Just as important as finding your perfect ukulele is finding the right set of ukulele strings to go along with it. Although all ukuleles come with strings already fitted, they may not necessarily be the best fit for your own personal playing style or preferences. It’s important to know what strings are available for you to consider. The subject of ukulele strings can become a never-ending rabbit hole, but guest blogger Matthew Quilliam shows that it doesn’t have to be so complicated.

Ukulele Strings that Are Right for You

What are strings made of?

Ukulele strings have traditionally been made out of gut, a material found made from the stomach lining of animals like sheep. However, most strings these days are made of nylon or fluorocarbon due to changing manufacturing processes over time. Gut is seen as the most ‘authentic’ string material, though fluorocarbon can be made to be just as bright. One benefit of fluorocarbon strings is that they are less sensitive to changes in temperature which makes them more reliable and robust. Nylon is a slightly cheaper alternative, but it can be produced in the greatest variety of ways, meaning different manufacturers can produce their own specific sound to make their offerings unique. They can also have different thicknesses, or ‘gauges’. Thinner gauges will be better suited to lower actions and produce a brighter tone than thicker gauges.

» Nylon Strings
» Carbon Strings
» Polyurethane Strings

Can I use guitar strings?

Ukulele strings are very different to acoustic and electric guitar strings which tend to be made of steel. It is important that you do NOT put steel strings on a ukulele as they are more tense and strong than nylon, which means that they will put an enormous amount of strain on the ukulele neck, eventually causing it to snap off. Despite this, classical (nylon) guitar strings are not recommended for use on ukuleles either as they will be too long and not be able to resonate properly when put on the uke.

Ukulele Strings that Are Right for You

Does size matter?

In this case, yes! There are four main standard sizes of ukulele: soprano (the smallest), concert, tenor and baritone (the biggest). String manufacturers will often supply their strings in a variety of lengths to accommodate for the wide range of sizes available, so make sure that you double check what size it says on the packet before you buy. Furthermore, different length strings have different tensions. The larger the ukulele, the more tension the strings are under. Again, it’s important to use the right string length so that your ukulele has the strings it was designed for.

» Strings for Soprano Ukulele
» Strings for Concert Ukulele
» Strings for Tenor Ukulele
» Strings for Baritone Ukulele
» Strings for Bass Ukulele
» Strings for Guitar Ukulele

What about tuning?

Whilst a lot of ukuleles adhere to a standard g-C-E-A tuning, it is common to drop the G string an octave to give it a ‘low G’. The low G string gives the tuning a deeper bottom end when strummed as well as an increased range. To use low-G tuning, a thicker, lower string which is designed to be tuned to low G must be used, and specific low G string sets are available separately from high G sets. Additionally, baritone ukuleles are tuned in d-G-B-E which, again, require specialist strings that are designed to perform best at that tuning. The baritone also can have a low or high D string, so check for that on the packet too. There are alternative tunings, such as A-D-F#-B, which you can achieve by just tuning standard strings up or down, though I would advise against doing this by any more than a third.

You can read more about ukulele tunings here.

Ukulele Strings that Are Right for You

So What Strings are Best for Me?

Certain aspects will be decided for you, such as the ukulele’s size. Just buy the string length that suits your ukulele’s size. However, beyond that the choice is all yours. As previously discussed, the three different materials: gut, nylon and fluorocarbon all produce different sounds and even two strings made from the same material can sound different depending on the brand. Then there is the issue of tuning – low or high G? Standard G-C-E-A or not? Don’t forget how reliable you need your strings to be. This normally depends on how frequently you like to play and if you’ll be taking your ukulele on tour a lot. You should keep the sound you’re aiming for in mind, especially when considering the material that your ukulele is made of. For example, if your ukulele is made of a particularly bright wood then you may decide to compliment that with some gut strings, though you are within your rights to contrast this with something a little bit darker instead.

At the end of the day, you will only find the ‘perfect’ set of strings through experimentation and by not being afraid of trying something different when it’s next time to change strings. Once you get familiar with different makes, you’ll get a better idea of what you are after, and using the knowledge that you’ve gained from this article, you should already be a little better informed next time you pick up a fresh pack of strings.

If you have any ukulele string brands that you particularly admire, I’d love to know. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

See also…

» Ukuleles
» Children’s Ukuleles
» Ukulele Strings
» Ukulele Bags & Cases
» Ukulele Stands
» Ukulele Straps
» Ukulele Books
» Ukulele Pickups
» Ukulele Parts

» Buyer’s Guide – Ukuleles
» How to Hold Each Size of Ukulele
» 5 tips to improve your tone on the ukulele
» Ukulele Rhythms: Learn Them Here!
» How to Tune Up & Play a Guitarlele
» Help! What Size Ukulele Should I Buy?
» Learn to Play Ukulele in 3 Easy Steps!
» How to Tune Your Ukulele
» Ukulele for guitarists: the 4 most-important chords
» The Difference Between the Ukulele, Mandolin, and Banjo

Guest Blogger Matthew Quilliam

Performer, teacher, composer and author, Matthew Quilliam is a fresh new talent on the ukulele, already making a huge impression.

Matthew’s primary instrument has always been the ukulele which has allowed him to grow a life-long connection and expertise with the instrument. Over his short musical career so far, he has already achieved so much; he has contributed to many ukulele publications and performed at some leading festivals in the UK, plus more.

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