Guide to Ukulele Strings: Names, Numbers, and Notes

After spending hours and days on research to finally find the perfect ukulele, you would think your problems are over. That is until you realize that your strings come with the power to make your music sound either really bright or really dull; and they come with an expiration date.

You will have to familiarize yourself with the strings in order to play in the first place. Much like with any stringed instrument, there is the factor of notes and names for every string.

A ukulele is rather similar to a guitar when it comes to strings and tuning. But as there are only four strings instead of six, incorporating a variety of sounds into them gets trickier. If you had questions about the ukulele strings’ notes and numbers or their order, keep on reading.

String Notes & Names of Ukulele

For soprano, concert, and tenor ukes, the standard string notes are G-C-E-A. Some facts that may be helpful when you’re occupied with ukulele string names:

  • For the first case, let’s assume you’re holding the uke like you would when you play it. This is when the A string is the closest to the floor which the G string will be the nearest to the ceiling.
  • The notes for low-G tuning will be the same as standard high-G tuning. However, the G-string works in a pitch lower than that of the C string.
  • Unless you are working with low-G tuning, the thicket string is C-string.
  • The order of the notes of the string is reversed for left-handed players.

In contrast to its other three counterparts of smaller sizes, baritone ukuleles generally feature a different tuning – D-G-B-E.

Ukulele Order & String Name

The strings on a ukulele go in a descending format, i.e., 4-3-2-1. To jog your memory, if you’re holding the ukulele upwards, like you would when play it, string 4 is the closest to the ceiling while string 1 is nearest to the floor. Don’t get confused!

The numerical string order corresponds to the alphabetical string notes; 4-3-2-1 corresponds to G-C-E-A

Replacing Note Names for String Numbers on a Ukulele

Practitioners often have this question when they first pick up a ukulele. Who should you use string numbers in place of note names on a ukulele? We can think of quite a few reasons to use string numbers when referring to uke strings.

There don’t seem be hard and fast rules regarding the use of string names and when is the right time to use these numbers. It depends mostly on the player and the situation, so it’s best you get comfortable with both techniques to really take your playing to the next level.

Change in String Notes When Playing Chords

The notes of strings change while playing chords. This is enough to create confusion when you want to refer to individual strings using their names.

For instance, think of yourself playing a basic B minor in a lesson. If your instructor comments that your B note was rattling, what do you take from that? There can be two B notes upon voicing the B minor chord, so it’s unclear which B the instructor meant in that context.

This kind of confusion can efficiently be eliminated when choosing string numbers. It’s also much easier to say out the string numbers rather than trying to flip through pages of your memory to understand which note was being played on a given string.

Alternate tunings

Many practitioners prefer using alternate tuning for their ukes, making the standard string names less than useful.

For examples, a few players like tuning their soprano ukuleles to A-D-F#-B, which is an entire step above standard tuning, to produce that clear, traditional Hawaiian sound. In these occasions, going for ukulele string numbers is more logical. 

High G vs. Low G –  Reentant Tuning vs. Linear Tuning 

If you’ve played a guitar before, it might be strange to you that a high g-string exists. For standard reentrant tuning, the strings’ pitch on the uke don’t move in an ascending order – don’t go from lowest to highest. This particular tuning is what gives those ukes the signature charming and bright sound. Reentrant tuning produces the most even tone as the strings are tuned to be in a smaller range.

With that said, some practitioners like tuning the g-string down by an octave so they can play in low G uke tuning, sometimes termed as linear tuning since the strings go from lowest to highest. Apart from getting a larger range with low G tuning, the sound is noticeably fuller and more resonant.

Warning: Do remember that if you wish to tune your uke to a low G, a particular set of low G uke strings will be needed. And those strings must be based on the ukulele size. If you tune a high-g ukulele string down by an octave, it will not sound good.

How to Know When Your Ukulele Strings Need to be Changed

As a rule of thumb, routine ukulele string changes every three months if you play regularly. Professionals have to do this more as their ukulele strings exhaust quicker from strain.

Old ukulele strings produce a duller tone – not as lively. Since strings wear out with time and playing, it’s best if you change your strings once every few months.

There are many great uke string brands that you can choose from but every ukulele has a different response to different strings, so we suggest you experiment with it. Have fun! See which works out the best for you.

Final Thoughts

Your ukulele’s strings will determine how beautifully the sound resonates. No matter how well you play, you can’t live up to your full potential without a great set of strings to back you up. Regular maintenance of your ukulele can give you an amazing instrument for years.

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