Last Updated on April 9, 2021.
Have you ever been put in a situation where your new ukulele won’t stay in tune? Or did you just put on a new set of strings and can’t seem to manage? You’re not the first to encounter this.
In fact, it’s more common than you think, and new ukuleles tend to fall out of tune a few minutes later. What many don’t know, however, is that it doesn’t take longer than a minute to fix this issue.
Many fall into the trap of thinking that their ukulele is faulty, while the truth is, they just need to be tuned several times continuously until this is no longer an issue. By continuously, we mean once before practicing and once after, if not more!
Also, unlike common belief, it has nothing to do with the tuners. Most modern tuners are geared using a system that makes the shaft completely unlikely to spin backward. This applies to even the cheapest of ukuleles, so that’s out of the way.
By now, you’re probably curious as to why this happens. We were too! Let’s examine the reasons why ukuleles won’t stay in tune, and also how to fix them.
Why Your Ukulele Won’t Stay in Tune
The materials that ukulele strings are composed of are generally easy to stretch. A key output of this is that the ukulele becomes very prone to falling out of tune. Accordingly, new strings take time to adjust and stay in tune when tuned. Until that happens, you will need to be patient and tune the ukulele every single time before practicing.
On the other hand, older strings have had enough time to cope and reach their maximum stretching points. That doesn’t necessarily mean that specific ukulele is better; the strings are just older. The newer strings are not defective or cheap; it’s just the way they function.
Strangely enough, some old strings will actually go out of tune more often, because they have lost their stretchiness, leading to tuning instability! That means it’s time for new strings.
Also, keep in mind that some strings, no matter how stretched, will sound out of tune. In this case, you can change them and try out various types of strings to find the one that suits your ukulele best. The strings that come with ukuleles are not necessarily the ideal ones.
2. Temperature and Humidity
Ukuleles, to deliver their unique sounds, have to be produced out of natural materials. Some of the materials used to create them include wood, laminate, plastic, among others.
Wooden ukuleles, in particular, tend to be affected by humidity, to the extent that they might break. Wood absorbs and then releases moisture, which could make the ukulele too dry and accordingly highly prone to tracking.
The result? A ukulele that won’t stay in tune. The solution is simple: if your ukulele is made out of wood, make sure you always store it in a case with a humidifier.
Tip: Here are some signs to help you determine whether your ukulele is too dry: dipping bridge area, low fret action, cracks in the joints of the wood, splits, sharp fret ends, and buzzing.
3. Poor Quality Instruments
It’s a default that when you opt for the cheaper alternative, you compromise a percentage of quality. When it comes to ukuleles, the more affordable option can, unfortunately, cost you the tuning.
The solution is not to exceed your budget and pay more what you can afford. Instead, make sure you read enough reviews about the ukulele you’ll invest in to make sure that the ukulele actually stays in tune with time.
How to Fix a Ukulele That Won’t Stay in Tune
This is an obvious one, but it most certainly works! Whenever your ukulele goes out of tune, you must re-tune it. It can get annoying and hectic, that’s for sure, but there’s a good side to it!
For one, the more you practice your tuning, the more it becomes a piece of cake for you that you won’t worry about since the process will be both faster and easier.
Second, and most importantly, you eventually won’t need to tune it that often, and you’ll be a step closer to reaching that!
Stretch Each String
Since we mentioned that strings could be the root causes of why ukuleles won’t stay in tune, the key here is to stretch them as much as you can to help them to stretch out fully.
Pinch each string from the top of the neck to the bottom (or vice versa) to reach as much length as you can. Pull each string firmly, but not too firm that it breaks.
Repeat this continuously, and eventually, they will be stretched completely.
The re-tuning and the stretching need to be repeated in sync multiple times. To help, you could attempt to use a clip-on tuner or an electronic tuner with a built-in microphone.
If you want to tune a string up a pitch, turn the key counter-clockwise when tuning both G and C strings. Tuning the E and A string up a pitch is the exact opposite, meaning that you have to turn the key clockwise.
When you’re tuning down a pitch, the key turn is clockwise for both G and C strings, while E and A strings should be tuned in a counter-clockwise direction.
If you’re using a tuner, you want to keep plucking/strumming the string while turning the key at the same time until it matches the string that is displayed on the screen of the tuner.
Tip: The size of your ukulele will determine the standard tuning of your instrument. Standard tuning of GCEA applies to tenor, soprano, and concert ukuleles, while standard tuning of DGBE applies to baritone and alternative ukuleles.
We all understand the frustration of finally tuning your ukulele, only to have it fall out of tune only a few minutes later. What will get you through this phase, is to consider that your ukulele just needs to warm up before it’s finally set in motion.
Warming up, in ukulele terms, is basically the stretching of the strings. This should be the leading solution to the issue of the ukulele falling out of tune. If not, then consider temperature and quality, as we mentioned.
Give your ukulele time to stabilize, and remember, all stringed instruments need to be tuned frequently!