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View Full Version : String size question (not uke size, string size)



Chopped Liver
10-31-2015, 11:43 AM
So, why it the C string the thickest? Why can't I use a thinner string on the C string? The thicker string doesn't seem to ring as well or something - sort of a thud sound along with the regular sound.

Could I use a different string and still tune it to C? What would happen?

DownUpDave
10-31-2015, 12:44 PM
With reentrant tuning the 3rd string or C string is the deepest/lowest sounding string, the bass string. This is why it is the thickest, just like on an acoustic guitar the 6th string is the largest as it is the deepest sounding bass string, pure physics. Along those lines a low G strung ukulele has the 4th string as the thickest string.

What ukulele is this happening to.. You can try different makes of strings, what is on there now? How long have these strings been on the offending instrument? A wound 3rd string will give you much more resonance, I really like them

Jim Hanks
10-31-2015, 01:13 PM
Of course there are different size strings that can be tuned to C. In general a thicker one will have more tension than a thinner one and a denser one will have less tension than a whatever-the-opposite-of-denser-is one. This is why a denser wound string can be thinner and be tuned to about the same tension as a thicker nylon or flourocarbon string.

If you don't like the strings that are on there, as DUD says, just try something else.

bookoo
10-31-2015, 01:20 PM
The pitch of a note on a plucked string depends on the tension of the string, the length of the string, and the mass of the string. Think about just the open strings for a moment. So, to get 4 different strings to play 4 different notes while having similar tensions, the only thing left to vary is the mass, which is the thickness. If you wanted to have a thinner string with the same length sound a lower note, you lower the tension. The problem is that when the tension varies significantly, the character of the sound (the timbre, the overtone series, etc.) starts to change. You can certainly try, but I think most people would agree that at a certain point, they no longer care for the sound. I tried to use a fairly thick classical guitar nylon string (plain, not wound) as a low G on a tenor. Although the string was thicker than any of the others, I always thought it sounded horrible. Intonation was bad and that one string's sound did not blend well with the others. I swapped it for a wound nylon string from a similar classical guitar set, and it sounds great. The windings add mass while keeping the flexibility of the nylon core. This way, you get lower notes with similar tension and thus, similar timbre.

Chopped Liver
10-31-2015, 01:53 PM
The pitch of a note on a plucked string depends on the tension of the string, the length of the string, and the mass of the string. Think about just the open strings for a moment. So, to get 4 different strings to play 4 different notes while having similar tensions, the only thing left to vary is the mass, which is the thickness. If you wanted to have a thinner string with the same length sound a lower note, you lower the tension. The problem is that when the tension varies significantly, the character of the sound (the timbre, the overtone series, etc.) starts to change. You can certainly try, but I think most people would agree that at a certain point, they no longer care for the sound. I tried to use a fairly thick classical guitar nylon string (plain, not wound) as a low G on a tenor. Although the string was thicker than any of the others, I always thought it sounded horrible. Intonation was bad and that one string's sound did not blend well with the others. I swapped it for a wound nylon string from a similar classical guitar set, and it sounds great. The windings add mass while keeping the flexibility of the nylon core. This way, you get lower notes with similar tension and thus, similar timbre.

OK, this makes sense. So I need a string about the same thickness, but it can be wound or whatever to achieve the thickness.

Chopped Liver
10-31-2015, 01:56 PM
With reentrant tuning the 3rd string or C string is the deepest/lowest sounding string, the bass string. This is why it is the thickest, just like on an acoustic guitar the 6th string is the largest as it is the deepest sounding bass string, pure physics. Along those lines a low G strung ukulele has the 4th string as the thickest string.

What ukulele is this happening to.. You can try different makes of strings, what is on there now? How long have these strings been on the offending instrument? A wound 3rd string will give you much more resonance, I really like them

So, where would I find a wound 3rd string? It would still be a uke string, I assume, just wound?

The uke is pretty new and has Aquilas on it, I think.

