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View Full Version : Strings......they can make or break an instrument



DownUpDave
08-17-2018, 02:02 AM
I have been called the mad scientist string changer by sam13, (Simon) and Solorule (Brenda) calls me Stringman. I just found out early on that each uke can be a law unto itself and taking the time to find the strings that sound best is worth while. Once I find it I keep that particular set on the instrument. Don't mess with success and don't fix what ain't broken. But sometimes it takes a while to get there.

Enter my Fred Shields all walnut pineapple super soprano . I like a warm open tone but still retaining clarity, I dont like really bright. So when Fred and I planned this custom build I figured all walnut would give me that warm woody sound it is noted for. Wrong, wrong wrong, to the point of frustration and should I just sell this new, wonderfully made and easy playing radiused fretboard long neck beauty.

The strings it came with sounded too bright so changed them to Martin M600, too bright. Tim played it and loved it. Changed to Worth CM but too bright. Got radical and put on Worth BT those are tenor gauge. They were warmer but sounded a bit dead with the large diameter strings, off they came. Tried Living Water concerts, too bright. Tried Worth BM brown mediums, proper gauge was a bit warmer but still not to my liking. Simon loved it, just not me. I respect both Tim and Simon, they have a great ear but different tonal tastes. Ok time for some nylons, always warmer than florocarbon. They were warmer and I actually kept them on for 6 full days. It was painful because although warmer they made the uke sound like a $10 toy, yuck!!!

One more shot and I was selling it, seriously. Others played and loved it just not me. Last shot D'Addario Titanium concerts. Bingo bingo bingo, hallelujah and pass the mustard. Moral of the story if it is a quality instrument there is probably a string set that will give you the tone you like. More instruments have been sold before the right string set has been found. Thanks for letting me vent, it was get close to being sold or set on fire, just joking...... not really

Osprey
08-17-2018, 04:04 AM
Dave, good on you for putting in the effort to find the right strings, In my local group of uke friends I seem to change strings more then most. I have Living Waters on my Cedar topped Baritone and one of my acacia tenors. I like them on both partially because of the way they sound and partially because they don’t tear up the nails on my right hand as much as wound strings.

Ukecaster
08-17-2018, 04:09 AM
Interesting! Dave, I believe you have mostly higher quality ukes, but were any improved by Aquila Nylgut, or the newer Sugar strings? I have a concert uke in search of the right strings, the original flouros and then the usual M600s didn't do it, looking for a bigger sound, with more volume. Also, I have never tried Titaniums.

kerneltime
08-17-2018, 04:21 AM
I have been called the mad scientist string changer by sam13, (Simon) and Solorule (Brenda) calls me Stringman. I just found out early on that each uke can be a law unto itself and taking the time to find the strings that sound best is worth while. Once I find it I keep that particular set on the instrument. Don't mess with success and don't fix what ain't broken. But sometimes it takes a while to get there.

Enter my Fred Shields all walnut pineapple super soprano . I like a warm open tone but still retaining clarity, I dont like really bright. So when Fred and I planned this custom build I figured all walnut would give me that warm woody sound it is noted for. Wrong, wrong wrong, to the point of frustration and should I just sell this new, wonderfully made and easy playing radiused fretboard long neck beauty.

The strings it came with sounded too bright so changed them to Martin M600, too bright. Tim played it and loved it. Changed to Worth CM but too bright. Got radical and put on Worth BT those are tenor gauge. They were warmer but sounded a bit dead with the large diameter strings, off they came. Tried Living Water concerts, too bright. Tried Worth BM brown mediums, proper gauge was a bit warmer but still not to my liking. Simon loved it, just not me. I respect both Tim and Simon, they have a great ear but different tonal tastes. Ok time for some nylons, always warmer than florocarbon. They were warmer and I actually kept them on for 6 full days. It was painful because although warmer they made the uke sound like a $10 toy, yuck!!!

One more shot and I was selling it, seriously. Others played and loved it just not me. Last shot D'Addario Titanium concerts. Bingo bingo bingo, hallelujah and pass the mustard. Moral of the story if it is a quality instrument there is probably a string set that will give you the tone you like. More instruments have been sold before the right string set has been found. Thanks for letting me vent, it was get close to being sold or set on fire, just joking...... not really

Thanks for posting this!

