No, I’m not asking about your favorite chromatic tuner that helps you get your ukulele to sing a perfect my dog has fleas. I’m asking about the actual tuning machines inserted into the headstock of your instrument. Maybe you prefer open or enclosed ‘ear’ style geared tuners. Or perhaps you are a traditionalist and don’t feel authentic unless your uke has friction style pegs. Then there are Peghed tuners that look like friction tuners but have gears hidden inside them.
Above is a picture of the tuners on my KoAloha KCM-00. These are friction tuners. As you can see, there is a screw head at the end of each tuner. Tightening these screws keeps the tuners from slipping. This style of tuner is considered more traditional than geared tuners like the ones below. I would say that these are my least favorite type of tuners to use. They seem to have a little ‘slop’ or spring to them when you are trying to tune the strings.
Some people call these ear style tuners because they stick out the sides of the headstock like ears sticking out the sides of your noggin 😉 This style of tuner is available in enclosed and open types. The picture above is my Pono PKC-1E. I like this style of tuner better than the friction style used on my KoAloha because they allow for more precise tuning due to the gears.
With friction tuners, the slightest twist of the tuner makes a significant change in the pitch of the string connected to it. You definitely need a light touch and a bit of practice to tune an instrument that uses friction pegs. I have found geared tuners to be significantly easier to use because of their gear ratio. With friction tuners, you have a 1 to 1 ratio. For every complete revolution of the tuning knob, the tuning post (where the string is connected) also turns a complete revolution. For geared tuners, a complete revolution of the knob may only cause the post to turn very slightly. It all depends on the gear ratio.
The Peghed tuners that you see above are the modern fusion of the traditional friction peg, with geared tuners. They look like friction pegs but have 4:1 ratio gears inside them. I’ll admit that the first time I ever saw pegheds used on a ukulele, I thought they were just cheap friction pegs. Simple rookie mistake given that they are made of light weight Black plastic. Boy, was I wrong. Now, I would have to say that I really love Pegheds. They are so smooth and easy to use. They are also very light weight, allowing the instrument to be balanced instead of top heavy.
Now it’s your turn, what style tuners do you prefer on your ukulele and why?