With the ukulele becoming more and more popular these days, are you one of those people who have been gripped by ukulele fever and unable to shake it?
Once you’ve caught the fever, unfortunately you can never shake it, there’s no turning back for you. It will turn into an addiction where you want to bring that jumping flea with you everywhere you go. Lucky it’s small and fits in your carry on luggage ;)
Playing the ukulele is a bucket-load of fun……...but…….it can be frustrating if keeps going out of tune.
So, you’ve got to learn the most important skill before you start searching YouTube for new songs to learn.
And what is that skill?
That is, learning how to tune the ukulele.
Alright, some ukes can hold their tuning better than others, but it’s always smart to check the tuning every time you play.
Today, I will discuss the basics of tuning your ukulele. I will also show you how to tune using different tuning methods. Once you learn this very valuable skill, there’s no stopping you and likely the ukulele fever will run rampant through your veins.
UKULELE STANDARD TUNING
There are several types of Ukulele tuning. The most common is the Standard Tuning which is being used in Soprano, Concert and Tenor Ukuleles.
Image below shows you the notes on each string.
The Fourth string from the top is tuned on G. The next one on the third string is tuned on C while the 2nd string below is tuned on E. The last string from the bottom is tuned on A.
Re-entrant and Linear Tuning.
When using the standard tuning, you have to take note that the G string is usually tuned higher than the C and E strings(sometimes called re-entrant or high 4th tuning). This is quite popular amongst the smaller size ukuleles - soprano and concert.
While most ukulele players use the high G, some people prefer tuning the G string down by an octave ( this is called linear or low 4th tuning). This is popularly known as the Low G. It provides a better option for base notes and has a broader range. This tuning is commonly used on Tenor Ukuleles.
Here are the other types of Ukulele tuning:
Baritone Tuning (D G B E) - If you know how to play the guitar, then you should be familiar with this tuning. It is equivalent to the tune of the last four strings on a guitar. Baritone ukuleles are tuned this way. Some ukulele players even use this tuning on their Tenor ukulele.
Re-entrant D-tuning ( a D F# B) - Some also call this the English tuning. This used to be a popular tuning back in the day. If you happen to find old song sheets, you will notice that the songs are in D-tuning.
Slack-key Tuning ( g C E G) - The A string at the bottom is tuned down to G. The result is a C chord if all the strings are played open. You have the option to tune the G string in a reentrant or linear tuning(high G or low G).
Canadian Tuning ( a D F# B) - It is almost identical with the English tuning. The only difference is that the A string is tuned down to an octave (lower A). It is popularly used for Concert and Tenor ukulele. James Hill and Chalmers Doane frequently use this tuning on their ukes.
B Tuning - The arrangement is almost identical with the standard C-Tuning but each string is tuned down one fret lower. This tuning can be useful if you have difficulty with unfriendly keys like B and E which are mostly present on guitar-based songs.
Now that you already know some of the types of ukulele tuning. The next thing to do is practice your skill of putting your ukulele in its proper tune.
Different ways of tuning the Ukulele.
Like I said earlier, there are many methods to tuning your ukulele. Whatever floats your boat!
Use a clip-on tuner - This is the most popular method of tuning a ukulele. Easy to use, portable, sturdy and very reliable. It will tell you exactly the pitch of each string as you play it.
You can buy this tuner for less than $25 but you can have it for free if you order any of our ukulele bundles.
Learn more about the free tuner here.
Tuning by a guitar - If you have a guitar, you can use it to tune your ukulele. Following the standard re-entrant tuning, the notes should be as follows:
G - 3rd fret High E-string
C - First fret on B string
E - Open E-string
A - 5th fret E-string
Tuning with a piano - The middle-C of the piano has the same note with the C-string of the ukulele.
Image below will show you the reference notes from the piano.
From left to right: C, E, G, A
Tuning the ukulele by itself - In case you don’t have a portable clip-on tuner or any other instrument, you can actually tune the Uke using its own strings as a reference. It may occur that the strings aren’t exactly on the standard pitch but as long as all the strings are in tune with each other, it will still produce a good melody.
Start by using the C-string as your base note.
Here’s what you need to do. Play the C-string on the 4th fret and then, tune the E-string to this note. After you get the right tune on E-string, play the E-string on the 3rd fret and tune the G-string with that note.
You have two options to get the note for the A-string. You can either play the G-string on the 2nd fret or play the E-string on the 5th fret. Either way, you’ll still get the same pitch and this will help you find the right tone for the A-string.
Once you get all those four strings tuned up, strum a few chords and if you think the melody is great, you’re all set.
Now it’s time to play! Go and practice your favourite current song and I hope to hear from you soon!
What to try next...
Learn about chord progression. Check out how to use the Circle of Fifths.