Should you change ukulele strings now? If not, when exactly should you do it?
If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry!! That’s exactly what we will be discussing today. For beginners and sometimes intermediate uke practitioners alike, this is a huge query. After all, strings aren’t like batteries that will just run out at any time. Strings can last a while without breaking.
But don’t think your 9-month-old strings don’t need a change simply because they haven’t broken yet. You should never let your ukulele reach the point where the strings are breaking off.
Routine string changes are a part of instrument care, and aren’t necessarily taught in formal classes. Many people pick it up over time with experience, and trial and error.
Often times, even new strings break without a noticeable reason. It could be due to the fact that the string was defective, a sharp shot any place on the nut or the saddle, or the string being tuned way too high. Which brings us to the question: how often to change ukulele strings?
Why You Should Change Your Ukulele Strings
Before when, let’s discuss the why aspect of this question.
Your fingers and handers naturally decorate sweat, acids, and oils when you’re playing the uke. These coupled with any dirt pre-existing on your fingers will automatically transfer onto the strings.
Albeit smaller amounts at first, these can build up on the strings over time. Wound strings particularly. This buildup makes the strings vibrate differently. The sound gets a bit muddier, almost muted, and loses the regular brightness. The sustain also takes a dip.
Overall, the ukulele sounds more lifeless and dull. The progression happens at a slow pace, which is why you might not notice it at all. To someone who isn’t as concerned with the minute details, the differences won’t be there in the first place.
Additionally, the strings start stretching over time. Despite its size and diameter, strings are capable of carrying several pounds of pressure (depending on the uke size, 20 to 40lbs). With time, the stretch will get to a point where the string won’t hold tuning that well. And your uke will go out of tune easier.
To summarize it, you’ll notice:
- Tuning stability problems
- Lack of sustain
- Reduced sound quality
The second and third issues are related to the strings being dirty. This can be easily prevented by washing of hands before playing, wiping the string down after a session is completed. Unfortunately, this won’t prevent them from losing their tone over time, but the strings will serve you longer.
How to Know It’s Time to Change the Strings On Your Ukulele
Since you know why your ukulele strings need to be changed, let’s work on knowing when is the right time to change them.
The first thing to keep an ear out for is the change in tone. New strings are vibrant, bright, and full of life. The very first strum is beautiful.
On the other hand, old strings are a lot duller. This might take a few years of paying to notice surely. But it’s one thing to keep in mind for after every three to four weeks.
When putting your strings for the first time, take a mental picture. Notice how clean they look. Old strings will look dull in general. If you own multiple ukuleles and just changed the strings on one, compare with another ukulele with older strings. Is there a visible difference?
This perhaps is harder to notice than sound, but this is a skill that develops over time.
How Often to Change Ukulele Strings
Even after all that important discussion, the real question stands: how often to change ukulele strings?
The answer is: It depends.
Sadly, there is no clear cut answer as it depends on a bunch of things. For instance:
- Frequency of playing
- What kinds of strings are used
- What tone you prefer
- Performing or practicing.
If you play the uke for half an hour or an hour at a time some days a week, you can comfortably go a month or two without string changes. On these occasions, change them when the sound worsens. We predict no more than two months till it requires changing.
Professional players may change their strings more often. They can change once before every gig. It’s natural for a professional player to want the absolute best sound they can produce with their uke for every show. This does burn a hole in your pocket rather quick rather fast, but the results will be worth it.
Rely on your ears. It takes years and experience to form a judgment here. But if you’re actively concerned with it, the senses will develop at an accelerated pace.
What happens if a single string is broken? Should you just replace the broken one or all of them?
If the strings are a week or two old, changing just the one can be a fair idea. With that said, you have to open a new pack to get one to begin with, so you can consider replacing them all so there are none left over.
When you replace just one, store the rest of the pack to back you up during potential broken strings in the future. Once the pack is opened, they won’t last forever. But they will for quite a few months. And they’re on hand, so you can get work done at any moment.
Also Read: Ukulele String Order Thickness
Hopefully you can make the decision on how often to change ukulele strings to keep your instrument functioning properly for a long time. It’s best to keep a set of spare strings on hand just in case there’s ever any mishaps that need tending to. Maintaining your instrument properly is level one of the aspiring musician’s guidebook!