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The ukulele is a fun and fairly easy instrument to play. Originating from Hawaii, since it was first made in the 19th century, it quickly became much more than a traditional instrument.
Nowadays, many famous musicians choose to integrate the uke in their songs. This instrument has also become a popular choice for people getting into music, as it’s a pretty easy instrument to get a hold of.
As with guitars, you will need new strings for your uke from time to time. However, finding the right ones can be hard, especially with all the different types on the market. What strings are on a ukulele? What are the best uke strings?
That’s why we’ve decided to help you with choosing the right ones. Sit back, relax, as we step into the world of the best strings for ukulele you can buy!
First things first
Before we start talking about different types of strings, it’s important to note that varying ukulele types require different strings.
As every uke type has a different scale length, the main difference between string types is just that – the length.
Let’s take a look at the most common ukulele sizes:
- Soprano (Standard) – This is the most common uke size. The body measures 21 inches, and the scale is 13 inches long. These ukes are tuned in GCEA or ADF#B. These offer a bright sound, so coupling them with suitable strings definitely have an impact on the sound they provide.
- Concert – A bit bigger, 23-inch body and 15-inch Sounds a bit deeper, and can get louder than the soprano. The sound you get is pretty similar, so the same thing goes for the strings. Tuning – GCEA or ADF#B
- Tenor – Featuring a 26-inch body and 17-inch scale makes this uke a great option for anyone with slightly larger hands. As far as sound goes, the larger body can resonate more, thus the sound is noticeably deeper and more resonant. These are most commonly tuned in GCEA, ADF#B or DGBE
- Baritone – This one is the largest of the bunch. A 30-inch body and 19-inch scale give the baritone uke the looks and sound of an acoustic guitar. Capable of delivering even more low end than the tenor, it’s a great addition to an acoustic band. The most common tuning would be DGBE
It goes without saying that you should know exactly which of the mentioned uke types you have, in order to get the appropriate strings.
What are ukulele strings made of?
Chances are that the strings your uke came with are nylon. Are all ukulele strings nylon?
While it is the most common string type, there are a couple more different ones, varying in material of choice, to the method chosen for wounding them.
When it comes to materials, there are a few options. Let’s take a look at this quick ukulele strings comparison.
Gut strings were the first ones to appear alongside acoustic instruments. As the name suggests, they are made of the guts of different animals.
The advantages of gut strings
- Musicians prefer this material as it offers a more rich and complex sound than nylon or titanium.
- They also feel very different under the fingers, and tend to slide better.
- Gut strings don’t last as long as plastic or metal ones
- They tend to be pretty expensive.
As you’ll see, companies like Aquila have managed to imitate the sound gut strings offer to a certain extent by treating the plastic in a special manner.
Nylon ukulele strings can be made from various types of different nylon polymers. This means that it’s not unusual for strings coming from various companies to sound a bit different.
The cheapest nylon strings are made in a process called extrusion. A nylon filament is made by pushing molten nylon polymer through holes varying in size.
By doing that, you get strings varying in thickness, which ultimately produce different tones.
Good ukulele strings, and a bit more expensive ones, are also made by extruding the nylon polymer, but are then ground precisely in order to get a precise diameter.
These strings also provide a bit more of a textured feel as well, which some musicians like, while others dislike.
The advantages of nylon strings
- They won’t wear your fingers out as much as other types.
- The sound you get can be described as warm, while still being pretty clear and snappy.
- As nylon isn’t affected by humidity, the strings won’t degrade as fast as for example, steel ones
- Nylon strings are affected by temperature shifts. This means that they will stretch and contract when exposed to warmer/ colder air. Have this in mind as your uke can get out of tune pretty easily if you take it outside, or even inside, like when you open your windows or turn on the AC.
One more important thing you should note is that new strings need more time to settle down.
Changing your strings before a show is a good idea as you will get a more clear and better sounding tone.
However, give the strings some time to settle down and fully stretch, as they won’t stay in tune for long.
