As a new ukulele player, every instructional video you come across will refer to either ukulele string notes or uke string numbers to teach the lesson. That’s great, unless you’re not yet familiar with the names and numbers of each string!
In this article we will explain the names and numbers of the different strings, why you might like using numbers more than names, and how this makes tuning easier.
This is a quick article and once you finish it you’ll have enough knowledge about ukulele tuning to learn some easy ukulele songs!
Ukulele String Notes and Names
When we are talking about ukulele string names, we label them by the note that the open string plays. Open notes are the notes that are played if you pick a chord without holding down the string on any fret, thus, it is “open”.
The top string, or closest to you when playing, is the G-string. Moving down the ukulele the next string is tuned to a C. The 2nd string is tuned to an E note and the 1st string, closest to the floor, is an A.
These are the standard string notes for soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles. The only one that often doesn’t follow this pattern is the baritone ukulele.
High G and Low G tuning
While this is the most common way for the open string notes to be arranged, the G string does change octave. In standard reentrant tuning (high G), meaning that the g-string is actually a higher pitch than the c-string.
High G tuning is in large part the reason ukes have the bright, charming sound they do! We dive into more detail on high G, low G, and baritone tuning in our guide to tuning ukuleles.
This means that the thickest string on the ukulele is normally the C string. If you are playing in Low G tuning, it will be the g-string. A note here is you do need a different string for the G if you want to play low G tuning.
Baritone Ukulele String Notes
You have a choice when playing the baritone ukulele for tuning. Both high G and low G tuning are options, but many will play the baritone uke with a D-G-B-E tuning. This tuning is similar to the way a guitar is strung and is done in linear fashion meaning that the lowest note is the top string as you look down on the instrument.
Ukulele String Numbers
The ukulele string order is done by numbering them 1, 2, 3 and 4. The one is the string closest to the ground, normally the A string. Strings 2, 3 and 4 get closer to you as you go up in numbers and are associated with the E, C, and G strings from the naming section.
This also means that if you are playing a baritone ukulele the ukulele string names won’t change, the numbers will just stay the same!
Why Use both Ukulele String Names and Ukulele String Numbers?
In the large amount of resources that are currently available online you will find teachers who prefer one naming convention or the other. The programs that we really like, including UkuleleBuddy, will teach and use both so that you become familiar with them.
If we had to choose just one, we’d choose numbers though. There is really one big reason we prefer to use numbers rather than names, and that is that you don’t need to know the tuning.
While G-C-E-A is the most common tuning for ukuleles, you can find plenty of songs played a half step up, or a half step down, which completely shifts the tuning of each open string.
By using numbers, you don’t have to change anything in how you describe the strings, simply note the adjusted tuning.