View Full Version : Geared tuner or Friction Tuner?

06-26-2009, 08:25 PM
I was wondering which one would you guys recommened because I want to buy a Mainland Mahogany Concert Ukulele and it gave me the option of Friction or Geared tuner. I just want to know which is better.


06-26-2009, 08:35 PM
Welcome to UU.

First, let me say that I am no expert. That being said, I don't think one type of tuner is "better" than the other. However, if you are a beginner (or even professional), geared tuners are said to be easier to deal with. They tend to be more precise, easier to get into and hold tune, and they are less sensitive. Friction tuners, on the other hand, are more traditional on the ukulele, but can be a pain to work with. Overall, it's a matter of personal preference. Although, if you want my advice, you will have a lot less stress opting for the geared tuners.

Ahnko Honu
06-26-2009, 09:08 PM
On my Mainland pineapple I got gold geared with mother of pearl buttons... SO purdy. :love:

06-26-2009, 09:13 PM
With friction tuners, the post for the string is directly connected to the tuning peg - so it's a 1:1 ratio. It doesn't take much turning at all to adjust the tuning on an ukulele, so it can be trick to twist the peg just a tiny bit, which is why it's challenging for a beginner. Personally, I really dislike friction tuners...

Geared tuners connect the peg to the post via a gear - in most cases at a 14:1 ratio, meaning it takes 14 turns of the knob to equal one turn of the string post. This gives you a lot of precision when tuning, and the gears often (but not always) make things run a bit smoother. On the other hand, changing strings can be a real pain, because you have to turn, turn, turn the peg to wind the string on - you can buy string winders, sure, but friction tuners are a lot quicker to string up.

It all comes down to personal preference - I don't like friction and do like geared - but the next guy down the line may turn his nose up at the gears...

06-26-2009, 10:00 PM
Yeah, geared tuners make life much easier, personally I prefer friction tuners on my sopranos, I like the look and it's a tradition.

Island_Uke, if your looking for user friendly tuners the geared ones would be your best choice for your Mainland concert.

06-26-2009, 11:50 PM
I always go with geared when an option. Friction are very sensitive and require a lot more tweaking to get in tune.

06-27-2009, 12:00 AM
I always go with geared when an option

I go one step ahead... If geared tuners are no option that ukulele is not meant to be mine.

On the other hand, changing strings can be a real pain, because you have to turn, turn, turn the peg to wind the string on

Yep. One point against geared tuners.
But consider this: I tune a uke maybe once a week. And I change strings once every few years.

And actually I even prefer the look of geared tuners (I guess that's because I play guitar for much longer, and this is how I am used for a head to look like).

06-27-2009, 12:30 AM
Real men use friction! Maybe it's because we are just sensitive fellows in touch with our feminist side.:smileybounce:

06-27-2009, 01:51 AM
Friction tuners are authentic in the quaint, old fashioned sort of way an ice box is more authentic than a refrigerator. Or a wax recording is more authentic than a digital CD. Or a Model T is more authentic than a Smart Car. Or Al Jolson is more authentic than Jason Mrazz. Or bleeding as a medical treatment is more authentic than antibiotics.

Not better, mind you, just older. But old fashioned does not convey better or more efficient.

Friction tuners are what most stringed instruments started with, so some people believe that's what you should still use on ukuleles. Few, if any, guitar players would agree, even though that's what guitars began with, too. It's like saying all cars should still have a hand crank on the front of every engine because that's what cars started with. But ukuleles, like cars and humans, have all evolved from their primeval state.

Friction tuner aficionados are the creationists of the ukiverse. Geared tuner fans are the Darwinians. As a modernist and pro-science guy, I am stoutly in the Darwinian geared-tuner camp, myself.

Geared tuners offer two main advantages aside from being more modern:
They slip less.
They can tune strings a very small amount, so are easier to use and more efficient.

But don't leave out the fashion aspect. Friction tuners seem to come in white, off white, eggshell, ivory and cream colours. Geared tuners come in red, black, green, blue, amber, silver, bone, gold, ivory, rosewood, yellow, ebony, mother or pearl, chrome, clear, anodized, brass, cream, and probably several other colours and materials I have yet to discover.

When re-stringing a uke (or guitar), a $2 string winder can make geared tuners turn very quickly. There is no similar accessory for friction tuners.

ALL tuners require periodic maintenance. Cleaning and oiling - even sealed gears and friction tuners. See Tune Up Your Gears (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPAGES/Musician/GenMaint/Gears/GearTune/geartune1.html) for details.

06-27-2009, 02:01 AM
Geared tuners are easier to use, but after a few days of using friction tuners, they're no big deal to adapt to. I've got both geared and friction tuners in my uke collection, and they all work great.

Frankly, I'd go with whatever tuning mechanism looks the coolest on that particular uke. :cool:

Ukulele JJ
06-27-2009, 03:18 AM
Coming from a guitar background, I figured I'd have a hard time with the friction tuners that came on my Flea.

I didn't.


06-27-2009, 03:43 AM
Personally, it comes down to an aesthetic choice. They both work fine.

Friction starts with an iota of difficulty in developing a "touch" since it requires a little bit of finesse, but it's really not a big deal. The main ukes I play almost daily are friction. It's just not an issue. It's no more difficult than learning how to switch between chords without dropping the neck or playing standing up. It's part of the experience.

I've got ukes with both and I honestly don't think about it either way. I tune and play.

06-27-2009, 03:54 AM
Some folks will peer down their noses at geared tuners or ukes with "ears" on the headstock. I don't. I consider geared vs. friction to be a matter of personal preference.

Ahnko Honu
06-27-2009, 10:26 AM
Majority of my 'ukuleles have friction tuners, and they work fine for me though I'm fine with both types. Those wooden violin pegs, now those are a PITA.

06-27-2009, 10:53 AM
I have both, but I vote for geared tuners. I don't like tuners slipping and the need for tightening them to a certain point and no further in order to tune a uke and keep it there... then, there are ukuleles with tuners so close together than they become hard to tune when you have long fingers like mine.

Geared are better... for me. Yes, I have played guitar for over forty years, but I've played uke longer.

06-27-2009, 11:39 AM
I have both on different ukes. My first uke had friction tuners and it did take some time to get used to, but not having ever tried anything else I didn't know the difference. So if you have not been exposed to geared it might be good to learn with friction tuners.

That said if you can tune a uke with friction tuners you can tune anything. (Except maybe the wooden violin tuners)

06-27-2009, 11:47 AM
Geared tuners make it easier to tune, but they are heavy and can make the uke hard to hold as it will weight down the neck. Friction tuners are harder to tune but are usually much lighter and make the uke easier to hold. Good friciton tuners aren't that bad but even a cheap geared tuner is easier to tune than an expensive friction. It's really your preference. If you are the type that always play with a strap I can't imagine why you would get a fricton tuner. (Almost all of my ukes are friction)

Ahnko Honu
06-27-2009, 11:48 AM
That said if you can tune a uke with friction tuners you can tune anything. (Except maybe the wooden violin tuners)

You can't tuna fish... ;)


Russ Sonny Kemner
06-28-2009, 03:00 PM
I prefer tapered violin tuning pegs. They have been in use since the 14th century, add balance to the ukulele head, and also in my opinion, look really cool.

for lack of a better analogy: Ukin' and fishin'

friction tuners = cane pole

geared tuners = Zebco 303

violin tuners = mastering the art of fly fishing.