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View Full Version : Decrease tension: soprano strings on a concert uke?



ukuhippo
08-26-2012, 08:59 PM
The one thing that bothers me is the higher string tension when playing a concert compared to a soprano. I really do prefer the lower tension while playing. This gave me the crazy idea of putting Aquila soprano strings on one of my concerts. I know they're long enough, but will this lower the tension compared to using the concert strings?

Guitar2ukulele
08-26-2012, 09:12 PM
As long as the gauges of the Soprano are smaller than the Concerts, then the tension will decrease. However, just a warning is that you may encounter buzzes and such as longer scales need higher tension. Also, from observing my friend doing this, the sound was affected negatively, but he did not do this to lower tension, it was because he had no concert strings around. Maybe a lowering of the action would help as string tension on a uke is very soft, even with the higher tension string sets around. From your signature, it seems you are using mainly Aquila's, but did you know that they have a higher tension than most other brands. For the action, just get a ruler that measure in millimeters and the 12th fret should be about 2.8mm. But more important is the 1st fret action which doing the test from the luthier section of pressing down at the third fret and looking under the 1st fret to string. There should be minimal distance.

AetherBlue
08-26-2012, 09:26 PM
Why don't you tune it down a step or two? You know, to B or Bb?
Also, the martin strings I used on my concert felt low tension to me. You could try those.

ukuhippo
08-26-2012, 09:45 PM
As long as the gauges of the Soprano are smaller than the Concerts, then the tension will decrease. (...) From your signature, it seems you are using mainly Aquila's, but did you know that they have a higher tension than most other brands.

I like my Aquila's, and they actually make different gauges for soprano vs. concert strings, so it could work.


However, just a warning is that you may encounter buzzes and such as longer scales need higher tension.

Could you (or anyone else) explain how this would cause buzzing?


Maybe a lowering of the action would help as string tension on a uke is very soft, even with the higher tension string sets around. (...) For the action, just get a ruler that measure in millimeters and the 12th fret should be about 2.8mm. But more important is the 1st fret action which doing the test from the luthier section of pressing down at the third fret and looking under the 1st fret to string. There should be minimal distance.

The action on my ukes is just fine, allthough I keep it on the high-ish side on my concerts as it feels better when picking. I'm curious if lowering the saddle would decrease tension on the strings.


Why don't you tune it down a step or two? You know, to B or Bb?
Also, the martin strings I used on my concert felt low tension to me. You could try those.

Neh, I like my GCEA, but I will consider the Martins.

mm stan
08-26-2012, 10:23 PM
Aloha Ukuhippo,
Nothing new man...it's called dropped tuning....usually it's done for playability and comfort like you want, tone, making it warmer and sweeter...easier for people with poor voices...it slows the
tempo...usually refer to half steps in gradation...and can be set in reintrenent or low G...and you can try it with any strings... some strings offer for both soprano and concert..like martin, kamaka etc...

ukuhippo
08-26-2012, 11:32 PM
Aloha Stan,

To be clear, I don't want to drop to a different tuning, I just would like to lower the tension on my concert ukes, and I do love my Aquila's. So stay in GCEA and use soprano strings instead of the concert strings. The different gauge of the Aquila soprano strings vs. the Aquila concert strings made me think the tension will be lower when I put soprano strings on my concerts, I just want to know if that's the case.

mm stan
08-27-2012, 01:08 AM
Aloha Stan,

To be clear, I don't want to drop to a different tuning, I just would like to lower the tension on my concert ukes, and I do love my Aquila's. So stay in GCEA and use soprano strings instead of the concert strings. The different gauge of the Aquila soprano strings vs. the Aquila concert strings made me think the tension will be lower when I put soprano strings on my concerts, I just want to know if that's the case.
I know Aquila has individual strings for soprano and concerts,..I have not done that, you could certainly try..
it might be floppy though ....let me know how it turns out...

chiefnoda
08-27-2012, 03:58 AM
This gave me the crazy idea of putting Aquila soprano strings on one of my concerts. I know they're long enough, but will this lower the tension compared to using the concert strings?

