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hmgberg
10-08-2011, 04:34 PM
This might be a tough one, but I would certainly appreciate the help if anyone knows, has a clue, or a guess about what kind of strings I was playing. A while back I was playing two vintage ukuleles in a shop. They had both come from the same collection and had on them the same strings. I'm assuming they were old. They were translucent, pale yellow. I don't necessarily have to know a brand, but what kind of material they were would be fine. I don't believe they were gut because they were almost clear, although they did feel kind of like Aquila natural gut strings. They could have been nylon, but most of the older nylon strings I've seen have felt, well, like plastic. These did not. It's been bothering me because I really like the sound. Not much sustain, especially as compared tofluorocarbons, but a lot of punch.

southcoastukes
10-08-2011, 07:27 PM
Sounds like rectified nylon.

hmgberg
10-09-2011, 02:36 AM
Sounds like rectified nylon.

Thanks, Dirk. I sent you a PM a few days ago inquiring about your low re-entrant D strings for baritone. I was confused about what "low re-entrant" means. Since then, a google search led me to your description: D tuning with the 1st and 4th tuned down an octave, if I understand it correctly. I really like the sound sample of this tuning, but am a bit concerned about arranging music for this set up. Not always, but most often when I arrange a chord solo, I rely on having the high (melody) note at the end of the down strum when playing a 4-string chord. When for any reason this is not possible, or practical anyway, and the melody note, therefore, is otherwise imbedded in the chord, it does not sound as prominent. I'm wondering if it would be safe to assume that this tuning is better used in finger-style playing? Do you know of anyone who is using this tuning, who might have some videos posted on line so I can see and hear how they approach playing?

Also, returning to my original query, I'm discovering that not only do I prefer different strings on my different ukuleles, but that which strings I prefer is not as predictable matter as I initially thought it would be. What I mean is that I find that the string I prefer is not only a matter of the body size, scale, and type of wood used in construction, but it is more related to individual instruments. In other words, on some mahogany sopranos I prefer one type of string, and a different string on another mahogany soprano of the same scale length. Nevertheless, it seems there are always trade-offs: I like the sustain, but the C string booms or the A string sounds weak; not much sustain, but I can clearly hear the A string; and so on. What I liked about the yellow strings was the response of the 3rd (lowest pitched) and 1st (highest pitched) strings. I'm not sure that I would necessarily describe them as "balanced," rather the C and A seemed somewhat pronounced, so that the counterpoint of melody and bass notes was really nice for my way of playing. The trade-off would most likely be sustain, but the more I have been playing, and depending on the instrument, I find a lot of sustain is not necessarily a good thing - I'm talking about sopranos now.

I suppose I'm asking for a recommendation of Southcoast strings that may maximize what I'm looking, or listening for. Perhaps, a mixed set? I should probably note that what I had been hearing with those yellow, nylon strings, may indeed have been better "balanced" given that I was comparing them in mind to strings that may have been weaker on the high and/or low end.

Thanks.

southcoastukes
10-09-2011, 05:25 AM
Sorry I missed the PM. I have a tendency to not see that little top box. As far as the low re-entrant tuning, aside from being very nicely suited to a Baritone Uke-sized instrument, it's the standard tuning for the Cuatro Venezolano. You can download a video on our "Gumbo" page:

http://www.southcoastukes.com/index_files/gumbo.htm

and look on YouTube for Cuatro players. You'll have to search a bit to find melody players, because a lot of the playing is the quick llanero style strumming that's traditional to Venezuela.

It is indeed a beautiful sound, but you learn to play melody lines more on the 2nd & 3rd strings instead of primarily 1st and 2nd. Even though he doesn't play low re-entrant tuning, I've also noticed that Led Kaapana likes to play lines on his middle strings. There's more discussion on our Cuatro string page:

http://www.southcoastukes.com/stringuide_files/cuatro.htm

No doubt that different strings work better on different instruments. That's one reason we added two sets we call "Soft" formulae (in Medium and Light Ukulele gauges), and the wound string sets use two different formulations as well (polished round wound and flat wound). And by the way, all our sets are mixed sets.

As far as the rectified nylon, it was once very common - now getting to be hard to find. When nylon first came out, the technology was not as good as today, and there was considerable variation in diameter along the length of the string. Also people were used to the texture of gut and didn't like the slick feel of the new material. "Rectifying" the nylon was a process that roughly ground the string down along it's length. It gave both a consistent diameter and more of a gut-like feel.

