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View Full Version : Help!--keep breaking 1st and 4th strings when installing new strings...



chasapple
06-15-2013, 05:41 PM
I'm relatively new to uke (2-3 months) and am having an absolutely horrible time installing strings.

I've been playing 'normal' guitar for 20+ years, so I'm used to the typical looping technique at the peg head [first 'loop' over and subsequent loops 'under'] and I've read multiple sites:

http://ukuguides.com/how-to/how-to-change-ukulele-strings/

and watched multiple videos:

https://sites.google.com/site/islandukeclub/uke-web-resources/how-to-change-uke-strings

I also watched Aldrine's video on changing strings, and he spent most of the time talking about what to do with left over string ends....his advice for tuning at the peg head was just to insert the string and start winding, so it seems that most people don't have much problem with the seemingly simple act of changing strings...

I keep breaking the 1st [A] and 4th strings [G].
It's agonizing!!!

They are breaking at the peg head---occasionally near the first fret or so---not breaking at the nut.

It's impossible for me to get up to pitch.

I get 5 or 6 windings on the peg head (I've tried 'winding down' and 'winding up'--no difference) and that gets me near pitch but then the string will snap when trying to get up to pitch, or stay at pitch.

Many readings I found say to 'definitely' string down [the windings go down on the peg head]. The problem I have with that so far, is that on my uke (Pono MT) the peghead holes are quite low on the peghead itself, which makes it a challenge to wind downward without running out of room and then the windings start overlapping.

I just went through 2 sets of Aquila Reds and now I have my uke in its case with no strings at all--keeping it protected from me!!!

I have had this happen also with flourocarbon strings, not just the Aquila Reds, so there's clearly something I'm doing very, very wrong
but I can't figure out what it is.

If anyone has specific tips, please let me know.

Thanks!
Charles

Newportlocal
06-15-2013, 05:55 PM
I know this may seem like an odd request, but try changing the battery if you have a clip on tuner.
Yes, I have broken strings when my battery was old and it made my clip on less than accurate. Hopefully, you aren't trying to tune up an octave too far. Good luck. Sorry for your frustration. Been there.:D
Also, some people have reported problems with Aquila reds you may have an old formulation,etc. Try a different brand and see if you still have the same problem. Good luck!

Jim Hanks
06-15-2013, 06:08 PM
Hmmm, stupid question time but you aren't trying to tune too high, are you? I once had a problem on a classical guitar snapping strings and discovered I was trying to tune a whole octave up. :eek: Not that hard to do with a pitch pipe or even an electronic tuner. Ever since that incident I usually change one string at a time and compare it against the others to make sure I'm not making the same mistake.

I guess I follow the "just start winding" technique - I have no idea what you mean by looping over and under. 5-6 windings seems like a lot to me but I don't have a uke right by me. I usually thread the string threw the tuner, leave a tiny bit of slack (not enough for a full winding even - not sure it is even necessary) and start winding. By the time it stretches and settles to pitch it has enough winding not to slip but not usually enough to start overlapping.

igorthebarbarian
06-15-2013, 08:07 PM
I did the octave-too-high thing too and broke an A string... But if it's too floppy, you can easily tell that you're down an octave.

I also go with the 'just wind it' method. I can't stand the loopty-loop thing where they tie under/over itself. That seems too confusing and too tight/ too much change of snapping a string. Uke strings don't seem to need that ever.

chasapple
06-15-2013, 08:41 PM
Thanks so much for the replies and the suggestions!

I'm definitely not trying to tune an octave too high.

When I feel braver, I will try again with another set of strings (probably some fluorocarbon variety from my collection--Martin, Worth, etc)
and this time will try to get as few windings as possible on the peg heads and see how that goes.

So far, if I get up to 5 or 6 windings then the string breaks--I can feel it in the tuners---slightly harder to turn.

-- Charles

armchair_spaceman
06-15-2013, 09:26 PM
Is there maybe a rough edge or a burr on the peg head/s you're having trouble with?

Bao
06-15-2013, 10:51 PM
Maybe the nut has a sharp edge that's possibly cutting the string? Or as armchair_spaceman said, maybe the peg head itself

uncle david
06-18-2013, 07:44 AM
I'll recommend winding less string around the peg. It may help to only have a single wrap around the post. You may also want to try tuning up more slowly to allow the strings to stretch evenly. You could also try different brands of strings. Good luck :-)

Kanaka916
06-18-2013, 08:35 AM
I'll have to agree with Newportlocal about the string formulation if you don't have any burrs or edges along the fret and the nut. A number of folks have experienced string breakage for no apparent reason.

