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View Full Version : How do you judge the sound of different string brands.



The Big Kahuna
06-21-2012, 11:56 PM
The reason I ask is, the vast majority of Uke-related posts seem to be about "this string is better than that string on my Uke".

Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a criticism. Tweaking is what everything gets down to in the end. But I'm wondering if you have someone else play your Uke for you, in exactly the same style as you, with identical finger pressure and right hand technique, while you sit a few feet away and listen. Or do you record yourself using the highest quality microphone and play it back through studio quality speakers.

My point is, even using the above method, you're still going to get the same false impression as you would from listening to your Uke in a playing position.

ukuhippo
06-22-2012, 01:04 AM
My ears and fingers tell me what I need. False impression? Maybe, but it's MY impression, and that's all I need.

The Big Kahuna
06-22-2012, 01:08 AM
That's all I needed to hear :)

Doc_J
06-22-2012, 01:39 AM
My ears and fingers tell me what I need. False impression? Maybe, but it's MY impression, and that's all I need.

:agree:

Perception is the best part of reality.:D

Ukuleleblues
06-22-2012, 01:45 AM
It's difficult to find some one to play just like me so when evaluating strings I play in front of a mirror.....:D

Plainsong
06-22-2012, 01:50 AM
I think that if you think it sounds better, then you play like it sounds better, making it actually sound better. :)

The Big Kahuna
06-22-2012, 01:51 AM
It's difficult to find some one to play just like me so when evaluating strings I play in front of a mirror.....:D

http://rlv.zcache.com/i_see_what_you_did_there_poster-r8f044f42410c44898ead34192059346f_y1u_400.jpg

The Big Kahuna
06-22-2012, 01:52 AM
I think that if you think it sounds better, then you play like it sounds better, making it actually sound better. :)

Justifiably the best reason I'll probably hear in response to my question. :)

ksiegel
06-22-2012, 02:36 AM
It is totally subjective. Duke Ellington is quoted as saying, "If it sounds good, it is good." That applies to strings on instruments.

One of the best examples I can give is that I always used the lightest gauge strings I could get when I played guitar, and they sounded good. Leadbelly used the heaviest gauge strings he could find on his 12-string guitar. I couldn't even make a chord with strings that heavy.

But man, I could listen to recordings of him playing all day.

I think Ken Middleton recently said (paraphrasing here) that all fluorocarbon strings are equally good, but those he has designed and selling have a few little quirks that do exactly what he wants; while that may not work for others, they work for him.

Enjoy whatever you get - and if you don't, get something else.



-Kurt

barefootgypsy
06-22-2012, 02:40 AM
The reason I ask is, the vast majority of Uke-related posts seem to be about "this string is better than that string on my Uke".

Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a criticism. Tweaking is what everything gets down to in the end. But I'm wondering if you have someone else play your Uke for you, in exactly the same style as you, with identical finger pressure and right hand technique, while you sit a few feet away and listen. Or do you record yourself using the highest quality microphone and play it back through studio quality speakers.

My point is, even using the above method, you're still going to get the same false impression as you would from listening to your Uke in a playing position.Good question! I've been asking myself that......once you've changed the strings on your uke, how do you trust yourself to remember exactly how it sounded before? When I first put Aquilas on my first uke, I knew it sounded better - the same thing when I took the cheap original strings off my cheapo Mahalo and put AAquilas on ... but taking Aquilas off, and trying different strings - I don't know! I thought perhaps I'd record a few bits, with both sets of strings and try to compare. That's my best idea.

The Big Kahuna
06-22-2012, 03:47 AM
It's not only that. When you play any acoustic string instrument, what you hear when playing is totally different from what your audience hear. So, when people say "brand A differs from brand B because..." are they basing their opinion on what is a fundamentally flawed viewpoint ?

flyingv8
06-22-2012, 04:01 AM
I honestly believe that most of the time new strings sound better! Doesn't mean that they will give you the sound you are looking for though. If you have a good ear and you do like the sound of the strings your audience will also. You will play with confidence and your music will flow from your soul. Nobody is going to judge your sound, they will just enjoy your music because you do. Is my opinion flawed? Probably but it's MY opinion and I can only trust it, if I can't then I will never be satisfied with my sound.

Bob Bledsoe
06-22-2012, 04:20 AM
Even though someone standing in front of you will hear the sound a little differently, I don't think that means you're getting a totally false sound impression from above your uke. If you switch from Kala Reds to Aquilas, you may hear a brighter and louder sound - and I think it's reasonable to predict that quality will translate to the person standing in front of you even though they may not hear it exactly the same way.

OldePhart
06-22-2012, 06:29 AM
Even though someone standing in front of you will hear the sound a little differently, I don't think that means you're getting a totally false sound impression from above your uke. If you switch from Kala Reds to Aquilas, you may hear a brighter and louder sound - and I think it's reasonable to predict that quality will translate to the person standing in front of you even though they may not hear it exactly the same way.

Exactly this - and if what you're hearing isn't good you can pretty much bet what your audience is hearing isn't much better - and vice versa, of course.

One old trick is to stand in front of a very hard, acoustically reflective surface while you play. Again, it's not exactly what an audience will hear but it does bounce more of the sound back to you.

