Tuning a Ukulele
All instruments need to be set to exact pitches in order to play music in modern scales. This process is called tuning, in which the instrument is tuned to specific pitches. String instruments like the ukulele have tuning pegs, which can be turned in both directions to either raise or lower the pitch that corresponds to one of the ukulele strings. Below, we'll go through more details of the common ukulele tunings.
Microphone Ukulele Tuner
The simplest method for tuning a ukulele is to use a microphone-based tuner. You can play each string on the ukulele directly into a microphone, which can provide real-time feedback as you play. You will be able to see visually whether the note is either too flat or too sharp, which you can use to adjust the tension of the ukulele string. As long as you are on a device with a microphone (like a phone, tablet, or laptop), you can use our microphone-based tuner.
The ukulele can theoretically be tuned to a very large range of tunings. Each string can be set to any note, as long as it's within range, based on the minimum and maximum tension for the string. However, there are a handful of tunings that are most widely used for the ukulele. It is recommended to use these tunings for playing popular music, but other tunings can be useful for more experimental work. On the uke, the botttom-most string is typically tuned to a note that is higher than the note on the 2nd bottom-most string. Tunings denote this with a lower case letter, as in the standard tuning, gCEA. Each of the four letters of the tuning name denote the corresponding string on the ukulele, starting from the bottom (the string closest to your chest).
gCEA — Standard Tuning
The most popular ukulele tuning is known as gCEA. The vast majority of song tabs, chord charts, and other ukulele resources, are written with the assumption of gCEA tuning. This makes it the easiest tuning option for playing along to songs, or when jamming with other uke players. This tuning makes it very easy to play in the key of C major, which is a popular song key for a lot of music.
aDF#B — D Tuning
D Tuning, which uses the notes aDF#B, just takes the original standard tuning and shifts everything up by one whole tone (two frets). Just like how standard tuning makes it easy to play in the key of C major, this D tuning makes it simple to play in the key of D major. This tuning was more popular during the 1920s and 1930s, so it will match up better with songs from that era.
dGBE — Chicago Tuning
The dGBE tuning, which is sometimes referred to as Chicago tuning, is more popular on some of the larger ukuleles, and is the most common tuning on the baritone ukulele. This tuning matches up exactly with the top 4 strings of the guitar. Because of this, dGBE tuning works very well when translating songs and chords between guitar and ukulele. It is an excellent tuning for playing along to more guitar-based songs.
fA#DG — A#/Bb Tuning
The fA#DG tuning is less common than other ukulele tunings, but it still useful in some situations. This ukulele tuning shifts all musical pitches down by one whole tone (two frets), which makes it easier to play music in the key of A#/Bb. This tuning is also useful for cases where you would like to bring the ukulele pitches slightly lower, to fit with certain songs, or to make it easier to sing along in certain musical keys.