View Full Version : a string question

03-14-2015, 04:54 PM
I am new to ukulele and am currently playing a tenor makala. I love it. I know it is entry-level but the little sweetie sings for me.

I also have a few other stringed instruments I have accumulated...a cigar box guitar, a guitar-style dulcimer and a few other things.

The guitar that is the subject of this post I have a pic of but I just can't figure out anything more complex than two tin cans and a string. The following pic is a copy of my guitar a fellow made after seeing it. Mine is much older but basically the same. The man who made this duplicate makes high-end cigar box guitars. He calls it Old Lowe's as that is the fellow who had the original that I now have.


So now to my point. It is tuned with steel guitar strings DGBD, plectrum banjo style. I am wondering how it might work out if I put some variation of ukulele strings on it.

The nut to bridge length is 24 inches. I am thinking about some kind of re-entrant tuning like a tenor or just going for baritone ukulele strings. I can get baritone by tuning the high D to E, but the steel strings are much harder on my fingers than ukulele strings.

I am interested in thoughts concerning this idea. Am I missing something basic? Would tenor re-entrant strings or baritone strings work well with this? I would like some guidance before I spend too much money on experimenting as I really don't know what I am doing.

03-15-2015, 08:50 AM
24" scale length is very much a guitar scale length. Baritone ukulele strings, if cut to length for that particular instrument, are going to be for around a 19" scale. So I wouldn't buy anything that is packaged as baritone ukulele or tenor strings specifically. Although, those sets do contain the same strings that are used on nylon strung guitars sometimes.

You could try nylon strings made for guitars specifically. Just use the four highest strings in a classical/nylon guitar string set. Then you could tune DGBE ideally. You'd end up with at least one wound string going this route, and possibly two. Actually, some D'addario nylon guitar sets have both a composite and wound G included so that you can choose which one you like best.
You would have to make some changes to the instrument. The nut slots for steel strings are more narrow than for nylon strings. You'd have to widen the nut slots, which has to be done correctly with some decent files, if you want to avoid issues. Also, after you do that the nylon strings are going to be closer together than the steels were.
Your other option would be tuning dGBE. Same as mentioned above except you could use a nylon string for the d and it'd be an octave higher. I'm not sure which nylon string to recommend for that.
You can just buy single strings too, but sometimes buying the whole set for guitar and discarding the 2 strings you don't use is about the same price as buying the singles.
I like to buy from Strings and Beyond. Their customer service is top notch. They ship fast too.

An even simpler solution could be trying some lighter gauge steel strings other than what are on it now. They would be easier to press down, but you will lose some volume and sustain..and lighter strings are easier to pull out of tune if you don't fret with a soft touch.
Depending on how the instrument is setup, light gauge steel strings can feel as soft or even softer than some nylon strings.
Cigar box guitars are usually setup with a high action so you can play slide on them. So that's going to increase the tension right away.

One last thing I'll mention: If you do put nylon strings on it, it's going to be quieter..maybe a lot quieter even. Thick tops need a lot more tension to drive them and put out any real volume.

03-15-2015, 12:25 PM
as per what jer said above, all of which makes lots of sense and bears out my own experience as well...

If you want a re-entrant tuning, at that scale length, classical guitar strings will probably serve you best.

D'Addario makes extra-hard tension in their Pro-Arte sets. You could get one set of these, and use the 1,2,3 strings for your D,B,G strings, and for the re-entrant D string, purchase a SINGLE 'E' string of the same extra-hard tension Pro-Arte clear nylon.

The extra-hard tension maybe help to compensate for the lower tension of classical strings, and get you close to the volume and tension of the original steel strings...

Other string makers also sell extra-hard tension strings and sets, but I am most familiar with the ones from D'Addario.

juststrings.com, stringsbymail.com and stringsandbeyond.com all have what you are looking for under the section for 'Classical Guitar' strings, and you have to either go into the 'brand' to see the different sets and singles or on stringsandbeyond.com select from the drop-down menu that is on each string set to see the variations...

03-15-2015, 07:42 PM
Thank you for your kind and helpful replies. The nut on my oldie is four rusty nails. The action is quite high. It is set for some slide delta blues as is. I now need to think...

03-20-2015, 12:38 PM
I have ordered two of D'Addario extra-hard tension Pro-Arte sets. I will string dGBE and lets see what happens. That is the tuning that would give me the same intervals as a standard re-entrant uke, isn't it?

I was looking at a tattoo tenor but if this works I think I will be extremely happy. So many variables so I just got to try and see. I am hoping the hard will give me loudness and the cone sustain...gonna find out.

Again thank you for your help.

03-26-2015, 05:47 PM
Again, I want to thank you for your help. I strung it up and it is simply wonderful. The sound is guitar/ukulele/resonator/whatevertheboxis. It is gentle and sweet, just right for what I like to play.

03-27-2015, 02:37 PM
That's awesome to hear! I hope you continue to enjoy it! :)
You may already know this, but if you put a capo on the 5th fret of a DGBE tuned instrument, you will then be in GCEA tuning. It's kind of like having two instruments in one...at least that's the way I like to think of it.