View Full Version : D'Addario Classical guitar strings for Baritone Ukulele

12-20-2014, 12:13 PM
I have finished construction an excel spread sheet that takes D'Addario Unit weights for their classical guitar strings and converts it into string tension for the 20.125" scale of the baritone uke. From this I have put together four string sets that could be considered low, medium low, medium and high tension string sets and tested them on my baritone ukes, a Pono Acacia Deluxe and a custom baritone with spruce top, A-frame bracing, offset side hole and side sound port. I will simply list the string sets by frequency, D'Addario string number and tension for each set and then follow up with some comments. In general I have been very pleased with the string sets that I have tried.

Low Tension set.
Frequency string number tension
e Nylo29 10.83 lbs
b Nylo38 10.43 lbs
g Nylo022w 10.47 lbs
d Nylo29w 10.54 lbs

Total Tension 42.27 lbs

My Pono loves these strings. They are rectified clear nylon and silver plated copper wound on nylon.

Medium low tension set
Frequency string number tension lbs
e Nylo31 12.37
b Nylo40 11.56
g Nylo24w 11.21
d Nylo31w 11.58

Total tension 46.72 lbs

Medium tension set
Frequency string number tension lbs
e Nylo33 14.02
b Nylo41 12.14
g Nylo26w 14.29
d J2905 13.87

Total tension 54.32 lbs.
My custom baritone rocks on these strings.

High tension set
Frequency string number tension lbs
e Nylo34 14.88
b J4403c 13.54
g Nylo28w 15.91
d Nylo33w 16.19

Total tension 60.52 lbs. If you have a high saddle be advised you will put a lot of torque on the top of the instrument with this setup.

Every instrument has its sweet spot for total string tension based on the many variables inherent in design, construction and wood choices, etc. The classical guitar players recognize this and because it is a large market of discriminating players the string manufacturers cater to their needs with a vast array of products refined into low, normal, hard and extra hard tension string sets and a host of composites capable of modifying the nuances of tone. By comparison the baritone ukulele market is tiny and perhaps more casual. (Many uke string sets don't even tell you the string tensions!) This does not mean that we can't catch a ride on the classical market and take full advantage of the wide variety of excellent string choices to get the most out of our instruments. It is widely accepted that a set of strings that matches a mediocre instrument can make it sound pretty good, while a poorly matched set of strings can make an otherwise very good instrument sound mediocre.

Thoughts on total tension. Other than setting up the instrument to have a great action, selecting the total string tensions is the single most important thing a player can do for his instrument. (playing technique aside!!!) Tension is held in equilibrium when the instrument is at rest, and the attack on the string imparts the energy of sound production. Too much tension may cause the instrument to be brash, boomy, lack responsiveness or be difficult to control volume. Too little and the instrument may seem quiet, muddy and unresponsive. Just right, AHHH, the sky opens and the earth moves and all is right with the world.

So how much total tension?? The total tension is translated into torque or rotational force to the surface of the top by the bridge. The bridge width and saddle height control how much torque along with the total tension. If you carefully measure the saddle height from the surface of the soundboard to the bottom of the strings directly in front of your bridge it will tell something about total string tension. A setup of .5 inches would be towards the high end, a setup of .35" towards the low end.

If two instruments had these dimensions and both used 53 lb string sets the .35" instrument would have a low torque of 18.6 inch lbs (53lbs x .35 inches), while the other would have 26.5 inch lbs of torque (.5 inches x 53 lbs) This is a very substantial difference for our relatively small instruments. A target torque of perhaps 22-3 inch lbs might be a good starting point. So to find the total tension divide the 22 inch lbs of torque by your saddle height and it will give you the total string tension to start off with.

An example. My Pono has a fairly high saddle height of .490". It has a thin top and is lightly braced. It responds beautifully picking and light to medium strumming, but begins to break down with an aggressive strum. So all this told me to go with light tension. A 42 lb string set puts 20.58 inch lbs of torque on it and it sound great. To go lower puts insufficient tension on nylon strings in my humble opinion. Much below ten lbs/string and you start to get a rubber band sound.

If this thread is at all useful I have also converted the tensions for baritone uke on a whole host of specialty strings that can modify the tone. Black nylon, composite copolymer, 80/20 brass wound, coated strings. I can add to this thread if this is useful.

