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How To Properly Tune Your Ukulele

It’s not enjoyable playing and listening to an ukulele out of tune. Learn how to tune it here!

What to expect

  • What are the open string notes
  • How to tune electronically
  • What to do if it doesn't stay in tune
  • Tuning by ear (relative tuning)
  • Tune an ukulele with a piano

the guide

ukulele head stringsSo you already now all the ukulele parts and you know how to restring an ukulele, now you want to tune your ukulele. How in the world do you do that? Well, this guide will teach you how, since it is the most crucial part in playing wonderful music. The open strings of the ukulele are as follows:

• G: the 4th string (most to the left on the fretboard)
• C: the 3rd string
• E: the 2nd string
• A: the 1st string

This is when you are have your ukulele in standard tuning, this is what you need to play most of the songs.

Electronic Tuning

Using an electronic tuner is by far the easiest and most accurate way to tune your ukulele. You can find many of these tuners online and also in your local music shop. They aren’t that expensive and will make your life a lot easier. When buying one, make sure to buy one that is made to tune ukuleles or a chromatic tuner (tune different notes). Tuning your ukulele with an electronic tuner is pretty straight forward. You put the tuner on your lap of clip it on the headstock and pluck the strings. It will then show the note you are playing. Use the tuning pegs to get the desired note.

Standard Ukulele Tuning Method

This is also known as “relative” tuning, why? Well, because you will tune the four strings relative to each other. This is a perfect 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. This will cause issues though if you are playing with other people. I will guide you through the steps.

1. You will use the first string (A) as a reference to tune the other three strings, this is why this method isn’t that accurate. You won’t notice it if you play alone though, but you will if you play along with songs or friends.

2. Place your finger just behind the fifth fret on the E string (second string). That’s an A note. Now when you pick the first string (A), it should sound the same. You can adjust the the second string with the tuning pegs on the headstock until they sound the same.

ukulele tuning step 2

3. Place your finger just behind the fourth fret on the C string (third string). That’s an E note. Now when you pick the second string (E), it should sound the same. You can adjust the the second string with the tuning pegs on the headstock until they sound the same.

ukulele tuning step 3

4a. Most ukulele come standard with a High G string. Place your finger just behind the second fret on the G string (fourth string). That’s an A note. Now when you pick the first string (A), it should sound the same. You can adjust the the second string with the tuning pegs on the headstock until they sound the same.

ukulele tuning step 4a

4b. If you’ve chosen to use a Low G string on your ukulele you can use this method. Place your finger just behind the fifth fret on the G string (fourth string). That’s a C note. Now when you pick the third string (A), it should sound the same. You can adjust the the second string with the tuning pegs on the headstock until they sound the same.

ukulele tuning step 4b

This might take some practice to train your ear, but it’s an easy way to quickly tune your ukulele. If you know your notes on the fretboard you could also come up with other combinations.

Piano Tuning

ukulele notes on the piano

You can also use a piano to tune your ukulele. You can see the keys af the piano above, match the notes of the piano with that of your ukulele by ear, this can also take some practice. As you can see G C E A = sol do mi la.

Can’t get it in tune?

If you have an older ukulele or a brand new one that hasn’t been setup properly it can occur that you can’t seem to get your ukulele in tune at all. This can probably get resolved by simply tightening the screws of the machine heads a little bit. Another reason can be that the strings aren’t put on correctly, take a look at the “change ukulele strings” guide to see how it’s done correctly.

Hopefully you've enjoyed reading this guide. Any remarks, questions or suggestion? Use the contact form to let me know what they are!

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