TUNE THAT UKULELE
HOW TO TUNE YOUR UKULELE
What is standard ukulele tuning?
The open strings on the ukulele are commonly tuned to G, C, E and A. This is known as standard or 'C' tuning. This is what you need to play most of the songs. Some people prefer to string their ukulele with a low G string rather than a high G. It is simply a matter of preference. The open strings can be located as follows, from left to right looking at your ukulele with the headstock at the top:
- G: the 4th string (the furthest left on the fretboard)
- C: the 3rd string
- E: the 2nd string
- A: the 1st string
How to use UkuTuner ukulele tuner?
This tuner supports the most popular ukulele tunings. Standard tuning is gCEA, which is the most common ukulele tuning. The tuning aDF#B (called D tuning) is shifted two frets, and brings out a sweeter ukulele tone. The dGBE tuning is more common for larger ukuleles, and it will give you the same root notes as the top four strings on a guitar. Several other more exotic tunings are available as well. Here is an overview:
- Standard or 'C' or HighG or re-entrant tuning (G4 C4 E4 A4)
- Standard or 'C' or LowG (G3 C4 E4 A4)
- English or 'D' or soprano or 20th century standard tuning (A4 D4 F# B4)
- Baritone or 'G' (D3 G3 B3 E4 = four highest guitar strings)
- Canadian or 'D' or LowA (A3 D4 F# B4) (used by James Hill)
- Half-step down from standard (F# B3 D# G#)
- Full-step down from standard (F4 A♯3 D4 G4)
- Half-step up from standard (G# C# F4 A#)
- Full-step up from standard (A4 D4 F# B4)
Once you have selected a tuning, simply tap on the tuning pegs to ring out the root note for each string. Listen carefully and tune your ukulele to that note by ear. Some people find a monotone beep easier to tune to. Select 'beep' if you want to use that sound instead of the natural ukulele strings.
Relative Ukulele Tuning Method
With relative ukulele tuning all four strings are tuned relative to each other and can be used when you have no other means of tuning your ukulele. This is a good method if you are playing on your own and you want to have all your strings sound good together, but it isn’t that accurate and might cause issues if you are playing with other people. The relative ukulele tuning method can be broken down in four steps.
1. You will use the first string (A) as a reference to tune the other three strings, which is why this method isn’t that accurate. You won’t notice any problems if you are playing alone, but you will if you play along with songs or with your friends.
2. Place your finger just behind the fifth fret on the E string (second string). That note is an A. When you pick the first string (A), it should sound the same. Adjust the second string with the tuning pegs on the headstock until the two strings sound the same.
3. Now place your finger just behind the fourth fret on the C string (third string). That note is an E. When you pick the second string (E), it should sound the same. Adjust the third string with the tuning pegs on the headstock until it sounds the same as the second string. By now you will have noticed that tuning a ukulele is kind of fun.
4a. Most ukuleles come with a high G string as standard. Place your finger just behind the second fret on the G string (fourth string). That note is an A. When you pick the first string (A), it should sound the same as the A on the G string. Adjust the fourth string with the tuning pegs on the headstock until the two strings sound the same.
4b. To tune a ukulele with a low G string, place your finger on the fifth fret on the G string (fourth string). That note is a C. When you pick the third string (C), it should sound the same. Adjust the fourth string with the tuning pegs on the headstock until the two strings sound the same.
It might take some practice to train your ear, but this is actually an easy way to tune your ukulele quickly. If you know your notes on the fretboard you could also come up with other combinations.
How do you go about tuning a ukulele with a piano? Play the notes G, C, E and A on the piano to match the G, C, E and A strings on the ukulele. If you use a low G tuning, you will need to play the G one octave lower.
You can see the keys of the piano in the diagram, along with the matching string note and string number at the top. Match the notes of the piano to those of your ukulele by ear. Getting the hang of this might take some practice.
Can’t get it in tune?
If you have an older ukulele or a brand new one that hasn’t been set up properly, you might find that you can’t seem to get your ukulele in tune at all. You can probably solve this simply by tightening the screws on the tuning heads a little bit.
If your strings buzz when playing, take a look at how to fix that in our ukulele buzz fixing guide.
Another reason may be that the strings haven’t been put on correctly. Take a look at the guide to changing ukulele strings to find out how to do it right.