For some of my video lessons on Ukulele Tricks, my tenor ukulele is tuned to low G tuning, sometimes referred to as linear tuning. This means, while you and I can play along together using the same chord positions, the overall sound comes across as slightly different.
In standard ukulele tuning, the top g-string of the ukulele is tuned higher than the middle two strings of the ukulele. More specifically, the top g-string is tuned to the “G” note above middle-C on a piano (learn more about standard ukulele tuning).
In low G tuning, all of the strings stay tuned the same except the top g-string is tuned down an octave to the “G” note below middle-C, as shown in the following figures:
Low G tuning represented on the piano
Low G tuning represented on the music staff
By tuning the top g-string down an octave, you add five additional notes to the bottom of the ukulele’s range of pitch. This produces a fuller, deeper sound to the ukulele.
Often times, people prefer the low G tuning on a tenor sized ukulele versus a soprano or concert sized (read more about ukulele sizes). You can see why a lot of ukulele players have more than one ukulele! This allows them to tune each ukulele to a different tuning.
Please note that if you want to tune your ukulele to low G tuning, you need a special low G string set for your ukulele. If you try to tune the g-string of a regular ukulele string set down an octave, you will find that the string doesn’t hold tension very well and doesn’t stay in tune. To remedy this, you need a thicker, wound low G-string.
Whenever I tune my ukulele to low G, I like to use Aquila’s low G string set. You can buy a pack online depending if you have a soprano, concert, or tenor sized ukulele (links take you to product pages on Amazon for Aquila low G strings).
To tune up your low G string set, use a chromatic tuner (I recommend it), or use the “low G” setting on my free ukulele tuner tool.
If you run into any problems tuning your ukulele to low G, just post your comment below! I’d love to help.
I have a solid KOA Kanilea Concert tuned Low G Aquila strings and a solid Rosewood with Spanish cedar top Ohana Concert tuned high G Aquila strings.
I have a soprano uke which I have switched to a low G string from the high; however, the low G string buzzes whenever I do not use the G string in a chord. How can I stop the buzzing which is destroying the sound! I would appreciate a fix to this problem
Assuming the low G string is tuned to the proper pitch, this might be a problem with the action. It sounds like the string is buzzing against one of the frets on the fretboard. This is probably because the low G string is a slightly thicker string. If you take it into a music shop or ukulele shop, they should be able to adjust the action on your ukulele or file down the problematic fret slightly to prevent buzzing.
I like your site very much. I will buy the Aquila low G set online, but I wanted to tune to low G right away and my local shop did not have a low G set. I discovered that a classical guitar D or 4th string cut to length works really well with the rest of the Aquila standard set for my soprano uke. It works for Tenor as well. Cheers, Richard
Thanks for the tip, Richard!
Very interesting to use a nylon string from a classical guitar set of strings…the D or 4th string. It seems that may the answer to the Red Series/Aquila string set for Tenor with the Low G that is wound nylon with steel. It tends to break after a few months or so of use? If it were nylon like the other three strings wouldn’t this be better?
Have you ever tried the Aquila Red Series string for a low G? Makes a great combination with standard Aquila strings without the tonal difference a wound low G string. I really like it.
The red series looks really cool. What a great idea! I haven’t tried these yet. Would love to eventually.
I have on my tenor using ordinary aquila string and the rest red aquila with Low G.
So your saying the Red Series Low G set of srings for Tenor Uke has all “nylon” for the Low G string and is NOT wound?
At the suggestion of my local music shop in Perth Western Australia, I recently changed both my Tenor and Soprano ukulele to these Aquila Red Series. Both with Low G’s. They are fantastic. A more even & rich sound. I highly recommend them. If you find them a bit rough to start with I recommend lightly sanding them being careful not to touch the uke!
Low G meaning, as same as violin tuning on the G-String, am I right?
I am getting a Uke this weekend. Before I purchase, I go through all articles that would may help me to getting know more about Uke. I am violin player 😉
When I came across regarding Uke’s Low G, it really pretty confused me.
After I look on music staff, I completely understand what’s Low G.
As my understanding, Low G as same as violin tuning on the G-string, please correct me if I was wrong.
