Almost all the ukulele tuning notes online seem to be for standard tuning. So I thought I’d knock together tuning notes for some more out of the way tunings.
Sometimes referred to as standard tuning. It’s the most common ukulele tuning.
Used to be more popular than it is now. Most of the old song sheets from the ukulele heyday are in D-tuning. Nowadays, the only place I really see it used often is with Formby acolytes.
This tuning (with the g string an octave lower than in standard tuning) is becoming more popular – particularly with Hawaiian players. It offers a greater choice of base notes which can fill out the sound when you are playing solo ukulele. This tuning is most often used on tenor ukuleles.
Watch this video of Carl Ray Villaverde to hear how effective it can be.
Should probably be called the ‘Canadian tuning’. It’s used extensively by James Hill and Chalmers Doane. Off the top of my head, I can’t remember it being used anywhere else.
The tuning is most often used in the slack-key style of playing (from Hawaii). The A string is tuned down a whole step to G. This produces a C chord when all the strings are played open. The G string can be either low or high (in this case, it’s high).
The baritone ukulele strings are usually tuned the same as the top four strings as the guitar: with the strings going from low to high. It is possible to buy strings for baritone ukulele that allow you to play in re-entrant tuning with a high-D
The standard C-tuning with each string tuned down half a step (one fret). It’s particularly useful for playing in uke unfriendly keys like B and E which often crop up in guitar-based songs.
The standard ukulele C-tuning tuned up half a step (one fret). So it’s half way between C and D tuning. You can recreate this tuning on a C-tuned uke with less hassle by putting a capo on the first fret.
Other Tuning Methods
Using a Tuner
If you don’t trust your ear to tune the uke (or you want to check you’ve got it right), you can use a tuner.
If you’re tuning at your computer, you can download the AP Tuner free and it will tell you the pitch of each string as you play it. The readings should be this for standard tuning:
G = G4
C = C4
E = E4
A = A4
Don’t worry about being bang on 00.0. One or two either way doesn’t matter much.
For tuning away from the computer, you can use a ukulele tuner. You can find out more about them here: ukulele tuners.
Tuning to Pitch Pipes
In days of yore, when dragons roamed the earth, there was no such thing as computers, intertubes and digital tuners. In order to tune their ukuleles, our forefathers had to toot on an ancient whistles known as pitch pipes. They work like a harmonica and a have on hole for each note of the ukulele. You blow the note and tune to it. Dead simple and they break down a lot less often than fancy digital tuners.
Tuning to a Piano
The C string of the ukulele corresponds to the middle-C of the piano. This video should help you find middle C.
Here are the other notes you’ll need:
From left to right: C, E, G, A
Tuning to a Guitar
If you’re playing with other instruments, you have to make sure you are in tune with them. Even if you’re both out, so long as you’re out by the same amount, it’ll sound right.
For standard, re-entrant tuning, you can find the tuning notes here:
G = E-string (high E-string) third fret.
C = B-string first fret.
E = E-string open.
A = E-string fifth fret.
Tuning the Ukulele to Itself
Sometimes, you’ll have nothing but your ukulele. On these occasions, you’ll have to tune the ukulele to itself. This might mean that the strings aren’t exactly right. However, so long as the strings are in tune with each other (all of them out by the same amount) it’ll sound right.
Start with the C-string. So long as it sounds like it’s in the right range, use that as your base note. Play the C-string at the fourth fret and tune the E-string to this note.
Play the E-string at the third fret and tune the G-string to that.
To get the note for the A-string, you can either play the E-string at the fifth fret, or the G-string at the second fret.
Strum through a few chords and if all sounds well, you’re good to go.