How to Tune a Ukulele

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Cross, Dan. "How to Tune a Ukulele." ThoughtCo, Apr. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-tune-a-ukulele-1712915. Cross, Dan. (2017, April 24). How to Tune a Ukulele. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-tune-a-ukulele-1712915 Cross, Dan. "How to Tune a Ukulele." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-tune-a-ukulele-1712915 (accessed September 19, 2017).
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Standard C Tuning

man playing ukulele
Patryce Bak | Getty Images.

The "Standard C" tuning (sometimes referred to as "Re-entrant tuning") is the most common ukulele tuning for soprano, concert and tenor ukes. Standard C tuning features strings tuned (from fourth to first strings) to G C E A. Guitarists new to the ukulele are in for a surprise, however, as the pitch for the open strings in C tuning does not progress from low to high, as it does in traditional guitar tuning. The lowest string on a ukulele in C tuning is tuned to a high G - the second highest sounding open string.

Because of this unfamiliar tuning, it makes sense not to tune the lowest (fourth) string of the ukulele first, as you would on a guitar. Instead, begin your tuning with the third string of the uke, which is the note C.

Related: 9 Ukulele Chords You Should Know

If you have access to a piano, find and play the note "middle C", and tune your ukulele to that. To find the right pitch for this open C string using a guitar, reference the first fret on the second string of any in-tune guitar, and adjust your uke tuning to that note. If you have access to a chromatic tuner, tune the third string on the uke to C. Or, you can simply listen to this recording of an open C string on the ukulele.

Once you've got your C string in tune, you can use this note to tune the rest of the instrument. The open second string of a ukulele is E. To tune that string, press and play the fourth fret of the third (C) string on the ukulele, which is note E. Now adjust tuning on the E (second) string until the two notes sound the same.

Using your freshly tuned E string, you can now tune your lowest string - the G string. To do that, hold down and play the third fret of the second (E) string on the ukulele, and tune your open fourth string until the two notes sound the same.

Lastly, tune your first string - the A string - by holding down the second fret of the fourth (G) string. Now, adjust the tuning on the first (A) string until the two notes sound the same. At this point, you should be in tune. To double check your tuning, listen to this recording of all four open strings being played on the ukulele.

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D Tuning

Ukulele
Ukulele.

D tuning on the ukulele used to be an extremely popular tuning method, but has recently fallen out of favor in the uke community. D tuning today is most commonly found in England and Canada. The tuning itself is very similar to standard C tuning, except all notes are tuned a whole step (two frets) higher, making the open strings A D F# and B. Let's walk through the steps required to get your uke into D tuning.

As with standard C tuning, it makes sense not to begin tuning on the lowest (fourth) string of the ukulele, because that isn't the lowest pitched note on the uke. Instead, begin your tuning with the third string of the ukulele, which is the note D.

If you have access to a piano, find and play the note D one tone above "middle C", and tune your ukulele to that. To find the right pitch for this open D string using a guitar, reference the third fret on the second string of any in-tune guitar, and adjust your uke tuning to that note.

Once you've got your D string in tune, you can use this note to tune the rest of the instrument. The open second string of a ukulele is F#. To tune that string, press and play the fourth fret of the third (D) string on the ukulele, which is note F#. Now adjust tuning on the F# (second) string until the two notes sound the same.

Using your freshly tuned F# string, you can now tune your lowest string - the A string. To do that, hold down and play the third fret of the second (F#) string on the ukulele, and tune your open fourth string until the two notes sound the same.

Lastly, tune your first string - the B string - by holding down the second fret of the fourth (A) string. Now, adjust the tuning on the first (B) string until the two notes sound the same. At this point, you should be in tune.