In this lesson we will cover a key step to take before actually strumming away at your favorite songs. That is to tune your ukulele.
There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, and I’ll be covering the most common ways to do so. So for example, I won’t be covering how to tune your uke with a tuning fork. But the best methods are all here. Now let’s get started.
Ukulele Tuning: The Easy Way
1. Using A Clip-On Tuner
My first recommendation is perhaps the most popular way to tune and maintain your tuning. That is to use a clip-on tuner. For absolute beginners this the best method as it relies on the accuracy of an electronic tuner and they are indeed very accurate.
They usually go for about $10-$20 on a site like Amazon. Not only is the price convenient, but they are very easy to use and portable as well. Clip-on tuners usually discovers the current tuning of your ukulele by feelings its vibrations when its clipped onto the headstock. Most clips-on work this way and are incredibly accurate in detecting the pitch of your strings.
The one I like to use is the Snark SN2. As with any other device, it will last long as long as its taken care of. However, there are many options available in the market and you may happen to find another that you make like better. But this one has excellent reviews and I have no complaints. It works perfectly fine and gets me up and running right away.
How to use the clip-on tuner
I would suggest starting from the top string (string #4, to be tuned to G) since it is the natural starting point when you strum. Although, feel free to start from the first string which will be tuned to A.
So suppose you are starting by tuning string #4. You’ll want to play the string without fretting at all. That means that you are playing the open string. Once you play the string, take a look at what the tuner is detecting. It will show you whether you need to tune up or down to reach the goal of the correct tuning, which in this case is G.
By the way, you will usually be tuning up, because when ukuleles get out of tune they usually do so by the notes becoming more flat.
If you’re using the Snark tuner, it will have a nice visually beautiful display that will show you that you are perhaps reaching G but needs a little more sharp or a little more flat. This determines how much or how little you need to tighten or loosen the tuning of the string to finally reach the right tuning.
You can basically go through this process with the other strings until you have your standard tuning of G-C-E-A.
2. Using a Smartphone App
If you have an iPhone, I recommend that you try out insTuner. It gives you the option of letting the app detect your tuning so you can adjust accordingly, or you can use its ‘tone generator’ which gives you the sound of the note of your choice for you to tune with by ear.
For Android users, you can try out DaTuner or Easy Ukulele Tuner. DaTuner is an all purpose tuner so it will apply to other stringed instruments as well, but it will help you reach your goal which is ukulele tuning.
These apps will help you tune to the standard G-C-E-A tuning (or any other tuning).
3. Ukulele Tuning By Ear
This method of tuning is just a tiny bit more advanced. The only reason for this is because you are relying on your ears to get the accurate tuning for your uke. This is perfectly fine as long as you are comfortable with getting the feel for the notes by ear.
So if you start tuning your first string and its not quite the tuning it should be, the rest of the strings will also be off. The starting off right is key here.
It’s just a matter of tuning the first string accurately so the rest can tune relatively to your first tuned string.
Speaking for myself, I’ve played music by ear for years. But I find that using an actual tuner benefits me the most because I never tune by ear as precisely as using a tuner would accomplish for me.
With that said, why not mix it up a bit? If you are not super comfortable tuning by ear you can use a tuner to tune the very first instrument and challenge yourself to tune the rest by ear. It will help you grow tremendously. Your skills will improve and it will make you a better ukulele player in the process.
This is how you would go about it.
Since C is the lowest sounding string on the uke, let’s get started there shall we?
- Once you tune the 3rd string (C String), you can go ahead and play the seventh fret of this string to get G. So you will want to then match the fourth string (G String) to sound exactly like the seventh fret of the C string.
- Play the 4th fret on the C string to play E. Match the second string to the sound of E on the C string. So you want to make sure that the E string sounds exactly the same as the E on the 4th fret of the C string. Until it does, you will need to adjust the second string until it sounds identical.
- Once the E string is in tune, you can then tune the very first string which is A. So play the 5th fret of the E string to get the A note. You can now match the first string to this note.
So there you have it. In this lesson you have learned how to tune your ukulele in three different ways. I suggest to try them all out, since learning is best by doing.
After getting your uke in tune, you may want to take a look at this Ukulele Chords Video Library. It’s an excellent page for beginners to use as a chords reference throughout their ukulele learning journey.
Here’s a 1-minute video that briefly covers ukulele tuning. I hope you enjoyed this article. Are you on social media? Follow my easy ukulele songs facebook page.