Learn to play ukulele : Transcribing Songs in Alternate Tunings to the Ukulele

Transcribing Songs in Alternate Tunings to the Ukulele

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Level: Intermediate
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It has come to my attention that too many people are treating their ukulele just like their guitar in the way they change tunings.  You do not have to tune a ukulele down a half step whenever the guitar tab you are reading is tuned down from standard E.  Standard tuning for a ukulele has the low string at C.  As long as the song you are tabbing out for the ukulele is tuned above C on the guitar, there is no need to tune your ukulele to different tunings to play the song.  Even if the tuning used on the guitar is lower than C for a song, you can still use standard tuning to play the song.  The key to doing this is to transcribe the chords used onto the ukulele in the correct key.

For example, if the song is played on a guitar that is tuned down one half step (standard Eb), you can still play an Eb chord on the ukulele without changing tunings.  When they use an Em chord in that tuning on guitar, you would just play Ebm on the ukulele.  The same could be said for any other chord.  Say they used a G chord in that tuning on guitar.  To play that chord on a ukulele, you would just play an F# to play the same chord in the same key, just using a different tuning.  This makes sense because when you compensate for the guitar being tuned down one half step, the same G chord played in standard tuning becomes a F# chord in the lower tuning using the same fingering.

Knowing this, when you look at guitar tabs for songs played on guitars tuned lower that standard E, you can translate the chords played in that tuning to the some chords played in the standard ukulele tuning without having to tune the ukulele.  All you have to do is to figure out the key of the chord you are playing on guitar and play the same chord on the ukulele.  If you play a G chord on a guitar tuned in standard D, the chord would be a F chord.  In that case you can play the F chord on the ukulele for that song and get the same results without tuning your ukulele.  Knowing all of this, it makes more sense to play the songs in their proper key without tuning the ukulele, than it does to tune the ukulele down a half step, just to copy the guitar tabs over to ukulele.

Lesson by , 26 Jul 2012

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