Empire Music supplies soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles fully set-up in your choice of one of the three common tunings: gCEA (“C6” or “re-entrant”), ADF#B (“Low A” or “D6”), or GCEA (“Low G”). When ordering, please indicate your tuning preference by selecting a radio button under "Available Options" before clicking the "Add to Cart" button.
Which ukulele tuning should you choose?
If you are in a music class, taking lessons, or playing in a group, definitely choose the tuning that your teacher or band leader specifies since the lessons, books and sheet music will be based around that. Otherwise, it is up to you. For a far more detailed discussion of the pros and cons of each tuning option, the F.A.Q. section of James Hill's site is hard to beat.
What’s the difference?
Although the pitches are different, all three common tunings have the same intervals between the strings. This means that chord fingerings (aka chord shapes) are essentially the same for all three tunings. The chord names for a given shape are the same for gCEA/C6 and GCEA/Low G, and one step higher for ADF#B/D6.
The intervals between strings are also the same as the highest 4 strings on a standard-tuned guitar. The notes of a GCEA-tuned uke are the same as a guitar with a capo on the 5th fret, while ADF#B uke tuning is the same as a capo on the 7th fret.
gCEA re-entrant C (also known as “C6”, “high A”, or "My Dog Has Fleas")
This is the "traditional" ukulele tuning and gives the classic Hawaiian sound. It is the most common tuning used worldwide and is often referred to as 'my dog has fleas', which makes sense when you sing it.
The unique sound comes from the fact that the 4th string (the top-most one when you are holding it) is tuned to a higher pitch than the 3rd. This style is technically known as “re-entrant” tuning, which means the pitch does not ascend linearly from low to high as you move from the top to bottom string. For this tuning, the 4th string is the same gauge and type as the 1st string. The note/octave pitches are G4, C4 (aka “middle C” on a piano), E4, and A4. It’s not as commonly done, but ukuleles strung this way can also be tuned up a step to aDF#B (pitches A4, D4, F#4, and B4); this variant has been known to Empire customers for decades as "High A" tuning.
GCEA sequential C (also known as "linear C", “Low G”, or "C with low G")
A popular variation is to use a thicker string for the top G and tune that note an octave lower. This is called sequential or linear C tuning. Some call it low G tuning, though that name can be confused with the standard baritone uke tuning.
This tuning has the same pitches as C6 tuning, with the exception of the fourth string which is now lowest in pitch. For soprano and concert ukuleles ordered in this tuning, we install a slightly thicker silver-wound nylon-core string; for tenors, we install a thicker plain nylon string. The note/octave pitches are G3, C4 (aka “middle C” on a piano), E4, and A4.
ADF#B sequential D (also known as “D6” or “low A”)
Especially popular in Canadian schools, this tuning ascends linearly in pitch from low to high. The slightly higher pitches (one whole step) give higher tension which can be desirable on soprano-scale ukuleles. This tuning, as with Low G, is more directly comparable to a guitar and thus often chosen where progression to guitars is anticipated. For all ukuleles ordered in this tuning, we install a thicker “plain” nylon 4th string. The note/octave pitches are A3, D4, F#4, and B4.