How Many Strings Does a Ukulele Have?

The uke may look puny in comparison to the guitars but it holds wonders within those slender yet strong nylon strings. Strings are the heart of the ukulele. There are a variety of different strings and body shapes in terms of ukulele that you can choose from. The sound variations, the usage comfort, and durability are some important factors to keep in check in terms of the strings of the ukulele while buying one. But before that, you must get your knowledge checked about operating the strings and understanding the ukulele string conventions. So, hop into this article within any further ado! 

The Strings:

String numbers: 

Usually, the traditional ukulele has 4 strings. But even though we are more accustomed towards the 4 strings of the ukulele there are some other variants of the ukulele that have 6 or 8 strings or even 5 strings. 

  • Conventional ukulele: The most usual types of ukuleles are the soprano (standard ukulele), concert, tenor, and baritone. These have a standard 4 strings.
  • Taropatches ukulele: Ukuleles with 6 to 8 strings are called the taropatches or taropatched ukuleles. The taropatches are usually a concert size ukulele with 6 strings but it has tenor variants too. 8 stringed tarpatches also exist. 
  • Lili’u ukulele: These are the six-stringed ukuleles but it usually has two single strings and two double course strings. These have 8 stringed variants too.
  • 5 String ukuleles: 5 stringed tenor ukuleles are also made and used around the world on special occasions but this variant is more unlikely to be found.

The conventional 4 strings: 4-3-2-1/G-C-E-A

Ukuleles are famous for their 4 nylon strings and light design. The most common formation of the strings is 4-3-2-1 or G-C-E-A. Here, the numbers are assigned for each string serially that corresponds to the predefined notes. 

Numbers instead of notes:

Usually, the ukulele strings are numbered while using instead of using the note names. This is a convention that many use for the comfort of usage and better understanding of the notes. Because, a lot of the people consider different tuning chords/notes for tuning the ukulele. This helps for creating a universal convention for everyone to use with the fixed numbers. The numbering is done according to their appearance from the bottom to the top. Moreover, when we play a certain chord the notes change. The notes are just a simpler way to point out a certain string. Hence, a lot of the people use numbers instead of notes. Even though there isn’t any hard and fast rule to go with.

Figure: Conventional Ukulele Strings Notes and Positioning (Source)

Positioning:

There are some cool tips and tricks to remember while on the strings and the name of the notes. However, this is a conventional trick for the high-G or low-G tuning or the most common G-C-E-A tuning. For other types of ukulele and the string and the tuning the string placement may also differ. 

  • G: After positioning the ukulele fret on the left-hand side in a playing posture the string closest to the ceiling is the G note or 4th string.
  • C: In the same position after the G note is the second string that is C or 2. 
  • E: The second last from the floor or the third one from the top is the E or string 3.
  • A: While in a conventional fret-on-the-left playing position the A string or the 1st string is the one that is closest to the floor.  

Another important note! The same positioning will be reversed for the left-handed users that meanwhile the fret will be on the right-hand side. 

Also Read: Types of Ukulele Strings: How to Choose the Best

Tuning:

The tuning of the strings is everything to play the uke right! The most conventional method of tuning a regular ukulele would be the ‘low-G’ (G-C-E-A) or the ‘high-G’ (g-C-E-A) tuning as discussed before. This is applicable for most of the concert uke, soprano and tenor ukulele players. The difference occurs in baritone ukulele, it has the tuning of D-G-B-E instead of the standard G-C-E-A/g-C-E-A. 

High-G (g-C-E-A):

Even between the two variants the ‘high-G’ is the most popular. It goes like:

  • G: The fourth of the G string needs to be tuned to G4. This is also known as the low-G typically despite being the string with the second highest pitch. 
  • C: The 3rd string of C note should be tuned to C4. This is the thickest of all strings in this tuning convention and has the lowest pitch of all. 
  • E: This one has the second lowest pitch after the C string. The 4th or E string needs to be tuned to E4.
  • A: This one is the thinnest of all and produces the most high-pitched sound. It is known as the A string or 1st string. 

The fun fact is this type of tuning is called the re-entrant tuning and his tuning doesn’t go in a high to low pitch order like other stringed instruments. 

Low-G (G-C-E-A):

The ‘low-G’ uses the ascending order of the G-C-E-A. It is completely the same as the ‘high-G’ one except the fact that the 4th string or G string is tuned in an ascending pattern instead of getting it one octave higher than its original position.

Some of the notable other tuning methods of the 4-string ukulele are: Baritone Ukulele Tuning (D-G-B-E), Slack-key Tuning (G-C-E-G), English Tuning (A-D-F#-B), Canadian Tuning (low A-D-F#-B).

Things to consider while buying new strings of the ukulele:

  • String Material: In contrary to the popular belief various materials are used for the strings along with the most common nylon ones. Such as –  Fluorocarbon strings, Steel strings, Wound nylon strings, Wound metal strings. 
  • Length: According to the 4-standard size of ukulele Soprano, Concert, Tenor, Baritone the string length also varies. 
  • Metal Winding: Aluminium, copper, silver, phosphor bronze materials are used for the metal winding of the ukuleles. 

Also Read: Reasons Your Ukulele Strings Might Get Out of Order

Conclusion

We hope this A-Z guide will help you to get your A-game on in terms of the ukulele strings. Now that you know about them and their conventions, go on and grab the perfect ukulele strings for yourself!

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