the middle C and it should sound the same as the C on your ukulele, skip one key and the key after is E, then skip another key and the one after is G and the one right next to it is A.

4. Tuning your ukulele to itself, also known as, relative tuning of the ukulele

This is the least accurate method to tune your ukulele, however, it can come on handy if you are practicing by yourself or you want to play your ukulele and you don’t have a tuner nearby.

In this method, you will compare similar tunes on different strings and frets to each other; this is why this method is not really accurate.

Try the following steps in order.

  •    Play your A string (1st string) open and listen carefully.
  •    Put your fingers on the 5th (2nd string) fret of the E string, it should sound the same as the A string open.
  •    Place your finger on the 4th fret of the C string (the 3rd string) and it should sound the same as picking the E string open.

Then comes tuning the G string, now this depends on whether you are tuning a high G or a low G:

  • If you are tuning a high G string, place your finger on the 2nd fret on the G string and you should be playing an A note, in other words, it should sound like playing the A string open.
  • If you are tuning a low G note, place your finger on the 5th fret of the G string and you are now playing a C note, i.e. it should sound the same to playing the C string open.

Now, this method could be a little confusing at first I know, but the way I see it, even if you do have other methods for tuning your ukulele, practice this method because you never know when it might come in handy.

Another tip is, if you are going to be jamming along with your friends and you don’t have a tuner on you, try to tune any of the strings on your ukulele to sound the same as your friend’s and take it from there.

Also, and this is something that will help you sound a little less out of tune but not necessarily precise, try to tune your strings relative to your C string because it happens to hold its tuning the longest.

Once you master tuning your ukulele, you will notice how different your music sounds and you will fall in love with this instrument even more, and so will your crowd.  Enjoy your tuning ride!

Noah Theodor
 

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