Friday, February 8, 2013

Ukulele Tuners: friction vs. geared

One of the ongoing debates among ukulele enthusiasts is what style of tuning machines are best.  And to be quite honest, this argument can get downright silly.  There are ukulele "purists" who will never come to the dark side of geared tuners...and the other side of the coin...players that love their geared tuners and are too stubborn or afraid to ever consider friction tuners.

This seems ridiculous to me.  I mean, they both do the same thing!  Here's the basic breakdown of the pros and cons with each style.


Pros - They tune the strings at a lesser ratio per rotation.  This makes them easier to tune and helps them stay in tune.

Cons - Restringing your uke takes way more time with these tuners and is far more annoying.  Geared tuners also weigh more, which affects the balance of your instrument (this is especially evident on soprano ukuleles).  Another con commonly pointed out about geared tuners is their appearance.  Some folks think that they just look plain ugly (they stick out of the sides of the headstock).  I can't say that this is something that bothers me, but it seems to greatly bother some of us. 


Pros - They are very lightweight and give your uke a nice balance.  They "hide" themselves behind the headstock...if you're concerned about that.  Since the ratio is just 1:1, restringing is a breeze.

Cons - Your tuning will slip a little bit more with friction tuners, so you'll have to re-tune more often.  It's harder to tune with friction tuning machines...takes a little practice and some patience.

That's the basic pros and cons of each.  As you can see, the pros of geared tuners are the cons of friction tuners and vice versa, so pick your poison.  Coming from a guitar playing background, the geared tuners made the most since to me at first, but after acquiring a couple ukes with friction tuners, I can honestly say that I have no preference.  As long as you have quality tuners on your ukulele, it really doesn't matter.  Just tune that thing up and get to playing!

But...let the debate continue!  Tell us which style you prefer and why!


  1. For me, good frictions don't slip - it's all down to the quality. Top end ones are smooth as butter.

    I simply prefer frictions on sopranos and concerts as I think they look better.

    1. I have ukes with geared and ukes with friction and above all, you're absolutely right! As long as the quality is good, you shouldn't have any issues.

      By the way, thanks so much for your awesome offerings on! I really enjoy reading through your site and it's been a good resource for info for this blog! Of course, I always give you credit and point people towards your blog when I borrow content. :)

  2. I've only recently been bitten my the ukulele bug... at 52, I guess I'm a bit of a late bloomer... but so far the only experiences I've had are 1) the Makala soprano uke I bought at Sam Ash with geared tuners (love it!) an older Harmony baritone on display with friction tuners (the 3rd tuner wouldn't hold at all, and the salesman all the way back in the acoustic room didn't have a flat-head screwdriver to tighten it) and an older Airline I got on ebay with friction tuners. I can get it in tune, I have a flat-head screwdriver to tighten the tuners, but after 5 minutes, it's already out of tune. Maybe that's why someone was letting it go on ebay, but until I come across a set of good friction tuners, I'm gonna stick with my geared tuners!

  3. Very informative post on Ukulele Tuners. Thanks for sharing. .

  4. Hy!I saw your ads you are offering best classical ukulele tuning pegs I really ipresed but collection is handmade tuners with guaranteed long life.