Paul December
06-18-2013, 08:39 AM
Are the strings Red :confused:

TCK
06-18-2013, 11:52 AM
Changed thousands- even did them an octave up once, never broke a single string. Other than going an octave high- I have no idea how to explain why the strings sometimes pop at the first fret (sure sounds like tension to me), and sometimes at the peghead. If it is happening with flouro's and reds, my only suggestion would be a near by Luthier. Have then check for burrs (would be a surprise with a Pono) and have them re-string it- no sense in getting frustrated right out of the gate and they will find why it is doing it before you get there.
For the future, six winds seems a lot. I was told (I forget by whom) to wind three- 1 over two down, but that is not breaking strings- I think it would just make them harder to settle in.

stevepetergal
06-18-2013, 12:17 PM
Very difficult to know what's going wrong over the internet. I advise taking it to a guitar/ukulele shop and have someone show you what's up. Then keep these strings on for a while (at least until you are very familiar with the tuning).

I always wonder why people with no experience are changing strings. Why not keep the strings until are sure you have reason to change them?

UkeKiddinMe
06-18-2013, 12:31 PM
I always wonder why people with no experience are changing strings. Why not keep the strings until are sure you have reason to change them?

He's an experienced guitar player. And - ya gotta learn sometime.

UkeKiddinMe
06-18-2013, 12:32 PM
Where does the string break?

chasapple
06-18-2013, 07:27 PM
I certainly appreciate the replies.

Yes, on the day of my posting, I had just gone through 2 sets of Aquila Reds, breaking 1st and 4th strings at the peg head, not at the nut.

I have experimented further since then.
I was able to install a set of Martin clear fluorocarbon strings without breaking any, but there were some overlapping windings on the post and it took about 6 windings to get up to pitch for that pesky A string.

And this is without any obvious slack in the string when first starting to
turn the tuners.

I'm stumped how anyone can install an A string on a uke and get it up to pitch with only 1 or 2 windings. The strings are so stretchy!!

Since I'm still experimenting to see what kind of strings I prefer,
I installed a set of Aquila nylgut white strings today, and so far, none have broke, but that A string has TONS of windings on it and I'm wondering if that will lead to problems.

Also, these peg heads sure want the windings to wind upward.
The hole on the post is very low---on the bottom of the post.
I read advice that says to always wind the windings "downward" so that the string 'exits' toward the nut at the steepest angle possible, and that buzzing in the nut slot or string volume loss may occur if the string 'exits' the peg head from the top.

Winding downward is very difficult to do with these peg heads because of where the hole is. I quickly run out of room, usually after 2 windings, then the windings start overlapping.
If I wind upward where there's a ton of open space on the peg head I can get many more windings without overlap.

Has anyone experienced problems or differences with 'windings up' compared with 'windings down'?

Thanks!
Charles

kkimura
06-19-2013, 03:01 AM
I'm new at this stuff and am guessing that a picture of your peg heads might help the trouble shooting process. Especially since you say the holes seem low on the peg head.

OldePhart
06-19-2013, 06:29 AM
If the holes are all the way at the bottom of the exposed post it sounds like you either have some very cheap and poorly made tuners or someone has installed tuners meant for a thinner headstock on a uke with a thick headstock. I seem to recall that you mentioned at some point that this is a Pono? If so neither of those things seem at all likely unless someone changed the tuners at some point. Did you buy the uke new or used?

Anyway, if the holes are that low then you may not have any choice but to wind up - which won't mean the end of the world but winding down usually is recommended on the theory that it creates a steeper break angle over the nut and increases volume and sustain.

I shoot for the same target I always did with guitar strings - one above and two under. Nylon strings shouldn't be that stretchy, and fluorocarbon strings even less so - even on the A string you should be able to get far less than six winds. I just checked my KoAloha strung with Ko'Olau Alohi strings that are settled in and the C string is one up and two down while the other three are all one up and three down.

