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View Full Version : Strings - A long and winding road



bborzell
04-23-2013, 08:54 AM
I should start by observing that ukes seem to me to be very sensitive to variations in strings. More so, I would say, than mandolins which seem willing to suffer most string types before complaining tonally. With my mandolins, I have taken to changing strings more for playability than tone preferences (or, obviously when they simply die). Guitars, in my experience, can offer a wider range of tone with string changes, but I am thinking that, when it comes to a really wide range of tone, volume and playability, uke strings take the cake.

Which takes me to the 9 sets of strings I have bought since buying my first uke in March. The Pono came with an Aquila Low G set. For a week or so, the strings seemed pretty much OK to me and then I found this forum and threads about strings and thought, "Hmmm, maybe I should see what else is out there".

Started with PHds and thought they were a bit lower in volume. That got me to thinking that, while I was originally looking for variations in tone, one possible unintended consequence might be a desirable tone change accompanied by a less than desirable change in volume. And then there is how the strings feel as you play. Most strings probably feel OK for struming, but finger picking might well bring out playability issues.

Next up were a set of Worth browns. The most immediate apparent difference between the Worths and the Phds was the smell. Maybe it was because the brown strings reminded me of strands of chocolate candy, but on the olfactory level, they started out with a clear step up over the PHds. They also happened to bring out overtones in my Pono that I hadn't heard with the Phds. That was a positive, in my view, while strumming, but finger picking seemed to result in carryover from note to note.

Then came a major confounding variable in the form of a new MP uke. To be honest, I forgot to ask Mike what it was strung with other than the D'addario wound low G that he put on it in Reno. Since I still had the second cutoffs from the extra long Worth set, I put them on the MP after playing with the original set for a few days. The Worths sounded better to my ear than what came on the MP, but I also began to become aware of a desire to get more distinction from the G and C strings. I liked the wound D'addario G string so I got to thinking about a wound C.

That led me to a Uke Talk podcast that featured the maker of Southcoast strings. That interview underscored what I was thinking about the potential complexity of uke string choices and it also turned me on to the fact that Southcoast made a set with two wound strings.

In the meantime, I had ordered a couple of sets of D'addario T2s with a low G so, when they arrived, they went on both ukes. Results were a bit mixed. The Pono sounded loud and full, but with a similar lack of G/C distinction. The MP sounded full and had a little better G/C distinction. What was less desirable was some combination of string size/tension that resulted in some discomfort while finger picking.

So, last night, I put the Southcoast strings on the MP. These are the strings that will stay on the MP until further notice. The Southcoast strings are loud, full and the two wound strings offer precisely the bass distinction I was looking for. The treble strings are clear and well balanced with the wound strings. In addition, the strings seem balanced in tension to the extent that finger picking feels smooth.

The MP seems to come into its own with the distinction offered by the Southcoast strings and the Pono with the Worth browns provides a warm, but not muddied sound. For the moment, I think each uke is happy with what it is strung with and, for what it's worth, the player seems to be satisfied, too.

Nothing is simple and, when it comes to uke strings, everything is subjective.

drbekken
04-23-2013, 09:26 AM
I have said it many times: Southcoast strings are wonderful.

PereBourik
04-23-2013, 09:52 AM
And I will say it many times: everything is subjective.

NewKid
04-23-2013, 10:20 AM
Very nice post bborzell. I had a similar journey to Southcoast Strings and love the two wound strings with two plain set-up. The string diameters are very even with this set and they just feel right. You might also try the re-entrant set with the wound third string. I have that on my Favilla baritone and the deeper sound from the third string is such a pleasure.

Mahalo,

Don

Dan Uke
04-23-2013, 10:26 AM
I am a fan of the SC strings as well. At first, the strings felt too thin as I switched from Pro Arte but now, SCs are the only strings I prefer.

Patrick Madsen
04-23-2013, 11:34 AM
I ajgree on Southcoast as well. Wish he had a bari. linear G tuning for one with wound srings. I have my Martin with the ML-RW's in Bb. Is cool.

Dan Uke
04-23-2013, 11:42 AM
I ajgree on Southcoast as well. Wish he had a bari. linear G tuning for one with wound srings. I have my Martin with the ML-RW's in Bb. Is cool.

He has A tuning but you can probably drop tune it to G#...very close...I like very high tension strings so go by Dirk's recommendation.

connor013
04-23-2013, 12:15 PM
Almost an identical journey for me, except I went the Koolau route instead of PhDs. (I still have a soft spot for Mahanas, but the Golds were a disappointment to my ears.)

And recognizing the subjectivity inherent in each uke, I will say Southcoasts have put my SAS into remission.