Among both new and old players alike, ukulele strings are one topic that few know much about.
Most don’t even know the difference between one set of strings and the next.
Some players can’t even string up their ukulele on their own.
And then….there’s those who never change their strings…ever.
So in today’s ultimate guide, I’m going to save you from all these pitfalls, by giving you a crash-course on everything you need to know when shopping for new ukulele strings.
And stay tuned to the end, for links to the top string sets that we recommend.
So here’s what we’re about to cover:
Table of Contents:
- 4 Things to Look for in a Set of Ukulele Strings
- The Top TWO Ukulele String Brands to Know
- How to Change Your Ukulele Strings
4 Things to Look for in a Set of Ukulele Strings
When comparing ukulele string sets, there are 4 key comparisons that really matter:
- String Length vs Ukulele Size
- Gut vs Nylon vs Fluorocarbon Strings
- Low G vs High G Sets
- Metal Winding on the Lower Strings
Now let’s look at each of these in more detail. First up…
String Length vs Ukulele Sizes
As you likely know, ukuleles come in 4 standard sizes:
But what you may not know is…so do ukulele strings.
And it can be very easy to overlook this fact and accidentally get the wrong size.
While it is possible to cut longer strings for a smaller ukulele, many wound strings will unravel if cut. Therefore, it’s better to make absolutely sure you’re buying the right size.
So if you don’t know the size of your ukulele, go find out right now, and come back.
The 3 Most Common Ukulele String Materials
When the ukulele was first invented around 1879, all stringed-instruments used gut for their strings, which is a material derived from sheep intestines.
Fast-forward to 1940, and the entire string-making industry switched to nylon, not long after it was first invented.
Compared to gut…nylon was cheaper, produced a more consistent product, and sounded great (although not quite the same).
While some players still preferred gut for its sound, the availability of gut strings plummeted once nylon became the new standard.
In recent decades, fluorocarbon (originally invented as fishing line) has become the new preference for many of today’s players.
Compared to regular nylon, many folks say that it is louder, brighter, and less sensitive to temperature changes. Because fluorocarbon is also denser, the strings are produced at smaller gauges.
No surprise…it’s also more expensive than nylon.
3. Low G vs High G String Sets
As you probably know, the two standard ukulele tunings are:
- Low G – (GCEA in ascending order)
- High G – (gCEA with the G-string tuned 1 octave up)
And string packages for these tunings are commonly found among the various ukulele sizes.
With baritone though, it’s much more common to use a DGBE string set.
With sopranos, you sometimes find string sets tuned ADF#B, also known as “d-tuning”.
You also occasionally come across specialty sets of strings either for alternate tunings, or labelled as “high tension“. Avoid these unless you are looking for them specifically.
COOL FACT: Whenever a tuning does NOT follow an ascending/descending pattern (such as with high G), it is known as a “re-entrant tuning“.
Nylon vs Wound G and C Strings
Depending on the package you buy…some of your strings, typically the G and/or C strings…
May have an outer metal winding over the inner nylon core (as shown in the picture).
Common materials used for the winding include:
- phosphor bronze
But you can also find strings wrapped in nylon as well.
Whether or not you choose metal-wrapped strings is entirely a matter of personal preference.
While they can add some degree of volume and brightness, they also produce a squeaky sound from finger-slides that many people hate.
And honestly, the only real way to know which you prefer is to spend time playing BOTH. So whichever style you are using now, try the opposite for your next set, to see how they compare in feel and tone.
The Top TWO Ukulele String Brands to Know
So you might be wondering: How important are brands when it comes to ukulele strings?
Well depending on who you ask…
- Some say it’s the MOST important thing
- While others might say it’s the LEAST.
Because for some odd reason it’s a topic that incites fierce and never-ending debates in the ukulele community.
So rather than getting mixed up in the argument ourselves…I’d rather just leave it at that.
The one thing I will say however, is that there are TWO BRANDS in particular, that are clearly leading the industry, in both their selection and innovations: Aquila and D’addario.
Therefore, I would argue there’s really no reason to look any further than these two. So let’s take a closer look at each of them right now…
Aquila Ukulele Strings
Ask a hundred ukulele players: Who is the top ukulele string company….
And chances are that Aquila will win that poll by a landslide margin.
First, Aquila is the one brand known specifically for their ukulele strings, while other brands seem to make them simply as a ‘side-gig’.
Second, and more importantly…
They developed the most recent game-changing technological advancement in the industry: a patented material known as Nylgut…
Which combines the highly desired sound of genuine gut strings, with all the same modern perks of nylon, including:
- longer string life
- lower cost
- consistency of manufacturing
- greater tuning stability
- resistance to climate changes
And depending on your preference, there are 5 different versions of Nylgut lines to choose from.
Here are the Links:
- New Nylgut – which is the current version of their standard and most popular line of strings.
- Lava Series – which is essentially the same as new nylguts, but in a cool silky black color.
- Red Series – which adds a red copper powder to the nylgut formula to increase string density and improve intonation, increase volume and brightness, and reduce breakage.
- Super Nylgut – which is the most recent improvement to the nylgut formula, designed to reduce string-stretch, improve tuning stability, and add a smooth outer playing surface. (It’s also more expensive).
- Bionylon – which is the first “eco-friendly” string, made 100% natural castor oil, significantly cutting down on pollution from manufacturing.
D’Addario Ukulele Strings
As the oldest and most influential string maker in history…
D’Addario has been making strings since way back in the 1600’s, when they first began in their tiny home town of Salle, Italy.
And while you probably know them as a guitar string company, they actually make strings for virtually every instrument imaginable…including ukuleles.
One of their most popular line of ukulele strings is made with a material known as Nyltech, which was actually developed in partnership with Aquila.
Although it’s not specifically stated anywhere, I can only assume that D’Addario wanted to use Aquila’s Nylgut patent because it was just that awesome.
It’s also worth mentioning that their Titanium line is not actually made of titanium, which might easily confuse some people. Instead it’s made of a unique monofilament material with a cool purplish color.
Here is the full list of their links:
- Clear Nylon
- Black Nylon
- Concert – (Amazon)
Two Honorable Mentions
To be quite honest, after seeing all the options available from both Aquila and D’Addario…I’m not sure why you would still want more.
But in the interest of being impartial, you should still know that there are two other notable brands worth considering:
First off, here’s what GHS has to offer:
- Black Nylon
- Fluorocarbon – (Soprano/Concert/Tenor)
Now here are the Martin options:
As you’ll notice: all Martin strings are made of clear fluorocarbon, and their wrapped strings use aluminum.
How to Change Your Ukulele Strings
Once you’ve found a set of strings you like, the only thing left to do is string them up and get back to playing.
Too often however, when reading negative online reviews about a particular pair of strings…the problem that person had was not actually the fault of the strings.
And instead, the real problem was that they just didn’t know how to string their ukulele correctly.
And even the best set of strings used incorrectly will obviously perform poorly.
For example: Many players complain that their strings won’t stay in tune. But take a quick look at how they’re wrapped around the tuning pegs, and it’s obvious why they keep slipping.
Also…new strings require a bit of “breaking-in” time, and will require several re-tunings over the first few days of use.
And if you don’t know this basic stuff yet, then of course you’re going to get frustrated.
So unless you’re already an expert, do yourself a favor and watch this quick video to learn the proper way to re-string your ukulele: