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View Full Version : Are strings the secret to making entry-level ukes sound good?



Thumper
05-27-2009, 08:03 AM
I bought a Lanikai LU-21 soprano online for 50 bucks, and have been quite happy with it as a starter uke. It came with Aquila strings, and sounds pretty nice to my newbie ears.

As the inevitable onset of UAS hit me, and I found myself enjoying my ukulele even more than I'd expected, I began to look into some better ukuleles, but realized I'd never tried any other types or sizes. So I went to a local Sam Ash, to see if they had any ukuleles I could try, to get a sense of what the different sizes felt like to play.

I'm really glad I did - I discovered that a concert neck is much easier for my pudgy fingers to play tightly grouped 4-finger chords on. And I also discovered that my uke sounded better than any of theirs. On one hand, this made me feel great, and validated that I'd made a decent choice in buying the LU-21. But it also puzzled me. Most of the ukes in the store were more expensive than mine: they had an Oscar Schmitt concert for about $170, and a couple other Schmitt and Applause/Ovation ukes, only one of which was as cheap as mine. They all sounded muted and quiet, with very little tone. But I noticed that they all had thin black stings - thinner than my Aquilas. So I'm assuming they were a more budget-oriented string (as is always the case in major music stores, there was nobody working there who actually knew anything about the products they were selling, so I couldn't confirm this).

So that leads to my question: is the quality of strings a key determining factor in making a budget uke sound decent? That's certainly my hypothesis after this experience. I'm really feeling lucky to have started out with my Aquila-equipped Lanikai, which I bought pretty much on impulse, never having even touched a ukulele. Because I have to say, if my first exposure to a ukulele had been one of the dead-sounding ukes I encountered in this music store, I might never have even bought one, because the sound would have turned me off.

Whatcha think?

cpatch
05-27-2009, 08:32 AM
Strings can help, a tuner helps more, practice helps the most!

hoosierhiver
05-27-2009, 08:34 AM
Good strings make a huge difference.

KC8AFW
05-27-2009, 09:17 AM
I agree with your assessment. Long story short...I nicked the E string on my LU-21 with a sharp object and broke it. I had bought some GHS black nylon strings with my uke, so I swapped them out. I can't really describe it...but the tone was very "toyish" and tinny:(. I played it for a couple of hours with the GHS strings and then swapped back the 3 other Aquila strings because they sounded so much better.

-KP

ichadwick
05-27-2009, 09:33 AM
Strings can make a big difference, but there are other things that can affect the tone. The saddle and bridge material for example. You can probably change the saddle, and get some tonal improvement, but aside from that, you don't have a lot of options.

seeso
05-27-2009, 09:43 AM
Changing your strings is the easiest way to change the sound of your ukulele.

cpatch
05-27-2009, 09:48 AM
You can probably change the saddle, and get some tonal improvement
Just out of curiosity, has anyone done this, to the point where the difference in tone is noticeable to an objective third-party?

buddhuu
05-27-2009, 10:48 AM
Yup. Strings = best ratio of sound improvement to time/effort/cost. Aquilas do the job for a lot of relatively inexpensive ukes.

And Lanikais aren't bad to start with.

Glad you're having fun. :D

wearymicrobe
05-27-2009, 01:18 PM
Just out of curiosity, has anyone done this, to the point where the difference in tone is noticeable to an objective third-party?


I have several times, only ~20% can hear the change no one can say for sure what is better in my completely unscientific tests.

cpatch
05-27-2009, 01:24 PM
I have several times, only ~20% can hear the change no one can say for sure what is better in my completely unscientific tests.
OK, thanks.

UkuEroll
05-27-2009, 01:41 PM
Just out of curiosity, has anyone done this, to the point where the difference in tone is noticeable to an objective third-party?

I have Aquilas on my Lankai, and I've just got some Pro Arte j92s, I also have a set of GHS's, So to get to the point. I'm going to do a video in the next week or so, Trying out the three different brands, so you guys can see what you think of the sounds, what do you think?:eek:.

grappler
05-27-2009, 01:57 PM
yes strings help.
But practice more i'd say.

Bissrok
05-27-2009, 02:30 PM
I'm glad to hear that Lanikai LU-21 comes with decent strings. Just ordered one earlier today.

Thumper
05-27-2009, 02:33 PM
I'm glad to hear that Lanikai LU-21 comes with decent strings. Just ordered one earlier today.


I got mine from Musicians Friend, if that helps. The photos usually show it with black strings, so maybe I just got lucky. But I'm really happy with this uke - it's light as a feather, and it sounds really nice!

seeso
05-27-2009, 02:58 PM
I have Aquilas on my Lankai, and I've just got some Pro Arte j92s, I also have a set of GHS's, So to get to the point. I'm going to do a video in the next week or so, Trying out the three different brands, so you guys can see what you think of the sounds, what do you think?:eek:.

I'm sure that many people could benefit from a video like that. Do it up!