So. you’ve just got your brand new shiny ukulele and you’re dyeing to get up and running and rock those tunes but wait! Before you do, there’s one important thing you must do. You must tune your Ukulele. If you haven’t done this before and have no idea what I’m on about, read on. This article will tell you how to tune your Ukulele. I’m going to walk you through 3 different methods, their pros and their cons.
Sadly, even though your Ukulele is here, it will almost definitely need tuning. This is because time, temperature and different conditions will make the Nylon strings shorten or lengthen and as a result, the pitch of these strings will change. If you start playing your Ukulele now without tuning it, the chances are it will sound horrible and may lead you to think that in fact your journey down the road of Sweet Ukulele has ended before it’s even begun. Not so.
Stringed instruments will always lose their tuning, even if just a little and, in the beginning you may find you need to tune your Ukulele a few times a day or at least a few times per playing session. This is quite normal and happens because the strings will need to settle. This means that because they haven’t been played yet, they need to stretch to the length you want them to play at and become stable. Nylon is a very flexible material.
How To Tune Your Ukulele – The Basics
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to refer to the strings in the following way. Holding your Ukulele so that the strings are facing away from you and the Ukulele is running parallel to the floor, the body (large part) of the ukulele is being held by your right hand and the neck (Long Slender Bit) is in your left hand. The string nearest the ceiling is string 4, the string below this is string 3, the next string is string 2 and the string nearest the floor is string one. The names of these strings are G, C, E and A respectively. Just remember the acronym Good Children Eat Apples and you should be fine to go. If you are really observant, you will notice that except for string 1 (g) the strings get thinner the closer to the floor you get.
So, what do I mean by G C E and A. If you don’t know, music has 12 different notes despite how complex and beautiful it sounds. These notes are all given letters of the alphabet, starting with A and going to G. I know that’s only 7 but there are some flats and sharps in there which for now don’t really concern us. So, G, C, E A are simply the notes of the musical alphabet that your strings need to be tuned to. So, string 1 is G, 2 is C, 3 is E and 4 is A. Once you have these strings tuned to these notes then your ukulele will sound much better and you will hear the difference
How To Tune Your Ukulele – Using An Electronic Tuner
An electronic tuner is by far the most popular way to tune your Ukulele. These can be bought for very little from most music shops or online retailers. These tuners fit onto the head stock of your Ukulele and measure the vibrations of the string when you play it. The note of the string is then displayed on the screen and you can turn the tuning pegs (machine heads) to tighten or loosen the string. Tightening of the string stretches it and makes the pitch higher. Loosening the string makes the pitch lower.
The advantage of these little gadgets is that they can sit on your head stock making them readily accessible at any point. They are excellent if you are not skilled at tuning by ear as they will guide you via visual indicators. They also are great if you are in noisy environments as they are unaffected by background noise. The downside to these tuners is that they are battery-operated so if your battery runs out, and you don’t have a spare, you will be unable to tune your instrument.
How To Tune Your Ukulele – Using A Pitch Fork Or Tuning Pipe
Tuning Forks and Pitch Pipes are often used to tune stringed instruments. A tuning fork only has one note and is used as a reference by which to tune one string. From here, it is possible to tune all your other strings providing you know what the notes sound like in your head. For example, if you have a tuning fork tuned to the note of A, you would tap the fork, and then tune string one until its pitch matched that of the fork. From here, you will then need to tune your other strings accordingly. These are great little instruments and you never have to worry about batteries running out. However, given that they only have one note, you are required to know in your head what the other notes sound like in reference to the string tuned so if you struggle with hearing notes, you will struggle with a tuning fork.
Pitch Pipes are a similar concept but instead of simply having one note, they usually have all the notes of the instrument you wish to tune. So, in the case of the Ukulele, each pitch pipe will have a pipe for G, C, E and A. You will simply blow into the relevant pipe and turn the tuning peg to match the note played by the pipe.
Again, these are extremely cheap to pick up and can be bought from most music shops and a lot of online retailers. They don’t need batteries either so there’s no worry about not being able to tune your Ukulele and, unlike a pitch fork, you get all notes relevant to your Ukulele strings. They do however have their drawbacks. You may find that you need to be in a quiet place in order that you can hear when your strings and the pitch pipes match in terms of pitch.
How To Tune Your Ukulele: Apps And Online Tuners
So, you don’t have any of the tuning devices listed above and are now stumped. Well, you can go and buy them from either a local music shop or order them online, but this means that you can’t tune your instrument until it gets here. Well, don’t worry. In this day of apps and internet, there are plenty of apps you can download for either your phone or your tablet and, in a lot of cases these are free. The way these tuners will work is that they will use your phone or tablet’s microphone to listen to the note played by your instrument and will show you either graphically what the note is and whether you need to tighten or loosen your string. The advantage of these is that you will always have your phone with you and will always have your tuner. There is a small chance your battery could go in which case you will be in the same boat as if you had a digital tuner. However, because these apps use your phone’s microphone, you may find that tuning in a noisy environment could be difficult so they may not be the ideal solution for using at a local group or if you are playing in a noisy place.
If you are one of those rare people who either doesn’t have a mobile phone or has one that is not a smart phone, all is not lost. Just hop onto your computer and google will be your friend. Type in “Online Ukulele Tuner” and a myriad of results will come up. Once you find an online Ukulele tuner you will have to tune your Ukulele by using your ears, the same way you would if you had a set of pitch pipes. Again though, if this is your only means of tuning your instrument, you will not be able to do so once you are away from your computer.
In the case of both the apps for phones and tablets and the Online Ukulele tuner, it is likely that you will find free ones and there will be no waiting for your tuner to either turn up in the post or for you to get to your nearest music shop.
As you can see, there are a multitude of ways to tune your Ukulele, all of them have pros and cons and it might be that you use multiple methods depending upon your situation. There is no right or wrong way and your method of tuning is very much dependent on your environment and circumstances. If you have no tuner immediately to hand, this should not stop you but the free and immediately accessible apps also have their drawbacks.
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions or comments then please feel free to leave them below and I will do my best to answer them.