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Guitalele Tuning: The Complete Guide [2021 Edition]

I’ve played the guitar since 2003, the ukulele since 2011, and the guitalele since 2019. 

Since playing these instruments, I’ve become familiar with each instruments’ standard tuning and tuning variations. 

If you want to learn about guitalele tunings, this is the post for you.

 So what is standard tuning for the guitalele?

A guitalele is tuned to ADGCEa in the same intervals as a guitar but up a fourth as if you were to capo the guitar on the fifth fret. 

The top four strings of the guitalele are tuned the same as a ukulele, GCEA, except the ukulele’s G string is tuned up an octave, just two steps down from the high A string. 

Standard Guitalele Tuning: ADGCEa

In this clip I play a lick from the Here Comes the Sun in standard tuning with standard nylgut guitalele strings.

Most guitaleles come strung like a classical guitar with the top three strings made of nylon and the bottom three strings made of nylon wound with wire in the standard tuning: ADGCEa. 

Standard guitalalele tuning will sound just like a classical guitar capoed on the fifth fret. 

The ideal strings for a guitalele in standard tuning depend on whether your guitalele has bridge pins. 

My guitalele has bridge pins, and thus requires ball-end strings. 

However, many guitaleles don’t have bridge pins.

Thus, they require standard nylon strings with loops on the end that secure them to the bridge. 

Unfortunately, there aren’t many string options when it comes to guitaleles.

Thus, if your guitalele has bridge pins, I recommend these ball-end classical guitar strings

Although these are classical guitar strings, they work fine on the guitalele. 

If your guitalele doesn’t have bridge pins, you can use these strings designed specifically for the guitalele. 

Also, check out my complete guide to guitalele strings for more information about my string recommendations.

High G Guitalele Tuning: ADgCEa

You’ll notice a slightly different sound in this video with the high G string compared to the video in the previous section.

Alternatively, you may want to tune your guitalele more like a ukulele with the G string pitched up an octave. 

This alternate tuning allows you to play ukulele songs when playing only the top four strings. 

It also gives your instrument an interesting sound when playing all six strings. 

High G guitalele tuning actually reminds me of Nashville tuning

It’s a fun and simple way to give your instrument a new sound. 

Standard Guitar Tuning (EADGBe) and High E/Octave Tuning (eadgbe) for the Guitalele

If you’ve ever wondered if a guitalele can be tuned like a guitar, then this section is for you.

The answer is yes, you can absolutely tune a guitalele like a guitar: EADGBe.

However, note that it’s a non-standard tuning for the guitalele.

As a reminder, standard guitalele tuning is ADGCEa.

(This is the same as standard guitar tuning as if you were to capo on the fifth fret).

Aquila, one of the few string manufacturers that actually makes strings specifically for the guitalele, has strings for two alternate setups.

These tunings are standard guitar and high E tuning. 

If you want your guitalele to have the exact same tuning as a standard guitar and your guitarlele doesn’t have bridge pins, you can use Aquila’s standard guitar tuning guitalele strings

Guitaleles are great for this purpose because they’re actually smaller than many travel guitars, and are thus even more portable.  

If you prefer the sound of a guitar tuned up an octave, try Aquila’s high E tuning string set.

This is the same tuning as a mando guitar and allows you to play in the same tonal range as higher-pitched instruments like the mandolin or mando guitar. 

Again, check out my guide to guitalele strings for more detail on string recommendations for either of these tunings.

DADGAD Tuning

If you’re familiar with alternate tunings for the guitar, you’ve probably heard of DADGAD tuning.

This fun alternate tuning allows you to get a different sound from your guitar with a more versatile alternate tuning than say, an open tuning.

There are a few ways to accomplish DADGAD tuning on a guitalele.

First, when tuning away from standard guitalele tuning, the equivalent of DADGAD tuning is actually GDGCDG.

This will give you that same DADGAD sound you would get on the guitar but as if you capoed on the 5th fret.

In this video, I’ve tuned to the guitalele’s equivalent DADGAD tuning which is GDGCDG (as if you were playing in DADGAD but capoed on the 5th fret of the standard guitar).

