Whether you need to replace a broken string or just want to brighten up your sound, knowing how to change ukulele strings is an essential skill that every uke player should learn how to master.
The more you play, the more wear and tear you will put on your strings, which will cause them to weaken over time and eventually break. Also, as you continue to play, your ukulele strings will accumulate a buildup of natural oils from your hands and fingers, which will deaden the sound and overall tone.
Restringing a uke may seem like a daunting task, especially if you are a beginner but, rest assured, with a little practice it becomes quicker and easier over time. The key factors when it comes to changing strings are practice, repetition and patience. In other words, the more you do it, the quicker and easier it gets.
In this article, we will focus on three different ways to change your ukulele strings: tied to the bridge, through the body, and using the bridge pins. The type of ukulele you have may determine the method you use when changing your strings, and you may also have to do some experimenting to find the method that works best for you. Either way, as mentioned, the more you do it, the better you will get at it.
Changing Your Ukulele Strings Through The Bridge
Changing a ukulele string through the bridge is the most popular and most common method. And, it’s not a very difficult process once you learn how to do it correctly. The important things to keep in mind are to make sure that you properly tie the knot after threading it through the bridge, and to give yourself plenty of extra length while you wind up the tension.
Threading Your Strings Through The Bridge
First, you will have to remove the broken or dead string before you replace it. If your string is already broken, simply unwind the top half from the tuning peg, and pull out the bottom half through the bridge. Since these strings have been threaded through the bridge, you may need to untie the knot that kept it in place on the body of your ukulele.
Next, take your new string and thread it through the bottom part of the ukulele’s body, also known as the bridge or saddle. Uke strings are designed to be much longer than what you actually need, so give yourself plenty of slack before you secure the string to the bridge. You can always cut away any excess after your installation.
Tying Your Knots And Achieving Tension
After threading the string through the hole in the bridge or saddle, grab the lower end and pull it back up toward the fingerboard, making a small loop in the string. Thread the lower end through the loop and pull it tight until you’ve created a small knot. Also, the lower strings may only require one loop or knot, while the higher strings may require more loops to maintain their tightness.
Then, take the other end of the string and loop it through the hole in the tuning peg at the top of the neck. Now, use your strumming hand to hold the string in place at the top of the neck—the string doesn’t have to be pulled super tight at this point, and it’s a good idea to have leave a little slack. It’s still very important, however, to maintain a consistent amount of tension. Next, using the lower two strings as examples, use your fingering hand to loop the end of the string in a clockwise motion underneath itself, and then reverse direction and wrap the string over itself. If you are changing the higher strings, simply use the same technique but in a reversed direction.
While maintaining tension with your strumming hand, use your fingering hand and start winding the tuning peg in a counter-clockwise motion. After a few turns of the tuning peg you will begin to feel the string tension increase to the point of where you can eventually release your strumming hand from the string. The more you turn the tuning peg, the closer you will get to the desired level of tension, until you get your string in tune. Now that you are done installing your new string, you can cut away any excess from the bridge and the neck.
Changing Your Ukulele Strings Through The Body
Changing your ukulele strings through the body is not as common as changing them through the bridge but, just like changing strings through the bridge, changing strings through the body is not a very difficult process after practicing it a few times. The important things to learn are how to properly thread the string through the body, and knowing how to correctly tie your knots.
Threading The Strings Through The Body
Whether you have broken strings or just want to replace them, it’s important to know how to correctly remove them. If the string is not broken, use a pair of wire cutters and cut the string at its midway point on the neck. After removing the top have of the string from the tuning peg, push the lower half of the string into the body of the ukulele towards the neck. Then insert your fingers into the sound hole to grab and remove the string.
Next, from the bottom of the uke, thread the new string through the bridge into the body of the ukulele, and continue to push the string through until you are able to grab it from inside of the sound hole. Again, ukulele strings are designed to give you a lot more than you need, so you can give yourself plenty of extra inches to make it easier for you to tie your knots and wind them through your tuning pegs.
Tie Your Knots To Achieve Proper Tension
Take the upper end of your string and tie one or two simple knots. The knots don’t have to be anything fancy, just make sure that they are larger than the hole in the bridge so that the string doesn’t slip through the hole in the bridge. And, be sure that you don’t leave too much excess string on the end, since it can vibrate against the inner body of the uke and affect your overall tone. You can simply cut off any excess string after tying your knots.
After tying your knots, pull the lower half of the string back through the bridge towards the neck until it’s taught. Use your strumming hand to hold the string in place and to give it a moderate amount of tension, and then use your fingering hand to loop the string into the tuning pegs.
Once you thread the string through the hole in the tuning peg, use your fingering hand to loop the end of the string in a clockwise motion underneath itself, and then reverse its direction and wrap the string over itself. If you are changing the higher strings, simply use the same technique but in a reversed direction.
While holding the string tightly with your strumming hand, use your fingering hand to wind the tuning peg in a counter-clockwise motion (you can also use a string winder if you want). Eventually, as you continue to turn the tuning peg, you will begin to feel the tension of the string increase to the point of where you can release your strumming hand. Once you get your new string in tune, you can trim away the excess string from your tuning peg.
Changing Ukulele Strings With Bridge Pins
The third way to put new strings on your uke is by using bridge pins. Bridge pins have a tapered design with a slot cut into their sides, which help to secure your strings into the saddle. Bridge pins have to be removed and reinstalled whenever you change your strings, but like with all string changing methods, the process gets easier over time with a little practice.
Removing Your Bridge Pins
It can be very tempting to remove a bridge pin with a flathead screwdriver or a pair of pliers, but using those tools can potentially break the bridge pin or leave scuff marks on the pin and on the body of your ukulele. A preferred method is to use the notch on the edge of a string winder to pry out the bridge pin. If your string is not broken, loosen up the tension by unwinding it from the tuning peg. Then, gently wedge the notch of your string winder underneath the bridge pin to pull it out of the saddle. If your string is already broken, you don’t have to worry about the tension from the tuning peg.
Threading Your Strings Using Bridge Pins
Before you begin threading your new string into the bridge, tie a double knot on one of its ends. As previously mentioned, ukulele strings will provide you with much more length than you need, and you can trim off any excess length after tying your knot. Next, insert the knotted end of the string into the hole of the bridge. Then, line up the notch of the bridge pin with the string with the notch facing toward the neck of the ukulele, and gently press the bridge pin into the saddle until the string is secure.
Winding Your Strings To Achieve Tension
Grab the string with your strumming hand and hold it in place at the top of the uke’s neck to maintain tension. Thread the end of the string into the hole of the tuning peg, then use your fingering hand to loop the end of the string in a clockwise motion underneath itself, and then reverse the direction and wrap the string over itself. If you are changing the higher strings, use the same technique but in a reversed direction.
Then, use your fingering hand and start winding the tuning peg in a counter-clockwise motion. After a few turns of the tuning peg you will begin to feel the string tension increase to the point of where you can eventually release your strumming hand from the string. As you continue to tighten the tuning peg, you will increase the tension until your string is in tune. Once you are in tune, you can trim the excess string from the tuning peg.
If you’re new to playing the ukulele, changing your strings can seem like an intimidating hassle. However, with a little practice, changing your strings is something that can be done quickly and easy to master if you follow these simple steps. Also, knowing how to properly change your strings will help to make you a better uke player in the long run. Be sure to visit store.ukelikethepros.com for all your ukulele needs, and check out ukelikethepros.com for lessons, videos and other helpful articles. Enjoy your playing!