Generally, though, it's very subjective and the bottom line is that, as long as the strings intonate well up the fretboard, it's perfectly legitimate for one person's garbage to be another's gems. It's also very dependent on the structure of the uke - not just the type of wood but the bracing, build consistency, etc. Just as an example, I tried some new strings similar to a Worth CH (hard) set on my mahogany soprano - they sounded so great I put the same strings on my KoAloha longneck soprano yesterday and, while the jury is still out, I think they're coming back off in the next day or two. I can't specifically say what it is I don't like about them on the KoAloha...but so far I don't think they sound as good as the year old CM-equivalent set that was on there.

Finally, I suspect that a lot of people, especially beginners, probably don't have the experience to really hear finer nuances in strings and instruments. It takes practice and you have to be a critical listener. The ear gets better and more discriminating the more it is exposed to instruments that are spot-on-pitch. I see people touting this string over that one...while playing a uke with a crazy high action at the nut that is giving them terrible intonation at the first few frets. Yes, putting Aquila strings on a crap uke may make it louder, for example, but if it doesn't intonate well you now just have a louder crap uke and that's is simply not a good thing! :)

John

coolkayaker1
06-22-2012, 06:54 AM
How do you judge the sound of different string brands?

By taste.

The Big Kahuna
06-22-2012, 07:19 AM
Mine taste like plastic. Salty plastic.

angusdegraosta
06-22-2012, 07:29 AM
I hear three categories of sound so far: Nylgut, flourocarbon, and nylon. I recently put Southcoast strings on my Mainland concert. They're similar to flourocarbon in that they produce a clean sound, though there are subtle differences that I like in the acoustic balance.

Beyond the material and construction of the instrument itself, scale length, diameter, density, and tension probably play a big part in the sound a string produces. The less a string flops around, the less sloppy it sounds.

I like Nylgut and flourocarbon strings equally. I've also used Martin M600 strings because they're available locally, and it was cheaper than mail ordering Worths. I'd imagine Martin and Worth sound pretty similar, but I can't say except through recordings.

PoiDog
06-22-2012, 08:16 AM
My ears and fingers tell me what I need. False impression? Maybe, but it's MY impression, and that's all I need.

Yup. That's about the whole of the enchilada.

coolkayaker1
06-22-2012, 08:28 AM
Yup. That's about the whole of the enchilada.

Speaking of taste...pass the mole sauce/

Ukulele Fozz
06-22-2012, 08:31 AM
I believe it entirely depends on what YOU think is best, for you, and that particular instrument.....

I have a concert uke with Aquila strings, because I think they sound great on it...... I also have a soprano with titanium strings, because I think they sound great too.....

Just do it by ear, and play with whatever you feel is best.....

OldePhart
06-22-2012, 12:03 PM
... I'd imagine Martin and Worth sound pretty similar, but I can't say except through recordings.

Not so much as you'd think. I've used both - the Martin have a different balance, with all of the strings being under similar tension, while the Worth have higher tension on the treble strings and lower on the C. On the ukes I've tried them on the Martin seemed to have a little more bottom, probably as a result of that relatively higher tension C string.

John

Ukuleleblues
06-22-2012, 12:14 PM
http://rlv.zcache.com/i_see_what_you_did_there_poster-r8f044f42410c44898ead34192059346f_y1u_400.jpgLOL at that one!!!

Ukuleleblues
06-22-2012, 12:19 PM
I once was listening to a Bass Bucket player (gut Bucket, Paninni, etc) talk about how they had a stash of cotton rope for their bucket and how hard it was to find and how it sounded better than nylon, it had a better feel to the fingers, less stretch, etc. I busted out laughting and it was real hard for me to explain why I was laughing. I mean, after hearing all the string debates on Ukes and guitars here is a Bass Bucket player doing the same thing....with rope. It just struck me as funny.

karmatso
06-22-2012, 05:08 PM
As a beginner, I wonder about this as well. I will be getting my new uke next week, and it comes with Aquila strings. I will keep them until I am more comfortable playing, and am better able to judge the sound.

I guess my question is, do strings start to sound different the more they are used? It would make experimenting with different brands more difficult I would think. Also, has anyone ever come across two sets of the same kind of strings from a manufacturer that sounded different?

Bob Bledsoe
06-22-2012, 05:29 PM
As a beginner, I wonder about this as well. I will be getting my new uke next week, and it comes with Aquila strings. I will keep them until I am more comfortable playing, and am better able to judge the sound.

I guess my question is, do strings start to sound different the more they are used? It would make experimenting with different brands more difficult I would think. Also, has anyone ever come across two sets of the same kind of strings from a manufacturer that sounded different?

When the strings get worn they'll sound dull and they might develop a buzz. Many people don't notice until they swap them out and realize how great their uke is with new strings. The best way to accurately test the sound of different strings is to change strings before your other ones wear out. Strings aren't a huge expense so change them out a few times and see what works best on your uke... You'll most likely be happy with your Aquilas for a while though.

