There are only a few lucky individuals with perfect pitch and can hear the exact frequency of any note and therefore tune their instruments by ear. For the majority of people who were not so lucky to be born with perfect pitch, an electronic tuner is a must-have accessory.
Electronic tuners for ukulele or chromatic tuner come in many different sizes, from pocket tuners to large rack-mounted tuners. Most of these tuners use an LED lights or displays to indicate the relative sharpness of flatness of the note you are playing.
Some of the most basic ukulele tuners may include just the 4 pitches used in a standard tuning, while the chromatic tuners include all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale.
Types of electronic tuners
- Smartphone apps. You can find apps for your Android or iOS smartphone that will allow chromatic or ukulele tuning, however, these apps are not as accurate as the dedicated ukulele tuners.
- Built-in tuners. Built-in preamp tuners on a few electric or electro-acoustic ukulele models. These are the tuners that are built into the preamp circuit. You can find these in some amps as well. The built-in tuners are very convenient since they are built-in, and most of them allow silent tuning which is great for live performances.
- Tabletop and rack tuners. There are several models of these tuners ranging from simple tabletop units with basic tuner function to professional studio tuners. In this category, you can find a model suitable for any budget and needs. When choosing the right one you might want to consider the various features and functions of the tuner.
- Pedal tuners. The pedal tuner is built into a case that you can place at your feet and make it a part of your pedalboard. This is an ideal tuner for live performers. The displays on these tuners are usually very bright so you can see them on a darkened stage. Additionally, many multi-effect pedals and processors include the tuner function.
- Clip-on tuners. These tuners can be clipped onto your ukulele’s headstock and then detect the pitch of each string by picking up the vibrations of the instrument. Some of these also feature a built-in microphone that allows acoustic tuning of many different instruments. The clip-on tuners can be swiveled so you can see them from any angle you like. Most of the clip-on tuners can be used for any stringed instrument and some of the brass and wind instruments.
As you can see, there are many different types of electronic tuners. Some of these are cheap, some are expensive, but they all have one thing in common – they’re all easy to use.
Tuning by using an electronic tuner is by far the easiest way to tune your instrument. If you are a beginner, you should most definitely get a tuner. You can always try out other tuning methods when you become more experienced.
The electronic tuners do come in various sizes and shapes, but most of them are basically the same. This type is probably the best ukulele tuner you can use. In our opinion, the best ones are the clip-on tuners. Quite simple to use. You just clip them onto your uke and you are ready to tune.
The clip-on tuner is additionally very useful if you like to play outside. This is the only way to tune your uke without being able to hear it.
How to tune a ukulele using an electronic tuner:
- Clip your tuner onto the ukulele’s headstock. In case you are using the app or a tabletop tuner, place it somewhere near your instrument.
- Most of the tuners have different modes. Choose the mode you wish your uke to be tuned in. For standard tuning choose the C mode.
- Start your tuning by plucking the g string. That is the 4th string, the one nearest to your face. You are aiming to tune this string into the g note. If your tuner features an arrow display, when the arrow is pointed to the left, you need to tune the string up by tightening the tuning peg attached to it. If the arrow points to the right you need to do the opposite, tune down by loosening the tuning peg.
- If the arrow is pointing upwards your string is in tune.
- Repeat the process on each string.
Not all of the electronic tuners have the same display. Some of them use the arrow while some might use light to indicate the note. For example, red light for too low or high and green light for in tune.
The most important thing to know is what note you are tuning your string to. This is especially important if you are getting a brand new ukulele. Brand new ukuleles are usually very out of tune.
Common problems with tuning
Most of the low-end ukuleles will almost certainly have some tuning problems. This is because they are made very cheaply. Some of the problems can be fixed easily while some require changing of some parts and it’s probably not worth it.
Keep this in mind when buying a ukulele because you can perform a few simple checks before you buy it to see whether or not it will stay in tune.
In some cases, the strings might be a problem. For example, brand new strings tend to slip out of tune easily until they stretch a bit.
The tuning pegs can also be a problem in some cases. Make sure that all the screws are in place and tightened properly.
If your ukulele tends to sound more and more out of tune as you approach higher frets, then your instrument has a fretting problem. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do in this case and it’s best to check the fretting before you buy an instrument.
- Always tune from below the note to prevent overstretching.
- Tune the C string first and then E, G and then A. This way you go from low to high and it helps you hear the pitch.
- Try humming the note before you tune. This way you practice your pitch.