Ukulele Tuning: How to Tune a Ukulele

Ukulele Tuning: How to Tune a Ukulele

June 29, 2020

If you’re an entry-level ukulele player and want to learn how to tune a ukulele, then this article is just for you. Since the ukulele has just four strings, it may seem more natural to play than the guitar with six to twelve cords. Nevertheless, starting a musical instrument with strings can seem quite challenging at first.

Fortunately, you can tune your ukulele using several methods. Here are some helpful instructions and step-by-step guidelines.

How Often You Need to Tune Your Ukulele

Most beginner ukulele players don’t know that a new ukulele requires frequent tuning. Moreover, this regular tuning helps maintain the instrument’s most delicate sound.


Inexpensive ukuleles demand more repeated tuning. In contrast, high-quality, big-budget ukuleles can stay in tune for a long time.


As a general rule, therefore, we recommend testing your new ukulele’s tuning every 15 minutes of play.


You may think that this practice is excessive in the beginning.


However, tuning sessions will improve your tuning abilities. With regular practice, soon you’ll be able to tune your ukulele quickly.


How to Tune a Ukulele with a Tuner

The following instructions describe the necessary steps for the beginners to tune their ukuleles successfully. Proceed through these five steps carefully to learn how to tune your ukulele.

Step 1: Learn about the string names

First, you should have an idea about your ukulele type to learn the name of strings. Some common types are concert, soprano, and tenor ukuleles; these three types of ukes have similar names for their strings.


Let’s look at the names.


From the first to the fourth string, their names are, respectively, A, E, C, and G. That means,


  • the name of the first string is A
.
  • the name of the second string is E.

  • the name of the third string is C.

  • the name of the fourth string is G.

    Check the picture for better understanding. Whether you keep your ukulele in a high G or a low G does not matter; the sound delivery will not change. 

    Another type of ukulele is the baritone ukulele. It has a different combination of string names. For baritone ukulele,


    • the name of the first string is E
.
    • the name of the second string is B.
    • the name of the third string is G.

    • the name of the fourth string is D.

      Step 2: Get an electronic tuner

      You can tune the ukulele by ear or use a tuner. Getting a tuner will save you time.

      You can use either the regular hand tuners or the clip-on tuners. Moreover, apps for ukulele tuning are also available. Nevertheless, the clip-on tuners are mostly recommended for their accuracy.

      In addition, if you want a reliable tuner app, GuitarTuna can be a suitable choice for both the Android and iOS phone users.

      Step 3: Gain knowledge on how to use the tuner

      Owning a tuner is helpful. Also, you should have basic knowledge of flat or sharp notes of the strings.

      If you notice that a note is not so audible and the tuner arrow is moving to the left side of the designated note on the tune, then it is a flat note. Therefore, you need to decrease the flatness.

      Conversely, when the note is very loud, and the tuner arrow turns to the right side, you have to reduce the sharpness.

      Lastly, in the case of a note that is in tune, the arrow indicates the center position. Some tuners will make a beeping sound.

      Step 4: Turn the tuning pegs

      For a flat note, the pitch needs to be raised significantly. Rotate the tuning pegs counter-clockwise in order to raise the pitch for the third and fourth strings. Continue the process until the arrow touches the screen’s center.

      Also, to raise the pitch of the first and second strings, rotate the tuning pegs clockwise until the arrow arrives at the screen’s center.

      Alternatively, for a higher note, you should make the pitch lower. Follow the opposite steps of tuning pegs turning from the above discussion.

      In each case, the aim is to bring the arrow to the midpoint of the screen.

      Step 5: Tune the correct note

      Sometimes after using a tuner, beginner players consider their ukuleles to be perfectly tuned. Due to incorrect note tuning, however, sound quality can be affected. So here is a short guideline to fine-tuning.


      While tuning any string—for example, the first string or note 'A'—repeatedly check if the tuner indicates 'A' also. At times, when you tune note 'A', it may sound like another note.


