When you’re starting out playing the ukulele, one of the first things you should learn is how to tune your ukulele. There are a few different ways to tune your ukulele, and each type of ukulele has a different tuning.
The most common tuning for the ukulele is G-C-E-A. It’s the most common tuning, which you’ll use for most songs. It is the same tuning as the soprano recorder, so the ukulele is often called a “mini-violin.” This tuning is also sometimes called C tuning.
Of course, there is always room for experimentation in music, and you may want to try out other tunings. Here are the various tunings for ukuleles.
Years ago, the standard tuning for ukuleles was D-tuning (A-D-F#-B). This tuning is still used today, but it’s not as common as G-C-E-A.
This tuning is not used very much anymore and is just used as an alternative tuning nowadays. This tuning is exactly one step below the G-C-E-A tuning, and it’s often used to play blues, country music, and Hawaiian music.
D-A-D-F is another variation of D-tuning that you may see occasionally.
Some ukulele manufacturers offer ukuleles with an extra string with a low-G string. It is the same as the G-C-E-A tuning, except that it’s one lower than what you’d expect. It takes the concept of standard C tuning. However, it drops the G an octave to low G from a high G.
The added low-G string makes playing bass lines on your ukulele (especially for beginners). It may be an option worth trying if you’re starting with the ukulele.
This tuning was created for ukuleles with thicker strings, specifically low G or low six strings. Low G-tuning is best used on Tenor size instruments, but Alto players can use thicker strings to achieve the same effect.
Here’s a video showing the low-g tuning we’re referring to:
Another tuning you may want to try is slide tuning. This tuning is the same as standard tuning, but the B string is tuned one whole step higher than it usually would be. Rather than the standard G-C-E-A, switch A to Bb (or A#), which gives you G-C-E-Bb tuning that is a C7.
This tuning is called “slide tuning” because it’s used to play slide guitar on the ukulele. This tuning is not very common at all, but you may want to experiment with it if you’ve already mastered the standard G-C-E-A tuning. It’s also used for playing blues, folk music, and Hawaiian music.
Another tuning you may want to try is slack-key tuning. This tuning is the same as standard D-tuning, but the A string is tuned one whole step lower than it usually would be. Rather than the standard G-C-E-A, you take the A string and switch the tune down to G, which gives you G-C-E-G tuning.
This tuning is named “slack key” because it’s used for playing slack key guitar on the ukulele. This tuning is used for playing Hawaiian music and slack-key guitar on the ukulele. It’s not very common, but you may want to try it out if you’re already familiar with standard G-C-E-A tuning.
Another type of tuning that you may want to try out is open tunings (also called alternative tunings). These are unique ukulele tunings, where the strings are tuned in intervals other than whole steps or half steps.
Open tunings can be a lot of fun to experiment with, and they can give your music a new sound. There are many different open tunings that you can try, but here are a few of the most common ones.
Types of Ukuleles and Their Tunings
Now that you know about the different tunings for ukuleles, you may want to try out some of them. Each type of ukulele has its unique tuning, so be sure to research which tuning is best for the kind of ukulele you have.
Baritone ukuleles are typically tuned to D-G-B-E or non-reentrant. This tuning is the same as the standard guitar tuning. It is a very low tuning and allows you to play deeper bass notes. Many folk musicians use it.
Tuning your baritone ukulele to G-C-E-A is quite tricky. Back in the day, ukulele players need to experiment by using different strings to achieve the G-C-E-A tunings, causing harm to their instrument. Fortunately, particular strings are tailored to handle baritone ukulele and achieve G-C-E-A.
There are available baritone models that come with reentrant tuned strings. However, they’re a bit pricey, and they’re also hard to find in the market. Most baritone ukuleles are tuned to the standard D-G-B-E.
The soprano ukulele is tuned G-C-E-A. It is the same tuning as the C tuning but has a higher pitch and sounds brighter. Alternative tunings for the soprano ukulele include A-D-F#-B, D-G-B-E, and F# – B – E – A.
These alternative tunings are reentrant tuning, which means that the strings are tuned so that they can be played together. It gives the ukulele a different sound, and it’s often used in folk and blues music.
To tune a soprano ukulele appropriately, you need a tuner. You can buy a chromatic tuner from almost any music store, and they’re very cheap. Tuning the ukulele by ear is an option, but it’s not recommended because it’s nearly impossible to tune your instrument by ear alone.
It would be best to start with the C note to tune it to the C string. Then match the A string with the E string, and so on. You have to adjust each string from low to high until you reach your desired tuning.
The concert ukulele is tuned A-D-F#-B, just like the soprano ukulele. However, the concert ukulele has a deeper sound than the soprano ukulele. It’s due to its more extended size and scale.
With standard A-D-F#-B tuning, the concert ukulele is still a bit high and can sound sharp at times. It can be pretty irritating to other musicians and your audience. To resolve this problem, you may want to tune down your instrument by a semitone (one fret) lower than standard tuning to D-G-B-E. It is called “D tuning,” and it’s a very common tuning for the concert ukulele.
Many professional concert ukulele players use this tuning to give the instrument a richer, deeper sound. You can also use other alternative tunings such as E-A-D-F# or B-E-A-D.
The tenor ukulele is a step up from the concert ukulele in size and scale. It’s larger than the concert ukulele. The tenor ukulele has two G-C-E-A tunings, called low-G and high-G tuning.
The desired G-C-E-A tuning can be achieved with the use of thicker strings. However, many ukulele manufacturers don’t make tenor ukuleles with thicker strings because they’re harder to play.
Concert ukuleles are often used as substitutes for tenor ukuleles because they have the same tuning. You can also use the D tuning for the tenor ukulele, but it’s not as popular because it doesn’t offer a big sound change.
There are four different types of ukuleles: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Every kind of ukulele has a different tuning, and you need to use the appropriate string type and size of each kind of ukulele.
The most common tuning for the soprano ukulele is G-C-E-A. The concert ukulele is tuned A-D-F#-B, while the tenor ukulele is tuned G-C-E-A. The baritone ukulele uses D-G-B-E tuning.
Understanding the different types of ukuleles and how you can tune each kind of instrument differently will provide you with more knowledge about your favorite little instrument!
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.