Selecting a string set is purely subjective and a matter of personal preference. Keep in mind the set you totally rave about may not work for others. Consider factors such as build and tonewood combinations as well as tone, feel and playability. As your skill develops, you’ll probably change your string preference to a certain brand. So, in order for you to better choose the strings suit you, let’s first understand some basics about uke strings.
When comparing different string packages, there are 3 key things you should consider:
As you probably already know, most ukuleles fall into one of four sizes—Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone. Each size has a different scale length and string tension requirements. (The scale length is the distance from the nut to the bridge.) It’s therefore important to choose a set intended for your type of ukulele.
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.
Ukulele strings can be made from a number of different material, while the most common seen being nylon, there are a few different alternatives worth mentioning.
Nylon: Because string makers use various types of nylon polymers, sound can vary from brand to brand. The least expensive nylon strings are produced through extrusion—a process where nylon monofilament is created by pushing the molten polymer through holes of specific diameters. More costly strings are also extruded, but are then ground to produce a more consistent diameter. Ground strings tend to have a slightly more textured feel.
Nylon is not affected by humidity, but temperature shifts can require you to retune. Also, all nylon strings tend to stretch more when new and take some time to “settle down.” Before attempting to adjust the intonation or fine tune your uke, it’s a good idea to give new strings some stretching time.
Fluorocarbon: This polymer, originally developed for use in fishing line offers a slightly brighter sound than nylon and is less affected by temperature changes. All types of nylon and fluorocarbon strings can be safely cut to length.
Titanium: This monofilament material offers strength, durability, and a somewhat brighter tone than nylon with more projection and volume.
Wound nylon strings: 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: 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.
Note that cutting wound strings to length may ruin them if the wrap material starts to separate from the core.
Steel Strings: For the most part it’s not a good idea to attempt to string a uke with steel strings since the additional tension they exert on the top, bridge, and neck of the instrument will likely damage it. Besides, steel strings won’t produce the classic sound of a uke. There are a few instruments such as banjoleles, guitar/uke, and dobro/uke hybrids designed for steel strings. If you’re unsure about choosing replacement strings for such instruments, consult with the manufacturer.
As you probably know, the two standard ukulele tunings are:
- Low G – (GCEA in ascending order)
- High G – (gCEA with the G-string tuned 1 octave up)
And string packages for these tunings can be found in all 4 ukulele sizes. With baritone though, it’s much more common to use a DGBE string set.
With sopranos, you sometimes find string sets tuned ADF#B, also known as “d-tuning”.
You also occasionally come across specialty sets of strings either for alternate tunings, or labelled as “high tension“. Avoid these unless you are looking for them specifically.
COOL FACT: Whenever a tuning does NOT follow an ascending/descending pattern (such as with high G), it is known as a “re-entrant tuning“.
Now, let’s take a deeper look at the 7 most popular uke strings on the market.
These Italian-made strings are a favorite brand for Ukulele players, and you’ll find that they offer a wide variety of strings.
One of their signature features is the nylgut, which is a synthetic material, that is used to make the strings. It combines the strengths of nylon and gut strings, which a natural fiber that is found in the walls of animal intestines.
The sound is much better than traditional nylon or PVDF strings that give a sweet, warm tone as you play. They absorb less moisture than other types of strings, adding improved intonation and accuracy as you play.
This D’Addario EJ87B Titanium set is made from dense monofilament material, giving it a very smooth feel and cool-looking translucent purple hue. They have a very nice tone with more volume and clarity. As you might have guessed from the name of this model, these strings are for baritone and optimized for DGBE tuning.
A great thing about packaging of this set is that the strings are color coded so if you are a newbie you will not mix up anything and have an easy first go at stringing. Or maybe you are like me and even with codes and instruction you somehow manage to screw it up but hey, there is always the one and only saviour – youtube, to help you fix the mess you created. Overall, this is an affordable and nice quality option for any beginner. Although, keep in mind, I have heard from some users that even though this set sound great when plucking, it is not as amazing when strumming.
These titanium strings are specially made for soprano ukuleles. A polished finish and smooth feel make this set a desirable option. Players who want high projection and enhanced brightness of sound should go for EJ87S. D’Addario Titanium Ukulele strings are crafted from a dense monofilament material that has an attractive, translucent purple hue and a polished, smooth feel similar to nylon.
This model is made in the USA under a proper quality control check to ensure that players get the best quality possible at a competitive rate. Also, it offers a bright sound and perfect intonation. Lastly, the strings comprise high-grade titanium, and they deliver a warm tone.
The Aquila Red Series uses a unique variety of nylon developed in-house to achieve a clear sound and to offer a unique player experience. The four strings have a certain texture to them, that is well appreciated by most players and is an element of distinction from other brands.
The diameter of the strings is roughly equal, so that the player gets a similar feel from each one, while the tonal range is given by the differences in material density.
To be used with a high G soprano, they are intended to give a brighter tone than other strings, as well as a higher volume, which many customer reviewers enthusiastically noted to be the case.
Check out this beautiful and sturdy set of acoustic strings made for baritone ukulele. These are made of good quality nylon that ensures exceptionally high longevity. If you want to enjoy a good quality sound, mellow tone, and high projection, these will serve your needs the best.
The Martin strings are available at a very competitive price, and you would love their amplified and rich tone. The set offers highly responsiveness performance in addition to phenomenal intonation. Players of all levels including beginners, intermediate and pro, would love its sound quality. The best thing is, these are accessible at a very low price.
GHS has went a step further with their ukulele strings and decided to break away from the generic mould that other brands have set. They do not come coated in the common translucent or metal material that seems to be prevalent on the market; instead they decided to go with a unique, black coating that can fit the fantasies of many people who were wishing for a break in the mould!
The ukulele strings will fit best for someone who also has black tuners and would prefer to compliment them with the same color to bring out some character with their instrument. They are best for both a standard and concert ukulele and remain as versatile as ever; many people praise them for not only looking good, but sounding just as good as they look.
This set of 4 primarily nylon strings from La Bella are specifically intended to be used with a banjolele, which is a hybrid instrument intended to sound close to a banjo. To properly hit the lower notes, the high G string is encased in a very thin wrapping of aluminum, which is considered to be the best solution to for this range of sound.
Wounded strings can be a little more fickle than regular ones, as the wounding can unravel if the ends aren’t tied properly by the player, or their manufacturing isn’t up to par. This doesn’t seem to be a problem with the La Bella 13, as users report they hold up particularly well.