The bass ukulele has risen in popularity over the years, offering an amazing alternative to the traditional upright-bass (double bass) and even bass guitar.
It’s great because they’re small enough to fit in a backpack but large enough in sound to fill a room acoustically, offering the best of both worlds.
If you’ve ever played any form of bass, you’ll remember the dread of trying to carry that thing around!
Anyways, when it comes to bass ukulele tuning, there are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way which I think will help you!
Standard Bass Ukulele Tuning
The bass ukulele is standard-tuned the same way as the standard-tuning on a bass guitar or upright bass, E-A-D-G. In comparison to a standard ukulele of G-C-E-A, bass ukulele tuning is two and a half octaves lower.
The low tones of a bass ukulele make it quite difficult to tune using just the human ear. I’ve also found that a lot of tuning apps really struggle with the lower two strings of the bass ukulele, so a ukulele tuner or general guitar and bass tuner will help significantly!
If you find the tuner you have struggling, a little tip is to get the top two strings in tune first and then try and tune the bottom two bass ukulele strings by ear.
In the long-run, this will also help develop your tuning instrument by ear skills, which can come in very handy if you forget a tuner at home!
Another bass ukulele tuning tip is if you fret the D-string at the second fret, it will play one octave above the E-string. Similarly, if you fret the G-string at the second fret, it will play one octave above the A-string. If this has gone over your head, stick to a tuner!
Bass Ukulele Strings
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Bass ukuleles can take a bit of work to get in tune and unfortunately, they go out of tune often. For brand new bass ukulele strings, the above holds even more truth.
The tuning difficulty of a bass ukulele is mainly a result of the density and materials used in constructing bass ukulele strings.
Without boring you of the science, to get a lower note in a vibrating string, you either have to make it longer, thicker, or looser.
Neither of which would work on such a tiny instrument and hence why manufacturers created an extremely dense string that is capable of producing the deep notes commonly associated with bass.
As a result of their increased density, they adhere to the nut firmly, which creates tension that pulls the string out of tune from one side of the nut.
To combat this and help break-in your new strings, once they’re in-tune, carefully and lightly pull them away from the body, stretching them out.
I can’t emphasise enough the wonders stretching out new bass ukulele strings will do!
Depending on your prior musical knowledge, it’s always better to “tune-up” strings, i.e. tune from below the note you’re attempting to achieve. If you’re already above the desired note, then “tune down” over it before “tuning up.”
The main benefit of “tuning up” is that it prevents the stickiness of the bass ukulele strings and should result in the increased holding of the tune for a longer period of time.
My final piece of advice when it comes to bass ukulele tuning is to upgrade the strings that the ukulele came with (depending on the model of course).
A lot of the strings are generally low quality, and even after trying to break them in for a few weeks, it will still sound a bit rubbish!
If you’re looking to upgrade your strings, Aquila Thunderguts and Kala Silver Rumblers are two popular polyurethane options.
But remember, with polyurethane strings, they will require a break-in time of at least two weeks.
The other type of bass ukulele strings is made of a nylon/silk core with silver/copper plating, making them feel very similar to normal bass strings. However, they are significantly more expensive.
Two popular options are the Kala Metal Round and Pyramid Strings.
Obviously, over time your bass ukulele strings will wear out, so it’s good to get into the habit of changing them once in a while, it’s amazing how good a new set of strings will sound!
Need help on deciding which bass ukulele is right for you? Check out my Best Bass Ukulele Buying Guide!