Ukulele tuning (1)
Navigating the Art of Ukulele Tuning: Your Complete Guide
Embarking on your ukulele journey starts with mastering the art of tuning. Not only does it enhance the sound of your instrument, but it also fills you with joy as you create beautiful melodies!
So, in this post, we’ll explore the different types of ukulele tunings and how to tune your ukulele. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, you’ll find everything you need to know about tuning your ukulele in this post.
The Crucial Role of Regular Tuning
Often, beginners underestimate the importance of regular tuning. Whether your ukulele is a budget-friendly model or a high-end instrument, it needs frequent tuning to produce the best sound. Lower-priced ukuleles typically require more tuning, while premium models tend to maintain their tuning for longer periods. This largely depends on the quality of the strings and whether they are stretched. It’s especially important to check your ukulele’s tuning frequently if the strings are new.
Remember, tuning might seem tedious at first, but with practice, you’ll be able to tune your ukulele quickly and accurately.
The Impact of Choosing the Right Strings
The strings you choose can significantly influence your ukulele’s sound. It’s also crucial to know when to replace your strings to maintain the best sound quality.
Read about strings in this link: Ukulele Strings.
Grasping Standard Ukulele Tuning
The standard tuning for ukuleles varies depending on the type of ukulele. For soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles, the standard tuning today is G-C-E-A, but there are also other options available. Read the post: Ukulele types or read further down.
For Baritone tuning read the post on the link.
A Ukulele tuner
The quickest and simplest method to tune your ukulele is by using a chromatic tuner. This handy device detects the pitch of a note as you strum a string on the ukulele. It allows you to swiftly determine if you are sharp or flat (too high or too low in pitch) compared to the desired note.
You can find tuners in music stores or online. Tuners come in different types, but the most common type today is a Clip-on tuner . This is a small device that you clip onto your Ukulele’s headstock when you want to tune it. It detects the vibrations of the strings and shows you the pitch on a screen.
Clip-on tuners are very practical and affordable. You can get one for as low as 10$ or more, depending on the brand and quality. (#Ad)
Some electric acoustic Ukuleles come with a built-in tuner along with the sound controls. This makes it easy to keep your Ukulele in tune at all times.
If you dare and want to install a built-in tuner, it’s covered in the post about Ukulele Setup and Improvements.
Ukulele tuner app for your smart phone
Downloading a tuner app to your smartphone is the most affordable way to tune your ukulele because you can usually find a free version for iOS, Android and Windows. These apps are very good and easy to use. They work by using your phone’s microphone to listen to the sound of your Ukulele strings. You can also adjust the tuning mode and the reference pitch according to your preferences. The best part is that you always have your phone with you, so you always have the tuner with you as well. The only downside is that free versions of the ukulele tuning app often come with some ads.
Android Ukulele tuner
If you have an Android phone, you have many options for Ukulele tuner apps. One of them is Pocket Ukulele Tuner, which we recommend at the moment. It’s easy to use and has a simple interface. However, you might find a better app out there in the jungle of Android apps.
To use this app, you just need to select the ukulele setting on top, and then tune each string according to the app. For example, if you have a normal tuning, choose C tuning (standard) (gCEA). This is how most tuners work, so it’s not a complicated operation at all.
Of course, you can also tune the ukulele by using your ears and listening to the sound. This is not easy for everyone, in our opinion (Read also the article Baritone Ukulele Tuning.)
The Art of Tuning by Ear: A Key Skill for Every Musician
While using a tuner provides a quick and easy way to tune your ukulele, developing the skill of tuning by ear can take your musicianship to new heights. This skill not only enhances your understanding of your instrument but also makes you a more versatile musician.
The First Step: Listening
The journey to tuning by ear begins with careful listening. Pay close attention to the sounds your ukulele makes. Over time, you’ll start to notice when something sounds ‘off’. This awareness is the first step towards tuning by ear.
The Power of Practice
Just like any other skill, tuning by ear requires practice. Start by trying to match the pitch of one string to a note played on a piano or a tuning fork. Then, move on to tuning the other strings relative to the first. With consistent practice, you’ll find that your ability to tune by ear improves significantly.
(Take a look at this post: Baritone Tuning)
The Benefits of Tuning by Ear
Tuning by ear offers several benefits. It allows you to tune your ukulele even when you don’t have a tuner handy. It also helps you develop a keen sense of pitch, which is invaluable when playing music. Moreover, it enables you to adapt quickly in a performance situation where you might need to adjust your tuning on the fly.
The Journey Continues
Remember, the journey to mastering the art of tuning by ear is a marathon, not a sprint. It might seem challenging at first, but with patience and persistence, you’ll find that it becomes second nature. So, keep practicing, stay patient, and enjoy the process!
A bit deeper information if you don’t have, or want, a standard tuning:
Venturing into Alternate Ukulele Tunings
Once you’ve mastered standard tuning, you might want to venture into alternate tunings like “low G” or baritone tuning. These can give your ukulele a unique sound and unlock new possibilities for your playing.
Ukulele tuning and types.
Before you start you need to know what kind of Ukulele you have (Read the article: Ukulele Types).
