View Full Version : Restringing soprano uke for tuning by 5ths

08-16-2009, 01:20 PM
Basically I'm trying to tune a soprano uke like a violin. I know that I will need to restring the instrument. Does anyone know if this is possible to pull off in a decent sounding way? It doesn't necessarily need to be tuned- G D A E, but that would be ideal (as long as it is in perfect 5ths, low to high).

I assume that I will need at least one string with a thicker than normal gauge, and one string with a thinner than normal gauge. I have found that some alto uke strings are thicker than those found on the soprano, but I'm not sure if these are thick enough. Also I have read that it might be possible to do this using nylon guitar strings, but I do not know if any of their strings are of a thinner gauge than a standard uke.

Any ideas? Does anyone know any rough gauge numbers that might be ideal?

Many thanks!

08-16-2009, 02:34 PM
HI, NWS, and welcome to UU!

Aquila makes a set in GDAE for the soprano. E, A and D strings are standard Nylgut, G string is wound.

Not sure where you are located, but I found them at Elderly in the US.


Nylon guitar strings will work on a uke. (Some of the D'Addario uke strings are nothing by "re-branded" guitar strings.) It's a matter of figuring out what guage and tension you need.

You might try contacting info@aquilausa.com to ask what the guages are for this particular set.

08-16-2009, 03:12 PM
Thanks very much! This set by Aquila looks perfect, and as I am in the US (North Carolina) I'll certainly place an order. Very interesting that the G string is wound, I suppose this might indicate that a standard nylon string of the proper gauge might prove too thick for most ukes (I wonder what material it's wound with).

Thanks again,

~Nathan Shirley


08-17-2009, 10:01 AM
Very interesting that the G string is wound, I suppose this might indicate that a standard nylon string of the proper gauge might prove too thick for most ukes (I wonder what material it's wound with).
You're probably right about the thickness. On a classical guitar the G string (thickest non-wound) has always been somewhat problematic and sounds rather dull in comparison to the other trebles. Any thicker than that and I imagine the sound would be unacceptable.

Actually tried a CG set with a wound G once and didn't really care for it, but I think wound Gs are pretty common for steel strings, if not standard.

I had a look at some of the Aquila CG strings. They have either a nylgut multifilament or silk core, wound with either silver-plated copper or pure silver. I suspect the GDAE set uses plated, as the cost on the CGs with pure silver was about double the plated.

A lot of steel strings use phosphor bronze windings.

08-17-2009, 10:39 AM
Very interesting, and I think you are right about the inferior tone quality of an overly thick nylon string- I actually read on their (Aquila's) website that the winding cuts down on undesirable overtones. I'm sure this would hold true for any material of string; that beyond a certain thickness, tone is compromised more and more. And really a wound string is a compromise between short thick string with poor tone, and impractically long non-wound thinner string (ideal). This is true on pianos where the smaller pianos bass notes suffer in tone quality due to the necessity of overly heavy winding.

At any rate I don't need a great tone, just half way decent for my purpose, so I'll definitely try the Aquila set.

Thanks again,


08-17-2009, 05:52 PM
nice, i was thinking of trying this, but in fourths like a bass on a baritone uke, mixing a set of bari and tenor strings for DGCF.

I wonder what the difference between regular fourths and regular fifths would be.

I was messing around with an acoustic bass and working my way around the fretboard was a LOT more intuitive with every string being a fourth up.

08-17-2009, 06:29 PM
I first tried to tune my soprano in 5ths simply by restringing with a standard set of strings- but I quickly realized the low string 'g' was far too loose, while the high string 'e' probably would have snapped the neck if I got close to it. So I successfully tuned it by perfect 4ths, but this still was hardly satisfactory as the low string was still very loose and the high string seemed dangerously tight. So I then tuned to major 3rds (c-e-#g-c) and this works decently. Tuning to major 3rds is nice for lots of chromatic playing, as are 4ths (especially if you want to avoid open strings, unlike tuning to 4ths). Although I'm really after a fifth tuning, so hopefully these strings will work.

