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View Full Version : Classical guitar strings on a baritone? Steel strings?



Benjolele
09-15-2017, 02:27 PM
Classical-
Has anyone tried classical guitar strings on a baritone ukulele? I recently bought my first bari, and I love it, but the strings that came on it are crap. I read another thread where several folks had mentioned the same string problems I'm having.

I saw Taimane play in Berkeley several weeks ago, and she mentioned that she uses classical guitar strings.

So, I'd like to hear your experience. Good or bad.

Steel-
I know that a few makes are now producing baritones with steel strings. Has anybody's tried steel strings on theirs (if it didn't come with them)?
I wouldn't even consider putting them on an instrument without a truss rod, but since this has one, I'm wondering if it would work without damaging it.

WCBarnes
09-15-2017, 02:33 PM
I personally would never put steel strings on a ukulele that was not designed for them, even if it has a truss rod.

As for classical guitar strings, that is all I use on my baritone. I use the Thomastick-Infeld CF128 set (https://www.stringsbymail.com/classical-guitar-strings-1/thomastik-infeld-63/classic-n-series-88/cf128-chrome-3rd-166/) and use strings 2-5. I love the sound and tension these produce.

Booli
09-15-2017, 02:57 PM
In order to use steel strings, the instrument has to be built for the extra tension, which is about 2.5x that of nylon-type strings.

Such an instrument has a very different bracing pattern, and is otherwise constructed to withstand the approximate 125 lbs of total string tension, whereas most baritone nylon-type string sets exert a maximum total of about 52 lbs string tension.

So if you 'just put steel strings on' you will likely cause the bridge to fly off, the top to collapse and despite the trussrod, you may also cause the neck joint to fail completely, so I'd say dont do it...

In addition to all the above, the saddle of a uke that is parallel to the nut, will NEVER be able to intonate properly with steel strings, and if you look at most steel string guitars you will see that the saddle is on a slant of about 15 degress in order to allow for proper compensation, and this is NOT possible on a standard uke, baritone or otherwise, UNLESS you replace the bridge.

Having said that, if you search the forum for 'thomastik', without quotes, you will see TONS of discussions of folks using these classical strings on ukes of ALL sizes...

and there is some additional info you can get from the page linked below in my forum signature.

Pono, Ko'olau and Kilin Reece make steel-string baritone-type instruments, that are SPECIFICALLY designed for the extra tension, other 'standard' baritones will likely get either wholly or partially destroyed by the extra tension if steel strings are installed on them.

ALSO FYI - steel strings are NOT the same as the wound classical guitar strings which usually have a nylon or silk fiber core, wish is over-wrapped with silver-plated copper wire, completely different in composition and construction,

Rakelele
09-15-2017, 08:36 PM
As Booli pointed out, even if your baritone has a truss rod, the higher tension might rip off the bridge or cause other structural damage.

I have the Pono UL that is specifically made for steel strings and is just a little bit bigger than a regular baritone (21" scale instead of 20"). It's my favorite instrument of all. So, instead of experimenting, I would highly recommend one of these. Their entry level model in all solid Acacia (https://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/brand/pono/pono-acacia-steel-string-baritone-ul4-10.html) is around 600 dollars, including a nice case.

Experimenting with classical guitar strings, on the other hand, is highly recommended. I have also started to use tenor ukulele string sets on my baritones, since there are by far more options for tenors, and from all I can tell, with the longer scale and lower tuning, this works very well.

Croaky Keith
09-15-2017, 09:42 PM
I have a cheap set of classical guitar strings on my Kala KA-T tenor uke right now, it has a totally different sound/tone than it did with normal strings, deeper & more to my liking. (I used the bottom four low strings tuned G-C-E-A.)

These strings only cost 2 a set! Normally I use fluorocarbons at 7 a set, so quite a saving money wise too. :)

Booli
09-15-2017, 11:14 PM
Classical guitar sets are always a good back-up for the baritone. They are easy to go and buy, they usually don't cost much, and you get five out six strings which you can move around to see which way you like them. Usually the low E is too hard to use, but the other five can be used in various combinations. Sometimes you get too much tension from the high E string.
Also baritone strings can wear out faster and if you are playing all the time, you might need to change strings monthly, over time the costs add up and the lower cost of classical guitar strings can save a lot of cash. Especially if you find the set you like and arrange a bulk buy with your local shop.

