Metal, plastic, or something else entirely? If you are looking for answers regarding ukulele strings –specifically, what they are made of– you have come to the right place!
The short answer is –all of the above! That’s right, ukulele strings can be made of metal, plastic, and something else –that something else being animal gut referred to as catgut (which does not mean it is from a cat).
Of course, some of these materials are more common than others; for instance, catgut, while still used, is not something you will come across very often anymore. For instance, while still preferred by some classical and baroque musicians for their richer, darker tone, guitarists generally moved away from gutstrings in the early 1900s in favor of louder steel strings that allowed them to be better heard while playing with ensembles.
Ukulele Strings And Types
Now between metal and plastic, while both can be used on ukuleles, one is much, much more common. And that is…
To quote Danish Europop band Aqua, “life in plastic, it’s fantastic.” If you walked into a music store right now, chances are all the ukuleles in there would be sporting some form of plastic string. If you’ve played guitar before and have since picked up a ukulele, chances are you already suspected this. Most guitars use steel strings, which are much harsher on the fingers but also louder, while most ukuleles use plastic strings that offer a more mellow tone.
There are several common types of ukulele string out there that are all, at their core (no pun intended) plastic.
Read more: The Ukulele Is Easy To Learn!
Of all the plastic strings, nylon is the most common… A type of plastic, nylon fibers offers a number of benefits that make them an excellent material for instrument strings. They are strong, yet lightweight, are moisture resistant, stretch well, and are resistant to abrasions.
Nylon ukulele strings are affordable, commonly available in music stores, and provide a warm, mellow tone.
Check out our selection of Nylon strings on our online store!
Fluorocarbon is very similar to nylon, but features a brighter tone. The pluses of fluorocarbon include a long lifespan, and tuning stability (once stretched, they hold their tune longer).
Check out our selection of fluorocarbon strings here!
Nylgut (or Nyltech)
As I mentioned previously, instrument strings used to/can still be made of gut. These synthetic strings – a type of nylon strings – are made to try and emulate the qualities of those old gut strings, without getting any animals involved in the process. Nylgut strings are often used on inexpensive instruments due to their ability to significantly improve the sound quality.
I know what you are probably thinking, but titanium is a metal, not a plastic! And you would be correct to think that! Titanium strings however, are not really made from titanium, but actually just a form of nylon monofilament. There’s that nylon character again!
One cool and unique thing about “titanium” strings is that they have a translucent purple hue to them! They also have a very glassy feel to them.
What About Metal Strings?
Some of the deeper strings out there, for instance the D and G strings on a baritone, or low G strings for tenors or even concert ukuleles are in fact made of metal. These strings are wound, which means they have a core made of one material (i.e. steel or nylon), with another material (copper, or aluminum generally) wrapped around them. If you’ve played an acoustic guitar before, chances are you’ve felt wound strings. The reason these are uncommon on a ukulele (especially smaller ukuleles), is because the metal strings have a higher tension than plastic or gut strings, and this tension is too strong for many ukuleles with their smaller, lighter bodies/necks.
For more lessons on chords, techniques, and songs to help you along on your own uke journey, make sure to check out our site www.ukelikethepros.com. We offer you a bunch of great ukulele content that comes hand-in-hand with an awesome ukulele community that will support you in this journey.