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How to Tune a Ukulele: A New Era for Ukes

How to Tune a Ukulele: A New Era for Ukes

It has enjoyed bit of a renaissance as of late, but before you do anything, you need to know how to tune a Ukulele…

The Ukulele has, like many musical instruments, a rather interesting history. Though it is correctly thought of as a Hawaiian instrument, it is widely believed that the Uke is related to an earlier stringed instrument known as the 'machete de braca'. This was also a four-stringed instrument, which originated from Madiera in Portugal. 

It is believed that the 'machete' was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese settlers towards the end of the 19th century. This, in time, evolved into the Ukulele.

What's in a name?

The name, Ukulele, has several different interpretations, both of Hawaiian origin. One translates it as ‘Jumping Flea’, and the other ‘The Gift That Came Here’.

Though from the 1920s through to the 1950s, the Uke enjoyed huge popularity, partly due to George Formby’s use of it - yeah we know it's a banjolele in the picture -, partly due to its portability, and the ease with which it could be learnt.

Ukulele for a new generation

Though it spent many decades on the periphery - and let's not forget the legendary duet between Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters, "Tonight You Belong to Me" in the 1980's film classic "The Jerk" -, now it is enjoying a resurgence and popularity, and has become (dare I say it…) quite cool. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder released his album "Ukulele Songs" - on which he actually covers "Tonight You Belong to Me".

If you want further proof of the uke's resurgence then just check out YouTube Feng E tear through a ukulele cover of Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy".

Inexpensive, and easy to play, the Ukulele is a great extra instrument to have around, and a great introduction to music too.

But, if you’ve just bought one, and have gotten it out of the box at home, there’s one thing you need to know before anything – how to tune a Ukulele!

So, how do you tune this thing?

Much like the guitar, there are many different tunings for Uke, but some are much more popular than others. The methods of tuning are pretty much identical to a guitar, so it’s worth investing in a chromatic tuner for the purpose if you haven’t already got one.

Here, we’ll illustrate the two most common ways to tune a Ukulele. Both the tunings below are for the more common Soprano, Concert, and Tenor Ukes.

1. ‘C’ Tuning

This is by far the most common way to tune a Ukulele these days. Moving from the uppermost string downwards when holding the instrument to play it, the strings are tuned G, C, E, A.

These are the same as the top (thinnest) four strings of a guitar in standard EADGBE tuning if it had a capo at the fifth fret. So, if you have a guitar that’s in tune, you can tune by fretting these strings on the guitar, and tuning the Uke to match.

However, the uppermost string is an octave higher in pitch than the guitar string, making it also higher in pitch than the string below.

2. ‘D’ Tuning a la George Formby

This tuning is not quite as popular as it once was, though much of George Formby’s work uses it.

For those who like a bit of ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’, the strings are tuned, from uppermost string to lowermost when playing the Uke, A, D, F#, B.

Once again, the uppermost string is tuned to a higher octave, meaning that this string is higher in pitch than the one beneath it.

There are many other tunings, but for most modern pieces (and music books), and George Formby tributes, these two should be ample.

3. Baritone Tuning

The 4-string baritone uke is tuned in the same way as the top four strings of a guitar in standard tuning, D-G-B-E. The increased scale-length of the baritone, along with its tuning, gives it a characteristically deeper and more resounding timbre than that of its siblings. However, it is still as easy to play and a sheer delight to perform with.

And, a tuner to keep you on top of things...

For Soprano, Concert, and Tenor

The TGI Digital Clip-On Ukulele Tuner is actually perfect for Soprano, Concert, and Tenor ukuleles. It has switchable settings that you can readily flick between and it is tailored to ukuleles specifically.


  • Ukulele C: G, C, E, A,
  • Ukulele D: A, D, #F, B,
  • (Vibration) Tuner
  • Tuning: A0-C8
  • Calibration 440Hz - 449Hz
  • 1 Cent Precision
  • Power: 3V (CR2032)
  • Dimensions: L: 30mm, W: 55mm, D: 12mm 25g

Pocket-sized and cheap as chips, you can't go wrong with the TGI Ukulele Tuner.

For Baritone

The TGI 82 Clip-On Chromatic Tuner is designed to accommodate a range of stringed instruments including Guitar, Bass, Violin, and Ukulele. 


  • Chromatic, Guitar, Bass, Violin, Ukulele
  • Auto Tuning Mode
  • Calibration; 430Hz – 459Hz
  • 1 Cent Precision
  • Clip (Vibration) Tuner
  • Tuning Range: A0-C8
  • Power: 3V (CR2032)

Another pocket-friendly option in terms of both size and cost, the TGI 82 Clip-On Chromatic Tuner is an excellent choice.

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