Determining the type of ukulele strings can make a huge difference in how you play and the sound you are trying to achieve. What really blows is that the strings that come on your ukulele when you buy them are actually pretty horrible. You will want to replace them as soon as possible. Here is your guide to learning about ukulele strings.
There are different types of ukuleles, therefore there are also different strings. Each size and tuning will require specific strings. A baritone ukulele will have a longer scale length (distance from nut to bridge) than a soprano ukulele, which require specific string tension requirements.
Below is our quick guide to finding the right ukulele string length for your uke.
G3-C4-E4-A4, G4-C4-E4-A4, A4-D4-F#4-B4, D4-G3-B3-E4
G4-C4-E4-A4, A4-D4-F#4-B4 or G3-C4-E4-A4
G4-C4-E4-A4 or A4-D4-F#4-B4
What type of tuning should I go for?
There are two types of tuning reentrant and linear tuning. Reentrant tuning is where the strings are not ordered from the lowest to highest pitch, like what you would see on most guitars. Essentially, there is a break in the order of the string pitches. You'll see reentrant tuning most commonly in soprano and concert ukuleles.
When using linear tuning, the G string is tuned down an octave. This creates a bigger tonal range. Linear tuning sounds similar to how a guitar is tuned.
What material should I look for?
Of course, there are tons of options to choose from when looking into different ukulele strings. Each material creates it's own unique tone. Most are made from a nylon material, but we'll cover all of the common string material so you know what's out there.
What are nylon strings?
The sound of nylon polymers can vary from brand to brand. An interesting fact about nylon is that humidity won't change the tuning of your ukulele, but temperature changes will. Nylon will stretch quite a bit and require you to re-tune. After awhile, the nylon will stop stretching and stay constant. Make sure to plan for some built in stretching time with nylon strings.
What are steel strings?
Steel strings are commonly used on banjoleles, guitars, and uke hybrids. I wouldn't recommend steel strings on your classic uke. This is because steel strings create additional tension which will likely damage your instrument. Plus you'll get a different sound from steel strings that isn't common with ukuleles.
What are wound metal strings?
You'll find wound metal strings on bigger ukuleles like the baritone uke. These strings create lower notes, which is why they work best on big daddy ukuleles. Copper and aluminum are common materials used. I find wound metal strings create a squeaky sound, which I don't particularly enjoy.
What are wound nylon strings?
Wound nylon strings are similar to the wound metal strings, but made out of nylon. Makes sense, right? Wound nylon strings are commonly found on tenor and baritone lower strings. Again, these bring the squeakiness.
What are titanium strings?
Titanium strings are an alternative to nylon strings. This material is very strong and durable. What I like about titanium strings is they can be really loud. Titanium ukulele strings are great if you need to project.
What are fluorocarbon strings?
Fluorocarbon is a polymer material that is a great alternative to nylon ukulele strings. The material was originally used for fishing lines, but works great on ukuleles. I like that you get a brighter sound from fluorocarbon and it's not affected by the temperature changes as much as nylon.
Fluorocarbon and nylon strings are easy to cut to length. You need to be careful when cutting wound ukulele strings. If you cut wound strings to length, they can start to unwrap. The material will begin to separate from the core and then your strings are toast.
What ukulele strings should I buy?
Of course, we can't give a cut and dry answer. The type of ukulele strings you use depend on your size and type of ukulele, also what works best for you. I prefer nylon and fluorocarbon strings, but Joe Schmoe down the road may prefer wound strings. It's all about experimenting and figuring out what works best for you and your uke!
Watch this video to learn how to string a ukulele. Hawaii Music Supply shows you how to remove the current strings on your ukulele and replace with new ones. This video is great because it shows you all the intricate details to string a ukulele.