Chopped Liver
10-31-2015, 01:57 PM
Of course there are different size strings that can be tuned to C. In general a thicker one will have more tension than a thinner one and a denser one will have less tension than a whatever-the-opposite-of-denser-is one. This is why a denser wound string can be thinner and be tuned to about the same tension as a thicker nylon or flourocarbon string.

If you don't like the strings that are on there, as DUD says, just try something else.

Um, yeah, but that means I have to change the strings . . . AUGH!! ;)

Jim Hanks
10-31-2015, 02:07 PM
So, where would I find a wound 3rd string? It would still be a uke string, I assume, just wound?

The uke is pretty new and has Aquilas on it, I think.
You can buy sets with a wound third like Southcoast MU-W3: http://www.southcoastukes.com/ukulele.htm
Another alternative is classical guitar strings which are wound nylon. You can buy those as singles in many music stores.

Chopped Liver
10-31-2015, 02:12 PM
You can buy sets with a wound third like Southcoast MU-W3: http://www.southcoastukes.com/ukulele.htm
Another alternative is classical guitar strings which are wound nylon. You can buy those as singles in many music stores.

OK, thanks! Would a classical guitar string put too much stress on a uke?

stevepetergal
10-31-2015, 03:21 PM
It's all about the weight of the string. If you want similar tension on each string and you want them made of the same material (a good idea), you must make the lower pitched ones heavier per inch. So the C must be the thickest (re-entrant). One exception: Mimo at Aquila has done something else with one of his string types. He adds copper powder to all the strings and each string in the set has a different amount of the copper in it, enabling the weight to be adjusted (more copper=more weight per inch) to some degree, without the diameter being drastically different. Great idea, but I don't know how successful the results have been.

I too am consistently disappointed with the sound of C strings. They're always duller than the rest, and get worse as you move up the fretboard. Sometimes it's slight, but it's always there.

Just two days ago I installed a new GHS wound C string on one of my instruments, but have only had a moment or two to try it out. The first test was encouraging. We"ll see how it blends.

wayfarer75
10-31-2015, 03:22 PM
I tried the Thomastik-Infeld CF27 as a wound 3rd, and it worked well. Bought it as a single from Strings by Mail. Much quieter than the Southcoast wound 3rd.

Chopped Liver
10-31-2015, 04:36 PM
Well, I'm glad to hear that I am not the only one with the problem! Yes, duller sounding!

Lots to think about here . . .

jollyboy
10-31-2015, 04:45 PM
I've been looking at wound c options. I'm planning on trying a D'Addario NYL026W on my Ohana tenor. Mya Moe use strings from the same range for their low g's so I imagine they are pretty decent. Probably not as quiet as the Thomastik-Infeld strings, but I can live with a little squeak.

bookoo
11-01-2015, 11:03 PM
OK, this makes sense. So I need a string about the same thickness, but it can be wound or whatever to achieve the thickness.

The purpose of the windings is to add mass while retaining the same flexibility as an unwound string. For ukulele and classical guitar strings (essentially the same thing), if you wanted to make an unwound/plain string for the lowest notes, it would either have to have extremely low tension or be massively thick, both generally considered undesirable. The solution is to take a reasonable thickness nylon core and wrap metal around it, usually some sort of silver alloy or bronze alloy.

70sSanO
11-03-2015, 06:06 AM
I think everyone has given you a lot of good advice. Nylon is generally the softest material and therefore has to be the thickest. And as you have found, thicker strings tend to thud, as well as over tensioned strings.

Fluorocarbon strings are not as soft and they tend to be thinner so you can generally go with a smaller diameter string and get less thud. And you can also go with a wound C string.

Another option is to try Aquila Reds. Aquila Reds tend to be a love/hate string. On some ukuleles they are the best thing going, on others... meh. But one thing they are is thinner. If you have a thud issue, they may be worth looking into.

As for buying strings. With a ukulele it seems to be the nature of the beast. Unlike a guitar with its large soundbox, a ukulele is a real balance game to get the right sound and that generally means trying out different strings.

John

Chopped Liver
11-03-2015, 06:21 AM
Thanks to all of you for your insight and suggestions!