You can also tune your guitalele all the way down to DADGAD, just like you would on a standard guitar.

Finally, you can use a short-cut capo like this one from Keiser to capo only strings five, four, and three on the second fret of the guitalele.

This will give you an equivalent tuning of GDGCDG capoed on the 2nd fret or AEADEA.

In this video, I’m using the short cut capo to capo strings 5, 4, and 3 on the second fret to play with a tuning in the same intervals as DADGAD or GDGCDG but on capo 2 so no retuning is necessary.

Conclusion

I hope this guide helps you understand the various tunings for the guitalele.

Let me know in the comments if you have any further questions!

24 replies on “Guitalele Tuning: The Complete Guide [2021 Edition]”

Don Severancesays:

Hi, I have a baritone (30”) guitalele that I want to tune ADGCEA. Where can I get strings? Would classical guitar strings work? Thanks, Don

Harrison Alleysays:

Hi Don,

Thanks for writing in. Classical guitar strings should work fine. If your guitalele has bridge pins, I’d recommend these classical guitar strings.

If it doesn’t, I’d recommend these.

kayla kunkelsays:

What kind of capo would you recommend for a guitalele?

Harrison Alleysays:

Hi Kayla,

Capos designed for classical guitars typically work best for the guitalele like this capo.

Let me know if you have any further questions!

Hey there, I bought my Guitalele used so it was pre-strung with I believe nylon acoustic guitar strings. I loved the sound of it! I play the Uke so at first it wasn’t a big leap but then a string broke so I went to replace them and I bought the standard red Aquila strings. The sound was way lower, and not the jaunty fun I had been accustomed to. My instrument also got a bit dried out so the sound was off. But I think it’s fixed now and so I’m wondering, how do I get that fun jaunty sound back? Especially with nylon classical acoustic strings?

I’m thinking I was tuning it high G, but its actually been months since I’ve worked with it much because it needed repair and I got frustrated with trying to figure out the sound.

Harrison Alleysays:

Hi Mezz,

Thanks for writing in! There doesn’t seem to be a consensus among manufacturers for how to tune a guitalele. Carmel sent me my guitalele with a standard guitar tuning (EADGBe). When I first played the instrument in standard guitar tuning, I also felt like the sound was too low. However, once I tuned it up to the standard guitalele tuning (ADGCEa), I found the sound I was looking for. My recommendation is to tune it up to the standard guitalele tuning (ADGCEa). Nylon classical strings and your instrument should be able to handle that tension. However, in the unfortunate event that a string breaks, check out my string recommendations in the article.

Thanks! This article I think may finally help me solve the mystery of my missing jaunty sound^.^

Hello, I find it difficult to tune my guitalele and I even stretched the strings to tight which created a mark on the strings when I was tuning it with a chromatic application tuner. Is it okay to tune the 3 strings as the A D G of the guitar and the 3 nylon strings as the CEA of the ukulele? Thanks!

Harrison Alleysays:

Hi there!

ADGCEA is the standard guitalele tuning. So I’m not quite sure what you mean.

Are you wondering whether you can tune the lowest three strings EAD like the guitar and the highest three strings CEA like the uke/guitalele?

If so, I don’t think this would work like you may anticipate since EADCEA doesn’t correspond to any alternate tuning I know of.

I may be able to offer better help if I knew which strings and guitalele you are using.

I tuned my Yamaha guitalele to match my guitar EADGBE using the stock strings . Will it hurt the guitalele as some said that’s too much tension to the strings ? I don’t know how to tell if strings are too tight . Should I get other strings instead ? I am using my guitalele as portable guitar and I don’t really want it to be at the recommended A tuning 🙂

Harrison Alleysays:

Hi Joyce!

Standard guitar tuning (EADGBe) is actually lower than standard guitalele tuning (ADGCEa). So tuning your guitalele to standard guitar tuning shouldn’t put too much tension on your strings or instrument. It’s actually likely putting less tension on your strings and instrument than it was designed for.

Hello Joyce! If you tune the strings of your A-tuned guitalele down to the standard classical guitar E-tuning, their tension will be lower than the original tension, so it won’t hurt your instrument.

