How to tune your ukulele: Grab a clip-on ukulele tuner for ease!

What notes do I tune my ukulele to?
All ukuleles (except for baritones) strings are tuned to the notes (from nose to knees) G, C, E, A. If you play piano, C = middle C and the others are the ones above middle C in that octave. If that makes no sense, C note is the lowest. This will feel odd if you’ve not heard it before, as we grow up listening to the guitar, and the guitar strings (from knees to nose) get lower in pitch. Not so with ukulele, which has what’s known as ‘re-entrant tuning’. Played ‘open’ (that means not pressing your fingers down on any strings) and strumming, these notes make either the chord of C6 or Am7.

Re-entrant tuning:
Standard ukulele tuning is known as ‘re-entrant tuning’, which means it re-enters the scale again on the G-string (da dum tss), so doesn’t move lower in pitch from knees to nose. This is true for different sizes of ukulele including (smallest to the largest size, more on size later) sopranino, soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles, which are all tuned in this way using these notes.

Tuning your ukulele using a tuning device:
If you’re new to music, you’ll probably need assistance. In short, it works better in noisy environments and tends to be more accurate. I recommend you get a clip-on ukulele tuner. I mean, you can get a free app on your phone to help you to find which note each string is tuned to, but they aren’t great if you’re in a noisy environment or with other ukulele players. The ukulele is a very social instrument, so I recommend you get a clip-on ukulele tuner. It works by detecting the frequency of vibrations of your ukulele to tell you which note it is and is usually accurate, so long as the batteries are charged.

If you don’t (yet) have a clip-on ukulele tuner, then grab yourself one of these*:

   

Here is our Amazon Affiliates shopfront, with lots of other ukuleles and accessories to choose from. In the interests of transparency, we are part of the amazon referral scheme so if hundreds or thousands of you buy based on links you clicked via us, we may make a few pence. In the unlikely event that millions of you click, we may make a few pounds. If you’ve found this information useful, please share it around liberally, as we like the idea of this unlikely instance.

Here’s a cringey old video of me, to help you to use it for the first time:

Other tuning options:
Historically, for sopranino, soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles, there is an alternative traditional English tuning – to the notes A, D F#, B. When played open, this gives the chords of either D6 or Bm7.

Baritone ukuleles are tuned to D, G, B, E. Bass ukuleles are tuned E, A, D, G.

For all stringed instruments, there are endless options of tunings, not only the notes themselves but also the frequency (more on that later). You can tune up how you like, but each time you change the tuning, the chord shapes can be different, and it might be trickier to find music that has the correct chord shapes to play along harmoniously with other people.

Tuning your ukulele by ear:
If you’re musically trained, or find it easy to pitch match, you might want to tune-up by ear.

If you’ve enjoyed this, here are some more posts of ours that might help:

Have you already got your ukulele, here are some recommendations, here.

How to play the G chord, here.

See how to play Bb chord on the ukulele, here.

How to play the E chord, on the ukulele here.

Get a free ukulele chord chart (and help with how to read it) from here.

Do you want 6 basic strum patterns to get you going? See more here.

If you’re in London, UK, you’ll learn this in our courses. Book your course to join us in London.

If you’re not, please support us on Patreon so you can get access to all our upcoming online tutorials and challenges.

*in the interests of transparency, we are part of the amazon referral scheme so if hundreds or thousands of you buy based on links you clicked via us, we may make a few pence. In the unlikely event that millions of you click, we may make a few pounds. If you’ve found this information useful, please share it around liberally, as we like the idea of this unlikely instance.

Updated on 25/9/2019.

Buying your first ukulele

What do you need to think about when you’re buying your first ukulele? There are a few things to consider, and I am clearly biased but I think that you should just grab one that’s cheap yet stays in tune and just do it. You won’t look back, as it’s a fun, sociable and portable instrument. In the first instance, much like you wouldn’t buy a Porsche as your first car, I don’t recommend spending lots of money on your first ukulele. I would recommend that you avoid the really cheap, and completely untunable ukuleles. If it won’t hold it’s a tune, you’ll be annoyed as you’ll essentially have bought an unplayable and awful sounding instrument. It won’t be your playing and in some instances, you can blame your tools. In my experience, Ashton’s, Spongebob’s and those awful ones they sell at Argos are ones I’d generally advise you to avoid. Lanikai, Mahalo, Makala, and Stagg are decent starter ukes. They come with good quality strings (more on this later) and they’ll hold their tune when they’ve settled down after tuning them consistently each day for a week. In order to help tune-up, you’ll also need a clip-on ukulele tuner. You can use free phone apps but I like the clip-on tuners, as they seem to be more accurate if the batteries are charged up.

How much should I spend?

On your first ukulele, I don’t recommend spending a lot of money.  A little bit like a car, when you’re learning you might have a few bumps. Also, until you know for sure that you love it, I wouldn’t spend a fortune.  You can buy a cheap ukulele for about £30-50.  You can definitely spend more, and, if you have musical experience and know you’ll practice and stick with it, then please do that, but if you have no musical experience and you don’t know if you’ll like it, let alone play it for a few years, then it might be advisable to grab a basic ukulele that sounds good.

Here are a couple of brands that we recommend*

Makala is inexpensive and sound good.  Here are a few links to find some Makala ukuleles:

        

Stagg is also inexpensive and sound good.  Here are a few links to find some Stagg ukuleles:

   

  

Here is our Amazon Affiliates shopfront, with lots of other ukuleles and accessories to choose from. In the interests of transparency, we are part of the amazon referral scheme so if hundreds or thousands of you buy based on links you clicked via us, we may make a few pence. In the unlikely event that millions of you click, we may make a few pounds. If you’ve found this information useful, please share it around liberally, as we like the idea of this unlikely instance.

If you’re not careful, you could get Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome (UAS) and end up with a bunch of other (possibly more expensive) ukes, but for now I’d say you should start small until you know you’ll stick with it, and do stick with it so you can treat yourself to more as a reward for practicing!

ukuleles on the wall

After that, try to resist buying lots of brothers and sisters for the new addition to your family, though.  Ukuleles are very addictive and this habit could get pricey if you’re not careful. Again, there’s a ‘thing’ – Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome. (UAS). This is me trying to warn you…

If you’ve enjoyed this, here are some more posts of ours that might help:

If you are left-handed, see here.

Already got a clip-on tuning device? It’s better than using your phone. For more about that and how to tune your ukulele for the first time, see here.

How to play the G chord, here.

See how to play Bb chord on the ukulele, here.

How to play the E chord, on the ukulele here.

Get a free ukulele chord chart (and help with how to read it) from here.

Do you want 6 basic strum patterns to get you going? See more here.

If you’re in London, UK, you’ll learn this in our courses. Book your course to join us in London.

If you’re not, please support us on Patreon so you can get access to all our upcoming online tutorials and challenges.

*in the interests of transparency, we are part of the amazon referral scheme so if hundreds or thousands of you buy based on links you clicked via us, we may make a few pence. In the unlikely event that millions of you click, we may make a few pounds. If you’ve found this information useful, please share it around liberally, as we like the idea of this unlikely instance.

Updated on 25/9/2019.