When studying music theory or if you have been playing any instrument for a while then you will come across the word “Key”. This is the pitch that your instrument is set to and depending on the key, the sound that your instrument creates is likely to vary. The same can be said for the ukulele and different types of ukulele are set to different keys as the playstyle they are used for may vary.
Most keys you may come across are set in the major and minor tones and when figuring out the key of your ukulele the most common assumption is that they are set to a major key. The most common setting for your basic ukulele may be the key of C which is the GCEA tuning while others may be tuned to the key of D which is an ADF#B tuning.
The baritone ukulele has a different tuning of the key of G which is the tuning of DGBE. For people who have been playing the ukulele for a while, they may notice the key from just a few strums but the same cannot be said for beginners as all this information about keys in music theory may be too much to understand. So to find out how you can easily determine the key that your ukulele is set to check out the following.
How Can You Find Out The Key?
When tuning your strings, how tight or loose you make the strings determines the pitch of the ukulele. Make it too loose and it will create a sound that is low and akin to a bass guitar and the more you tighten it the higher the sound will be as the string is held more tightly and it doesn’t vibrate as much as a loose string.
To figure out the pitch you need to strum the strings where they are not being held down on the fretboard. For example, if you are trying to find the key to C then the strings will need to be tuned to GCEA consecutively from the first string to the last. The E and G here are set to a perfect tuning while the pitch for C will be the lowest amongst the strings.
Using Technology to Find The Key
As we make more advancements all we need is in our phone as we can look up almost anything with the help of a phone as long as we have a stable Internet connection. If you are not able to find the key by yourself then you can just download an app that will get the job done.
If you are trying to find the key then just strum the ukulele in the vicinity of your phone and it will use your microphone to translate which key your ukulele is set to. So if you are a beginner at playing the ukulele then the smart choice for you to take would be to use your phone to find the key until you get to the point where you can just figure out the pitch of your strings from just listening.
Using an app also offers more than just figuring out the standard key as you can bring up a lot of lyrics and music sheets which will show you all the different chords and tuning that you need for a specific song. As the tone of each song will vary you may use the information on the sheets in combination with a guitar tuning app to set your ukulele to the key that is advised for the song you want to play.
The other choice would be for you to purchase a digital guitar tuner and this is often used by workers in a music store to set all their instruments to a certain key. Just place it on top of your ukulele with a clip and then strum. As the sound is being recorded, the key and tuning that your instrument is set to will be displayed via a screen and it will also show you the necessary adjustments you need to make to match the pitch to any key you want.
Why Are Certain Keys The Standard?
Some ukulele has a standard tuning for one reason and that is because most songs you come across have the same 3-4 chords being repeated throughout the whole song. That is why there are no adjustments to be made when changing to a different song.
Some other factors to consider are the tone and mood of the song as a certain pitch will be suitable for something upbeat but a different key might be required to play something a bit sadder. Traditionally ukuleles are set to the key of D or G as these are the ones utilized in most songs today.
One last thing to consider when figuring out the key is the quality of your instrument as some tuners and strings may not be able to adjust to the tension for certain keys and may snap under too much pressure. This means you just wasted an otherwise good string. The string’s thickness and the quality of the wood will determine whether your ukulele can handle the tension forced on it.
Also Read: Best Part Ukulele Chords
To create less hassle in tuning and to cause less harm to your ukulele you should stick to the standard tuning for most play sessions if you don’t want to harm your instrument but if you want to change up the tuning then you need to make sure that your instrument can handle the pressure.
This means that you may have to spend more for better quality but if you are looking for long-term use then in the end it will be worth it. After playing for some time you will easily be able to recognize the keys so it is up to whether you want to rely on a phone app or a tuner.