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Thread: Geared tuner or Friction Tuner?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Bremerton, WA

    Default Geared tuner or Friction Tuner?

    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.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Manteno, Illinois


    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.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Moku Manu, Hawai'i


    On my Mainland pineapple I got gold geared with mother of pearl buttons... SO purdy.
    Illegitimus Non Carborundum

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    ʻO ʻoe nō ka Mea kiʻekiʻe loa ma luna o ka honua a pau.
    Nā Halelū 83:18

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Aloha, OR


    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...
    The PoHo Store

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  5. #5


    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.
    Last edited by strum4ever; 06-26-2009 at 10:01 PM. Reason: grammer

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2008


    I always go with geared when an option. Friction are very sensitive and require a lot more tweaking to get in tune.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by jkevinwolfe View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by bbycrts
    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).

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    North Florida


    Real men use friction! Maybe it's because we are just sensitive fellows in touch with our feminist side.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Collingwood, ON Canada


    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 for details.
    “Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum, et tertium non datur. To err is human; to persevere in error is diabolical; there is no third option.”
    Seneca the Younger
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2009
    South Florida


    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.

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