Tuning Variants of the Ukulele
Some of the other less common kinds of ukulele have different standard-tuning to the basic four types of uke. This is particularly true for the kinds of ukulele that have additional strings, like the guitar ukulele (guitalele) and the 8-string ukulele. Some four-string types of ukulele also require different tuning, especially those ukuleles that fill different tonal roles to the standard ukulele types. The bass ukulele and the sopranino/piccolo uke both have different standard tuning as they fill different tonal roles to the G4-C4-E4-A4 standard-tuned ukulele. Here we have highlighted the different tunings of a few of the most popular ukulele types. Do you have an interesting type of ukulele? Let us know how you tune it in the comments below!
Bass Ukulele - The Bass ukulele is a recent ukulele hybrid which has quite an amazing similarity in sound to that of the upright-bass (otherwise known as the double bass). The bass ukulele is standard-tuned exactly the same as the standard-tuning on the bass guitar - E3-A3-D4-G4. Different companies manufacture very different models of bass ukulele, so recommended tuning may vary between model.
Guitar Ukulele - The guitar ukulele or guitalele is another more recent ukulele hybrid that is great as a beginner instrument for children as it can lead on to playing both the guitar and the ukulele. The guitalele has six strings, and is tuned A-D-G-C-E-A. The tuning of the guitalele has been set out like this to accommodate both the ukulele and the guitar sides of playing. The added A and D-strings make this instrument exactly equivalent to playing a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret, while the G-C-E-A tuning allows the player to play standard ukulele chords. The guitalele is not tuned using ukulele-styled re-entrant tuning.
Banjo Ukulele - The banjo ukulele or banjolele is tuned exactly the same as a standard-tuned ukulele - G4-C4-E4-A4. The difference in sound in this case occurs because the body of the instrument is different, rather than the tuning. The body of the banjolele is made out of a stretched skin (most commonly mass-manufactured using man-made materials). The stretched-skin style body produces a sound with audible vibration, much different to the smoother sound made by wooden ukulele bodies.
Sopranino/Piccolo Ukulele - The sopranino or piccolo ukulele has a miniature body, and only around 10 frets. The sopranino is standard-tuned an octave above the baritone ukulele (D5-G5-E5-A6). However, some like to tune the sopranino to G-C-E-A ukulele tuning, and others prefer tuning up a step from G-C-E-A to A-D-F#-B in order to increase the string tension. The tuning used on the sopranino is mostly dependent on what context it is played in, though the standard-tuning of the sopranino is usually preferred due to string tension issues.
8-string Ukulele - The 8-string ukulele has four pairs of two strings. The string pairs on the 8-string ukulele can be tuned in two different ways - with the string pairs tuned to the same octave as each other, or with the pairs an octave apart. Most commonly, the 8-string ukulele is tuned with a mix between these two types of tuning. The standard 8-string tuning for a soprano, concert or tenor is: G4-G3, C3-C4, E3-E3, A4-A4. The 8-string is tuned like this to keep the characteristic ukulele sound, while adding more fullness. This style of 8-string ukulele tuning is the same tuning used on Tahitian ukuleles.
If you would like to know more about the different types of ukulele, then check out our Types of Ukulele article for more info.