Slack Key Ukulele

The term “slack key ukulele” may be new to you. Usually we use slack key to talk about guitar. And it simply refers to the slackening of the guitar’s strings, or its tuning. Slack key guitar offers different tunings to create new colors, different sounds, and to make it easier to play with others. But slack key ukulele? That’s not as common.

Nonetheless, you can bring the inspiration of slack-key guitar to the ukulele. There are many new tunings that work well. Check out the improvisation in the video above, for instance. Here Jeff uses a GCEG tuning on a tenor ukulele. You may notice that Jeff uses a lot of open strings to create beautiful overlapping harmonies and sounds. That’s one thing these open tunings can open up to you. But what else is possible?

New Ukulele Tunings?

In this great interview with Ukulele Magazine, Jeff talks about the different slack key tunings he uses for ukulele:

How has your guitar playing affected or informed your ukulele playing and teaching?

Having a background playing different styles of music on the guitar has helped me develop arrangements and learning resources for the ukulele that are based on my experience playing slack key, rock, jazz, and classical music.

I have been fortunate to study with many great teachers and have found that so much of what I have learned on the guitar applies beautifully to the ukulele. I have also been able to arrange of lot of my slack key guitar compositions for the ukulele using the GCEA tuning and many variations of slack key tunings, including GCEG, GCDB, FCFA, GCEbG, and ACDA—all variations on the low-G tuning. I have been able to apply concepts of theory from the classical and jazz traditions along with various techniques from guitar playing that can be used together with traditional techniques of strumming and fingerstyle playing on the ukulele. I have also been able to draw on music from the classical repertoire for ukulele arrangements.

What is really quite amazing is how fluent Jeff is at moving in and out of these different tunings. For you guitarists out there, if you’ve ever played in Drop D, or DADGAD, you know how difficult it can be to think on the fly about what notes belong where. It really takes time to adjust for a lot of people.

But now imagine seamlessly moving from one to another and another AND another tuning. It’s like magic. But this is exactly what Jeff is able to do. In the hands of someone like Jeff you can really start to see that slack key is like a multilinguist who is fluent in many different languages. And it’s remarkable to behold.


So we hope you enjoy this improvisation from Jeff on “slack key ukulele”! At Ukulele Corner Academy you can study with Jeff and learn many different styles of ukulele, including classical, Hawaiian, pop, jazz, and blues. Join Ukulele Corner Academy today!