OldePhart
06-23-2012, 05:06 AM
I guess my question is, do strings start to sound different the more they are used? It would make experimenting with different brands more difficult I would think. Also, has anyone ever come across two sets of the same kind of strings from a manufacturer that sounded different?

Absolutely. Some more quickly and noticeably than others. I use my nails a fair amount and can go through a set of Aquilas in a few weeks on a uke I play a lot. Fluorocarbon strings last much longer. I just changed the fluorocarbon strings on my KoAloha longneck soprano. They were right at a year old and I play that uke a lot. They hadn't degraded badly at all - I basically changed them because I tried some new higher tension strings I didn't like then almost immediately put on a new set like those I'd had on for the last year. There was some improvement but not a drastic change.

Softer strings like nylon and Aquila nylgut stretch more over their lifetime and also, if you're a "string masher," they tend to be damaged by repeatedly being pressed against the frets. There's nothing inherently "wrong" with them and depending on the uke the sound may be worth it (I have a tenor that just "likes" Ko'Olau Gold nylon strings, for instance) but you definitely need to keep a closer eye (or ear) on them for wear.

John

bazmaz
06-23-2012, 08:42 AM
Can I start by saying that I really dont think the vast majority of string threads have people saying one is better than another. There are lots saying "I like these" and "I don't like these" but they are just opinions and I value that.

I did a blog post a while ago pointing out that string choice was personal and people should experiment. There are too many variables for there to be one best string. Even two ukes of the same model can differ, but that is before you factor in different models, brands, playing styles and, perhaps most importantly, ears!!

After I shared that blog post, I shared a string review is done and somebody questioned me for double standards. That missed the point. Everyone should experiment and stick with what they like best. But reviews are extremely helpful as they serve to give others ideas or prompt them to try something new.

I'm currently road testing some new strings on my tenor uke which i think have absolutely hit a spot I've been searching for. I'll be putting up a review soon that says just that, but will of course be making it clear that your mileage may vary!

Read the reviews, grab a set of the obvious names that come up and try each one. You may love them all, you may hate them all, but trust me, finding the string type that "just works" for you, your playing and your ear on your particular instrument is a good moment!

Plainsong
06-23-2012, 11:28 AM
Yeah, right after Baz's post, I did a blog post basically agreeing with him, then going on to contradict myself with what my preferences are. I knew I was contradicting myself, and that's the beauty of it. :)

A friend of mine back in the opera days, would tell students that, regarding this or that throat remedy, that they were just myths and old wives' tales - so they should try it!

Same thing here. Strings do less than your own playing does... you should totally try different strings! :)

rreffner
06-23-2012, 12:43 PM
I know when I put new Southcoast mediums on my instrument I tuned it to re-entrant C it sounded good. Soon thereafter I changed the tuning to B-flat and it sounded even better so I guess what I am saying is sometime how the instrument is tuned will greatly effect the sound.

OldePhart
06-24-2012, 12:47 PM
I know when I put new Southcoast mediums on my instrument I tuned it to re-entrant C it sounded good. Soon thereafter I changed the tuning to B-flat and it sounded even better so I guess what I am saying is sometime how the instrument is tuned will greatly effect the sound.

Absolutely, in fact when I tried the harder tension strings on my KoAloha and didn't like them I did notice that they were actually pretty decent down at Bb - but, I didn't want to have to keep that particular uke, especially, in Bb.

Both of my sopranos (a mango and a mahogany) absolutely love the higher tension strings. Really! They love them...bought them flowers and a box of chocolates and everything! :)

ksiegel
06-25-2012, 05:04 AM
I put Worth Clear Tenor strings on my Ohana Vita Uke, rather than soprano strings.

I figured, what the hell, I'll give it a shot, and see how they sound.

It has been over 6 months so far, and I'm not inclined to take 'em off. They just sound and feel fine to me.

I don't know anything about tension. I won't say that the Aquila strings didn't sound good. But I was changing the tuners, and decided to change the strings as well. Since I had 2 sets of Worth Clears, and only a single set of soprano anything (aquila, for what it is worth), I decided to try the tenor strings.

Remember as always: Your Mileage May Vary.



-Kurt

AndrewKuker
06-25-2012, 07:00 AM
Ya, some ukes work better with high tension strings and some get out of control with certain frequencies. Just watch for a bulge behind the bridge . Most soprano's handle tenor strings fine. Aquila and Worth are both low tension compared with most of the other options. Being the most popular strings, I wonder if they have influenced builders getting closer to the edge, shooting for ultimate resonance. I really like the new Nyltech but they are definitely a higher tension than Nylgut. Which some ukes will like and others wont.

angusdegraosta
07-11-2012, 01:53 PM
I just put D'Addario Nyltech strings on my Mainland Mango Concert... a great deal mellower than Martin M600, Southcoast, and Nylgut, but pretty sweet so far. More like a jazz humbucker than the fluorocarbons, which I guess have more of a Rickenbacker sparkle.

The Nyltechs do project well, though. They have similar string diameters as Nylguts and seem to be behaving well on this instrument, which has a finicky nut. Intonation up the neck is actually better with these fatter diameter strings. Nyltech has a nice feel. I'll keep them on a good while and let them stretch.