I'm not 100% sure and I hope someone corrects me, but I think a soprano string on a concert tuned to the standard GCEA will have a higher tension.

Here is my logic: Think of a soprano tuned to the pitch. A concert has a longer scale. If you can think of a "minus one fret" on a soprano (ie, longer scale), that would have a lower pitch. Then, you have to increase the tension to get the correct pitch at the minus one fret.

Using the same logic, if you put a tenor set on a concert, you should get the lower tension.

Also, you may consider different brands. To me, Worth Brown feels lower tension than Aquilas.

Cheers
Chief

Kanaka916
08-27-2012, 04:30 AM
The general rule of thumb; the longer the scale the higher the tension.

Doc_J
08-27-2012, 04:46 AM
The general rule of thumb; the longer the scale the higher the tension.

Another good reason to like sopranos. :)

Tudorp
08-27-2012, 04:58 AM
My scale of choice is Soprano. I have a few concerts that I also love. I use Soprano Aquilas on my concerts with standard tuning and love it, and have had no issues. Key is a good set up most importantly level frets.

ukuhippo
08-27-2012, 05:48 AM
I understand that. I read multiple threads about people putting concert strings on a soprano to get a higher tension. My question is still if it works the other way around: put soprano strings on a concert to get a lower tension.

Tudorp
08-27-2012, 06:07 AM
Like said, I have always used soprano strings on my concerts with no issues. I like the tone, and comfort of the smaller diameter. Lower tension? I reckon, never thought of it in that aspect, but I assume so. Set of Aquila soprano strings, $5. Try it, and if ya like it, it's a win. If ya don't, the experience cost you $5.

ProfChris
08-27-2012, 06:53 AM
On a concert Aquila soprano strings will be lower tension than Aquila concert strings because they are thinner.

However, because the scale length is longer, they will be higher tension than they would be on a soprano.

I.e. tension will be in between.

The reason they might buzz is because longer strings move around more, and can thus hit frets. Higher tension reduces this movement. The only way to find out for sure is to try it. However, if you tune your concert down two semitones, that is likely to be similar tension to putting soprano strings on it. So you could discover very quickly whether it's likely to buzz.

OldePhart
08-27-2012, 06:57 AM
Assuming that the soprano strings are of smaller gages than the concert (not always true and not sure about Aquilas because I don't use them much) then the tension should go down some. That said, there are three possible problems with doing so:

1) Intonation up the neck may not be as good with the lighter gage strings. But it could be okay or even better - lots of variables so you basically just have to try it and see what happens; I've been pleasantly surprised a time or two when strings I expected not to intonate well on a uke actually intonated better than the stock strings.
2) You will almost certainly lose some volume and sustain.
3) You may pick up buzzing for two reasons. First, the lower tension allows the string to vibrate in a bigger arc so it may hit the frets. Second, the thinner strings (again, assuming that the soprano strings are a lighter gage) may sit deeper in the slots in the nut, putting them closer to the frets on open strings.
4) In addition to the probable loss of volume the "slack" strings may also sound different, have a different timbre. This isn't necessarily bad but you should be aware of it.

Finally, tension on a properly set up concert isn't really that high - only very marginally higher than a soprano. If you're wanting lighter strings because you're having trouble with barred chords near the nut (Bb, especially) then chances are the nut slots are high and if that is the case intonation at the first couple of frets isn't going to be that great no matter what strings you put on it. In the long run it is probably better to fix any problems like that than to mess with the "voice" of the concert by going to floppy strings. Just my $0.02 - some folks actually like floppy strings - me, I'm running hard strings on my sopranos... :)

John

ukuhippo
08-27-2012, 10:00 AM
Thanks all, I'm ordering a set of soprano strings, which unfortunately is more like $10 here, and I'll test it out.