View Full Version : Help with strings for a 7 inch scale length

04-17-2015, 01:58 PM
Hi everyone, I've been building an uke a month for the past few months (blog here: http://nobo13.wordpress.com/ ) and I'm now part way through building a pocket ukulele.

The scale length is 7 inch, so it's going to be small, if not tiny. I'm worried about the strings though.

Has anyone got experience with short scale lengths and knows what strings will be usable? At the moment I have some high tension classical guitar strings, but any advice or help will come in handy.


04-18-2015, 01:54 AM
I built this one for the UK's Ian Emmerson:


It's tuned gcea an octave above normal. I bought nylon banjo uke strings, which are thin and stretchy. This is good because very short strings are more rigid than longer ones, and so fretting is very hard on the fingers. Aquilas are too thick for this scale, fluorocarbons are OK at dgbe but too stiff at cgea.

As a bonus, banjo uke nylons are really cheap and you only need half a string each time, thus you get two sets.

Playing the thing is harder than Ian makes it look!

04-18-2015, 02:43 AM
Brilliant! It looks amazing! What scale length did you go for?

I'm having problems finding the banjo uke strings. Are they just normal nylon banjo strings? Or banjolele strings? I keep getting soprano strings in my searchs, can you recommend a brand / one to me?

Thanks for the reply as well!

04-18-2015, 03:44 AM
Are they just normal nylon banjo strings? Or banjolele strings?

Banjolele, banjo uke, ukelele banjo - all the same thing. Of course they'll be soprano/concert strings, because there's no market for 7 inch scale. Cut each string in half to make two sets. Depending where you are, brands will differ. These are the ones is used from the UK: http://www.eaglemusicshop.com/ukulele-strings/Picato-Ukulele-Banjo.htm. These might do from eBay.com: http://www.ebay.com/itm/4x-Black-Chord-Strings-Nylon-Durable-A-B-F-D-for-Soprano-Concert-21-23-Ukulele-/371304995131?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item567380993b. You don't want expensive strings, as they tend to be harder/higher tension. Soft nylon will work best.

My scale length was half the Martin soprano scale, 6 7/8 inches as near as makes no difference.

04-18-2015, 04:13 AM
Thanks ProfChris. Still in disbelief that you've replied to me. I saw the reed tiny last year and thought how amazing it was, so in short, you actually inspired me to make this. Strange thing the internet I suppose.

04-18-2015, 07:32 AM
Start looking at fishing line for thin strings.

04-18-2015, 08:26 AM
Wouldn't regular soprano strings cut to half the length be suited for the pitch an octave above normal?

04-18-2015, 08:51 AM
Wouldn't regular soprano strings cut to half the length be suited for the pitch an octave above normal?

That's what I was trying to say. I must be dim today.

But not fluorocarbons or Aquila's to tune up an octave. Tried those, too stiff. Cheap nylon strings, the thinner the better.

The fishing line you use on your piccolos might work - does that give low tension on your sopranos (can't remember)?

04-18-2015, 10:18 AM
I had an amount of wine before reading your post Chris so I cut to the chase and brought out the opinions in front of knowledge.

Fishing line. Yes. Make strings. Play music. All good.

Tension I don't know but it feels alright on a soprano, floppy on a piccolo and rather taut on a tenor.

04-19-2015, 10:51 AM
There is a good deal of study on string diameter tension and lengths done by the harp building community. This tells us all sorts of counterintuitive information such as that the breaking strain tone obtained over a given length of nylon or steel by taking that length to as close to the breaking strain as possible appears to be only marginally affected by the diameter of the string. This means that putting a thinner string on will not allow you to get a higher note before the string snaps, even if it does snap at a lower tension. What it does do is prevent having a tension that rips the instrument apart. Having wound strings like on a guitar helps you achieve lower notes with higher relative to breaking strain tension, with the playable range appearing to be roughly somewhere between 30 and 70% of the breaking strain.
I used the suck it and see approach on my sopraninos to arrive at a 40 60 50 30 lb recipe for dGBE octave(s) over guitar tuning on a 10 or 11 inch scale. Something like that will probably give you octave over ukulele on a 7 inch scale with a playable tension. I use the cheapest nylon fishing line known to man. I got 500 meters of 40 lb line for $3.49 or so of our Australian dollars. It does take a little longer to settle down than more official string maker strings but for the sorts of things I build is more cost appropriate.

04-19-2015, 11:33 AM
Thanks, Titchtheclown. An insightful little read. I'll probably play around a bit. I wanted standard low g tuning if possible, hence why I have guitar strings so far. But from what ProfChris and others have said, probably an octave above is the best approach. I'll play around.

04-19-2015, 12:57 PM
In theory you can use thicker strings to achieve a lower tuning. But ...

1. At some point, the scale is too short to tune the string accurately. With a thick string, tiny tension changes produced a big pitch change.

2. Also, tiny variations in finger pressure have a much larger effect on thick strings. Think wah-wah pedal.

3. Your nut width is tiny, so thick strings are too close together to play.

Empirically, I reckon you can make a uke this tiny playable in dgbe with soprano fluorocarbons. To get gcea an octave above standard you need thin nylon soprano strings. Gcea, standard, might be achievable but I doubt it - tell us if you manage it! Gcea with a low G is, I'd say, not possible, but do prove me wrong.

04-20-2015, 08:11 PM
Harp makers muck about with both string length and thickness in their design process. On a traditional harp all the strings are different lengths. You might like to think of a Uke as a four string harp where all the strings are the same length and single sharping levers have been replaced by a fret board.
This link goes into quite a lot of theory and stuff but does explain why guitars and low g ukes have wound bass (low note) strings. Essentially the nylon strings stay too floppy when tuned low no matter how thick they are.

04-21-2015, 08:41 AM
Thank you for the link. I'm going to build a test rig and experiment with a couple of selections.

05-04-2015, 01:52 PM
For those interested, ProfChris' suggestion of banjo strings was the most stable and better option.

I'll be going with low-g tuning, but an octave up on all the strings. Here's a video of the fourth string in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuX4stTTY80

You can see some more progress on my blog as well: http://nobo13.wordpress.com/

05-09-2015, 04:55 AM
I've finished them off.

Thanks to everyone who has offered advice and support.