Guide to Ukulele String: Tensions & Gauges

The type of strings you put on your stringed instrument can vastly affect the sounds it produces and the overall feel. Despite this, many people consider strings an afterthought, unknowingly harming their musical journey. Take some time to research the best string for your ukulele because it will make a huge difference. 

What you pick is based totally on your preference, but here is some information that will hopefully help you make a better, more informed decision. For today, we talk about everything uke string: materials, tension, and ukulele string gauge chart.

Ukulele String Material

String companies these days claim they are constantly coming up with “unique” formulas to produce the best quality ukulele strings. In general, these formulas can be categorized into some main groups:

Nylon 

Nylon is a traditional material used in ukulele string construction. It makes the string produce the ever-so familiar warm sound that many have come to know and love the uke for. It’s affordable and get the job done decently. Due to this, Nylon is the preferred material for multiple cheaper ukulele brands. Additionally, Nylon needs more diameters to reach the right amount of tension, making it an extremely tactile type of uke string. They are naturally stretchy and reactive to temperature, posing challenges if you introduce them to new environments regularly.

Fluorocarbon 

With a high tension-to-mass ratio, these strings feature smaller diameter strings as well as a punch, bright sound. It’s simply a fancier version of fishing well but works so incredibly smooth for ukuleles that it’s become the ride-or-die for many practitioners. Fluorocarbon intonates close to perfection and offers probably the most stable and precise tuning out of all ukulele strings.

Also Read: How Often to Change Ukulele Strings

Metal-Wound 

To achieve the right tension with a fine tone, it’s often essential to apply wound strings for the lower notes. For the uke, 90% of the time it is a low-G string, very rarely a C-string. These strings feature a bell-like resonance alongside containing a flat or round wound which reduces squeaks. The cheaper version may ring out in a certain way the overbalances the remaining set, but a high-quality wound string is a beautiful piece of accessory.

Others: Titanium, Nylgut, Gut, etc.

Of course, there are more proprietary kinds of strings. For instance, D’addario’s Titanum monofilament or Aquila’s “Reds” and Nylgut.

In addition, there are also gut, nylon-wound, and recycled bottle plastic made strings.

With this big a range to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This is why you must have a focused approach when trying new uke strings.

Tension

String tension is basically the amount of pressure (in pounds) one string pulls after being tuned up to pitch.

Low tension allows the string to move more and be “droopy.” Notes with low tension strings are easier to fret. Higher tension applies additional pressure on the soundboard, making the sound snappier alongside making the string harder to press down on.

Tension is influenced by a bunch of factors – mostly scale length and density. From our observations, we draw these conclusions:

  • The construction material of the string and the thickness have an effect on density. Mass is a crucial thing. The more the mass in the string, the higher the tension.
  • Scale length – distance from the saddle to the nut. The more the scale length, the higher the tension, given the string is being tuned to the same note. If you attempted putting soprano ukulele strings on, let’s say, a bass guitar before tuning it to GCEA, the strings would definitely break as the tension would be too high causing the string to snap before you could even reach the right pitch.
  • You should choose tension depending on how you want your uke to feel and sound.

In summary, the lighter the string, the brighter and quieter they will sound. Heavy strings are naturally louder and produce a fatter tone. When it comes to feel, the tension impacts how hard you must press down on the strings and how easily it plays out the tunes.

As a lighter strings vibrates more, you must have a higher action setup to include the broader ringing arc. In contrast, if you attach a heavier tension string on your ukulele that buzzes due to low action, you may notice the rising string pull accommodates the frets better, ultimately causing less buzzing.

If you have a heavier hand, high-tension strings maybe better for you as you can really dig into them without worrying about bending them out of shape. However, if you play lightly, the “touch” and increased sustain of low-tension strings might be exactly what you were looking for.

A few of the more generic strings feature only a tension per size. On the other hand, boutique strings come with many more options. 

Ukulele String Gauge Chart

String gauge is super important while picking the correct ukulele strings. Aside from playability and comfort factors, the wrong set of strings is capable of damaging your ukulele.

GaugeAECGTension
Soprano/Concert0.01910.02510.03400.022035.4
Tenor0.02200.02840.03400.025155.3
Baritone0.02200.02510.03400.035044

This is an example of ukulele string gauge and tension that you will find on the “product description” of any ukulele string set. Check for these before buying to know more about the product so you can be sure it’s the right one for you.

Final Thoughts

Every instrument reacts differently to the same strings. What sounds good on your ukulele might sound cacophonous on another. After you figure out the basic sound-independent preferences for the strings like feel and tension, you can customize the sound based on the strings you attach.

Generally (then again, it depends), to turn a dark sounding ukulele into a brighter one, try monofilament or fluorocarbon strings. Similarly, try Nylgut or nylon to mellow out too bright strings.

Leave a Comment