Written by SaifZiya
Today, you’re feeling alive. You pick up your ukulele that you just got your hands on and start playing.
As soon as you start strum it, you notice that something is wrong. Then you strum it again, but the problem doesn’t go away.
If that's something you've struggled with lately, I can understand what it feels like to be in such a situation.
Can you picture yourself playing in front of your friends for the first time? If your uke isn’t in tune, it’d sound so bad that your friends will start laughing at you.
What's bad is that everybody in the group will think that it’s you, not your ukulele, and not even you would know that your ukulele is out of tune.
What’s even worse is that the beginner ukulists don't realize that their uke is out of tune and this mostly happens when people start out uke for the first time as they aren’t fully aware of the tuning thing.
If you think your ukulele goes out of tune every time you play it, you’re not alone. This is very common and every player faces it when they grab their first uke.
So, can you get rid of bad tuning once for all?
Well, it gets better with time, but you can’t dispense with it easily in the beginning. Therefore, you will need to tune your ukulele every time before playing it unless, of course, the strings have fully stretched out.
Here’s Why Your Ukulele Won’t Stay in Tune
Let’s figure out reasons why your ukulele won’t stay in tune.
The reason why your ukulele won’t stay in tune no matter how hard you try to keep it in tune is the strings.
I know putting new strings on your ukulele is a sure-fire way to get the best of overall resonance and tones, but that will also require a lot of time to tune your uke before playing it.
The reason why old strings work best on uke is that they’ve had their time—i.e., they are done stretching.
It’s not only about new and old strings. Sometimes poor-quality strings also turn the tuning upside down. Poor strings can be a reason why your ukulele is going out of tune.
Lastly, don’t buy tenor strings if you’re having a soprano—that’s the last thing you want to do. These strings are made with different uke sizes in mind and therefore may produce different tones.
If you want to make the most out of your uke tuning, always go with the ones made just for your uke.
Not sure about uke sizes? I’ve already explained different ukuleles sizes for your satisfaction.
Does change in the humidity or temperature have anything to do with your ukulele going out of tune?
Yes, these things do affect the way your uke sounds.
Well, most ukuleles—except some that are made of plastic—are made of natural materials such as wood. Since bad weather or temperature has a direct effect on the wood, it can also affect the tuning of your uke, and we can’t deny that tonewood is a game-changer in that area.
If you own a uke made of solid wood (see what it is), odds are you need to protect it from bad weather conditions.
The rule of thumb says that you should invest in a Humidifier and if you can’t think of one, I’d recommend this one from Oasis.
Wherever you put your uke when it’s not in use, you need to make sure that weather doesn’t fluctuate there or it’ll lead to bad consequences. In the worst-case scenario, your uke could break or simply crack—and that’s the last thing you want.
#3: Poor-quality Uke
If you’ve been paying attention to what I recommend to beginners, you’d have noticed that I tell the newbies to dip deep to come up with a good-quality ukulele.
However, people who aren’t aware of the ins and outs of the ukulele buying guide end up purchasing poor-quality ukuleles, that’s because they’re not having access to such informative articles—no exaggeration.
Remember, although some reasonably priced ukes are good for beginners, cheap isn’t always good. Therefore, one needs to be fully aware of tonewood, strings, bridge, fretboard, tuners, and other parts of the ukulele to make a well-versed decision.
I’m not saying that you must force yourself to buy a top-of-the-line (most expensive) ukulele when you’re starting out, but you should keep in mind you should shop for around $50, and while you do that, make sure you’re following all the things we’ve covered in the ukulele buying guide.
#4: Heaving strumming
Are you a heavy strummer?
Think about this… if you’ve been going too hard on your uke, chances are you’ve been hitting your uke way too hard and that’s not good for strings or the fingerboard of the uke.
That’s why your uke goes out of tune oftentimes.
If this is your first time, you have to give some time to your strumming techniques. I’d suggest you go gentle on the strings so you could develop a pattern and find out what works best for you.
The reason why most players hear a drop in the pitch is that strings need some time to stretch. But the problem is severe that even the gentle players have to face the tuning issue—it’s something no one has ever escaped from. So, the only option you’re left with is to tuning your uke’s strings repeatedly before playing.
As for the strings selection, I don’t know what other ukulists are suggesting, I’d say go with either Aquila Nylgut strings (mostly found in wood-based ukuleles) or Nylon or Fluorocarbon strings (found in ukuleles made of plastic).
How to Fix a Ukulele that Won't Stay in Tune?
Now that we’ve figured out the reasons why a ukulele goes out of tune, what can you do to fix the problem?
Well, as heartbreaking as it may sound, you can dispense with the tuning issue in just 3 steps.
Step #1: Tune your Uke
Get your ukulele gigbag, unpack it and tune your ukulele before you start strumming it. As soon as you play it, you’d experience a drop in the pitch in some way.
Step #2: Stretch each String
Now that you’ve noticed that your uke is not tuned, what you need to do is pull each string. Make sure you do this firmly and gently, from side to side so stretching can be achieved thoroughly.
Every string (no matter the brand) has a limit it can be stretched to and, therefore, mustn’t be provided stretching more than it can take or you’re going to pop it.
Repeat this process 2-3 times on each edge of the string (from top of bottom or vice versa) to ensure the stretch is applied to all sides of the string.
Step #2: Tune again
Having followed step 2, what you’re meant to do now is go back to the #1 step—i.e., tune your ukulele again.
You may have to repeat several rounds to achieve precise tuning. Also, you can use a tuner (either clip-on digital or in an app) to make sure everything is going well.
That’s because sometimes novices may not make a difference between a well-tuned and not-in-tune uke—they have no idea of the tones.
Are you still having questions? No worries—jump to the FAQ section below and have your queries answered in next to no time.
Q.1: I’ve tried everything but my Uke won’t stay in tune, why?
If even after trying everything I’ve explained above you’re unable to fix the issue, it’s probably other factors due to which your uke is going out of tune. It could be because the bridge is not placed in the right position, or maybe it’s the tuning pegs, but tuning pegs turn out to be a culprit in the least cases.
Q.1: Any other suggestions?
There are times when newbies may not following the steps the right way. There are essential add-ons that can help beginners get the most of learning, and digital a tuner is one of them. So, I’d suggest that you invest in a good-quality clip-on tuner that can help you tune your uke, bass, guitar, or violin effectively and quickly.
Can’t think of one? This best-seller would offer peace of mind.
I know where you are coming from—and I can understand the frustration a uke causes when it’s not tuned properly. It’s so overwhelming that people have to tune their uke again and again in hopes of eventually having it tuned.
Warming up the uke is something everyone has to struggle with in the beginning, and it gets easier with time. So, you just have to bear with the process, but you should follow all the steps mentioned above as this will help ease the process. Furthermore, what I’d advise is that keep your ukulele in a room or any place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate or stays at room temperature.
You need to be patient with your uke as its tuning gets better.
Does bad quality material have anything to do with the tuning?
Yes, and I’ve already explained that poor-quality uke sucks and could make things worse. That’s why, the rule of thumb is that always invest in a top-notch ukulele—a uke that’s made of a-one tonewood and incorporates first-class strings.
Also, if you are a lefty and haven’t checked out my take on left-handed ukuleles yet, you’re missing out on a lot.
So, that’s all there is to fixing a ukulele that won’t stay in tune.
See you with some new uke tweaking.
Keep strumming gently.
Need the Best Ukuleles made for Beginners?
If this is your first time buying a ukulele, you should check out our beginners guide on the best ukuleles. Also, keep in mind all the things we've mentioned above so you don't end up buying a piece of junk.