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#frequently asked questions about the ukulele

At Flea Market Music, we do our best to keep site visitors and store customers informed about all things ukulele.  To that end, we have worked hard to compile a listing of some of the most frequently asked general questions posed to us over the years, along with our answers to them.  

Many thanks to Dan "Soybean" Sawyer (and Dale Webb of The Magic Fluke Company) for providing us with many of the answers found herein.  If you have a question regarding vintage ukuleles, be sure to consult our Uke Yak section, where you can submit a question to our resident expert, Chuck "Frets" Fayne.

Tuning the Uke View All FAQ Categories
Question:   How is the ukulele tuned?
Answer:   The standard tuning for the ukulele is called C tuning. The strings are tuned: G-C-E-A, from 4th string to first. This is the famous, My Dog Has Fleas tuning. Note that the 4th string is tuned higher in pitch than the 3rd string. This is the characteristic of the uke which makes it unique from the guitar, violin and most other stringed instruments. There is a tuner on this website where you can hear the musical pitches.
Question:   Which string is the 1st string?
Answer:   The string closest to floor when youre holding the instrument in playing position. The string nearest your face is the 4th string (referenced for right-handed players).
Question:   Ive seen sheet music where the uke is to be tuned: A-D-F#-B
Answer:   This was the standard tuning before World War 2 and is commonly called D tuning. You will find a lot of older ukulele music written for this tuning. It is actually the same tuning we use now, only transposed up two semi-tones. Some uke players still prefer D tuning today, especially on the soprano uke.
Question:   Are there alternate tunings for the ukulele?
Answer:   Yes. There are many alternate tunings for the ukulele. Its recommended to learn the standard tuning first since most method books, sheet music and instructional videos/DVDs are made for that tuning.

It is also important to make the distinction between key center and tuning scheme. For instance, C tuning and D tuning (described above) have the same scheme. That is, they have the same relationship between the strings. Theyre just in different key centers. An alternate tuning would change the interval relationship between strings.

Question:   What are the interval relations of the open strings?
Answer:   The number of musical steps between them. If we call the 3rd string the root tone, the second string is a major third (from the root), the 1st string is a major sixth and the 4th string is a perfect fifth.
Question:   How should I tune my tenor ukulele?
Answer:   The tenor can be tuned many ways. Many folks simply tune tenors in standard C tuning but with a low 4th string. The Martin company used to recommend tuning it like a baritone, but with the 4th string high (reentrant). Cliff Edwards often tuned his tenor in the key of Bb.

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Flea Market Music offers an on-line community for ukulele players, informative books on the ukulele, ukulele CDs,songbooks, videos and information on our instrument manufacturing of the FLUKE ukulele. Brought to you by "Jumpin" Jim Beloff. -