Another easy way to get around this problem is to stretch them a bit more than the tuning you’re using.
By doing this, you’re minimizing the possibility of your uke getting out of tune in the middle of your performance.
Fluorocarbon (plastic) strings
Fluorocarbon or plastic ukulele strings are an alternative to nylon ones, which many musicians prefer.
The sound they produce is very similar to nylon ones, and they don’t stress out your fingers too much.
- The main advantage of fluorocarbon strings is that they tend to be less affected by temperature changes than nylon ones.
- Another great thing about this type of strings is that both they and nylon ones can easily be cut to the desired
So even if you accidentally buy longer strings, you can cut them to size with a pair of scissors. Just pay attention to the tuning they’re meant for.
Titanium strings are much more durable than nylon or fluorocarbon ones.
- They are also monofilament strings, but as they are made of metal, they are less likely to snap under pressure.
- The sound these strings provide is a bit brighter and louder. If you’re looking for a way to get more volume and projection from your uke, these should do the job just fine.
Steel ukulele strings are not that common for ukes as they are for acoustic guitars.
- The tension that’s applied on both the bridge and the body of the instrument when using this type of strings can lead to the uke being damaged.
Steel strings are most commonly used in hybrid instruments, such as guitar/ukulele or banjoleles, so if you’re not really that familiar with your ukulele, it’s best not to use steel strings.
Wound nylon strings
Wound nylon strings consist of two parts. An inner core that is made of nylon is wrapped with a polymer-made winding material.
- This type of strings is usually used for baritone or tenor ukes, as the two lower strings. They provide a somewhat deeper sound, which is a personal preference.
- The only downside of wound nylon strings would be the squeaky sound your fingers make when fretting these strings.
Wound metal strings
Wound metal ukulele strings have a metal core and winding material that surrounds it.
- These are primarily intended for larger ukes and when musicians need a boost in the lower end of the frequency range.
- Like wound nylon strings, these can also be a bit squeaky.
- Unlike nylon or fluorocarbon strings, cutting wound strings to the desired length can ruin them, as the wrapping material can start to unwrap.
So, what are the best ukulele strings for me? Well, it depends.
The main factor should be the sound you want your uke to have. Durability and overall performance can be more important than sound if you’re on a slightly tighter budget.
As we’ve just mentioned, a baritone or tenor uke can sound much better with wound strings, as they provide that needed bass.
The last and very important thing to have in mind when buying new ukulele strings is the tuning you plan to play in.
We’ve already mentioned the different tuning the soprano, concert, tenor and baritone ukes use.
The most common tuning is GCEA. However, a very important thing to note that there are two versions of this tuning.
The first one is written as GCEA and is exactly that.
The second one, however, is gCEA, which means that the G string is tuned 1 octave up.
Alternate tuning or high tension sets have a story of their own and are used on special occasions.
Your best bet would be to skip them for now if you are a beginner and don’t have much experience with this instrument.
Now that we’ve covered the basic things you should know about ukulele strings, it’s time to go over some of the best ukulele strings on the market.
Best Ukulele Strings: Reviews
Starting from the smallest uke size, let’s check out the best soprano ukulele strings on the market.
Moving on to the best concert ukulele strings, let’s see what fits your uke the best.
What are the ukulele strings I should get for my tenor uke?
And finally, a ukulele strings comparison for the largest one of the bunch, the good ol’ baritone uke.
As we’ve covered pretty much all the important factors to consider when buying uke strings, what’s the conclusion? What ukulele strings should I buy?
Think about the sound you prefer, and what’s most important for you.
Is it sound? Durability? Or maybe you just want a pack of strings that feel comfortable under your fingers after hours of playing.
Whatever the case may be, going for any of the options we’ve recommended is definitely going to make a difference when compared to the stock strings on your uke that desperately need changing.
We hope that you found this article useful, thanks for reading and see you next time!
We hope that you have learned something new here and maybe even found your very own set of best ukulele strings. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away.
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Stay safe folks, and rock steady!