I intend purchasing a guitalele for my grandson who is 4 years (in July) as I would like him to pursue the guitar later on. My son as well as self play the guitar.

Hi Salvador!

It sounds like the love of music runs in your family! Good luck with your guitalele purchase and feel free to comment here or elsewhere on the blog if you have any questions!

Laura Petrellasays:

Love your article. How do I figure out the chords for these turnings?

Hi Laura!

Thanks for those kind words. I think the best way to know the chords for these different tunings is to consult Theo’s Chord Generator. This super handy tool lets you input any tuning, and it will generate chord shapes for you! For standard guitalele tuning, you can set the tuner to standard guitar tuning with the capo on the 5th fret. For the other tunings, it’s probably easiest to simply input that tuning, string by string, in the box that says tuning.

Let me know if you have further questions!

When tuning to ADgCEA what string size is recommended for the g and should it be nylon?

Hi Brian,

Thanks for writing in! You can get a better idea of string recommendations for different guitalele tunings in my article about them. However, the short answer is, I recommend a G or A string from a nylon ukulele string set. In fact, I recommend purchasing a full set of uke strings if you’re pursuing this tuning because a full set will have two replacement g strings for your instrument since the G and A strings are the same gauge in a uke set. Of course, the type of uke strings you get depends on whether your instrument has bridge pins. If your instrument does, then I recommend these. And if it doesn’t, then I recommend these. Let me know if you have further questions!

Alan Velázquezsays:

Hi Harrison

I already play guitar and i’m planing to purchase a the Ibanez piccolo guitar (wich si basically a guitalele with metal strings and pins on the bridge). I want this instrument in particular cause i want to play with a high e tunning and this piccolo guitar seems strong enough for that purpose.

Do you think it will work with aquila high e set?
If not, what guitalele do you recomend ?

Hey Alan!

Thanks for writing in. I probably wouldn’t try to use a high E set from Aquila on a piccolo because a piccolo is designed to have steel strings, not nylgut strings. If you’re planning on tuning to high E on your piccolo, I’d use either Elixir super lights (electric strings) or Elixir extra lights (acoustic strings). Although these strings are technically designed for standard guitars, they have similar gauges to the strings that come on a mando-guitar which has a standard tuning of high E (one octave higher than standard guitar tuning). Thus, they can work for high E tuning. In fact, I currently have my mando-guitar (with high E tuning) strung with super light electric Elixir strings. These are closest in gauge to the gauge of its factory strings. However, they don’t quite resonate as well as I’d like because they are electric strings. Next time, I re-string my mando-guitar, I plan on using extra light acoustic elixir strings which should resonate better on an acoustic instrument and have the equivalent of a medium gauge string for my mando-guitar. In short, my string recommendations for a mando-guitar and a piccolo with high E tuning are the same.

Alan Velázquezsays:

Thanks for your reply, since a haven’t purchased the piccolo guitar yet, i’m open to the idea of buying a nylgut string guitalele (i also prefer the sound of nylgut strings)

What guitalele model or brand do you recomend for high e tunning ?

No problem! I own this exact guitalele and I really like it. But if you want to use high E tuning with Aquila’s strings that aren’t ball-end, you might consider this guitalele which doesn’t have bridge pins.

Uke addict!says:

I just purchased a used 55cm (21.75 inch) acoustic guitar and am wondering if it is possible to tune the nylon string guitar to the ADGCEa tuning? I know that I do not want to try going that high with the strings that are currently on the guitar. What strings would you use so as to not create too much tension on the guitar neck? I do not want to ruin the guitar, but I want the guilele sound and chord fingerings because I play uke most of the time.

Hi there!

It’s definitely possible. What you’re looking for is requinto guitar strings since requinto guitars are smaller, nylgut-stringed instruments tuned from A to A in the size range that your instrument seems to be in. So the question is, does your instrument have bridge pins or not? If it doesn’t, then these strings should work. If it does, then unfortunately I don’t know of any ball-end requinto guitar strings. However, you can still use tie-end strings with bridge pins. You may just need to watch a few YouTube tutorials on how to make them work with bridge pins.

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