Happy Helpful Guide to the Ukulele – Step 3: How to Tune Your Ukulele

Step 3: Tuning

Step 3 is a slightly more technical step, but more than essential for successful playing. In this video, Bernadette breaks down the process of tuning your instrument. To prepare for this step, we recommend you grab a clip on tuner. The clip on models work the best because they pick up the vibrations directly. If you don’t have access to one of these, don’t worry, you can also download a free tuning app on another device.

introduction to tuning

To adjust the pitch of each of the four strings, you will need to turn the tuning pegs. This process is called tuning. New or unused ukulele strings take awhile to “settle down” and stay in tune. A new ukulele or one that has not been used in a long time requires more frequent tunings than one that’s regularly played. The best way to get your ukulele to stay in tune is to tune and play it every day. After a week or so, it will “settle down” and require fewer re-tunings.

uku tuner

The Uku tuner is a small plastic battery-operated tuner that clips onto the head of your ukulele. The reading on the tuner changes according to the vibration of that particular string. To ensure accuracy, mute the strings you are not tuning by stopping the strings with your right or left hand.

ukulele tuner

ukulele tuning

For both ukulele and guitar, we refer to the first string as the one that sounds the highest in pitch. On the ukulele, the first string is the one on the far right when you look at the upright ukulele with the fretboard facing you. The second string is the one next to it. The string to the far left is the fourth string on the ukulele.

We also refer to the strings by the pitch it is tuned to. The first string is also known as the A-string. Second string is E-string. Third is C-string. Fourth string is G-string.

string names

Remember an acronym such as “Good Children Eat Apples” or “Giant Cockroaches Eat Ants” with the strings corresponding to each letter, reading from left to right when you are facing the upright ukulele.

Coincidentally, these four notes played one at a time, sound like the song “My Dog Has Fleas” – so – do – mi – la.

If the pitch is too high (represented on the tuner either by a higher note or skewed to the right), you need to loosen the corresponding tuning peg.

If it is too low (represented on the tuner either by a lower note or skewed to the left) the tuning peg needs to be tightened to make it higher.

Like tightening screws, righty tighty, lefty loosey applies to the ukulele.

ukulele tuning

For more information on how to tune your ukulele, visit


no-finger chord: Am7

When you strum the open strings of a correctly tuned ukulele, you will hear a chord. GCEA are the notes that make up the chord known as Am7, pronounced “A minor seven.” These are also the notes that make up the chord called C6. By definition, a note is the letter name we give to a pitch. They range alphabetically from A to G. A chord is a collection of notes.

No Finger Chord: Am7 or C6

am7 chord

Now that you’ve tuned your ukulele, try the exercises in the previous step. We will use those exercises again in the next section.

We typically represent a chord by its chord diagram (which string to press on which fret). In this book, besides showing the name of the chord and its associated chord diagram, we also include four numbers below the chord diagram to indicate the frets to be pressed for each of the four strings.

You are now ready to exercise your left hand to finger other chords!


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