July 2012
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How I tuned my ukulele

I am back home after two months of traveling. I knew that I wouldn’t have much internet access during that time and I prepared myself: I packed a bunch of books and a ukulele.

I started learning the ukulele when my daughter got one as a gift. I practiced with her instrument for the last few months before we went off, but I didn’t want to take it along on the journey. Since we started in Cebu, a place famous for ukuleles, I planned to buy a cheap one there and take it along for the rest of the journey. Thus I could be sure that I wouldn’t break my dauthers “toy” and gain a “backup” when we are back home :)
So far so good. What I didn’t think about was one thing:

  • A traveling ukulele needs to be tuned a lot.
  • A new ukulele needs to be tuned a lot.
  • A cheap ukulele needs to be tuned a lot.

I know, that are three things, but these three weren’t the thing I didn’t think about. I kind of expected that I had to tune the uke each time I pick it up. What I forgot was that I will be without internet connectivity most of the time.
Back home, I usually used the reference tunes on When I found myself without that source, I was looking for some audio files with the four reference tunes, but without success.

Luckily, I was traveling with a laptop running Free Software, so a much quicker research than the one for audio files led me to the following commands:

Update (2016-05-22): The command “play” is part of the “sox” package which is not part of recent distributions anymore but can be installed afterwards without affecting ALSA or pulseaudio. If you know a way how to do the same with aplay, please let me know!

# Soprano C ukulele:
play -n synth 4 pluck 391.995 # G
play -n synth 4 pluck 261.626 # C
play -n synth 4 pluck 329.628 # E
play -n synth 4 pluck 440       # A

Wikipedia was kind enough to tell me the frequencies :)

In case you are not aware what’s possible with this highly underestimated instrument, here are a few starters to put you in ‘awe mode’:

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