I would tend to agree with you...

Before I learned about fluorocarbon strings, and before ukulele, I did not care too much about strings on classical guitar or electric guitar, and usually went for the cheapest I could find...

That meant the D'Addario EJ27N for classical @ $3.99/set and the Ernie Ball Extra Slinky (pink wrapper) for electric @ $4.99/set...

I have also on occasions used strings from the EJ27H (hard tension) on baritone, tenor and concert uke. The D'Addario wound strings seems to last a lot longer than other brands before they get indentations from the frets and start to oxidise and turn brownish in color...

Nowadays I go for the Thomastik-Infeld CF127 or CF128 on classical which are about $20/set but last a very long time, and on electric I use the D'Addario XL Chromes flatwound (smooth as glass) for about $14/set...

Eventually when I get a Martin size 5, steel string acoustic guitar, I will be looking into the D'Addario 'Flat-Tops' strings or the Martin 'Monel' strings.

Benjolele
09-19-2017, 04:47 PM
In order to use steel strings, the instrument has to be built for the extra tension, which is about 2.5x that of nylon-type strings.

Such an instrument has a very different bracing pattern, and is otherwise constructed to withstand the approximate 125 lbs of total string tension, whereas most baritone nylon-type string sets exert a maximum total of about 52 lbs string tension.

So if you 'just put steel strings on' you will likely cause the bridge to fly off, the top to collapse and despite the trussrod, you may also cause the neck joint to fail completely, so I'd say dont do it...

In addition to all the above, the saddle of a uke that is parallel to the nut, will NEVER be able to intonate properly with steel strings, and if you look at most steel string guitars you will see that the saddle is on a slant of about 15 degress in order to allow for proper compensation, and this is NOT possible on a standard uke, baritone or otherwise, UNLESS you replace the bridge.

Having said that, if you search the forum for 'thomasitk', without quotes, you will see TONS of discussions of folks using these classical strings on ukes of ALL sizes...

and there is some additional info you can get from the page linked below in my forum signature.

Pono, Ko'olau and Kilin Reece make steel-string baritone-type instruments, that are SPECIFICALLY designed for the extra tension, other 'standard' baritones will likely get either wholly or partially destroyed by the extra tension if steel strings are installed on them.

ALSO FYI - steel strings are NOT the same as the wound classical guitar strings which usually have a nylon or silk fiber core, wish is over-wrapped with silver-plated copper wire, completely different in composition and construction,

Thanks everyone, this is great stuff.
Thanks especially to Booli. That tension information is exactly what I needed to know to put it in perspective.

I think I may order a set of baritone strings, and a set or two of classical and see what feels and sounds best for my purposes.

casualUkuleler
02-26-2018, 08:44 AM
WC, thanks for that info on string set! Regarding tuning, do you tune to standard DGBE for baritone or another tuning with the CF128 string set?

WCBarnes
02-26-2018, 02:23 PM
WC, thanks for that info on string set! Regarding tuning, do you tune to standard DGBE for baritone or another tuning with the CF128 string set?

I use traditional DGBE baritone tuning. Some people like using the first 4 strings (DGBE on a classical guitar), but since the scale length is ~5" shorter than a classical guitar I found them too floppy, so I went 1 string up to the 2-5 strings and find it to be perfect!

kissing
02-26-2018, 03:17 PM
Old topic being revived..

Basically classical guitar strings and ukulele strings are made of equivalent materials and are interchangeable if you know what you're doing.

As a general rule, you can use the middle 4 strings (ADGB) of any classical guitar set on a baritone to tune to DGBE.

You can use the DGBE strings (4th to 1st) of any classical guitar set to tune a soprano/concert/tenor ukulele to GCEA (with low-G)

Obviously as pointed out by others, classical guitar strings are NOT steel strings.