Tuning your ukulele to perfection is a must if you want rich, detailed sound from it. This is why one of the very first lessons of ukulele lessons involve learning how to tune.
Today, we will go through the step-by-step guide on how to tune a ukulele for beginners. For a newbie, tuning can be daunting. Follow this guide and you’ll find yourself becoming a master of tuning the ukulele soon.
You will find instructions on how to tune a ukulele to regular tuning plus tuning a ukulele by ear!
Standard Ukulele Tuning
Typically, a ukulele is tuned to these notes – G, C, E, and A. Before the internet was even a thing, people would tune to notes A, D, F#, B, or also try out tunings like G, C, D, G and A, D, A, D. However, after the “advent” of the internet, the G, C, E, A tuning has been the standard.
How to Tune a Ukulele With a Piano
Most of the recent books and videos consider this the standard ukulele tuning – G4, C4, E4, A4. The fours after every letter denotes the octaves you can locate on the piano.
So, if there’s a keyboard or piano in front of you, fiddle around to check and you will find that C4 is the middle C. Tune your ukulele to align with middle C, followed by E over middle C, and A above middle C, and lastly, tune the first string to G over middle C. This tuned stage is known as the standard ukulele tuning.
Also Read: The 10 Best Ukulele Apps for 2021
How to Tune a Ukulele With a Tuner
In case you don’t own a piano (like most of us don’t have a piano just lying around the house), you have to get a chromatic tuner. There are many available on the market, so we suggest you do your own research to figure out which will suit your needs the best.
You will notice that there are several kinds of tuners, and not every one of them is chromatic. On that note, what does chromatic really mean?
A chromatic tune allows you to tune to every note. An example of non-chromatic tuner is a guitar tuner. They are calibrating to solely pick up notes typically used in the standard tuning of a guitar. This basically means that they can tune to E, A, D, G, B, and E, but tuning to F# or Bb or C, or any of the other notes not covered by a standard guitar tuner, is hard.
We highly recommend buying a chromatic tuner for best results.
How to Tune a Ukulele by Ear
A vintage or used ukulele probably won’t come with a tuner. Instead, you might get a bunch of old brochures or books and something that’s called a “pitch pipe,” which is basically a mini harmonica which can play one note at a time. You may even get a pitch pipe with your ukulele that wasn’t originally made for the instrument, so you must know how to tune a string to the pitch pipe as well as the others to the first string.
This can be rather challenging, but not need to panic. First of all, you will need a reference note. Usually, the reference note is set to middle C. After playing the note on the piano or blowing on the pitch pipe, you hear middle C. Twist the tuner on the ukulele till it matches. Twist the first two strings counter clockwise to tighten the string and make the pitch go up. So, starting on B, if you twist counter clockwise, you will reach some place between B and C. You can get to C if you keep twisting. However, don’t twist too far as it can cause C to overshoot, landing you somewhere between C and C#
Similarly, if you twist clockwise, the pitch goes down. So, you will end up on somewhere between B and Bb, or exactly B if you are on B again and twist clockwise.
Upon matching middle C on your ukulele to the middle C on your pitch pipe, you are ready to start tuning to your ukulele. Now, you have the ukulele tuned to middle C and you want to get the E sound. When tuning to the next string is concerned, you can count up from C. C# is the first fret, the second one is D. The third fret is D# and 3, the fourth fret, is the one you’re looking for.
An E sound will be heard if you hold down on the fourth fret, and you can use this to tune the next string. Keep in mind that you are on the other side of the neck when you tune that E string, so twist in the opposite direction of what you did before. Twisting clockwise makes the string tighter while elevating the level of the pitch and vice versa.
After reaching E, count up till you reach G and tune it. F will be the first fret on the E string, F# is the second, and finally, G is the third.
Count up to the A note after reaching the tuning to G string. The first fret is going to be G# while the second is A. Tune to that pitch and you’re all set!
One last note: Your strings will naturally stretch a little after the instrument is in tune. Sometimes, the ukulele won’t be tune right after you tune it, but this depends on the strings, type of tuner you used, the humidity, as well as the type of wood the ukulele is constructed of. So, you have to repeat the whole process twice or thrice to fine tune the uke.
Also Read: How to Soprano Ukulele Tuning
Different ukes vary a bit in their tuning technique, but that’s a discussion for another day. For now, refer to this guide and practice tuning on a standard tuning to start your ukulele journey.