Ukulele Top

My ukulele sounds so bad.. help?

I got a ukulele for my birthday, it was only about £20.
My boyfriend to it to his friend who said he would tune it for me. When he bought it back it sounded really low.. and not really much like a uke. So i went on the internet to find a tuner. I downloaded on and it said all of my strings were way too low. The thing is i couldnt managed to tune any of them.
Is it because its cheap? or am i just bad at tuning?

Thanks. :)

If you are just going to play by yourself and sing along -- it doesn't matter if it is in concert pictch (A note = 440 herz). What matters is that the strings are not too loose or too tight. This is a "by feel" sort of thing. If they are too tight, you may pull the bridge off the ukulele top (soundboard), the chords will be hard to hold -- too much finger pressure required, and the strings will not resonate for long. Too loose, the strings will buzz against the frets, the volume will be very low, and the intonation up the fretboard will sound off (notes at the seventh fret and above will sound too sharp).

One thing to pay close attention to: Is the #4 string skinner or thicker than the #3 string (strings are numbered from the floor to sky when holding the ukulele to play. If it is skinnier, you have a "reentrant" or standard strung ukulele and you would expect the "My Dog Has Fleas" notes when you pick #4, #3, #2, then #1 strings. In this case the #4 string will have the exact same pitch and octave as the #2 string when the third fret is pressed and held down. If the #4 string is thicker than the #3, you have a "Low-G" strung ukulele (many tenor ukes are strung this way). The #4 string on this ukulele will sound an octave below (lower) than the "My Dog Has Feas" ukulele.

So . . .

Adjust the string tension to a moderate tension -- almost the same tension on each string. Then hold your finger down on the fifth fret of the #4 string (closest to the sky when holding the uke) and tune the #3 string up or down until the two strings sound the same note. (NOTE: the reentrant ukulele will be an octave apart but the same note)

Repeat for the #3 string but at the fourth fret and the #2 string open.

Now hold the fifth fret on the #2 string and tune the #1 string to the same note.

Result:
Your ukulele will play "chordant" chords -- they will sound good to your ear as the strings will be tuned to each other. You voice will adjust to the chords you play and you sing along without a problem.

This only become a problem if someone that wants to sing with you has "perfect pictch" hearing and insists on singing in concert pitch or if you play with another ukulele, guitar, or similar instrument. Then you want to ensure all instruments are tuned to the same notes - that is when an electronic tuner becomes a great help.

Learn to tune by ear and feel first. Then the electronic gadget becomes easy to use.

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