If you have a:
- Sopranissimo or Sopranino (Piccolo or Pocket): D5-G4-B4-E5 or C5-F4-A4-D5
- Standard or Soprano Ukulele: the most popular tuning is C-tuning: G4 C4 E4 A4. The re-entrant tuning is when the G string is an octave higher.
- Standard or Soprano Ukulele: another normal tuning is the D-tuning: A4 D4 F#4 B4. This is one step higher than the first. Some thinks the D-tuning bring out a sweeter tone in small Ukuleles. (We find the standard C tuned Ukulele easier for beginners.) This tuning was normal during the Hawaiian music boom early in the 20th century, but it is still often used today. It is also called English Tuning.
- Concert or Super Soprano Ukulele: A4-D4-F#4-B4 or G4-C4-E4-A4 that is most common
- Tenor Ukuleles: A4-D4-F#4-B4, G4-C4-E4-A4 (most common), G3-C4-E4-A4
- Baritone Ukulele: D3-G3-B3-E4 this is called G-tuning
- Bass Ukulele: E2-A2-D3-G3
- Contrabass Ukulele: E1-A1-D2-G2
(The numbers indicates in which scale you find the note on a piano.)
Read about the Ukulele Strings at the link!
Concert and Tenor Ukuleles can also use a “Canadian tuning”. This name comes from its use in the school system in Canada. This is a D-tuning with a low 4th string. The notes are A3 D4 F#4 B4. If you want to know more about this tuning, you can read the Ukulele history article.
Sopranino, Soprano and Concert Ukuleles usually have re-entrant tuning, which means the 4th string is higher than the 3rd string. On the other hand, the “lower pitched” instruments such as Tenor, Baritone and Bass often have linear tuning, where the strings are tuned from low to high pitch.
Slack key ukulele tuning
Hawaiian Ukuleles can also have open tunings, like the Hawaiian slack key style. Slack-key Tuning (G, C, E, G). A down to G. When you strum the strings as open strings, it sounds like a C major chord. The top G string can be tuned either to the G above middle C or down one octave. This gives you two options: re-entrant or linear tuning.
Of course, this means that all your normal chord positions are different. If you strum all the strings open, as mentioned above, you already have a C chord. By moving it two positions up and fretting 2222, you have a D chord. To play a basic C-F-G song, you use 0000, 5555, 6666. This tuning works best while playing in the key of C and with C scales.
Slide tuning is a unique way to play slide blues on the ukulele. While most people think about lap steels and guitars for using slide playing, you can play slide ukulele as long as you are light on the slide. To achieve this tuning, instead of G-C-E-A change the A to Bb, that gives you G-C-E-Bb which is a C7. The 7th chord is the hallmark of blues, so with a slide ukulele tuning you can play some great slide blues on the instrument. It’s important to use a slide that isn’t too heavy and to remember that a simple Bic lighter, or sometihing like that, makes a great slide for instruments.
If you want, you can turn the ukulele on its side and play it like a mini lap steel. The key is that your slide covers all the strings and that you don’t press the slide all the way down to the fretboard. Just lightly touch all the strings and play your slide ukulele.
In this tuning you are moving the A up to a Bb, so be careful. Whenever you are experimenting with an alternate tuning, always slowly tune anything up. If you go too far up in tuning you may break the string or damage or evan break the instrument (We know!). In this tuning you are only going up one and a half steps to Bb so it shouldn’t be too big a deal. This slide tuning works best on the bigger Ukuleles as Concert, Tenor, or Baritone ukuleles.
Now that you know some of the different ways to tune your ukulele, you can start your tuner and tune your instrument. 🙂
For a detailed explanation of tuning all kinds of ukuleles, you can also read the article about Baritone Ukulele Tuning.
Hertz and the sound
Hertz (symbol: Hz) is the unit of frequency in the International System of Units (SI), equivalent to one cycle per second. It is named after Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (1857–1894). The back-and-forth movement of the string that gives the sound is indicated in Hz. A low Hz is a love note, and a high Hz is a high note.
At your ukulele tuner, the sound is often indicated with Hz, and each note has its Hz from 146.8 (D Baritone) to 440Hz (A on smaller ukuleles).
There are four courses of strings on a ukulele. One course may have 1 or 2 strings. (Read about courses in the post about Ukulele types.)
Soprano and Baritone ukuleles have four courses with four strings
Concert ukuleles may be stringed with a low-G, and they may have the C course as an octave pair that means that it is one octave between them, high and low-C.
Tenors come in several variations:
- 4-string with a (low G (196 HZ) or high G
- As a Baritone DGBE
- 6-string tenor ukuleles with the G at 392 Hz, an octave pair of C strings, the E at 329.6 Hz, and an octave pair of A strings with the lower A at 220 Hz. It is also possible to have the G set at 196 Hz, but then the A strings are both at 440 Hz.
- 8-string is with an octave pair of G strings, an octave pair of C strings, both E strings at 329.6 and both A strings at 440 Hz.
Temperature and humidity
For reading about how temperature and humidity affect the tuning of a ukulele, read the article about Baritone Tuning.
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Tune and strum!
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