An analogy would be throwing away a speaker because you do not like the singer.. speakers have their sweet spot but who is singing makes just as much of a difference! I hated Worth Browns on some ukes but I cannot listen to any other string on my Cocobolo, it just sounds perfect.

There needs to be a new term String Matching Syndrome (SMS)?

EDW
08-17-2018, 04:34 AM
.......... Last shot D'Addario Titanium concerts. Bingo bingo bingo, hallelujah and pass the mustard. Moral of the story if it is a quality instrument there is probably a string set that will give you the tone you like. More instruments have been sold before the right string set has been found........

I agree with your thoughts about finding the right strings. Some instruments can really be transformed in this way. While I am afraid to open this can of worms, I will ask- how would you describe the tone of the Titanium strings? I have no experience with these.

merlin666
08-17-2018, 06:39 AM
Thanks for your report. I am wondering what people do with their strings sets that they only used for a short time - do you keep them to try on another uke or toss them out?

hendulele
08-17-2018, 07:20 AM
Interesting! Dave, I believe you have mostly higher quality ukes, but were any improved by Aquila Nylgut, or the newer Sugar strings? I have a concert uke in search of the right strings, the original flouros and then the usual M600s didn't do it, looking for a bigger sound, with more volume. Also, I have never tried Titaniums.

I'll jump in here. I have an Ohana concert, solid cedar top with laminate willow back/sides. Came with Aquila Nylguts, which only work for me on the Firefly. I went through Aquila lavas and M600s, which played OK but didn't really do it for me until I tried the Aquila sugars. They blow me away. A very balanced and sweet sound, great feel. Highly recommended ... for that uke, which is above entry level, but not a lot.

I also like the Martin/Aquila carbon strings on my Makala concert. That uke is a genuine el cheapo but it sounds really nice with those strings.

I've tried Titaniums on a bunch of different ukes, including my KoAlana, where they were standard. Just not for me, at least on the ukes I've played. But as Dave demonstrates, they work for some people on some ukes.

hendulele
08-17-2018, 07:21 AM
Thanks for your report. I am wondering what people do with their strings sets that they only used for a short time - do you keep them to try on another uke or toss them out?


I keep and reuse.

Jerryc41
08-17-2018, 08:12 AM
I tend to keep the strings they come with. You certainly have patience! I know strings and their sound is personal, but maybe keeping (and posting) a chart of differences between strings would be useful to others.

jimavery
08-17-2018, 08:12 AM
I almost threw out one of my ukes because the intonation at fret 1 and 2 was so terrible, but then something someone mentioned on here made me realise it could be the (very thin) strings. I put slightly thicker strings on and now it sounds fine.

mikelz777
08-17-2018, 09:11 AM
My first uke was a Lanikai LU21C which came with Aquila strings. I was never happy with the sound which sounded kind of dull and muddy. I then tried some D'Addario strings which sounded even worse plus I disliked the feel of them. (I think it's the nylon) I started blaming the uke since it was kind of a cheapy but then I tried Martin fluorocarbons. It sounded like a whole new/different uke! I've found that Martins and Oasis strings have sounded good on everything I've put them on so they are my go to strings. I currently have Worth Browns on my all-acacia uke and it's sounding kind of quiet and mellow. This is the 2nd uke where I haven't been thrilled with the sound of Worth Browns. I'm hoping the Martins or Oasis strings will liven up that acacia a bit and make it sound a little louder.

Ukecaster
08-17-2018, 12:04 PM
Thanks for the ideas. Never tried Sugars, but will order some up.

DownUpDave
08-17-2018, 12:29 PM
I agree with your thoughts about finding the right strings. Some instruments can really be transformed in this way. While I am afraid to open this can of worms, I will ask- how would you describe the tome of the Titanium strings? I have no experience with these.

