As you're probably already know, proper tuning is essential if you want any stringed instrument to actually sound good when you’re playing it. The same goes with ukuleles.
If you’re familiar with guitar tuning, then you’ll be able to tune a ukulele fairly easily. Even if you aren’t it’s not too hard to pick up.
So with that said, below are a few different methods for tuning your ukulele, as well as some different tunings you can try out as well.
The most common tuning used for a ukulele in a regular setting is G-C-E-A. This is also fairly standard for soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles as well.
Ukuleles do have four strings, so this tuning is listed going from the to string to the bottom. The fourth string is G, then C, and then E, and finally the A on the first string.
If you’re used to playing standard 6-string guitars, the reentrant and linear tunings can be a little confusing at first. Reentrant tuning strings are not ordered from the lowest to highest pitch. As for linear tuning, the G is tuned down an octave, which results in a broader tonal range.
So, if you’d like to have more of a guitar-like sound when you strum, you should go with a linear tuning setting.
If you’re using a baritone ukulele, D-G-B-E can be used, or even just the standard tuning above. This can often be used for a tenor ukuleles as well.
(A good tip to keep in mind with a baritone ukulele is that the four strings are identical to the standard tuning on a 6-string for its first four strings. This makes a guitar tuner perfectly fine to use in this instance.)
If you’re wanting the more traditional Hawaiian tuning, slack-key (G-C-E-G) is the way to go.
This tuning ensures that an open strum plays a C major chord. As for the G, it can be tuned with either reentrant or linear tuning. The G can be tuned to above middle C or below as well, whichever sounds best to your for your playing.
English tuning is another popular option, especially with soprano ukuleles. The A-D-F#-B is tuned up a whole step, giving the uke a sweeter tone.
Canadian tuning is a lower variation of A-D-F#-B, with each note tuned down a half step. You’ll see this frequently with both concert and tenor ukuleles.
The actual process of tuning the ukulele is done just like you would with any other stringed instrument. Tuning pegs are located at the end of the neck, which can either be tightened or loosened to alter the tone of each string.
It should be noted that one should avoid over-tightening the strings. This can make it much easier to break a string, and the added tension can have a negative effect on the instrument itself, especially on the neck.
There are accessories you can use to tune and change strings, or you can just do it the old-fashioned way. Whatever’s best for you.
There may be times when you don’t have other ways to tune the uke. In this case, you can tune it by ear. Tuning by ear isn’t exactly ideal, but it can be done to an extent. If you’re someone who has perfect pitch memory, you’re even better off, so good for you. Here’s the process:
This method can take a little practice, but if you’re able to memorize what a perfect C sounds like, everything should fall into place from there. Tuning by ear can seem a little intimidating at first but it’s really just based off of knowing one single note.
A piano is a great way to tune any lute instrument if you have one nearby, or even just an electronic keyboard. Either way.
Start by playing a G on the piano, and then play the G string on the uke. Adjust the pitch of the uke’s string until it’s perfectly aligned with the piano key.
From there, you can either repeat the same process going through C, E, and A, or you can choose to do the relative tuning method described above.
Using an electronic tuner is often the most preferred overall, mainly because it’s not only the most accurate, but also the most convenient.
You have two main options for electronic tuners. You can either use a ukulele tuner that uses a microphone, or one that attaches to the neck and tuning pegs, and actually senses the vibrations while gauging the tone.
If you are going to be tuning in noisy environments, it’s best to go with the the vibration sensing models, as the microphone versions can get disrupted. This is most ideal for those who will be performing live and need to retune after a few songs.
As you can see, tuning a ukulele is not very complicated, and you certainly have a number of options when going about it. There’s really no right or wrong way, it all depends on what your own preferences are, and what your playing environment will be.
Regardless of how you tune your ukulele, or to what, the important part is that you always keep it in tune. Good luck!