How to String a Ukulele

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Learning how to string your ukulele is an essential skill that every player should have and once you do it a few times you’ll find that it is a quite simple process. This can seem like a daunting task to many beginner players but rest assured that with a few simple tips you’ll be able to restring your ukulele in no time at all.

Types of Strings

The first decision that you need to make is what type of string you would like to put on your ukulele. The two man options are nylon (many refer to this as Nylgut/Aquila) or fluorocarbon (this is essentially the same material used for fishing line).

Nylon strings will give you a warmer more rounded sound while fluorocarbon will give you more note definition and more treble content to the sound.

The decision on what type of string to use really comes down to personal preference but also figuring out the type of string that best compliments your own ukulele. Unlike many other types of string instruments we are lucky in that our strings are relatively inexpensive and thus much easier to try new types.

Tuning

When shopping for strings you will also have to decided on the tuning that you plan to use on the instrument. While the traditional ukulele tuning is gCEA (or up a whole step aDF#B), or reentrant tuning that has a G string that is an octave and a fifth higher than the C, Low G tuning is becoming increasingly more popular.

This gives the small instrument a larger range and can be very beneficial for fingerstyle pieces. There are many low G sets now made for Tenor scale ukulele but if you wish to do this on a soprano ukulele if it best to use a wound metal string, generally a classical guitar D string cut to size as the small scale of the instrument requite more mass.

If you are playing a baritone ukulele nearly all string sets will be tuned DGBE but more manufactures are now putting out strings with traditional low G tuning for this scale length.

Scale of Ukulele

Strings need to be purchased for the scale of the instrument (soprano, concert, tenor, baritone) as the gauge of the strings is dependent on the scale length.

Most manufacturers market concert and soprano strings as the same as the scale length is very close to one another. A great trick if you are playing soprano is that many times there is enough string in the package to get two full sets out of it!

How to String a Ukulele In Five Steps

Removing Strings from Tuners

  1. Loosen the strings until they easily slide off of the tuning peg. It is easiest to change one string at a time starting with the G, especially if you have a banjolele with a floating bridge. Once the string is loose enough  you can slip it off of the tuning peg.   
    String Loosened around Tuner

Removing Strings from Bridge

2. Remove the strings from the bridge. This will depend on what type of bridge you have. On a standard slotted bridge the string will simply slide out. If you have a classical guitar style tie-bar bridge you will have to loosen the knot to remove the string. Lastly, you may have a rare ukulele that has a pin style bridge, much like that of an acoustic guitar. If this is the case, you can use a bridge pin puller or, in most cases, simply a small tug with your fingers to remove the pin.

String Remoed from Slotted Bridge

 

Installing New Strings at Bridge

3. Installation again depends on the type of bridge that your ukulele has.

Standard bridge – Tie a small knot at the very end of the new string and pull it tight. The know goes in the slot the the bottom of the bridge and you pull the string right.

String pulled into slotted bridge

Tie Bar Bridge – This one is a bit trickier and may take some practice to perfect. You will slide the string through the whole the bridge, bring it back towards the head and loop the string around the other portion of the string 3 times. Pull this knot tight and secure  the tail of the string on the back of the bridge.

String Knotted on Tie Bar Bridge

Installing New Strings at Tuners

4.  Now that the string is fixed at the bridge you can bring it up to the tuning peg. Pull the string tight so that you have a little bit of slack as we ultimately want 3-4 wraps of the string around the tuning peg, not too much! As you tighten the tuning machine guide the string through the nut of your ukulele so that it winds from the bottom to the top. It is important to create this break angle so that the string stays in place in the nut.

String Through Tuning Peg
Guiding the string path

Rinse and Repeat

5. Repeat this process for all four strings. When you are tune up your ukulele and snip the excess ends off of the strings. New strings take a while to settle in so don’t get discouraged if you need to tune your ukulele every couple of minutes. The more that you tune the instrument the faster the strings will settle in to their new home.

How to Change Strings Video

When should I change my ukulele strings?

There is not perfect answer to this but there are a few things to look out for. If your  strings are starting to sound dead or always out of tune it is best to change them. If you break a string you should change the entire set so that the strings remain consistent. Most of all, use your ear If the strings don’t sound right changing them is generally the easiest solution.

Can you string a ukulele left handed?

Most of the time! ukuleles are generally symmetrically built so that you can simply flip them over and restring them left handed. Keep in mind that the nut slots may not be perfect, especially if you ukulele is set up for low G tuning but many times this is not the case.

What is the tuning of a ukulele?

Tenor, concert, and soprano ukulele are generally tunes GCEA (With either a high or Low G). Baritones ukulele are tuned much like the top four strings of a guitar: DGBE

How long do ukulele strings last?

This depends highly on how often you play your ukulele as well as your body composition. Some people have more acidic sweat the deadens strings very quickly and may need to change strings every month or so. That said, many casual players can go nearly a year without needing to change their strings.

What are the best ukulele strings?

The best ukulele strings are the ones that you think sound great! Don’t worry about what your favorite players use but experiment and find the strings that suit your style and your instrument. If there was a magic string that made us all sound like Jake Shimabukuro I assure you that we would all play it!

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