~Monday 16th of July 2018~

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Viva La Ukulele

UkuGuides offers you tons of guides and resources to learn playing the ukulele, how to take care of your beloved instrument and much more. Some guides are directed to newer ukulele players, while others are for advanced players. At the top you can find maintenance guides. After that we go to the moment before your first ukulele (green booklets) until you are an advanced ukulele player (orange booklets). At the end you can find some more theoretical guides. UkuGuides is constantly being updated and new guides are added frequently. Can't find the answer you were looking for? Request a guide by clicking here!

  • Types of ukulele strings
  • String materials
  • Which strings to choose
  • Different ukulele types

Buying the Right Ukulele Strings

Request by Francis: I’ve just bought a new ukulele and am looking for ukulele strings. Are they different types? What should I look for?

Without strings you can’t play your ukulele (of course), and without good strings, you will never get the full acoustic potential of your wonderful ukulele. Most low-budget ukulele will have very cheap strings on them, not better than plastic. For only a tiny investment, you can already get a new set of high quality strings. This will greatly improve the sound of your ukulele.

Different sizes for different uke’s

As explained in the ukulele buying guide ukulele’s come in different sizes, mainly four types: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. Every size has a different scale (distance from bridge to nut) length and different tension requirements. Hence, not every set of ukulele strings will fit on every type of ukulele. What follows is an overview of the different ukulele types along with their typical characteristics.

TypeScale lengthOverall lengthTuning
Soprano13″21″G-C-E-A
Concert15″23″G-C-E-A
Tenor17″26″G-C-E-A
Baritone19″30″D-G-B-E

In most cases, the scale length and/or overall length will be mentioned on the package of the set of strings. If not, it should at least mention the ukulele type.

Different types of ukulele strings

The vast majority of ukulele strings are made out of nylon polymers. These are the type of strings that offer that typical ukulele sound. There are however some very interesting alternatives. What follows is an overview of these different types.

Nylon

stringsnylon

Like mentioned before, these are the most used types of strings. There however a lot of different types of nylon polymers which result in different sounds. This makes that the sound can vary from brand to brand. Low-budget strings are produced through extrusion, i.e. pushing molten nylon polymer through holes with specific diameters. The same process is used for more expensive strings, but after the extrusion they are ground to produce a more consistent diameter.

Nylon will stretch over time, so you might need to retune your ukulele. It is not effected by humidity, put temperature changes can cause the strings to stretch more or less. The most known brands for providing quality nylon ukulele strings are Aquila (of course) and D’Addario. They offer good stability, durability and a warm traditional ukulele sound.

Fluorocarbon

stringsfluorocarbon

This material, also a polymer, is traditionally used as a fishing line. It provides a brighter sound than nylon and is perfect if your play your ukulele a lot outside the house where temperature changes a lot, because this type of string is less affected by it.

Titanium

stringstitanium

This monofilament material offers strength, durability, and a somewhat brighter tone (similar to fluorocarbon) than nylon with more projection and volume.

Wound nylon strings

stringsmetalwoundnylon

These have a nylon core that is wrapped with a polymer winding material and are usually found in sets intended for tenor and baritone ukuleles as the two lower strings. Some players find the finger squeaks that these string may produce objectionable.

Wound metal strings

stringsmetalwoundmetal

These are typically used on lower notes and larger ukuleles. The most common winding materials are copper or aluminum. They too can sound a little squeaky.

Steel strings

Very rarely steel strings are used on an instrument and unless your instrument is specifically constructed for steel strings (such as banjoleles, guitar/uke hybrid and dobro/uke hybrid), it is not a good idea to use these as the tension they exert on the top, bridge and neck of the instrument will likely damage it.

Which strings to choose?

There’s no one correct answer. The same set of strings on two different ukulele’s can sound completely different. Try to find the right set to match your instrument and playing style. Luckily ukulele strings are not that expensive (even the highest quality ones), so you have the ability to try different types of strings and different brands. I personally prefer the traditional Aquila ukulele string series (not sponsored!), but it’s completely up to you.

Credit: Main structure based on MusciciansFriend guide “How to choose the right strings for your ukulele“.

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