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Eight tips for tuning your ukulele or guitar.

January 7, 2020

When you’re starting out, tuning can be a bit intimidating, and not just a little frustrating. Strings lose their elasticity the more you play them, so new strings will go out of tune quicker and more frequently. This will reduce in time, but can be a passion killer, particularly in the early stages if you’re not comfortable with tuning. We recommend that you get an electronic tuner like this one. Here are some tips for using them;-

  1. Learn the notes you need for your instrument (eg: Ukulele = GCEA in standard tuning from the string closest to your face, working down towards the floor).
  2. ‘How often should I tune my ukulele / guitar?’ is a question we get asked a lot. To be honest, it’s all the time! Every time you pick it up you should check. You may need to tweak and adjust as you play, which is why getting reasonably good at it quickly can have an impact on your enjoyment. Lots of things effect the tuning of your instrument including
    • temperature – if you come out of a warm house into a cold car etc..
    • putting instruments in and out of cases – so if you tune it at home, it’s worth checking when you get to wherever you’re going anyway.
  3. Use the tuner on the ‘Chromatic’ setting. ‘Chromatic’ just means all of the notes. Many electronic tuners have multiple settings. Only the Chromatic setting will tell you what the string is actually tuned to currently if you are more than a semitone sharp or flat. The other settings will tell you which tuning note on that instrument you are closest to. More often than not, this is just confusing. Most tuners change setting by pressing the start button gently, and it cycles through the settings, usually displayed in tiny letters at the bottom of the screen. Keep going until you get to C.
    • C = Chromatic
    • V = Violin
    • U = Ukulele (standard / concert / soprano tuning)
    • G = Guitar
    • B = Bass
  4. Let the tuner respond before you adjust anything. Pluck the string once, let it ring out and let the tuner respond. You will get a much more accurate reading than repeatedly plucking the note quickly, which doesn’t allow enough time for the tuner to respond.
  5. Turn the peg while the note is ringing out. Allow the tuner to respond then slowly turn the tuning peg on your instrument so you can hear it change. That way you can hear if you’re going in the right direction, how big an adjustment you are making, and you get some ear training in to boot!
  6. Turn the peg slowly. Sometimes the difference between being beautifully in tune and not is a very very small adjustment. You don’t need to crank your tuning pegs round in big twists like using a screwdriver. Use small adjustments. The only instance you would need to make big turns is when changing strings, or if strings have been slackened off for cleaning or to travel. Otherwise, be gentle.
  7. Listen as well as look. If you listen when tuning, using the tuner to guide you, you will develop a greater sense of awareness for tuning, so you will know when your instrument has gone out of tune, or could do with a tweak. Having a visual reference is a great training tool for this, but use your ears as well as your eyes.
  8. Lastly – turn it off when you’re done. Forgetting to do this means that your tuner is responding the whole time you’re playing away, and you just wear them out running down the batteries unnecessarily quickly.

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