If you are new to playing the ukulele, you might be asking yourself, ‘are these ukulele strings made of plastic?’ Especially if you have ever played the guitar, which generally uses steel strings, it may be a shock to feel the difference with the strings when you pick up a ukulele. So what’s the deal, are they made of plastic?
The simple answer to this question is, yes, sort of, but also sometimes not really. You see, it gets a bit complicated. Ukulele strings can be made of a variety of materials, some of which are in fact, a type of plastic, and some of which are not.
So let’s take a look at some of the choices out there available to you, the ukulele player, when it comes to strings!
By far the most common ukulele string material is Nylon. A type of plastic, the process of making Nylon fibers is beyond my paygrade (read ‘scientific understanding’) to explain, but the benefits are many. Nylon fibers are very strong, yet lightweight. They are also moisture resistant and stretch, and resistant to abrasions.
Nylon fibers are also used to create the wiring in tennis rackets, fishing line, and of course, instrument strings!
When it comes to the uke, nylon strings are affordable, available in black and clear, and provide a warm, mellow tone.
Check out our selection of Nylon strings on our online store!
Another popular option, Fluorocarbon strings are very similar to Nylon, but offer a brighter tone. Like Nylon, Fluorocarbon is also a popular choice for fishing line, but they can offer a longer lifespan than Nylon and may be better at holding their tuning as instrument strings.
Read more: Martin Konter Ukulele: A Fascinating Piece of History
Nylgut (or Nyltech)
As you may or may not know, back in the day, instrument strings used to be made from actual animal guts (often cow or sheep intestines). If you find this to be gross, fear not, Nylgut strings are 100% synthetic, just like Nylon and Fluorocarbon strings. They are just made to mimic the qualities of traditional gut strings.
As you may have guessed, one component of Nylgut strings is in fact Nylon. However, Nylguts unique synthetic blend gives them an even brighter tone than regular Nylon strings. These strings are often sold on inexpensive instruments because of their ability to greatly improve the sound of an instrument. They are a favorite of beginners and pros alike as they also do an excellent job of holding their tuning for a long time.
I know what you are thinking, instrument strings made from titanium? No way! Well, at least that is what I thought when I first came across these strings. And as it turns out, they are not really made from titanium, but actually just a form of nylon monofilament. What is nylon monofilament you ask? Beats me!
I’ve used these strings on my baritone ukulele before and my favorite part about them is their translucent purple hue. They do have a very glossy look and feel as well, just as the package states, and offer a tone somewhere in the middle between the mellow tone of Nylon and the brightness of Fluorocarbon.
There are a variety of wound strings out there. A wound string is exactly what it sounds like, a material, like Nylon for example, with another material wound, or wrapped around it. This is most common with deeper strings. Ukuleles that have a low G string usually have a wound low G string.
The deeper strings on a guitar are wound strings, so when you come across wound strings on a ukulele, you may notice they sound more guitar-like. Baritone ukuleles, which are tuned the same as the first 4 strings of a guitar, often have 2 wound strings, which contributes to them sounding more guitar-like than other ukuleles.
Some wound strings use a nylon core, and a polymer wrap – this is most common among ukulele wound strings – while others use a steel core and an aluminum or copper wrap – think standard guitars with steel strings. There are some metal ukulele strings, but they are less common because they have a higher tension and a lot of ukuleles aren’t capable of handling that extra tension.
Read more: 10 Easy Songs To Play On The Ukulele
So, Ukulele Strings Are Plastic?
Yes, ukulele strings are plastic! Or more specifically, ukulele strings are most commonly made from a variety of Nylon materials or fluorocarbon (similar to tennis rackets and fishing line). Except when they are not… like when they are metal, which is not very common, but does happen from time to time.
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.
One other type of string material should be mentioned. The string maker Aquila has created a string that is more dense than their regular Nylgut strings, which allows Aquila to make a low-G string that isn’t wound and that has tension similar to the other strings without being excessively thick. To do this, Aquila blends a copper compound into the raw string material before it is drawn through an orifice to create a string. The copper compound is red, so the strings are called Aquila Red Series. The advantage over wound low-G strings is that they don’t squeak when you slide your finger along the string the way that wound strings do. I’ve used them on concert and tenor ukuleles. You can buy a full 4-string set of red strings, or just a single low-G red string. Be sure to read the package description carefully to be sure it has the non-wound low-G string, because Aquila also sells sets that have a wound low-G that is colored red to match the other strings. The single string is called “Aquila Red Series 4th Unwound Tenor Low G tuning, Single Ukulele String – 72U”. Some people say that they break too easily, but I haven’t had that trouble. I made sure that the nut slot and the saddle didn’t have a sharp edge and I initially tightened the string very gradually to give time for it to stretch.
“Monofilament” simple means that it is a single strand, not made of multiple small strands that are twisted around each other to create the final string, like a rope is multi-stranded.