While it only has 4 strings compared to 6 or 12 on a guitar, the ukulele can be difficult to tune if you are a beginner when it comes to string instruments. You can tune a ukulele in a variety of ways, so read on to find one that works best for you.
Part 1 of 3: Know the Structure of the Instrument
Step 1. Memorize the pitches of the string
Most common ukuleles (the soprano and the tener) have four strings tuned to G, C, E, and A: the note G below middle C (low G), middle C, E, and A. Each string is tightened or loosened with a knob located at the top of the fingerboard.
Step 2. Locate the pins
To correctly assign the strings on the ukulele, hold it with the fretboard pointing up. The lower left peg of 4 o'clock will tune the G string, the peg above that will tune the C string, the upper right peg will tune the E string, and the one below that will tune the A string.
- The pegs will allow you to change the pitch of the strings. Generally, the direction you turn them can vary between instruments, so experiment. The direction is usually the same for the pins on only one side of the instrument.
- Adjust the strings to raise the pitch. Loosen them to lower it.
- Do not tighten the strings too tightly, as doing so can break the instrument and the strings could come off.
Step 3. Find the locations of the strings
The strings are numbered from furthest to closest to you, assuming you are right-handed. The first string is A, the second is E, the third is C, and the fourth is G.
Step 4. Find the frets
The frets are numbered from the trim knobs to the soundboard, with the fret closest to the knobs known as the 1st fret. Pressing a string against a fret while plucking will raise the pitch of the string.
Part 2 of 3: Finding the Correct Tones
Step 1. Choose a reference instrument to help you tune your ukulele
The easiest way to tune your ukulele is to tune its strings to match the pitch of another musical instrument. You can use a piano, an inline tuner, an electronic tuner, or a wind tuner. You can tune a single string using this method (and tune the rest based on that string), or tune all of them using the tuning instrument.
Step 2. Tune the ukulele using a piano or keyboard
Press the keys and strum the corresponding strings, adjusting the knobs until the ukulele string matches that key.
Step 3. Tune the ukulele using a woodwind tuner
You can use a round chromatic wind tuner or one specially designed for the ukulele, which looks like a small saucepan. Blow out the tube or opening corresponding to the ukulele string, strum it, and then adjust the knob until the pitch of the ukulele string matches that of the tuner.
Step 4. Use a tuning fork
If you have a fingerboard for each string, you can strike each one and adjust the string until the pitch matches. If you only have one fingerboard, use it to tune one of the strings and then tune the others based on the first.
Step 5. Tune the ukulele using an electronic tuner
Electronic tuners come in two types. One type outputs a tone that you have to match the instrument to, while the other analyzes the pitch of the string and determines whether the string is sharp (pitch too high) or flat (pitch too low). This is probably the easiest tuning method for beginners who have difficulty determining the difference between pitches.
Part 3 of 3: Tuning the Strings
Step 1. Tune the G string
Tune the G string (the string closest to you) until it sounds good.
Step 2. Play the note a
Place your finger on the second fret (the second open space from the top) of the tuned G string. This note should sound the same as the A note and have the same pitch as the string farthest from you.
Step 3. Tune the A string
Tune the string using the G note as a reference.
Step 4. Play the G note on the E string
Place your finger on the third fret of the E string. This should sound the same as the G note and match the G string. If they don't sound the same, it means the G string is probably out of tune.
Step 5. Tune the E string
Tune the E string until it matches the pitch of the G string.
Step 6. Play the E note on the C string
Place your finger on the fourth fret of the C string. This should sound the same as my note.
Step 7. Tune the C string
Tune the C string until it matches the sound of the E string.
- Some ukuleles cannot stay in tune. If you can't keep up with your ukulele, consider taking it to a shop to have it tuned.
- When tuning the strings, tighten them as tightly as possible rather than leaving them slack.
- Consider purchasing a humidifier for your ukulele that will allow it to stay in tune.
- Changes in ambient temperature can affect the tuning of the ukulele. Don't be surprised if the instrument goes out of tune when moved outdoors.
- When playing with other musicians who also play the ukulele, you need to decide which instrument will be the “guide” and tune the others based on it so that they all sound in harmony with each other.
- Don't over-tighten the strings, as you could break the instrument.
- After tuning all the strings on the ukulele, you may notice that the first string is slightly out of tune and you may have to tune it again. This is because squeezing the other strings slightly bends the structure of the instrument and causes the first string to stretch out of tune.