Thank you for the e-book 😉
After years of playing violin, now I am excited to get start of Uke’s journey 😉
You know, Jensen, I only took a couple violin lessons many years ago and decided I was no good. If I recall correctly, low G tuning would be the same as violin tuning. Perhaps somehow who has more knowledge can speak into this for me?
I am also both a uke and violin player;) I still play both…
I have a tenor cordoba electric acoustic tuned to low g and Ithought you guys should know:
While the G on both instruments is the same and the lowest on both, the tuning is not exactly the same. Violins are tune GDAE while the uke is GCEA.
Violin tuning is G, D, A, E.
A violin is tuned in straight 5ths. Low G tuning is like the D-G-B-E strings of a guitar barred at the 5th fret, G-C-E-A, from the G, 4th, 3rd, 4th.
I have a Kala solid wood tenor ukulele and I had it set up with Aquila low g. I have a Kala KC-02 tuner.. How do I check the tuning with this tuner for low g?
Hi Joe, ensure that the tuner is set to “chromatic” mode which will detect that low-tuned G-string.
What gauge should the low g string be for a tenor uke?
Hi Jim, I can’t say specifically. My low G string always comes with the set of strings I purchase. I normally buy the Aquila brand low G string set.
Hi Brett, I just picked up an Ovation Applause Tenor A/E 2nd hand and asked the shop to install an Aquilla low G…It seems a bit buzzy to me and sustains much longer than the other strings. Is there more to it than simply swapping out the high G for the low?
Hi Stephen, great question. In my experience, it is pretty standard for the low G string to ring out longer. My hunch is that the string is “buzzing” up against the fretboard somewhere. You might take it back to the shop and see if they can adjust the “action” on the ukulele so there is more space between the strings and the fretboard so the string doesn’t buzz up against the frets. Or, it could be as simple for them as filing down the fret the string is buzzing up against.
Do you have instructions on how to replace the G string. I have never done this.
I still had this pack of strings of a baritone uke. Can I use the G string from that pack of strings, because it’s a brass string and I’m not too sure, wouldn’t it need a truss rod then? Thanks for your answer.
Hi Dennie, I’ve never done this before, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use the G-string from that pack of strings. I’ve used a low G string that was a wound string before, so I think you should be okay.
I have a Kala Tenor traveler and it has Aquila strings the high G set. I want to change to low G so I can have the five extra notes below middle C. Do I only have to change the G string and leave the other strings in place? Will the cord fingering still be the same as for high G tuning?
Hi Don, yep, you would just need to replace the top g-string. The chord finger positions are the same between both tunings.
Do you have instructions on how to replace the G string. I have never done this.
Hi Don, I don’t have an instructional video that demonstrates how to change the strings on the ukulele, however, Cordoba ukuleles has a nice instructional video on YouTube that I can recommend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyv7uOiXsbM
That was an excellent video and just what I needed.
Thank you very much.
I bought your course and I have your free book. I also bought your Dummies book. I don’t believe I am getting your newsletter. You were going to manually put me on the list, but I have not gotten any newsletters yet. Could you help me start receiving them.
Hi Don, I have manually added you to my email list. You should receive the next email update in the near future.
Thank you very much.
I have a little bit different question. Whether you use standard or low G tuning, Your uke fret board only goes to the A string. But a lot of songs have notes that are difficult or impossible to play. I have a KoHala and Martin, both tenors and neither are good past the 10th fret. What do you do to reach the notes in the upper range of the musical scale? I used to play a harmonica and found I could drop down an octave to catch notes that were out of range. I am about half way through your strumming course but I am really interested in playing single notes or finger picking.
Hi George, both of my concert and tenor ukuleles have at least fifteen frets, which allows me to reach those higher notes. What makes you say the notes are no good past the 10th fret on your ukuleles? Right now, I’m working on more fingerpicking lessons. If you have an interest in fingerpicking, I highly recommend checking out my practice-based book Ukulele Exercises For Dummies, which covers a lot of fingerpicking: http://amzn.to/11Ahjeq
When I try to play strings below the 10th fret, all I get is a dull clunk sound. Do these instruments need some attention from a luthier? OR – is my technique lacking?
