It is essential to learn the different parts and how to tune your ukulele correctly even before trying to learn your first chord. Knowing the proper vocabulary of the ukulele will help you better understand where to place your fingers, hands, and navigate the fretboard easier
Ukulele String Names and Tuning
Each string has a pitch. It’s important to know that the string closest to the floor is the 1st string. The string closest to you is the 4th string. The 1st string is tuned to an A, the 2nd string an E, the 3rd string is C, and the 4th string is a G as shown in the diagram below. The tuning pegs turn clockwise and counterclockwise to tighten or loosen the strings.
Tuning the Ukulele with a Headstock Tuner
A headstock tuner is a very convenient tool that you clip onto the headstock of the instrument. Once placed on the headstock, the tuner reads the pitches of the strings and registers the pitch on the display. Usually, there is a needle that will move from side to side. This needle indicates whether a pitch is sharp, flat, or in tune.
If the pitch of the string is in tune, the needle will be directly in the center of the display. If the pitch of the string is too high, the pitch is sharp or overpitch. This means the string is too tight and needs to be loosened until the needle reaches the center of the display. On the other hand, a string that is under pitch is flat and needs to be tightened until the needle reaches the center of the display.
How to Tune Your Ukulele
Step 1: Clip the tuner to the headstock and turn it on. Note: Most headstock tuners are designed to tune different instruments and contain different instrument settings. After turning on the tuner, make sure it is set to the “ukulele” setting. The instrument setting on most headstock tuners can be changed by pushing the power button several times. The instrument name will be indicated at the bottom of the tuner.
Step 2: Choose a string to tune. Starting with string 1 and sequentially tuning to string 4 is recommended.
Step 3: Pluck/strum the string, see where it registers on the display. Now turn the tuning pegs slowly clockwise or counterclockwise tighten or loosen the string.
Step 4: Tighten or loosen the string until the needle reaches the center of the tuner indicating that the string is in tune.
Step 5: Repeat the process for all 4 strings.
Common Tuning Problems:
Because a tuner is designed to tune any note, it is possible to tune a string to the wrong pitch even though it may read that the pitch is “in tune”. This is where it is important to know the chromatic scale. The chromatic scale consists of all 12 notes that are half steps apart or right next to each other.
For example, the A string is accidentally tuned to a G, and G is below A in pitch. This means the string needs to be tightened until the tuner display reads “A”. Make sure to check that the note on the display reads the notes that you want your ukulele to be tuned to.
It takes time and practice to get used to tuning your ukulele; however, you will always be glad that you took the time to properly tune the instrument before you play it. Now that you’ve learned the parts of the ukulele, how to tune your ukulele, and how to navigate through a common tuning problem, you’re ready to learn how to read chord diagrams.