We need to take care of our instruments. After all, how else can we expect them to sound great? Whether guitar, piano, or flute, they all need a bit of maintenance from time to time.
And the ukulele is no exception. Sure, they’re small and fun to play, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a bit of TLC. It’s important to stay on top of things to maintain that perfect sound. Changing the strings is an important part of that. But how is it done? Well, let’s take an in-depth look at how to restring a ukulele and find out.
How Often Should You Change Ukulele Strings?
It’s not just when a string snaps. This is something that should be done fairly regularly. If not, they can start to sound dull and lifeless.
Plus, if you only do it when a string breaks, then you’ll have one string that sounds different from all the rest. It’s a good idea to change every string at the same time. That way, you’ll avoid the other three sounding dull compared to the new one.
Professional performer or home hobbyist?
How much you play your uke will affect when you should change ukulele strings. If you’re performing several nights a week, then they should be changed every three months or less. You want them to stay sounding fresh for your audience, don’t you?
If you don’t play quite as often as that, then every four to six months is probably okay. But your ears should be the best judge of when the time is right. If your playing starts to sound like something is missing, it’s time for the strings to go.
Acrylic or titanium?
So, you’ve decided to change your ukulele strings. But which type should you choose to replace them? The choices available can be overwhelming.
Your uke probably came pre-strung with a set of acrylic or nylon strings. And for many uke players, plastic is best. They’re safe, easy to cut and offer a soft, warm tone.
If you decide to go for nylon, then this SUEWIO Nylon Ukulele Strings set is an awesome choice. They offer a clear, sweet sound without being jangly. Not to mention they’re pretty easy on the old pocketbook, too.
Pedal to the metal…
However, titanium strings are growing in popularity these days. They do tend to be a little thicker than nylon and require a harder strum. But the sound they produce is rich and bright, and they’re incredibly durable too.
Ready to give them a try? Then look no further than these D’Addario EJ87S Titanium Ukulele Strings. They’re well-balanced, have a great price, and D’Addario is a name you can trust. Come on; if they’re good enough for Jake Shimabukuro, then they’re good enough for anyone.
A word of caution, though. Steel strings are available, but they’re generally not recommended for use on the average uke. They’re far too heavy and could easily damage the instrument as they have too much tension. Plus, their sound is far closer to that of a banjo than a ukulele.
Are there any other types of string?
Of course, there are other materials available. Wound nylon and metal strings are often sold, too. These usually suit tenor or baritone ukulele models, though, and can sometimes produce an irritating squeaky noise.
Fluorocarbon has also gained popularity in recent years. This is a polymer that’s often used to make products like fishing lines. It’s a decent alternative to nylon as it creates a similar sound but is less affected by heat or cold weather.
The iconic Martin brand makes a fantastic set of Fluorocarbon Ukulele Strings. They offer a delightfully clear tone, with a warmth that isn’t found in other products. They also hold tuning for longer lengths of time, which helps gig musicians.
OK, let’s get down to it… How to restring a ukulele?
Step one involves getting rid of the old set. So, how do you remove ukulele strings?
Look at the tuning pegs on the head of your uke. You’ll need to turn them to allow the strings to relax. Make sure you pay attention while you do this, as you don’t want to tighten them by mistake.
Next, take a peek at the bridge of the uke. You’ll see the strings tied there. Simply cut or undo the knots, and you should be able to pull the old ones out with ease.
The Next Step
Now it’s time to put on new ukulele strings. There are two ways of doing this. Which one you choose will depend on the bridge of the instrument.
A bridge too far…
Some ukes have a simple bridge with four holes. Tie a knot at the end of your string, leaving a couple of inches free. Then feed the other end through the hole and rest it over the saddle (the raised part of the bridge).
When you put on the next string, that inch or two you left on the first string can be incorporated into the knot. This helps to keep the strings tight so that everything stays in tune.
How to tie ukulele strings?
You don’t have to have a boy scout knot-tying badge for this. A simple double knot will do. Or, for extra security, make it a triple-loop.
After you’ve done your first string, tuck the end into the knot of the second. Then do the same with the second, third, and fourth knots. This helps to keep them tight and your strings perfectly tense.
A view from a bridge…
Maybe you have a bridge with slots. This method is even easier. Tie your knots, then carefully slide the string into the slot. The knot will sit securely in the space at the bottom.
Remember, regardless of which bridge you have; the knots need to stay at the bottom of it. You don’t want any of them sitting on the saddle, or your strings will start to sound fuzzy.
Coming to a head
Once you’ve dealt with that end of the uke, turn your attention to the top. The strings need to go through the slots on the tuning pegs. Do this carefully, as it’s easy to make a mistake and attach the wrong string to the wrong peg.
It’s a good idea to attach the strings one at a time to avoid this happening. The bags your strings come in should be clearly labeled. So, don’t empty them all out at once. Take each string as and when it’s needed to not cause any confusion.
Now you’re ready to start tightening. Turn the tuning pegs to get those strings nice and taut. They don’t require tuning yet; this is more like a pre-tuning step.
Did you know that you can buy a handy tool to take the effort out of tightening? This D’Addario Pro-Winder is a great option. Not only does it wind the strings for you, but it has a built-in cutter too for chopping away any excess and prevent them from poking you as you’re playing.
The Final Step
It’s time to get that baby in tune. The first thing you’re going to do is lie the uke on a flat surface and pull the strings up a little. This helps to remove any slack. Take care, though. You don’t want to break one of your newly fitted strings.
A quick tune-up…
Finally, turn the tuning pegs again to find the perfect pitch. Seasoned players can do this by ear. But those new to the uke might need some extra help.
That’s where an awesome electric tuner like this KLIQ UberTuner comes in handy. It perches neatly on the head of the instrument, its light-up display giving a clear reading of how close you are to the right note. It’s highly accurate and won’t break the bank either.
Got a Thing for the Ukulele?
We can help you scratch that itch. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Ukuleles for Beginners, the Best Concert Ukuleles For Beginners, the Best Bass Ukulele, the Best Baritone Ukuleles, the Best Tenor Ukuleles, the Best Lanikai Ukuleles, the Best Luna Ukulele, and the Best Electric Ukuleles you can buy in 2021.
And don’t forget our handy guides on How to Tune a Ukulele, How to Play Ukulele, How to play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen on Ukulele, and Famous Ukulele Songs You Can Learn for more useful information about the ukulele.
How to Restring a Ukulele – Final Thoughts
The steps to restring a ukulele is pretty straightforward, but it’s important to take care when doing it. Okay, it’s a bit time-consuming, but it’s essential to get it right.
Yes, it can be boring. But it’s a job worth doing properly. After all, there’s no sweeter sound than a perfectly strung, well-tuned ukulele, is there?
Just take your time to learn the method. Try a few different types of strings to find which one sounds best to you. And remember, check out the amazing selection of products available out there that help you get it done.
Happy strumming, folks!