How to Properly Tune Your Ukulele

No matter what you play, one of the key components of the good tone is a properly tuned instrument. The ukulele is not an exception.

This is especially important for the new players who are not quite familiar with the uke sound. You need to get familiar with the properly tuned sound from the beginning.

Evan though the uke only has 4 strings, it can be as difficult to tune as any other stringed instrument. However, it can be done in few ways and you can choose the one that suits you the most.

Before you start tuning your ukulele you must learn the layout and memorize the pitches of the strings. Most of the ukuleles are tuned in gCEA layout (low G and middle C, E, and A).

The strings are tuned by turning the tuning pegs located on your ukulele’s headstock. By tightening the peg you are raising the pitch of the string and by loosening it you are lowering the pitch.

Tuning with an electronic tuner

This is most definitely the easiest and the most accurate way to tune your ukulele. These tuners can be found in any music shop or you can buy them online and they cost just a few bucks.

When buying an electronic tuner be sure to buy a ukulele tuner or a chromatic tuner.

Tuning your ukulele with an electronic tuner is pretty simple. Depending on the type of tuner, you need to place it on your lap or clip it on your uke’s headstock and pluck the strings. The best ukulele tuner in our opinion is a clip-on tuner

While you pluck the strings the tuner will show you what notes you are playing. All you have to do now is turn the tuning pegs until you get the desirable note for that specific string.

You can also do this with your smartphone, there are many different tuner apps you can download.

Piano tuning

If you have a piano or a synthesizer you can use that to tune your ukulele. This does require some practice and a bit sharper ear but it’s quite simple to do.

Simply play the note on your piano and then tune the string by ear to match the piano note. Repeat the process on all of the strings and you are done. Pretty simple.

“Relative” tuning

This method is called “relative” tuning because you tune the strings on your ukulele relative to each other. This is an excellent method if you intend to play alone, but it is not that great if you want to play with other people. Unless, of course, you have the perfect pitch.

This will make your string sound good together but it won’t be that perfect. You can also tune the A string using an electronic tuner or a piano and then tune all the other strings relative to it if you want more accurate tuning.

This method requires a few steps.

  • Step 1: Your reference note for tuning the other strings will be the A string (1st string). Tune this string to a desirable note by ear or by using an electronic tuner or a piano.
  • Step 2: Now put your finger on the 5th fret on the E string (2nd string) and pluck it. This should be an A note and it should sound the same as you’re a string. If the two notes don’t match, turn the tuning peg connected to your 2nd string and adjust until they sound completely identical.
  • Step 3: Put your finger on the 4th fret on the C string (3rd string). This should be an E note. This note should sound exactly the same as your E string. If it doesn’t sound the same, turn the tuning peg attached to your C string to adjust the note until these two notes match perfectly.
  • Step 4a: Now, most of the standard ukuleles come with a high G string (but you can choose to go with the low G if you wish). To tune the high G string, place your finger on the 2nd fret on the G string (4th string) and pluck the string. The note you are hearing should be an A note. Now pluck the 1st string (A string). These two should match. If the notes you are playing don’t match, turn the tuning peg on your headstock attached to your G string to adjust the note until you get the perfect match. If the two notes sound the same your ukulele is properly tuned.
  • Step 4b: However, if you’ve chosen to go with the low G, you’ll have to tune it a bit differently. Put your finger on the 5th fret on your G string (4th string). That should be a C note. Now pluck your 3rd string (A string). These two should produce the same note. If they are not the same note, turn the tuning peg attached to your G string until the two notes match perfectly.

It might take some time and practice to perfect this method, but it pays off. With this method you can tune your ukulele quickly and by using this method you also practice your pitch which is very useful for musicians.

If you are familiar with the notes on your ukulele’s fretboard you can also come up with your own combinations for relative tuning. It’s always good to be a bit creative.

What if you just can’t get your ukulele in tune?

It’s not unusual for a ukulele to refuse to get in tune. This can happen for a few reasons. If your ukulele is old or a brand new one, it might need a setup.

If this is an issue, you can hire a professional to do a setup for you but in most cases the problem can be resolved by simply tightening a few screws on your machine heads.

This can also happen if your strings are not put on properly. If you can’t get it in tune, check if you stung it properly and restring if necessary.