When you finally settle on that first ukulele after days of online research…
You think your problems are over.
That is…until you wake up one day and come to the obvious conclusion that your strings won’t last forever.
And the time will soon come (it probably already has) when you’ll need some new strings.
And with that, comes more annoying hours of online comparison shopping…
And figuring out which of the hundreds of string options are right for you.
Doesn’t sound fun does it? Trust me I know.
Which is why for today, I’ve saved you the trouble by doing the research myself and condensing it all down into a single post.
Give it a look through, and by the end, you will have found the exact strings you need…so you can finally stop reading and get back to playing.
Sounds good? Awesome.
Then let’s get started. First up…
When comparing different string packages, there are 5 key things worth considering:
And up next, we’ll talk more about each one…
As you probably already know, ukuleles come in 4 standard sizes:
But what you may not know is…so do ukulele strings.
And it can be very easy to overlook this fact and accidentally get the wrong size.
So first things first, make sure you’re getting the right size.
NOTE: While it may be possible to cut longer strings for a smaller ukulele, many wound strings will unravel if cut, and therefore, it’s just easier to make sure you buy the right size.
Ukulele strings can be made from a number of different materials…
The 3 most common ones being:
Back around 1879 when the ukulele was first invented…
All stringed instruments used gut, which was a material derived from sheep intestines.
Then suddenly around 1940, the entire string-making industry switched to nylon, not long after it was first invented.
The main reasons being: compared to gut…nylon was cheaper, produced a more consistent product, and sounded great (although not quite the same).
While some players still preferred gut for its sound, the availability of gut strings plummeted once nylon became the new standard.
In recent decades, fluorocarbon (originally invented as fishing line) has become the new preference for many of today’s players.
Compared to regular nylon, many folks say that it is louder, brighter, and less sensitive to temperature changes. Because fluorocarbon is also denser, the strings are produced at smaller gauges.
No surprise…it’s also more expensive than nylon.
As you probably know, the two standard ukulele tunings are:
And string packages for these tunings can be found in all 4 uke 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“.
Depending on the package you buy…
Some of your strings, typically the Gand/or C strings…
May have an outer winding over the inner nylon core (as shown in the picture).
Common materials used for the winding include:
But you can also find strings wrapped in nylon as well.
Whether or not you choose metal-wrapped strings is entirely a matter of personal preference.
While they can add some degree of volume and brightness, they also produce a squeaky sound from finger-slides that many people hate.
The only real way to know which you prefer is to spend time playing BOTH.
So if your current strings are all nylon, try some metal ones on your next set. And if you’re already using metal, try some without.
How important are brands when it comes to ukulele strings?
Well depending on who you ask…
Because for some odd reason it’s a topic that incites fierce and never-ending debates in the ukulele community.
So rather than getting mixed up in the argument ourselves…
How about I just show you the options and let you decide for yourself?
Sound good? Awesome.
Ask a hundred ukulele players who they think is the top string company…
And chances are that Aquila will win that poll by a landslide margin.
First, Aquila is the one brand known specifically for their ukulele strings, while other brands seem to make them simply as a ‘side-gig’.
Second, and more importantly…
They developed the most recent game-changing technological advancement in the industry: a patented material known as Nylgut…
Which combines the highly desired sound of genuine gut strings, with all the same modern perks of nylon, including:
And depending on your preference, there are 5 different versions of Nylgut lines to choose from:
Here is a full list of the links:
As the oldest and most influential string makers of today…
D’Addario has been making strings since way back in the 1600’s…
When they first began in their tiny home town of Salle, Italy.
And while you probably know them as a guitar string company…
The truth is, they make strings for virtually every instrument imaginable…including ukuleles.
One of their most popular line of strings is made with a material known as Nyltech, which was actually developed in partnership with Aquila.
Although it’s not specifically stated anywhere, I can only assume that D’Addario wanted to use Aquila’s Nylgut patent because it was just that awesome.
It’s also worth mentioning that their Titanium line is not actually made of titanium, which might easily confuse some people. Instead it’s made of a unique monofilament material with a cool purplish color.
Here is the full list of their links:
After seeing all the options available from both Aquila and D’Addario…
I’m not sure why you would still want more.
But in the interest of being impartial…
You should still know that there are two other notable brands worth considering.
They are: 1) GHS. 2) Martin.
First off, here’s what GHS has to offer:
Now here are the Martin options:
As you’ll notice: all Martin strings are made of clear fluorocarbon, and their wrapped strings use aluminum.
Once you’ve found a set of strings you like…
The only thing left to do is string them up and get back to playing.
Too often however, when reading negative online reviews about a particular pair of strings…
The problem that person had was not actually the fault of their strings.
The real problem was that they just didn’t know how to string their ukulele correctly.
And even the best set of strings used incorrectly will obviously perform poorly.
Many folks might complain that their strings won’t stay in tune. But take a quick look at how they’re wrapped around the tuning pegs, and it’s obvious why they keep slipping.
Also…new strings require a bit of “breaking-in” time, and will require several re-tunings over the first few days of use.
And if you don’t know this basic stuff yet, then of course you’re going to get frustrated.