Ukulele strings are made from nylon, meaning that they are fairly hard-wearing. This means that you should not have to change them often. It is still an important skill to learn, particularly if you plan on becoming an expert uke player.
There are a few steps involved in the string changing process. You will need to learn how to remove your old strings and replace them without damaging any of the delicate areas of your instrument.
How often should you change uke strings?
You will know that it is time to change your strings when the tone begins to sound off. The frequency with which you need to replace your strings varies according to how often you play your uke. If you play daily, you are likely to need to replace your strings monthly. For the more infrequent player, a set of strings can last for up to 6 months.
If you notice any deformities in your strings this is an indication that they need to be replaced. Keep an eye out for flat areas, pits, nicks, and deep grooves on the surface of the strings.
If your strings become pinched, warped, or bent then they will need replacing. If you break them in and they appear to fall out of tune rapidly, you need to install new strings.
What are the different kinds of uke strings?
The 4 main string types are nylon, fluorocarbon, Nylgut, and wound. Nylon strings are the least dense and have a warmer tone. Fluorocarbon strings are the densest and therefore the strings have the smallest diameter.
Nylgut is a material owned by Aquila. It has high tension and bright tone when played. Wound strings tend to be used for a low G tuning. They have smaller diameters and an increased volume, presence, and sustain.
What do you need to change uke strings?
You will need an implement to cut the new strings to the correct length. This can be household scissors or wire cutters. You will also need the replacement set of strings to be installed.
We recommended having a string winder and electronic tuner to hand as well. You will also want to get a clean cloth to lay your ukulele on top of. This will prevent the underside of the body from becoming scratched.
How do you remove uke strings?
The first thing that you will need to do is remove the old strings from your uke. Twist the tuning peg on the neck of your uke to loosen the string. If you are unsure of which direction to twist, pluck the string. If you are loosening the string then the pitch will drop. If you are tightening it then the pitch will rise.
Once you have sufficiently loosened the string, you will be able to slide it off of the tuning peg with ease. You can also cut the string near the tuning peg if it will not loosen.
You should then work out what kind of bridge your uke has. It will either be a standard or a tie-bar bridge. The way to change the strings will vary according to the bridge type. A tie-bar bridge is similar to what you would find on acoustic guitars.
The strings are wound around the bridge a couple of times and then knotted in place. A standard, or slotted, bridge has vertical indents through which the strings are threaded. The string is knotted at the bottom to keep it still and the tension consistent.
To take the strings off a uke with a tie-bar bridge, you should push the string towards the bridge. This will loosen the knot until it comes undone. Be gentle when you do this to avoid damaging the bridge.
To remove the strings from a uke with a slotted bridge you will need a different technique. Keep the string parallel to the ukulele as you pull the knot upwards and out of the slot. If you encounter any resistance you can try tugging it gently with tweezers. Do not be too rough.
To replace the strings on a tie-bar bridge uke you will need to slide one end of the string into the hole in the bridge. Push it through, leaving about an inch of string at the end. Wrap this exposed end behind the string on the top of the bridge. Loop it around 3 times to secure it in place.
To replace the strings on a standard bridge uke, you will need to tie one end of the string in a knot, about half an inch from the end. Slide this into the right slot on the bridge and gently pull it upwards to secure it in place. Trim off the excess string, leaving just a few millimeters after the knot.
When you have attached the strings to the bridge, it is time to attach them to the tuning pegs. Pull the unattached end away from the bridge and towards the neck of the ukulele. Slide the string into the metal pin on the right tuning peg.
Once they are securely fastened in place you can begin turning the tuning peg to increase the tension on the strings. Use your electronic tuner to gauge when you have tightened the strings sufficiently.
You can cut the excess string off from your uke at this point if you like. Some people prefer not to, but this is ultimately a stylistic choice. Neither decision will impact the sound of your uke. If you are a beginner then we recommend cutting off the excess as it may get in your way.
Now you have changed one string, all that is left to do is repeat the process for the other 3. We recommend re-tuning each of your strings once you have attached all 4. You are now ready to play. As each new set of strings will need to be broken in, we recommend re-tuning the uke for the first 5 to 10 times you play.