Edit to add: The way to get there is to start with the string as tight as you can easily stretch it - i.e. don't have any floppy slack - and start with the shaft rotated around so you basically put 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn on before you ever start turning the shaft (this helps you hold tension on it so it doesn't slip back as the shaft turns).

John

chasapple
06-19-2013, 12:19 PM
John:

Thanks so much for the tip!
I'm starting without any slack, but I'll try it specifically your way next time and see if that helps.

Mine is a new Pono MT, just a few weeks old, from HMS.

I can't get a good enough photo with my camera, but the height of the post is 9mm measured from the 'flat screw' part at the bottom of the peg head.

The top of the string hole is 4mm from the top of the post and goes to the very bottom.

I'll compare it to other Ponos today when I go to my local music store, but my guess is that the peghead
will be the same as the other Pono tenors.



If the holes are all the way at the bottom of the exposed post it sounds like you either have some very cheap and poorly made tuners or someone has installed tuners meant for a thinner headstock on a uke with a thick headstock. I seem to recall that you mentioned at some point that this is a Pono? If so neither of those things seem at all likely unless someone changed the tuners at some point. Did you buy the uke new or used?

Anyway, if the holes are that low then you may not have any choice but to wind up - which won't mean the end of the world but winding down usually is recommended on the theory that it creates a steeper break angle over the nut and increases volume and sustain.

I shoot for the same target I always did with guitar strings - one above and two under. Nylon strings shouldn't be that stretchy, and fluorocarbon strings even less so - even on the A string you should be able to get far less than six winds. I just checked my KoAloha strung with Ko'Olau Alohi strings that are settled in and the C string is one up and two down while the other three are all one up and three down.

Edit to add: The way to get there is to start with the string as tight as you can easily stretch it - i.e. don't have any floppy slack - and start with the shaft rotated around so you basically put 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn on before you ever start turning the shaft (this helps you hold tension on it so it doesn't slip back as the shaft turns).

John

quiltingshirley
06-19-2013, 12:38 PM
I hesitate to write cause I was thinking it was just "us". We have about a dozen ukes of various sizes and makes and have changed strings enough to feel okay with doing it. We recently got a Pono MTD baritone that already had strings on but they were tuned down about an octave. Started tuning (this one is using standard tuning) and when I was trying to get that Low G in tune -- well snap, that string broke about in the middle. It was taking quite a few turns to tighten it enough. Put on a special ordered Worth Brown with Low G for baritone. It was going great till I needed to just tune the A string a bit more. Snap, again about in the middle. This time I just bought a set for baritone with a Low G and used only the A string. Worked this time and I think, not sure, I know what happened. The strings on the baritone go a much longer distance and I do believe I got impatient and started tuning that string a bit speedier than I should have. Slower seems to be the word. It might look odd with 3 brown strings and 1 clear one but it works and that's way it'll be for now.

mm stan
06-19-2013, 02:10 PM
I go twice strung through the shaft hole...and only three wounds around the post streched...to do this keep for aquilas, keep the string taut then tighten the tuners....for fleurocarbon, between
maybe 1 finger under the fretboard and tighten the tuners....when streched you will be around 2 1/2 and 3 turns around the tuner post....good luck....
I believe any more than 3 times aound the post, I have hard time hearing the pitch when tuning by ear....

OldePhart
06-19-2013, 04:13 PM
I go twice strung through the shaft hole...

Yep...I forgot to mention that! It really helps keep the string from slipping as you wind it up. I put the string through with a 1/2 to 3/4 turn as mentioned before, then I take the loose end and wrap it "backwards" around the post the other way and through the hole again, then wind one over and the rest under. Even the thin strings hold pretty good this way with only two or three wraps.

Some fat C strings and unwound low G strings won't fit through the hole twice - but then they don't generally slip, either.

John


John

chasapple
06-20-2013, 11:50 AM
Awesome tip, thanks!

And I checked my pegheads compared to other pono tenor models and they're definitely the same, so it's purely a problem with my technique
and I'll try this 'twice through' tip for sure.

-- Charles


Yep...I forgot to mention that! It really helps keep the string from slipping as you wind it up. I put the string through with a 1/2 to 3/4 turn as mentioned before, then I take the loose end and wrap it "backwards" around the post the other way and through the hole again, then wind one over and the rest under. Even the thin strings hold pretty good this way with only two or three wraps.

