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Tuning Your `Ukulele

From tuning by ear to using phone apps and electronic clip-on tuners.

PUBLISHED: Jan 2, 2005 • UPDATED: Sep 22, 2014 • LESSON CODE: UL101a • VISITS: 28

ukulele Subjects: beginnertuningtunings

Tuning Your `Ukulele

From tuning by ear to using an electronic tuner. The below lesson goes over the various tuning methods for tuning your ukulele. You ALWAYS need to play in tune.

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Basically BUT an electronic tuner and use it. However, also learn to tune your uke to its self when noting is available.

Tuning by Ear

PlanetWaves-TuningFork.pngThis is tuning by using a reference note and comparing each string to this note. A tuning fork, piano or other instrument can be used as the reference note.

Using the open string as your reference note, in the case of "C" tuning, an A note and using an A440Hz tuning fork or other instrument. Tune the open string one to this reference note. Adjust the string higher or lower to match the reference note. I listen for any wobble or oscillation between the pitches and tune until this goes away. If I get lost and I'm not sure if I'm too sharp or flat, higher or lower in pitch to the reference note. I loosen the string until I know it is flat, or lower in pitch and start over.

Compare string fret (5) to string open. These are the exact same note and pitches.

Now this is where most people make an error in tuning. They then compare string three to two. If you didn't string two just right, any error will be introduced to string three.

Compare string fret (9) to string open. This is the same note. String one might even vibrate on its oven when you play the note on string three if it is tuned.

Compare string fret (2) to string open. If using a high "G" tuning this is the same note. If using a low "G" tuning, this note is one octave lower and still a pure interval.

NOTE: Only compare pure intervals, unisons and octaves.

Reference Links

  • Musical Intervals, Frequency, and Ratio

    In order to really understand tuning, the harmonic series, intervals, and harmonic relationships, it is very useful to understand a little bit about the physics of sound and to be comfortable discussing ratios, fractions, and decimals. This lesson is a short review of some basic math concepts for students who want to understand some of the math and physics principles that underlie music theory.

  • The Pythagorean system

    Pythagorean tuning is a system of musical tuning in which the frequency relationships of all intervals are based on the ratio 3:2. Its name comes from medieval texts which attribute its discovery to Pythagoras, but its use has been documented as long ago as 3500 B.C. in Babylonian texts. It is the oldest way of tuning the 12-note chromatic scale. ( source Wikipedia )

  • Equal Temperament

    In musical tuning, a temperament is a system of tuning which slightly compromises the pure intervals of just intonation in order to meet other requirements of the system. ( source Wikipedia )

The Problem with Tuning Using Harmonics - A harmonic a pure interval. The ukulele is not tuned using pure intervals. In fact the music play and listen to uses equal temperament (see above). So unless you are comparing the same pitches or octaves, the only pure intervals then you will get errors.

You can use harmonics to get close then use octaves and unison notes for final tweaking.

Relative Tuning

If you have a good relative pitch and can recognized melodic intervals. You can tune your ukulele by comparing one note to another. Using the open strings the comparison intervals are:

High "G" - C Tuning (gCEA) and High "A" - D Tuning (aDF#B)

  • Compare string to string , a perfect fourth
  • Compare string to string , a major third
  • Compare string to string , major second

Low "G" - C Tuning (GCEA), Low "A" - D Tuning (ADF#B), and G tuning (DGBE)

  • Compare string to string , a perfect fourth
  • Compare string to string , a major third
  • Compare string to string , perfect fourth

To develop Relative Pitch visit the Ear Training lesson page.

Using Electronic Tuner

This is just tuning using an electronic tuner. There a lot of electronic tuners available that can be used for tuning your ukulele. There are foot pedals, clip-one tuners. LED tuners and strobe tunes. Visit my page on Electronic Tuners for listings of manufactures and information on these types of tuners.

I recommend getting a chromatic tuner that can tune a string anyone of the 12 notes of the chromatic scale. A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#

This is an example of a one of the clip on tuners available for ukulele, the Planet Waves Chromatic Headstock Tuner

End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!

Related Lessons

Related Lessons for Tuning Your `Ukulele at this time.

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Comparing the High G and Low G, C Tunings • Updated: Jun 9, 2015

Exploring the differences in these two common C tunings.

Related Books

Related Books for Tuning Your `Ukulele at this time.

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Learning the Ukulele Fingerboard - C Tuning
Updated: Apr 19, 2017

Finally, learn the names of the notes of the fingerboard. - C tuning

Learning the Ukulele Fingerboard - D Tuning
Updated: Sep 23, 2009

Finally, learn the names of the notes of the fingerboard - D tuning.

Learning the Ukulele Fingerboard - G Tuning
Updated: Aug 23, 2009

Finally, learn the names of the notes of the fingerboard - G tuning.

Related Lesson Series

Related Lessons Series for Tuning Your `Ukulele at this time.

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Common Ukulele Tunings
Updated: Mar 28, 2020

Any tuning is possible on a ukulele as long as the construction supports it and a string is available. There are three somewhat common tunings in popular use today, C, D and G tuning - with C tuning the most popular.

Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets

Related Assets for Tuning Your `Ukulele at this time.

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Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for C Tuning, Low or High G
Updated: May 11, 2019

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for D Tuning, Low or High A
Updated: Dec 31, 2016

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for G Tuning, Low or High D
Updated: Dec 31, 2016

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