It’s hard to say, George. It might be worth having a luthier take a look at it, if when you press down on the string the string is getting caught on another fret. This could be an indication of an action problem and need attention. Additionally, ensure that you’re fretting the notes by pressing down right behind the fret. If you’re not pressing down in the right spot or with enough pressure, you can get a thud sound.
Thanks for your time and advise. By the way, I got your book of exercises.
I really like this web site and you instruction. Thanks so much for your efforts.
On this book, are there more lessons on fingerpicking than what’s already here on the website? On another blog, I asked about it and you said something like you are in the process of putting together fingerpicking lessons. I’m just wondering if I should but this book while waiting for your online lessons on fingerpicking. I prefer learning online lessons with videos than from a book :). Thanks for all the work you do btw.
Hi Blessel, the most fingerpicking instruction I offer at this time is in my book “Ukulele Exercises For Dummies”. It’d be a good place to dive into as you wait for more fingerpicking video lessons.
I recently got a soprano uke as a present and your website has been an immense help in practising!
I wanted to explore a bit with the lower g string for a richer sound, and came across two different types of low g string – the unwound and wound string.
What are the differences in sound and which would you recommend for a soprano ukulele?
Hi Sachi, a wound string is normally steel-wound, which means there will be more of a brighter or metallic tone to the sound. I imagine this is to bring some balance to the natural darkness of the lower-tuned string. However, some find that their fingers are more prone to “squeaking” against the wound string, which is why a lot of people opt for the unwound string. For the soprano, I think you’d be fine with an unwound low G string.
When I tune my Kamoa Concert uke with a wound low-G string, it sound horrible. Checking it on my chromatic tuner, it starts flat, rises to the note, and then wanders sharp. Then as I check the pitch of higher notes on that string they’re all sharp. They don’t decay as much as the open string, but I can’t seem to find a way to make it work. Bad string? Something about the way the instrument is set-up? High G works just fine.
Hi Todd, how new are the strings? It almost seems like the strings might be stretching still. It could also be an issue with the nut or saddle on your ukulele. If the strings are “broken in” and the problem persists, I’d be prone to taking it into a music shop that could perform a “set up” on your ukulele.
I just tuned my Kamaka Bari, using the low G. I canibalized a G string from a Bari set. Using the low G seems to take some of the clukiness (new word) out of the normal gCEA tuning. I did start with the Aquila strings for bari gCEA just switched the g’s. Seems to ring out more.
Some more tips and tricks?
Aquila Nylgut works for many uke’s, but the wound strings are crappy quality. The metal winding starts to oxidate immediately, the winding loosens often and they sound dead long before the other strings in the set are finished. You can replace them with a classical guitar’s D string. I prefer the D’addario ProArté normal tension. A good guitarshop has single strings of this brand. Still you’ll need two wound strings before the other (nylon) strings start to fade out. With some effort it is possible to make two tenor-uke G strings out of one guitar D string.
Here’s the Brother Iz DROPPED G TUNING. I think that when it’ s good enough for Israel Kamakawiwo’ole it’s at least worth giving it a try:
He did this with a standard Martin string set with wound C, but high tension nylon or fluocarbon works as well.
This works on tenor ukes; on soprano the string tension will be too low to play comfortably.
you leave the first string (A) where it is
the second string (E) goes to the position of the third ( it becomes the C now)
the third string (C) goes to the position of the fourth (it becomes the low G now)
the fourth string (high G) goes to the position of the second (so it becomes the E now)
Tune up G C E A. keep in mind that the original tone of each string is lowered by 3 to 5 semi-tones, so tension is lower.
Take some time to get used to the new feel….
Stop the war: Uke them.
I’ve had a Tenor Uke for quite some time now, and went to a local music shop. The string expert (mind you I know him; he’s been playing string instruments all his life) told me that a wound string would damage the frets, which is understandable. He gave me a nylon string, but if I put that on could I still tune it back up to a high G, or would the tension be to great?
Hi Wyatt, is it a low-G nylon ukulele string? If so, I wouldn’t recommend trying to tune it back up the octave to a high G note. The tension would be too great and the string would probably either snap or put too much stress on your ukulele.
