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Alternate Tunings

Posted by Ian on March 25, 2008

There are many alternate tunings for the ukulele.

The most common tunings are the modern standard ‘GCEA’, and the more traditional ‘ADF#B’, which is merely a step higher than the more modern tuning, meaning all notes and chords on it are merely a whole step above what they are in an ADF#B tuning (G chord becomes A chord, F# becomes G#, etc.)

Alternate tunings have multiple purposes: they can make chords less complicated to play, which can make playing with a slide significantly easier, they can make one note easier to play, which on the ukulele usually means retuning the re-entrant string to another note, and they can serve other purposes as well.

Firstly, we shall retune your ukulele to an alternate ‘open tuning’ which will produce a major chord (C, in this case) when all open strings are strummed.

Drop your A string down to a G, the same note as your re-entrant.


Now strum the strings. You are playing a C chord. Put one of your fingers across all strings at the first fret and strum. You have just played a C# chord. If you place your finger across the 2nd fret, you will get a D chord, 3rd, Eb, 4th E, etc. etc.

This tuning, however, alters the way other non major triads are played, causing you to re-learn your chord shapes if you wish to use this tuning for much.

Now we will tune your ukulele to ADF#B if you have never done so before. Don’t worry, your strings won’t break as long as they are in good condition (and if they are in bad condition, they still shouldn’t break). Do this by tuning each string up one whole step (two frets) from what it is tuned to in GCEA tuning. The easiest way to do this from GCEA tuning is tuning the re-entrant G up to the A using your A string as a reference, and then tuning all of your other strings off of the Re-entrant A that you have just tuned.

This tuning is said to often produce a brighter sound in some ukuleles, especially smaller ones, such as sopranos and some concerts, as it supposedly is more fit to a ukulele’s body’s optimal tonal range of amplification.

I personally find that an ADF#B tuning may be somewhat brighter sounding, but that it is not a significant difference, and therefore I generally stick to the tuning that I am most familiar with, GCEA.

Have some fun strumming around in this tuning: you can use the same chord shapes as you do in GCEA, and they will just be transposed up a step.

11 Responses to “Alternate Tunings”

  1. egbert said

    thanks been looking for some ALTERNATIVE tunings for the uke. some chord fingers would be nice…

  2. Ben said

    Does anybody know about playing CGDB? I tuned my Baritone Ukulele this way when I got it and really like it but struggling to find a comprehensive chord chart online for this tuning.

    Working it out myself is a toughie

  3. Jonathan said

    I am trying to buy A D F# B strings for my Baritone Uke. Anybody know where I can find some or do I need to tune it to G C E A and use a capo?

    • ken said

      you can get these strings from amazon alice either as a single set for 1 pound 80 or 5 sets for 6 pounds 8 pence they seem quite decent and value for money

      • Jonathan said

        Unfortunately, I can’t purchase items like this from Amazon as I live in Australia. I have just used GCEA strings and tuned them up. It seems to work. Thanks for your help though.

  4. Oli Jones said

    Work it out yourselves you lazy bastards

  5. Oli Jones said

    Its only 4 strings…

  6. kimkim said

    Does anyone know if i can tune my soprano uke D-G-B-E like an alto? I play guitar, and this would be much easier for me? Can I use alto strings on a soprano or would that damage the instrument? Are there other strings I could get to do this?

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  9. Francis hawthorne said

    I need to know the minor chords on open tuning on the Ukulel

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