When looking for topics to write about, I’ve discovered that people sometimes search for what the notes on a ukulele are.
Most people are probably looking for the standard tuning notes, so let’s address this first (then we can get into other details):
What are the Tuning Notes on a Ukulele?
The standard tuning notes on soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles are G4, C4, E4, and A4, with the C being middle C and the G, E, and A notes being those notes just above middle C.
Now, this is actually a somewhat ambiguous question, as the “notes” on a ukulele could refer to either
A: the tuning notes, which are the pitches used when tuning the strings of the ukulele, or
B: the fret-board notes, which are pitches played when a string is held down at a particular fret on the instrument.
Let’s bring clarity to this ambiguity and cover both topics separately.
More on Tuning Notes
The tuning notes of the ukulele are the standard pitches which the ukulele’s strings are tuned to (i.e. tightened until they produce the desired sound frequency when plucked or strummed).
The tuning notes used depend mostly on the ukulele’s size, as the baritone uke traditionally uses a different tuning system from the other ukulele sizes.
Other exceptional factors can also influence the ukulele tuning notes alternative tuning systems or ukuleles with greater than 4 strings.
What are the Standard Tuning Notes on a Soprano, Concert, and Tenor Ukulele?
The standard tuning notes on soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles are GCEA, with the C being middle C and the G, E, and A notes being those notes just above middle C.
What are the Standard Tuning Notes on a Baritone Ukulele?
The standard tuning notes on a baritone ukulele are D, G, B, and E. With the D, G, and B being those below middle C, and the E being those above middle C.
What are the Tuning Notes on a Bass Ukulele?
The bass ukulele’s tuning notes are E1, A1, D2, and G2.
Much lower than even the Baritone uke.
For more in-depth information, check out the bass ukulele tuning article.
What about Alternative Ukulele Tuning Notes?
Low G Tuning
One alternative tuning system used often is Low G tuning. The notes of this are the same as the standard tuning for soprano, except the G note is one octave lower, or the G below middle C instead of above it.
For a comparison of Low-G and High-G Ukulele tuning, check out the Low G vs. High G Ukulele Tuning article.
Tuning Notes for Ukuleles with More than 4 Strings
Tuning Notes on 6-string Ukuleles
Here’s a diagram of the tuning notes for a six string uke. Notice that one of the A strings can be either low or high.
With six and eight-string ukes, the tuning setups are much less standardized than their 4 string counterparts. The exact setup can vary from maker to maker and player to player.
Tuning Notes on 8-string Ukuleles
And here’s the same for an 8 String ukulele.
What are the Fret-board Notes of the Ukulele?
The fret-board is the part of the ukulele’s neck which has rows of metal frets along it. The strings are then held down at these frets to decrease the vibrating length of the string, thus altering its pitch.
The notes of the Ukulele fret-board depend on the tuning system used, however each fret raises the note by one half-step.
What are the Standard Fret-board Notes on a Soprano, Concert, and Tenor Ukulele?
As the standard tuning notes on soprano, concert, and tenor ukes are G, C, E, and A, the fret-board notes are a half-step higher pitched from those notes for each fret:
What are the Standard Fret-board Notes on a Baritone Ukulele?
The Baritone Ukulele traditional uses D, G, B, and E for its tuning set-up. This means the fret-board notes will be one half-step higher than these notes for each fret up the neck of the uke, as shown below:
What are the Fretboard Notes on The Bass Ukulele?
What about Ukulele Fret-board Notes for Alternative Tuning systems?
Low G Fretboard Notes
Here are the fretboard notes for a ukulele tuned to GCEA low G tuning.
Techniques for Learning the Ukulele Fretboard
The four strings on a ukulele are tuned like the four highest sounding strings on a guitar, only 5 steps, or a fourth interval higher.
If you know how to play guitar chords, ukulele chords will be very easy.
The more notes on the fretboard you can memorize, the better it is for your playing.
Whenever you play a chord, you should practice identifying the root visually on the fretboard and by singing it.
This will help you connect what you hear with what you feel underneath your fingers.
An excellent way to learn the notes on the fretboard is to play major scales on each string and call out each note.
Start with a C scale on the A string and follow the formula for a major scale W-W-H-W-W-W-H. This translates to the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Practice this two ways:
- Use a single finger, like your pointer or middle finger, to play all the notes. This requires you to slide up and down the fretboard.
- Use whichever fingers feel comfortable.
Start on a new note on the other strings and do the same thing. Sing the letter name of each note as you play it, and focus your ear on hearing how one note changes to the next. If you know how to sing using solfege, sing the solfege of each note as you play, i.e. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do. Try to hear the difference between whole steps and half steps in the scale. Half-steps are easier to hear.
- What is the sound of Mi going up to Fa?
- What is the sound of Ti going up to Do?
- What is the sound of Re going down to Do?
Recognizing how one note moves to the next is essential to being able to play by ear.
Another exercise is to choose a note and find the same note on all the other strings. For instance, on the G string, play an A (2nd fret). Then find the As on the rest of the strings. Move between them with a smooth, fluid motion.
Ukulele Fretboard Notes on The Piano and Music Staff
Now that we’ve looked at the different fretboard note layouts for the different ukulele tuning setups, let’s translate those notes onto the music staff and piano, in case someone is looking to learn to read ukulele music from traditional music notation or translate some music from piano to ukulele (or vice versa).
Here are the notes of a high-G GCEA tuned Ukulele translated to the piano keyboard and music staff.
The notes highlighted in dark gray are those notes in the octave starting on middle C.
The notes highlighted in a lighter gray are those notes in the octave starting on the C above middle C
The last C note is not highlighted because it starts a new octave.
Hopefully this image is understandable.