John

Pueo
06-20-2013, 12:17 PM
I have 9 ukuleles and, coincidentally, one of them is a Pono PKT-1 Tenor. The ONLY ukulele that I have ever opened up the case and found a snapped string was my Pono! It has happened only three times in the six years or so I have owned it, and twice was with Ko`Olau Gold strings, which I heard were discontinued because they broke, and most recently was Mimmo's demo version of Aquila Red Low G - which has already been discussed.

Sometimes it seems like the A string will never get to the right pitch, but it always does eventually. I rarely have more than 4 wraps on the A string.

When I change strings, I orient the hole in the peg perpendicular to the neck, and I go one wrap around and then through the hole. The tail exits below that first coil I made. I hold onto the tail and make that first wrap go underneath the tail, so that it is "pinched" by the next coil that comes along. I wind down. I also will just put maybe two turns, wait a few minutes, then strum like crazy, then tune up a bit, wait a few minutes, strum like crazy - I just do it while I am watching TV and do the tighten and strum during commercials. Only after doing that a couple of times will I then attempt to go all the way to full tension.
http://i1201.photobucket.com/albums/bb354/YoungDamon/TuningPegs.jpg

OldePhart
06-20-2013, 12:51 PM
[COLOR="#800080"]I have 9 ukuleles and, coincidentally, one of them is a Pono PKT-1 Tenor. The ONLY ukulele that I have ever opened up the case and found a snapped string was my Pono! It has happened only three times in the six years or so I have owned it, and twice was with Ko`Olau Gold strings, which I heard were discontinued because they broke, and most recently was Mimmo's demo version of Aquila Red Low G - which has already been discussed.


Kind of funny you should mention that. The only time I've had strings break in the case is on my Pono baritone. Once the D string and once the E string, in both cases the strings had been on for somewhere between three and six months. The D was a wound that definitely broke right at the tuner, the E it's harder to tell, it could have been the tuner or the nut but it was a very heavy gage fluorocarbon string and I've never had a fluorocarbon string break before in or out of the case.

I also looked at the holes in the tuners on that baritone, they aren't all the way at the bottom as the OP describes on his tenor, but they are about the middle of the shaft and lower than the holes on some of my other ukes. I don't think there is anything "wrong" with them but it might be that with a little less space between the bottom of the hole and the bottom of the capstan that it is easier to pinch a string against the sharp inner face of the mounting nut, especially if you run too many winds down tight against that nut. Definitely something worth keeping in mind, I think.

I've got the strings off the uke right now, getting ready to put the MiSi pickup in it that I won in the raffle at UWC. I think maybe I'll get out a glass and make sure there aren't any burrs on the tuners or anything and maybe make little felt washers to go on the top side of the nuts that hold the tuners on...nothing more annoying than opening a case and finding a broken string. LOL In fact, I'd planned on taking the Pono to UWC but took the reentrant Mainland at the last minute because I discovered the broken E string as I was packing the car for the trip. It ended up not mattering anyway, because I barely had the baritone out of it's case the whole week.

John

OldePhart
06-23-2013, 11:45 AM
Follow up...so, when I restrung the Pono baritone the neck had been unstrung for a few days waiting for me to put the pickup in and I guess that the neck had relaxed a little because on the treble strings I had more turns than usual. I noticed that they went all the way down to the bottom of the shaft and when they did it became more difficult to turn them. I let the neck "settle" overnight and then loosened and restrung the strings with fewer winds. When I loosened the E string I could very clearly see where it had been nicked by being wound down tight against the nut holding the tuner on.

If you look at the closeup photo you can see how it looks like maybe these tuners were designed for a headstock about 3/32" thinner. Notice how the tapered part of the shaft sinks down below the top of the mounting nut. If you let the strings wind down this far this traps the string between the shaft and the sharp threads and edges inside the nut, gouging the string. (BTW, I took a photo of one of the bass tuners because it was completely unobscured - but the treble side tuners do the same thing.

54929

I don't know if this same situation exists on the Pono tenor, but on the baritone it's definitely changed the way I think about winding strings - baritone strings are long enough to have more stretch anyway so it's common to have an extra turn or so (vs. a smaller uke) on the treble strings. I ended up winding the B string on the baritone "up" because I couldn't get few enough turns going down to avoid having the string pinched in that gap between the shaft and the mounting nut.

Hope this helps the OP...

John