Probably one of the most important day-to-day maintenance tasks for your instrument is keeping it in tune. New ukulele strings are like elastic and will regularly loose their tuning as they try to relax back into their original form. They need a certain degree of stretching, but once complete the strings hold their shape and you’ll barely need to tune the instrument after that. Initially expect to return every day, or every few songs in the first day, but you’ll soon see this reduce.
Ukulele String Pitches
There are two standard tunings for the soprano and concert, GCEA and ADF#B. The C tuning (GCEA) is the most common and will be what we look at here.
Ukulele tuning is re-entrant, this means that the strings are not in pitch order so don’t be alarmed when one string is lower or higher than the previous – you can see this from the piano image below. For this reason, it’s really important to make sure you know which string you are working with. The picture below (left) shows how the strings are laid out on your ukulele and the picture below (right) shows where they can be found on the piano.
You can tune the ukulele by playing a note on a piano or keyboard and tuning to that, but by far the easiest is to use a tuner. You can buy physical tuners that clip on to the end of your ukulele and pick up the vibrations of the instrument (meaning you can tune with other people in the room). These vary in appearance but usually have some sort of display which will tell you how far away you are from the note you need.
Alternatively you can download an app on to your phone. There are loads to choose from including those which will just listen out for the notes of your ukulele (ukulele tuning apps) to those which will listen out for every note including those not on your ukulele (chromatic tuners). Either will work and will be down to personal preference, just ensure you are tuning the right string to the right note!
Tuning your Ukulele
Tune one string at a time, working logically through the strings: G – C – E – A
Your tuner or app will tell you how you need to adjust the string, tightening will raise the pitch, loosening will lower the pitch. Tuners tend to have a display like that of the example below. You need to bring the arrow into the centre, if you are on the left it means you’re flat and need to tighten the string, if your on the right you’re sharp and need to loosen the string.