      Even if the arrow points to the center, this situation can arise. So, be careful about it. Make certain that the A, E, C and G strings are tuned correctly and that the reading on the tuner is exactly on the center point.


      Here is another frequent error of ukulele tuning: most users don’t tune it up to 440 Hz. However, the adjustment of Hz frequency is not possible in all tuners. Nevertheless, try your best to keep it at 440 Hz, and you are ready for tuning.


      Occasionally some handheld tuners—like a Korg—easily adjust the Hz frequency. In some particular places, however, the ukulele players use different Hz frequencies. Nevertheless, 440 Hz is a standard measure for the beginners. You can modify the Hz rate if needed.


      How to Tune Your Ukulele by Ear

      If you don’t have a chromatic tuner or a piano, you can still learn to tune your ukulele by ear.


      This practical skill influences your learning process by training you to detect different pitches by ear.


      First, listen to the following listed ukulele pitches.

      • G string or the fourth string

      • C string or the third string

      • E string or the second string

      • A string or the first string


      You need to listen to them in a row when tuning the ukulele by ear.


      Next, while playing the G string, memorize its sound by humming the note. Then pluck the G string (the top string).


      Now if the tuner sound is lower than the plucked string pitch, (higher pitch in the string that you have plucked), it will make your ukulele string sharp.


      And, on the contrary, for the lower frequency plucked string pitch, the strings on the ukulele are considered to be flat.


      Now, to go with the above two pitches, start the tuning pegs on the ukulele. At the preliminary stage, for the two unmatched pitches however, you will get a warbling quality of both sounds. After some period, you will observe that tones are going against each other smoothly.

      By far, the above steps are necessary for ear tuning. However, using a chromatic tuner can provide you with the most correct tune.


      How to Tune a Ukulele with a Piano

      These days, external sources of ukulele tuning consider A4, E4, C4 and G4 as the classic tuning notes. The four notes following the letters symbolize an octave on the piano.

      On a piano or keyboard, find C4 or the middle C. When you start tuning your ukulele, to go with middle C and then choose the E note above it.


      Next, select the A note over the middle C. Afterward, you need to tune the first string to the G over middle C. Then finally you will achieve actual standard tuning on your ukulele.

      How to Tune Diverse Types of Ukuleles

      The following list contains the names of most popular ukulele sizes. For your assistance, we have included the typical tuning notes along with some popularly used alternative tunings.


      Pocket Ukulele (Sopranissimo or Sopranino)

      The typical tuning combination of a pocket ukulele is C5-F4-A4-D5. However, the popular alternate tuning form is D5-G4-B4-E5.

      Soprano Ukulele (Standard Ukulele)

      Its typical tuning combination is G4-C4-E4-A4. Moreover, the popular alternate tuning is A4-D4-F#4-B4.

      Super Soprano (Concert Ukulele)

      G4-C4-E4-A4 is the typical tuning code for the super soprano. A4-D4-F#4-B4 is the standard alternate tuning.

      Tenor

      The tenor ukulele has G4-C4- E4-A4 as the classic tuning. A4-D4-F#4-B4, G3-C4-E4-A4, D4-G3-B3-E4 is the alternate tuning.

      Baritone

      The baritone ukulele has D3-G3- B3-E4 as its typical tuning.

      Bass

      The typical tuning of a bass ukulele is E1-A1-D2-G2.

      Practicing the ukulele requires some cautionary measures. You need to be careful about binding the strings. If you make them too loose, they will not tune correctly. On the contrary, joining them too tightly may tear the cords. Also, after finishing tuning the strings fully, you may find that the first string sounds disharmonious. In that case, you need to retune it.


      Therefore, in conclusion, the best sound from ukulele playing results from the correct tuning method. Sometimes even experienced players forget to monitor tuning correctly. Now that you have learned all the possible ukulele-tuning techniques, it’s your turn to choose the way that best suits you.