My apologies if I get too technical. I have done most of the math to keep it as user friendly as I can.

Happy Holidays and keep on playin' the UKES>

12-20-2014, 12:47 PM
Technical, YES. But also useful. The only well articulated thread on strings I have seen since I joined here. :cheers:

12-20-2014, 12:54 PM
Granger--good stuff! Please add more strings. I agree with B-1--a well articulated thread!

12-20-2014, 04:08 PM
Thank you, Granger - this is most helpful.

12-20-2014, 07:23 PM
I exclusively use D'addario Classical guitar strings on most of my ukes.

The DGBE strings from Normal D'addario Pro-artes work perfectly for Concerts (as it is the same tension as D'addario's Pro-Arte ukulele set) and Hard or Extra hard work well on a Tenor.

For a baritone, I generally use the ADGB strings.

12-21-2014, 02:44 AM
OK, as promised here are some specialty D'Addario Classical Guitar strings and their converted tensions for baritone uke.

Black nylon for mellower trebles.
Frequency String tension lbs
e J4901 9.53
e J4902 12.88
e J5002 13.32
b J4903 11.96
b J5003 12.26

Composite polymer trebles- Add clarity and brightness to a b string.
Frequency string tension lbs
b J4403c 13.54
b J4503c 12.26
b J4603c 12.95

80/20 brass wound for warmer sounding bass
Frequency String tension lbs
d J4804 10.15

lightly polished wound strings and flat wound strings to quiet string noise (silver plated copper wound on nylon)
frequency string tension lbs
g J4504LP 14.5
d J4604LP 10.09
d J4505LP 15.42
d J5104 11.77


thoughts on individual string tension. I advocate keeping string tension fairly uniform through a set as it enhances playability. A similar attack on any string produces a similar response. there should be a well thought out reason for increasing or decreasing a strings tension on an individual string and then you might need to rebalance the set to keep the same total tension.
When substituting specialty strings try to keep the tension similar to the string you are replacing.

Thoughts on material type and it contribution to tone. I performed an interesting experiment on my custom baritone once I found its sweet spot for total tension. I put together string sets for the target tension of steel, fluorocarbon, nylon, nylgut for the trebles and 80/20 brass wound on steel vs silver plated copper on nylon for the basses. Strung them up, stretched them out and played them. More string changes than I ever want to do in my life again. But it is a cold long winter in north western Maine for a retired guy. What can I conclude? If you have the correct tension for your uke, strings of different material only modify tone a little, what I suppose you might call the overtones and sustain. I have heard players say, "Man I just put string x on my uke and they sound so much better than string y, I love that material." I think much of the difference has to do with a change in tension and only a little to do with the material. This of course is my conclusion based on my instruments, experience and my subjective qualification of sound quality and may differ from someone elses.

Different materials have different tension ranges that optimize their performance on stringed instruments. Nylon seems to perform well from about 10 lbs to perhaps 17 lbs or so. Steel likes a bit more tension to sound its best maybe 12 to 24 pounds. nylgut seems to be a pretty low tension material 9 to 12 pounds perhaps. Fluorocarbon seems to like more tension than nylon. These are pretty loose observations and would need a lot more testing, but what I am suggesting is if you have a low tension instrument there may be materials that are better suited for it than a instrument that want higher tensions. It's food for thought at this point.

12-21-2014, 10:06 AM
A simple approach to finding a great string set.

Take a set of medium tension strings of a known tension. sting 'em up and play them in. Then tune your instrument down a half step to C#f#a#d#. You have just taken about 1 1/2 lbs of tension off each string, about 6 lbs total. Use the same chord shapes and play like you would to evaluate a set of strings. Yes the voicing will be a little different being down half a step, but all your chord shapes will work just fine. Evaluate the tone of the instrument, if you like it you might be better with a set of medium low weight strings tuned to normal DGbe at the medium low tension. If you don't like the tone try going a half step above regular tuning and put 6 lbs more tension on the instrument, if this is great then you might want higher tension strings for regular tuning. Once you find the best tension you can tune the instrument to that tension and evaluate individual strings. play a scale up each individual string. Maybe the b string is a bit flat or muddy but you like the instrument overall at that tension. Select a b string of fluorocarbon or nylon with a pound or two more tension, that should brighten it up. you are on your way to fine tuning a custom set of strings that will really bring the best out of your instrument!!