Types of Ukulele Strings: How to Choose the Best

A ukulele is similar to a guitar or mandolin – a fretted string instrument producing a bright or deep sound. There are many kinds of ukuleles, including concert ukulele, soprano ukulele, tenor ukulele, baritone ukulele, as well as the rarest of them all, the bass ukulele. This instrument’s strings play a big factor in deciding how it will perform.

How Many Strings Does a Ukulele Have?

There are four strings in a standard ukulele. In contrast, a guitar has six. Traditionally, the strings are tuned to G-C-E-A to make the open strings produce a C6 chord sound; ukulele players may term this as C tuning.

Length of Ukulele String

How long the string of a ukulele will be depends on the size of the uke. Two values matter when choosing the correct strings: the scale length and the total length. 

However, with ukes, one size doesn’t fit all. As mentioned previously, ukuleles are mainly divisible into four categories. Every size features a unique scale length alongside a string tension requirement. The distance between the nut and the bridge is the scale length. Therefore, it’s important to pick a set made for your kinds of ukulele. Let’s look at the four most common ukulele sizes and their standard scale lengths, total lengths, and standard tunings:

Ukulele TypeScale lengthTotal lengthTuning
Soprano13”21”G4-C4-E4-A4 / A4-D4-F#4-B4
Concert15”23”G3-C4-E4-A4, G4-C4-E4-A4, or A4-D4-F#4-B4
Tenor17”26”G3-C4-E4-A4, G4-C4-E4-A4, D4-G3-B3-E4, or A4-D4-F#4-B4

Also Read: 5 Best Eight String Ukulele

Types of Ukulele String Materials

The string’s material also plays a key role in deciding the produced sound from the ukulele. This can make string shopping a tad bit overwhelming, but fortunately most practitioners have to choose between a few main string styles.

Nylon strings: Nylon strings give a mellow, warm tone. They are the modern day versions of traditional gut strings that were originally constructed from livestock intestine. If you wish to get that original, gentle Hawaiian music from your ukulele, nylon strings will produce them perfectly. Not only is nylon durable, but it’s also resistant to humidity. The only downside is that nylon strings don’t retain tuning as well as all other string materials.

Fluorocarbon strings: These strings are quite similar to nylon ones but they give a brighter tone overall. A fluorocarbon sting set might last longer too than their nylon counterparts and be a bit better at retaining the standard ukulele tuning.

Steel strings: Not the most conventional choice for ukuleles, but steel strings are generally a better fit for musical instruments like the bass guitar and guitar. But if you want a twangy, bright sound from your uke – and the strings to hold onto various tuning for a while – steel is definitely the way to go.

Wound nylon strings: In a few departments, would nylon strings can be the middle point between traditional nylon and unconventional bright steel. There is nylon at the core of these strings and they then receive thin polymer thread wrapping. Their sound is somewhat richer than standard strings and mostly appear on tenor or baritone ukuleles.

Wound metal strings: With a metal core, wound metal strings are similar to their wound nylon counterparts. They are as bright as you can get without making them steel strings – making your ukulele sound similar to a guitar.

Also Read: How to Tune a 6 string ukulele

Standard Tuning for a Ukulele

For majority of the concert, tenor, and soprano ukuleles, the typical tuning is G-C-E-A.

For most concert, soprano, and tenor ukulele players, G-C-E-A tuning is typical. On a concert ukulele, this is what it implies:

  • The fourth string: This bottom string needs to be tuned to G4. Usually, this string is also called the G string. A few players can call this a “low G,” but in reality, it’s the second-highest pitch of string amongst the bunch.
  • The third string: The next string needs to be tuned up to C4. Occasionally called the C string, this string is the one with the lowest pitch.
  • The second string: The second needs to be tuned to E4. Also called the E string, it features the second-lowest pitch amongst the strings.
  • The first string: Tune the top string up to A4. This has the highest pitch of the bunch and is called the A string.

Keep in mind that these strings don’t move in an ascending order when pitch is concerned; the third string is the one producing the lowest pitch. In contrast to linear tuning found on most stringed instruments, such ukulele tuning is termed as reentrant tuning.

How to Tune Ukulele Strings

Turning the tuning pegs on the headstock of the instruments lets you loosen or tighten the instrument. With technological advancement, many people have started using electronic devices to perfect their ukulele tuning. For instance:

  • Clip-on tuners: These kinds of tuners have to be attached to the headstock of the ukulele to measure vibrations in the instrument’s wood. They are compatible with any kind of ukulele, whether it features a pickup or not.
  • Pedal tuners: A pedal tuner received an audio signal though a ¼” audio cable. Then, it passes the unchanged signal through another cable of the same dimensions. Pedal tuners can be used with ukuleles that have an electronic pickup. Although pedal tuners are meant mainly for guitars, you can also use them to handle the produced pitch of an ukulele.
  • Smartphone tuning apps: You can tune your ukulele using a smartphone, but it’s not ideal. A phone depends on its external microphone to transmit sounds and any surrounding noise can interfere with the readings. 

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

Bottom Line

There is a fair range of choices while shopping for the various types of ukulele strings. Figure out which one will meet your requirements the best, get those, and tune your strings regularly to keep the instrument running smoothly.

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