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How To Tune A Ukulele

Updated: May 7, 2021

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If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me how to tune a ukulele, I’d be on the maiden voyage to Mars with Elon Musk! This is the critical question everyone has after getting their first ukulele. It makes sense. You need to able to tune the ukulele in order to play. With the ukulele being over 100 years old, there are many methods to do this. You have the piano method, tuning fork, and pitch pipe. Does any one still use a pitch pipe? Do you even know what that is? Here it is...

Ukulele Pitch Pipe, courtesy of B&H Photo Video

These methods still work perfectly today but I am a millennial. We are all about modernity and lovers of tech. We took coffee and avocado to whole new level!

So keeping with modernity, I’m gonna go over the newest methods of tuning the ukulele.

I remember in the early 2000’s you still had to tune the old fashioned way. I remember being in my high school guitar class having to tune with a pitch pipe. For me it was strange because we were tuning to what sounded like a harmonica. Though I did have a friend who brought his mic tuner to class. This type of tuner could pick up the frequency of a note and move a tiny needle on a screen. This allowed you to follow the needle till it lined up with the right note, tuning the string. It worked great......... until class started. As soon as my classmates tuned up their guitars, the needle on our tuner would pick up all the sounds in the room and ping pong erratically. I remember having to go out and tune in a quiet hallway. It wasn’t until 2005 that I first used my first electronic tuner. You ever of heard of having a religious experience? I guess you could say that with this tuner I was born-again!

Electronic Tuner, courtesy of KLIQ

Using a chromatic, or electronic tuner is the easiest way to tune your ukulele. It is also the most accurate. All you have to do is clip the tuner onto the headstock and pluck the strings. The tuner picks up the frequency and displays the note on the digital screen. Then you simply tune the tuners (keys) and follow the prompts on the screen. It’s that simple! Unlike the mic tuner, this tuner uses vibration to find the note. This allows you to tune the ukulele in noisy environments! Some tuners use a system of lights (for example, red and yellow for too high/too low, and green for being in tune). Make sure you know which note you’re tuning to. Ukulele are usually tuned to the notes G, C, E, and A. With the G string being closest to you.

You can find many of these tuners online and in your local music shop. They are affordable and will make your life a whole lot easier. Make sure to check if it is made to tune ukulele or is a chromatic tuner. You can get one here.

Now what if I told you, you could tune your ukulele with your phone. Would you believe me? Of course you would. Our phones can almost do everything! They can search the web, take amazing photos and videos, give directions, stream countless hours of entertainment, be an artist’s canvas, a gamer’s obsession, a library full of books, an actual phone, and now an ukulele tuner. Yes, the phone in you pocket can tune your ukulele. This is the method I now use the most. If you are recording music or playing at live events, an electronic tuner is still recommended since it’s more accurate. But if you do not fall into these categories a phone tuner is all you need.

There are many free apps out there. Just search the App Store on your device and type in ‘ukulele tuner’ and a bunch of them should show up. Many of these are free to use. I recommend GuitarTuna. You can download it here. These tuner apps work the same a mic tuner. They use the microphone in your device to listen to the sound being played. It will then translate these sounds into notes and show them on your phone screen. Then like the electronic tuner, adjust the tuner keys on your ukulele until you tune the string to the note. The only downside of this tuning method is you tune in a quiet place in order for the mic to ‘hear’ your ukulele. Other than that, this method of tuning is the most convenient of all the methods. You don’t have to buy anything. If you have a phone you got a tuner! And it’s super easy. You can master it in minutes.

So there you have it, “The Millennial’s Guide to Ukulele Tuning!” Hehe! (Sorry I had to represent my generation. Sorry not sorry)! I hope this answers the question on how to tune a ukulele. Be strong... be courageous... and go tune your ukulele!

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