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Home UkuleleTutorials How Do I Tune a Ukulele Without a Tuner?

How Do I Tune a Ukulele Without a Tuner?

For every problem... There's a solution!

by Susan Montgomery
kamaka ukuleles

Yes. It’s now the to tune a Ukulele! Imagine you’re on a secluded beach and it’s just you and your ukulele. You’ve been looking forward to this moment all week! You get your ukulele out of its case, give it a couple of strums, and SCRRIIIICHHY SCRRREEECH. It sounds terrible!

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You’ve been playing ukulele long enough to know it’s not supposed to sound that way. You look for your clip-on tuner, but it’s nowhere to be found. What’s a player to do? Keep reading to learn ways you can still tune your ukulele so you can be strumming beautiful songs in no time!

Tuning basics

First, it’s important to know the basics of tuning. Soprano, concerts, and tenors are tuned to the notes G C E A. G is the fourth string on the top, closest to the ceiling when you hold the ukulele, and A is toward the floor and the first string. (Baritone ukuleles have different tuning of D G B E.) If you just bought your ukulele, it will take a little while for the strings to stretch out and stay in tune. And because those tuning pegs can get bumped and nudged a bit when the ukulele is in its case, it’s important to tune your ukulele each time you pick it up to play. 

When you use a clip-on tuner, you match the string notes to the notes on the tuner. If there are a few bars (usually red colored) below the note, that means your note is flat and you need to raise the pitch by turning the ukulele tuning peg up from where it was at.

Read more: Where Can I Find Ukulele Lessons?

If there are a few bars above the note on the clip-on tuner, that means your string is sharp or too high. Lower the pitch by turning that knob lower. You want to be right in the middle, in the green zone. It can take some practice, but you’ll get it. For a review of tuning the ukulele with a clip-on tuner, check out the following video by Terry Carter on the Uke Like the Pros YouTube channel. He will show you which strings are which and what they sound like. Whether you have a low G or high G ukulele, this video is for you:

Use Tuner Apps

If you didn’t go “off the grid’ and brought your phone to your secluded beach, you can download a tuner app and tune your ukulele with that. Search for the free tuner apps for ukulele. There are many options and some have advanced features that you can purchase. Pick an app that appeals to you. Most will prompt you to pluck with string and show where you are in relation to the desired note. Once again, it will show whether you are sharp or flat. You want to be in perfect pitch, right in the middle. For a list of tuning apps and their descriptions, you can check some ukulele tuner apps here.

Use a Piano

If your secluded beach suddenly reveals a piano hanging out by the rocks, you can tune your ukulele with the notes on the piano. This also requires knowledge of where the notes are on a piano, however.

Middle C on the piano corresponds with your C string on your ukulele. You can compare the tone and adjust until your string sounds like the middle C. If you have a reentrant tuned ukulele (high G), the C is your lowest note, even though it is the 3rd string on the ukulele. Next, you can move up to the E on your piano and adjust your E string on the ukulele until they sound the same. Then, you will adjust G (the fourth string), and finally A. If you have a low G ukulele, you will match it to the G below middle C on the piano since those ukulele notes are linear and not reentrant.

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Use the Ukulele

If your secluded beach did not come with a built-in piano, have no fear. The ukulele itself is among the most preferable methods of tuning. This can take some practice, but it will help train your ear to recognize the desired notes which will also help you recognize those notes in songs. It simply makes you a better player.

Starting with the A string, try to match it to the sound you are familiar with when it is in tune. You can make sure the G is in tune by placing your finger at the second fret, which is an A. Adjust the tuning pegs until both G and A are in tune. You can move to the E string next and place your finger on the third fret and then compare it to how your open G string sounds. (An open string refers to when you don’t have your finger anywhere on a fret.) When you press the fourth string of the C string, you can compare that with your open E string. 

If you’re like me and have difficulty committing information like that to memory, make yourself an index card and keep it close when you’re getting ready to practice. Learning to play the ukulele is always full of (fun) challenges. Challenge yourself to learn how to tune your ukulele this way. You can get your strings in tune by using the ukulele first and then can double-check if it’s in tune using an app or your clip-on tuner. The more you practice this skill, the more prepared you’ll be for that secluded beach, or anywhere you find yourself without a tuner.

Conclusion 

Uke Like the Pros offers a variety of membership levels, courses, workshops, and more that are perfect for all levels of ukulele players. You can meet fellow players in the Community Forum, too. If you have questions about tuning your ukulele, this is a great place to seek further information. 

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