So you’ve bought yourself a great, well balanced, lovely sounding baritone ukulele, but want it to sound better? Or perhaps you’ve played your uke so much that you’ve finally accepted that you need a new set of strings. Either way, finding the right baritone ukulele strings can be a challenge in itself. There are several aspects to consider when looking to re-string your uke – budget, style of play, desired overall sound, and versatility – all of which can vary depending on your particular needs and wants.
Different strokes for different folks (and ukes!)
As opposed to guitars in general, ukuleles tend to come in different sizes ranging from small to large - soprano, concert, tenor and baritone – and each has a different sized scale according to its particular size. This is an important fact to remember when looking to buy new strings, bearing in mind that ukulele strings are not a 'one size fits all' in the way that guitar or bass guitar strings are.
Taking this away, it is important to know that baritone ukuleles are at the larger end of the scale, typically 19 inches. That’s a whopping 6 inches longer than the scale on a soprano uke, so don’t go thinking you can pick up any old strings in the hope that they’ll fit.
Thankfully though, at the very least the package the strings come in will mention the scale that they are for, and in most cases, the scale length and the overall length, which is always useful to know.
What are the types of strings available?
Ukulele strings are available in a vast array of sorts, typically nylon polymers, but there are also some rather unusual alternatives on offer too.
This is the most common type of string found on most ukuleles, and can be manufactured in several ways to produce different sounds. Economy strings are made simply by pushing molten nylon through holes of varying sizes, whereas higher-end nylon strings are made using the same method, but are finely ground afterwards to maintain consistency.
As per all uke sizes, these are highly suitable for the baritone scale to produce a warm sound, but are prone to stretch over time, and can be affected by temperature and humidity.
Strings made of this material are also polymer based, but have more in common with fishing line, and are therefore typically much stronger than standard nylon strings. Fluorocarbon strings are much less likely to be affected by temperature, making them suitable for warmer climates.
Usually found in sets for the two lower strings of larger scales ukes – tenor and baritone – these are essentially nylon strings tightly wrapped in a fine polymer thread. Although necessary for these larger scales due to their added strength, they do tend to produce finger squeaks during play.
Similar to wound nylon, these are metal strings finely wrapped most commonly in either aluminium or copper, and also produce finger squeak.
Being a monofilament material, these strings will suit baritone, or indeed any scale ukulele, and offer higher strength and durability. They tend to be more expensive than polymer based strings but last considerably longer.
Steel strings are generally only used for specialist ukuleles or any other instrument designed to be steel strung, and are not recommended for most ukes as they can damage the instrument due to the excessive tension required.
What are the right baritone ukulele strings for me?
Such is the beauty of music, there is no right answer to this, as everything depends on your personal preferences, and the variety of strings available means that anybody can find the perfect set that suits their style of play.
As a rule of thumb, as tempting as it might be to save some pennies by buying low-budget strings, it is always best to buy the best quality set you can afford. Not only will this be a good investment for your uke, but they will sound noticeably better and last considerably longer than cheaper varieties.
For those unsure of what strings to buy for their baritone ukulele, you can’t go far wrong with the 21U Baritone Ukulele Strings Set by Aquila, which offer a bright, sustained tone, and are lovely and smooth and natural to play. Available at around a reasonable $11, these versatile strings will stay in tune longer, and remain stable even in a humid environment.