It also "softened" the sound. Rectified nylon strings are among the most subdued ever made. As you said, different strings for different situations, and to me, these strings still have their place. I'm not sure who may still be making sets of them, but LaBella still sells them direct (although not in all the graduated diameters they used to offer):

https://www.labella.com/laplaza/ind_strings/default.asp

hmgberg
10-09-2011, 06:22 AM
Wow! Thanks again. What you wrote explains a lot. I'm convinced that the strings I played were rectified nylon; they felt somewhat like gut strings, but were more "plastic" in appearance. Your description has me struggling to properly construe what you mean by "softness." Are you referring to strictly to volume, or to some quality of sound that may be called "soft" in comparison to gut or, say, fluorocarbon strings. I'm asking because the strings I played were not lacking in volume (I should mention that they were on two vintage Martin sopranos), rather they were "warm," "sweet," or "round" sounding, with an initial punch and quick decay. Fluorocarbons, which I have preferred on my own Martins, in comparison have a longer sustain, and can almost be described as having a "piercing" tone. I don't intend to use "piercing" as describing a negative quality. However, I find that the A string in particular is not as "strong," or piercing as the others, so it seems to get lost in the end, unless I deliberately play it harder, try to accent it. The more I write and recall of what I was hearing, the more I believe that the main matters of appeal for me with the rectified nylon strings were the sense that the A and C strings were more alike in terms of presence than they are with fluorocarbons, and they had a more "natural" sound, i.e., were I to make an analogy, they sound more analog than digital. Given all of this, and what is posted on the Southcoast site about balance, I'm excited to try some on sopranos. I'm also interested in the Baritone strings we've been discussing.

Kekani
10-09-2011, 09:38 AM
They were translucent, pale yellow.
http://www.koolauukulele.com/strings.html
http://www.koolauukulele.com/

hmgberg
10-09-2011, 10:21 AM
http://www.koolauukulele.com/strings.html
http://www.koolauukulele.com/

Hmmm. you could be right! Thanks. I use Alohis to enliven a rather dull ukulele I have. I like them a lot for that purpose. However, the c string diameter was to wide for the soprano bridge slots. I see that the golds are narrower, the C and A are anyway. I'm going to get some. I'll let you know. Thanks again.

southcoastukes
10-10-2011, 07:30 AM
Colors and sounds - two things where descriptions are always inexact.

As far as your string identification - Kekani may be right on the Ko'olau Golds. I had thought of them as well. Two things, though - the yellow is not all that pale a color (the description difficulty), but mainly the texture is not at all like gut - they are very slick.

The rectified nylon is such more of a dull dirty clear color. It might be hard to call them yellow at all, but especially if they were an older set, they tend to turn that way after time.

Only way to know is try them out.

As far as what I mean by a "soft" sound, maybe "muted" would be another way to describe it. "Not as bright", perhaps another way. Usually this implies both less sustain, and a softer desnsity, therefore a bit greater diameter.

There's a relationship between the material and the sustain, however it's not direct. Softer materials may have a bit less sutain, but the difference is not all that great until you put them at a higher tension. Then it drops dramatically.

Harder materials, such as flourocarbon are not affected that much by a change in tension.

hmgberg
10-10-2011, 11:19 AM
Thanks for all of your input here. I really appreciate it. You're right, I'm going to have to try them to find out.

hmgberg
10-10-2011, 11:24 AM
Geez! I'm an idiot. I just thought to check the shop's website for a picture of the ukulele with the strings on it. Here it is:

http://www.themusicemporium.com/product-detail/product/martin-style-2-uke.html

Image #4 shows the yellow color quite clearly. Look familiar?

southcoastukes
10-10-2011, 11:39 AM
Color looks like it could be the Ko'olaus. Still need to try them because of the difference in texture.

jackwhale
10-10-2011, 11:54 AM
When I purchased my Pono baritone, the stock strings from Ko'oloa had a yellow cast to them and they were not overly bright. I don't know if that helps.

Kekani
10-10-2011, 12:03 PM
I'd be confident in saying those were definitely from Ko`olau. I can't tell if they're the older version (little more opaque, with texture to it), or the supposed newer version (more like nylon).

I installed Ko`olau exclusively in the beginning, then I found Aquila, and moved on from there. I'd go back to Ko`olau again, given the right instrument, and player. They'd look okay on my new Spruce tops, especially the ones with Maple B/S and Gold tuning machines.

-Aaron

hmgberg
10-10-2011, 02:03 PM
I'd be confident in saying those were definitely from Ko`olau. I can't tell if they're the older version (little more opaque, with texture to it), or the supposed newer version (more like nylon).

I installed Ko`olau exclusively in the beginning, then I found Aquila, and moved on from there. I'd go back to Ko`olau again, given the right instrument, and player. They'd look okay on my new Spruce tops, especially the ones with Maple B/S and Gold tuning machines.

-Aaron

Aaron,

Then I'd say they are definitely the older ones, given your description - translucent (not transparent) and a bit of texture (felt somewhere between nylguts and nylon). Are the "old" ones available anywhere?