The concert ukulele is a unique instrument, especially for the beginning player. It is an open-backed nylon string guitar that looks much like a classical ukulele, but is shorter and has only one fret. Many people think it is a bass guitar, since the strings run the entire length of the guitar body. This is not true, though, as the strings are arranged in columns to produce a different sound.
There are two tuning methods that are commonly used with a concert ukulele. The tuning methods are generally classified by how they operate on the neck. They are called parallel tuning and drop-bend tuning. With parallel tuning, the strings run parallel to each other on the neck. This produces a smooth tone, which requires fewer frets to tune.
Drop-bend tuning involves the strings being tuned to the note they are nearest to. Most concert ukuleles are equipped with a fifth string that can be dropped to the third string for a nice "twangy" sound. The ukulele sizes that are available are based on the length of the neck. There are three sizes to choose from: small, medium, and large.
The Concert Soprano Ukulele Scale is the most common one used for beginners. This scale, or "common" scale, contains just five notes. It begins on the sixth string, the note for the lowest note in the scale. It goes up three frets to the second fret, where it is again topped off. That's six frets to the next level, and so on.
Another tuning technique used in a ukulele is gcea tuning. The gcea or "open" tuning, as it is sometimes called, is a tunings similar to a standard tuning. The gcea starts on the sixth string and goes up three frets to the third fret. While not as deep as the regular tuning, it's still deep enough to produce a rich, warm sound. Most ukuleles that are made today come with an open tuning facility. This is great for those who are looking for a more complex sound.
Double dipping is another way to change the sound of a ukulele. Double dipping refers to tuning your ukulele to an E chord, which is the standard guitar tuning for an acoustic stringed instrument. While it will add depth to your sound, it can also change the pitch of the instrument strings which can lead to problems with high notes.
For the intermediate and advanced ukulele player there are two more techniques you can use. The first is known as the flatpicking approach, which involves placing the ukulele strings very close to the guitar neck. The advantage of this technique is that the strings may be tuned using all seven strings at the same time. Although not recommended for a beginner, if you use this technique you'll find that it adds a lot of variety to your repertoire. The second technique involves using nylon strings and striking the strings with your thumb rather than fingers.
Finally, if you are a new player and have never played a concert uke before it might help to familiarize yourself with the length of each string. The length of a string goes from the short (first string) to the longer (sixth string). Although it might be easier to view the length of each string by holding a chord in each position, it is actually easier to sight the strings by looking across the bridge of the guitar from the bridge to the bottom of the fret. So for example if the string is an E, you would look down on the bridge at the sixth string and figure the distance between the sixth string and the bridge as six inches.