I’m thinking of putting a low g string on my Tenor Uku but can you tell me if the chord shapes I’ve been using on the normal high g will be the same or will I have to learn a whole new bunch of chords??
Hi Phil, the chord shapes will be the same on a low G-tuned ukulele as they are on a standard-tuned ukulele.
Hi there! I’m thinking about tuning my tenor to low G. Can I use classic guitar nylon strings? I have an extra set lying around but I’m not sure I can use classic guitar strings on a tenor.
I wouldn’t use a whole set of classical guitar strings for low G tuning. However, I have heard of some people using a G-string from a nylon classical guitar string set for the low G string.
Thanks for your great lessons.
I have a question, I just put a low G string (Aquila) on my soprano. It keeps detuning (becomes too low within 10 seconds every time). What could I have done wrong? Many thanks in advance, Rosita.
Every new string needs a period of time to “break in” and stretch. I’d give it a week and see if it improves. If the problem persists, it might be an issue with your tuning peg not being adequate enough to the hold tension on the string.
Hi Brett just purchased the Aquila concert low g set , have put on only the low g string and think I have tuned it correctly, but it does not sound right. should I put all the set on. its 6 months old and learning to play for 6 months. thanks John
John, how would you describe what’s not sounding right?
I am learning to fingerpick. If I put a low G string on my tenor uke, would the music I pick sound OK i.e. would I still pick the tune in the same way or would I need to pick the tune differently?
someone is giving me a 3/4 guitar. My idea is to change the nut with a bass nut and tune it GCEA just one octave lower. I could use Guitar strings
( I figuer I need the the G, the B, and 2 D strings)
Any ideas on what you think of that?
Hello! Thank you so much for the extremely helpful article! I just had a question about the thickness of the low g-string. Is it too thick for a standard concert ukulele nut? I’ve seen this problem once or twice before and I’m worried that I might damage my ukulele in some way. Will it fit on my concert ukulele? Thanks in advance! 🙂
Taylor, if you wanted to be on the safe side, I would recommend taking your ukulele to a luthier to get a “set up” done if you wish to tune to low G. There is added tension on the neck with the low G string. However, I will say many will just swap out the string and give it a try.
I have a Fluke tenor. Recently I replaced the stock G string with a with a D’Addario Fluorocarbon Tenor low G string. It sounds good except the open string is annoyingly flat even though all the fingered frets are pretty uniformly in tune.
I found that when I press tightly on the section of string between the peg and the nut, then the open string is in tune, and it hardly affects the tuning of the fretted notes. I can use a large binder clip to achieve this, but I hate the look of that.
I’m wondering if the notch on the nut is too small for the string. If not, what could be causing this?
Hey Tom, if you’re open string is in tune relative to the tuner and the fretted notes are out of tune (or vice versa), then, this indicates an intonation issue. As you mentioned, the nut slot could have something to do with this. The low G string also adds tension on the neck of the ukulele which can throw things off a little. It’s hard to know for certain, but I do know the problem you’re describing is an intonation issue. You can take your ukulele to the shop and have a local luthier look at it and see if there is anything they can do to improve the intonation.
I’m confused by your description of low G tuning. You say that with low G you can get and extra 5 notes below middle C but I only count 3 — G, A and B. What are the two notes?
That’s a great question, Sam! The answer is you can’t forget to count the sharps and flats (known as accidentals). So from middle C to low G, you have the following notes in descending order: C, B, Bb/A#, A, Ab/G#, G. In this way, you add five extra semitones (or half steps) to the bottom of the ukulele’s range, which are the B, Bb/A#, A, Ab/G#, and G notes.
I’m planning to order a Ohana concert ukulele and they can adjust the nut for a low G setup. My question is if the nut is adjusted, can I still change out strings and go back to original G? Or will this become a permanent low G instrument?
Hey Elizabeth, a setup specific for low G will provide better playability, intonation, and action, but to be honest, I’ve never had a ukulele set up specific for this! You shouldn’t have a problem putting a high g-string on instead if you ever decide to in the future, but I would check with your luthier in case they have a different viewpoint!