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Standard Ukulele Tuning

We all agree that ukuleles are cool, but have you ever wondered how to actually tune them?

You’re in luck, because today we’re going to learn standard ukulele tuning, which is the most common way to tune your uke regardless of its size.

Before we begin, let’s gather a few important items.

What You’ll Need

For starters, make sure you have an electronic tuner. There are ways of producing ukulele standard tuning by ear, but in the beginning you’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle by picking up this little electronic helper to do the listening for you.

If you’re restringing your uke, you’ll also need a pair of wire cutters or pliers. Also, it never hurts to have a polishing cloth on hand to keep things clean.

Standard Tuning

So, what is standard tuning? It’s also known as GCEA ukulele tuning and standard C tuning.

The 4th string, G, is actually higher in pitch than the 3rd string, C, and the 2nd string, E. The 1st string, A, is higher in pitch than the 4th, G.

As mentioned earlier, the easiest way to find standard C tuning is to use an electronic tuner. This is especially helpful if you’re restringing your uke, in which case you’ll also want to follow the important guidelines below.

Maintain Neck Tension

Maintaining neck tension during tuning is crucial to your sanity as a player, because if you miss this important step, it may just drive you bananas.

When the tension on the neck is lost or is unequal, it changes the shape of the fretboard, making it convex or concave. These changes in shape can, in turn, throw off your intonation — meaning some notes will sound flat or sharp when fretted even though your tuner indicates that the open strings are in tune.

In other words, nothing you play will be in tune if your intonation is off, so let’s learn about how to avoid that issue from the beginning.

Know Your Process

Although the issue of neck tension only arises when you’re restringing your instrument, it’s better to understand the concept before you tackle the process yourself.

Here’s how to maintain neck tension by following one simple rule: Never change two adjacent strings consecutively nor remove more than one string at a time. In other words, if you change the A string first, skip to the C next. If you change the G string first, skip to the E string next.

Stretching Your Strings

The final part of the tuning process is stretching your strings. This is more important for new strings, but it’s also useful when you have a string that won’t stay in tune when no other setup problems are evident.

Slip your index finger under the string and gently pull upward, lifting away from the fretboard. You don’t have to overdo it — a little tug will suffice. Repeat this process several times, using the electronic tuner to bring the string back to concert pitch between each stretching.

All that’s left to do now is have fun and play. Happy “ukeing”!

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