Typically string instruments that are not tuned in equal intervals are designed for 'folk' or 'popular' musics, as the uneven tunings enable common chords to be played very easily. Notice that traditional classical string instruments are all tuned in equal intervals- aiding in playing single lines, rapid passages, things like this in a more logical, straightforward way (chords can be produced by having different musicians play different individual notes, giving a better end result). Of course this is a generalization, but interesting (if you didn't already know it).

08-18-2009, 05:20 AM
That's exactly what I was thinking. My room mate plays viola, and a lot of his fancy music school buddies come over, and of course I whip out the ukulele...

The string players plink at the strings and go "is this in 4ths?" and then get the 3rd and then promptly have some kind of mental plotz. :biglaugh:

It's funny, but then I wonder what I'm missing, and it's really interesting how much easier it was to play the notes in my mind on the bass just where I was at. (Except I don't think I could learn to handle that large of an instrument! the fret spacing is HUGE)

There are also bass chords so I wonder how bad those shapes are... Anyway, it'll be an interesting experiment. Maybe I'll try and adjust the action on my cheap rogue baritone and restring it that way and see what happens.

08-19-2009, 11:31 AM
You guys could just buy mandolins! :D They're actually designed for tuning in 5ths, exactly the same tuning as a fiddle. ;)

10-27-2009, 04:46 PM
Howdy, First of all I thought I'd plug this group I started last night to you. It's called "Riffs in 5ths" for uke player that play in 5ths.


2nd, I just got a Mainland Mango Pineapple uke TODAY... and those Aquilla 5ths strings from Ederly yesterday. I popped on the G A and E and left the D that was already there.

HOWEVER.... the high E and A on these strings is really thin. I just emailed Aquila and said this:

I bought your strings that are in 5ths and it seems like the high E strings is a lot thinner and so much brighter than the high A for normal Soprano uke tuning.

Can you tell me the string guages for..........
1) Aquila normal Soprano Strings if there were a low G (GCEA)?
2) Aquila uke strings in 5ths for a soprano (GDAE)?

Just trying to see what works. That high E on the 5ths strings seems so bright. Kinda wondering if I can do some mixing and matching betweens the sets. The G and D strings are fine. It's the A and E I want to know about and mess with.

As I said, perhaps I can do some switching around once I know the guages. It just seems like that high E is so much twanger than the high A in normal Uke tuning.

Any suggestions? Sorry to ramble btw.

PS Love my new UKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10-28-2009, 03:42 AM
The Aquila folks in Italy emailed me back and said

"dear Sir, go here:
tuning in fifths: it is obvious that the 1st string is thinner and bright: the 'Working Index' is more than 240 Hz/mt. we are speacking of an e'' note on 35 cms scale.See our FAQs.
I am sorry: I cannot give you the gauges fort the tining in fifths. I must work on the gauges tables with an integration but I am too busy to do this now.
yours sincerely
Mimmo Peruffo"

Uhhhhh not sure if that answered my question. Do you guys understand?:confused:

Buddy McCue
11-16-2009, 01:20 AM
I just did this yesterday evening. Played with it this way for a long time, using the things I know about the mandolin.

I took the high G string off of my uke and replaced it with a wound string about the same thickness as the C string. I tuned this to Eb, tuned the C string down to Bb, the E string up to F natural, and the A string all the way up to C. This worried me that it would be too tight, but it seems to be holding up okay.

So I have a ukulele tuned in fifths, at Eb Bb F C. If I were to put a capo on the 4th fret, I would have the same pitches as the mandolin.

(I can't say what gauge the new string is, because I fished it out of an old box of loose strings I had in my closet. I think it came from an Oud set, but it's just the same as the kind you'd get for the Classical Guitar.)

I love the increased range, and the fact that I can combine the scales and arpeggios that I already know with the finger-picked nylon sound. This is a lot of fun.

If I decide to keep playing in fifths, I may re-string it again. There is an uneven tension across the strings that's a little distracting, so I might fish around in my old box o' strings for a better set.