Learning a stringed instrument like the ukulele or guitar is a great way to engage with music. Whether you have big plans for performance, or you just want to strum a few chords around the house, your first step is tuning.
You can't play anything or learn new ukulele songs if you aren't in tune. We're going to look at how to tune a ukulele in this article, hopefully giving you one of the building blocks for your relationship with the instrument.
Let's get started.
How to Tune a Ukulele for Beginners
The ukulele might seem like a difficult instrument to tune. If you've played almost any other stringed instrument except the banjo, you're used to the strings moving along in ascending or descending order.
In other words, one string will be higher-pitched than the next, and the one after will follow suit. The ukulele is a little different, though.
The first string is a good deal higher in pitch than the second, and that can throw some people off. That said, that little nuance doesn't make it any more difficult to tune than any other stringed instrument.
If you're lucky, you've got a ukulele tuner in hand. This makes the process a whole lot easier. Let's take a look at how to tune the instrument if you have a tuner.
Using a Tuner
Tuners don't have to be specific to a particular instrument. There are a lot of tuners that are created for stringed instruments like guitars, basses, and ukuleles, though.
If you can, go ahead and pick up a tuner that can clip to the end of your instrument. If you don't have one of those, you can use tuning software or tuning app. It will do the job just as well.
With the ukulele in playing position, strum the string that is resting closest to your head. That is the G string, and its tuning peg tends to be the one closest to the neck on the top of the headstock.
Turn on your tuner, strum the note, and see what it says. Twist the tuning peg up or down until your tuner reads G. You should also note that this top string can be an octave higher than the rest.
What's an Octave?
The Western musical scale consists of 12 notes. As you ascend through those notes and reach the end of the scale, that scale will repeat itself, only in a different octave.
So, when something shifts up one octave, it's the same note, only one trip through the scale higher. You can explore this idea by playing any open string on your ukulele, then pressing down on the 12th fret of your ukulele.
That note will be one octave higher than the note when you play the string open. You can also explore the fretboard to find notes that are the same, only in different octaves.
Know that you can also turn G down an octave and make the first string sound lower than the others. You'll want to come into Island Bazaar Ukuleles to have a new Low G string installed to replace the traditional high G string. Low G tuning is not at all uncommon. It provide a deeper, and some feel more "jazzy" sound than the traditional high G ukulele tuning.
Tuning The Rest of The Neck
When you find G on your highest string, it's time to move forward. Your next goal is to make the next lowest string a C.
Twist the next tuning peg over until your tuner reads C, and that note should sound lower than the previous string (for traditional tuning.). Next, move down to the next string and twist that corresponding peg until your tuner reads E.
That note should be higher than the previous C string. So far, you should have G, C, and E. The final string on the ukulele is an A.
If You Don't Have a Tuner
It's still possible to tune your ukulele if you don't have a ukulele tuner.
It's just a little more complex, but it might help you to understand the fretboard a little more. You might also have to tune the instrument to whatever note the first string is currently playing if you don't have a way to hear a G.
Play your G string, then find your way to the fifth fret of that string. That note will be a C.
Tune the C string to the same note that you get from the fifth fret of the G string. The only thing to make sure of is that you're tuning it one octave lower than the note you hear on the G string.
Next, play the fourth fret of the C string. That note is an E. Tune the next string down to the same note that you hear on that fret. Repeat the process with the fifth fret of the E string, tuning your A string to the note that you hear.
This process requires a little bit of ear training, but it's definitely possible to tune your ukulele without the help of any technology. That's how people have tuned their instruments for most of ukulele history!
Don't get too down on yourself if you're not great at it right away, though, even if you have a tuner. Hearing pitches and adjusting the instrument to them is a difficult thing to do.
Even a lot of seasoned veterans get hung up on whether something is sharp or flat sometimes. Once you get the ukulele strings in tune, though, you can start to learn easy ukulele songs that build your confidence.
After a while, you'll have a large arsenal of ukulele chords that you can use to figure out more complex songs.
Want to Learn More about The Ukulele?
The ukulele is a great instrument for anyone who's just learning to play stringed instruments. You can use at as a way to relax and hear some music, or you could work your way up to playing very complex pieces.
It's all up to you! The first step is learning how to tune a ukulele, though, and hopefully, this article helped. Explore our site for more ideas on how to learn the ukulele.