How to Tune a Ukulele Like an Expert
When it comes to tuning a ukulele, people wonder which notes they should tune the strings to.
They also think hard about the methods to tune their ukuleles.
You may follow the methods below and make sure that your ukulele is in tune.
Ukulele Tuning Notes and String Names
Almost all musical instruments require tuning and ukuleles are no different.
In the figure you can see that the first or bottom string is on an A. The second is on an E. The third string is a C, while the fourth (top) is on G.
The order in the figure is a “top down” perspective. It depicts a scene when you are holding it in your lap, while playing. Thus, the bottom one turns out to be the top string. Similarly, the top line automatically becomes the bottom string.
Interestingly, the top g string or the 4th string is on a higher state than the strings in the middle. Therefore, the top g string is above middle C on a piano. This is the very reason we call it re-entrant tuning. Here we used the lowercase “g” to indicate that the G-note is above middle C.
How to tune a ukulele in the first place?
The most popular tuning pattern for a ukulele is none other than G-C-E-A. For Tenor, Soprano, and concert ukuleles, it is the most used tuning method out there. If you happen to play the guitar, a ukulele could seem less overwhelming than a 6-12 string guitar.
In the above image, you can see the top or 4th string – G, followed by the C, E, and A (1st) strings respectively.
It is possible to tune a standard ukulele in two ways – linear and re-entrant. In a re-entrant tuning pattern, you do not order the strings from the lowest to the highest. If you are into guitar already, this may seem quite confusing.
A typical linear tuning needs you to tune the G down an octave, which apparently creates a tonal range. If your aim is to play and sound like a guitar, then linear tuning is for you.
Linear Tuning vs. Re-entrant Tuning (Low G vs. High G)
For most guitar players it may seem odd that there is a high g string in the ukulele. The standard re-entrant running is the foremost reason why the ukulele has a charming and bright sound. In a re-entrant tuning, you get the most even tone as all the strings are in a smaller range.
Some ukulele players, nevertheless, prefer to tune the g string down an octave for tuning. This is what we usually call the linear tuning – the string order is from the lowest to the highest. Not only it allows a broader range of G tuning, but also a resonant and full sound ambience.
Note: Please keep in mind that in order to tune the instrument to low G it will take a special kind of low G strings depending on the size of your ukulele. If you tend to tune a high-g string on your ukulele down to an octave, the sound will not be so pleasant to hear.
What are some other ways to tune a ukulele?
If yours is a Tenor or Baritone ukulele, you can always tune it using the D-G-B-E sequence. A shortcut to tuning a Baritone is remembering that all four strings are same to the four highest pitched strings on a guitar. So it is always possible to tune them using a standard guitar tuner!
On the other hand, the slack key tuning (G-C-E-G) is a result of the Hawaiian style of playing. In an open sequence of all four strings, you get none other than the C major chord. Use either linear or re-entrant tuning to tune the G. Hence, you can tune the G either above middle or below the C.
The A-D-F#-B or English tuning has its fair share of sweet tones, too. This is because the strings are one whole step up for tuning. You will generally see this in soprano ukuleles.
Finally, there is the Canadian tuning A-D-F#-B (low). Except from tuning each note down a half step, everything is same as English tuning. This type of tuning is a common feature of Tenor and concert ukuleles.
What are the most convenient methods to tune your ukulele?
Tighten or loosen the tuning pegs or tuners to adjust the pitch of your strings. While loosening them will lower the pitch, tightening them will do the opposite. The way to twist the tuners could vary depending upon your instrument.
Do not make the strings too tight, though. This will tear the strings and damage your uke heavily.
A gadget can help you tune the instrument by yourself. This is a common trend when you are getting ready for a stage performance.
Since there are various ways to tune a ukulele, which method you prefer depends on your personal choice and the equipment you use.
Tuning your ukulele using a digital tuner
For any instruments with strings, a digital tuner works perfectly. Moreover, some of these tuners are compact and clip onto the headstock justly.
In a digital tuner you can detect the exact note you are playing, while how many cents (a measurement of pitch) away it is from the dead centre. You can always pick up a chromatic tuner to tune every note in the scale. This is especially handy when you are using alternative tunings. This is the fastest way to get to the right pitch.
The advantage of using a tuner in the first place is that it is very accurate and fast.
Tuning your ukulele by ear
What if you lack a tool or gadget, a friend, or an instrument to create relative tuning? The answer is simple: you can do it by your ear. Although it is not accurate as other methods, it is still a viable option at hand.
Listen to the C string carefully. If the sound seems like flat and sharp, then adjust the tuners. Now work on the 4th fret of the C string (E). The sound of E should be the same as when it is open. If it does not match that note, adjust the open string.
Now follow the second step once again but this time apply it to the 3rd fret of the E string (G note). Depending on its adjustability with the open G, do necessary adjustment.
At last, go to the G string and try the second fret (A note). If it is in the right pitch, the sound would be similar to the open A.
To adjust your ear to different tones, it may take some time. However, this will enable you to tune your ukulele without any additional support.
Tuning your ukulele with a piano
Using a reference instrument is another easy way to tune your ukulele. Follow the steps below when you have a piano at hand.
First play the G on the piano, and then get to play the G string. Do necessary adjustments to the pitch of the strings.
For the rest of the strings, too, you can make use of the piano as a reference.
Continue in the order C, E, and A on the piano, then do the same on the ukulele.
How to tune ukuleles with additional strings?
A ukulele with more than four strings can turn it all upside down for you. However, it is easy to tune the ukulele by following the manual below,
8-string: Tune the A-strings and the E in unison to get the same pitch. The sequence is: G – low-G – high C – C – E – E – A – A.
Guitalele: In a low-A – low-D – low-G – C – E – A pattern, you can tune it like a guitar on the 5th fret with a capo.
6-string ukulele: The ideal formation is G – high-C – C – E – low-A – A. This is fascinating since the lowest string is in pair with the highest one. Also, the sound is of rich quality.
Why should you tune the ukulele in a proper way?
The way you proceed to get your strings in pitch determine how well it stays in tune. Always aim for the right note when tuning up.
In that way you will be able to avoid the disappointment of being stuck between the tuning peg and nut. Remember that the nut slot is not perfectly slippery. So, the difference in tension between the side you play and the reverse are hardly equal.
When you tuned down to a note, the tension of the long string would definitely be higher than that of the short one. When playing a ukulele, your fingers’ weight on the frets diminishes the tension on both sides of the string and makes it go flat.
What if you can’t get it in tune at all?
If you happen to have a new or an old ukulele, it might not be tuneable at all. However, you can simply fix this by tightening the screws of the machine heads in your instrument. If you did not put on the strings in the right way, it can also be hard to get your ukulele on tune.