D'Addario Titaniums are made of monofiliment which is between nylon and florocarbon in density, in diameter and not suprisingly in tone. So a little warmer than florocarbon a little brighter than nylon. They are closer to nylon in diameter so might be fat for nut slots cut for florocarbon strings

I haven't had them on many tenors or concerts but every baritone I have tried them on they sounded good. I have a Gianinni baritone and those are the best strings for that uke. Hope that helps.

bearbike137
08-17-2018, 01:37 PM
I completely agree with the OP except...

... I do this for each string on my ukes until I find a mixed set that optimizes my uke’s potential!

SoloRule
08-17-2018, 02:30 PM
Hey Stringman Dave. I am happy you finally found the right strings! I would be very sad if you sell it so soon after I hand carried it back across the continent!
Some days we like it bright, some days we like it warm. Itís our hearing that is playing tricks on us.
So far Worth clear is the most balanced sounding set to my untrained ears.

DownUpDave
08-17-2018, 02:46 PM
I completely agree with the OP except...

... I do this for each string on my ukes until I find a mixed set that optimizes my uke’s potential!

Good point bearbike. A number of my ukes have Frankenstein string sets. My Kimo super concert has 4 different makes of strings on it.

Rakelele
08-17-2018, 11:51 PM
I totally agree with your assessment, Dave: strings can make a huge difference and show an instruments full potential. However, I'll add two contradicting thoughts to the discussion:

1) I'd think that there are some instruments that won't even be saved by the best match of strings. While strings do affect some tonal characteristics, they cannot change the overall voicing of an instrument. There may be instruments that just don't suit your personal taste of sound (see my second point below), and then there are certainly some that are poorly constructed and dead sounding to begin with, no matter what strings you put on it.

2) A thoughtful builder or manufacturer will most likely chose a set of strings that will suit his instruments' voicing best, according to his own personal taste. In extreme cases, he will build and fine-tune the entire instrument to a particular set of strings, adjust the top thickness and bracing, compensate the saddle and nut for it, etc. When your own expectations of sound are totally opposed to the ones of the builder, it may be hard to "force" them onto the instrument with different strings. Personally, I came to realize that some builders/manufacturers just don't suit my taste, and strings won't change that.

Doc_J
08-18-2018, 01:48 AM
Hey Stringman Dave. I am happy you finally found the right strings! I would be very sad if you sell it so soon after I hand carried it back across the continent!
Some days we like it bright, some days we like it warm. Itís our hearing that is playing tricks on us.
So far Worth clear is the most balanced sounding set to my untrained ears.

Had that experience too, with varying bright/warm preference. My hearing also varies by the day and time of day. Iíve had ukes whose sound disappointed me late at night, but then sound good in the morning. Go figure.


I totally agree with your assessment, Dave: strings can make a huge difference and show an instruments full potential. However, I'll add two contradicting thoughts to the discussion:

1) I'd think that there are some instruments that won't even be saved by the best match of strings. While strings do affect some tonal characteristics, they cannot change the overall voicing of an instrument. There may be instruments that just don't suit your personal taste of sound (see my second point below), and then there are certainly some that are poorly constructed and dead sounding to begin with, no matter what strings you put on it.

2) A thoughtful builder or manufacturer will most likely chose a set of strings that will suit his instruments' voicing best, according to his own personal taste. In extreme cases, he will build and fine-tune the entire instrument to a particular set of strings, adjust the top thickness and bracing, compensate the saddle and nut for it, etc. When your own expectations of sound are totally opposed to the ones of the builder, it may be hard to "force" them onto the instrument with different strings. Personally, I came to realize that some builders/manufacturers just don't suit my taste, and strings won't change that.

I agree, some ukes have sound/tone that appeals more to some folks that others, no matter what strings you use.

DownUpDave
08-18-2018, 02:54 AM
Solorule, Doc J and Rakelele thanks for bringing up to those points as we have talked about them in the past and I completely agree. Somedays nothing sounds good other days I might think one of my warmer ukes sounds too boomy when I loved it yesterday.

All ukes are not created equal, some suit our personal tastes some don't and others are all together inferior. I have bought and sold a bunch looking for the attributes that are important to me, some just don't have it and get rehomed.