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View Full Version : How Do You Know Good Strings?



kuzuyan
02-26-2014, 05:46 AM
I read the pinned post describing all the different strings over on the other section, and that is a lot of info to take in.

I'm pretty new to playing (only had my uke about a month/month and a half) and I don't think need to worry about changing strings just yet. However, I am curious.

I have a Lanikai soprano I got from Guitar Center with whatever it's stock strings are. For most of my playing they work great, but sometimes the C seems just a little bit off. Also, the A gets a sort of.. tinny? sound if I strum or pluck at or past the fifth fret. Is that normal?

When the time does come for new strings, how do I know which ones to try first with my uke? From what I've gathered different strings work differently with different ukuleles. I've seen many positive posts of Living Waters and Martin M600s. Some very mixed stuff on Aquila.

Anyway, sorry for the long post! I look forward to reading what you guys have to say, thanks!

Icelander53
02-26-2014, 06:11 AM
I think you know good strings by how they sound to you. That might change day to day lol. I think Lanikai uses aquila and I think they sound pretty nice on mine. In the beginning, from my experience, my technique was and is more of a problem than the actual sound of the strings. I'm putting that string selection thingy off into my future for the most part. I need to work on playing better and getting too hung up on things like the sound of a particular set of strings, which can be pretty subtle to the untrained ear, is a distraction for me. Your milage may vary.

mikelz777
02-26-2014, 07:24 AM
A strings feel and sound pretty much comes down to being a personal thing so finding a good one will be based on your experience. Many will sing the praises of Aquila strings but I did not like them on my Lanikai or my Ohana. They sounded kind of dull and muddy to me. Oasis strings brought my Lanikai to life and I like the Martins I put on my Ohana much more than I did Aquilas. What I noticed when comparing the three string brands was that the Oasis and Martins were of a lighter gauge than the Aquilas. Apparently, a lighter gauge must be my thing because I've also tried some D'Addarios which were of a heavier gauge than the Aquilas and I really disliked the D'Addarios. Were you me, I'd first try Oasis, then Martins. I've heard good things about Living Waters and Worth strings but I haven't had experience with either.

wickedwahine11
02-26-2014, 07:32 AM
I agree -- it is highly subjective. What sounds good to your ear might not to somebody else. Some people like hard tension, others prefer softer tension. Plus if you play low g, there is a lot of debate over wound strings (less boomy but can squeak), etc.

Not to mention the fact that the "best" strings may not be the "best" on all your ukes. I use Living Water on one uke exclusively and PhD on one uke exclusively. Every time I get a new uke, I spend a lot of time changing strings to decide which ones I like best on that particular instrument. I keep a stockpile of strings of different brands just for that reason.

janeray1940
02-26-2014, 07:40 AM
I have a Lanikai soprano I got from Guitar Center with whatever it's stock strings are. For most of my playing they work great, but sometimes the C seems just a little bit off. Also, the A gets a sort of.. tinny? sound if I strum or pluck at or past the fifth fret. Is that normal?

When the time does come for new strings, how do I know which ones to try first with my uke? From what I've gathered different strings work differently with different ukuleles. I've seen many positive posts of Living Waters and Martin M600s. Some very mixed stuff on Aquila.



Some good advice so far on the subjectivity of it all, but - the time has come. As soon as you're noticing something is off, the fist thing to try is a string change.

Do you know if your uke is a laminate or solid wood? The Aquilas can bring out the best in some laminates, but on solid wood ukes I tend to prefer Martins (or other fluorocarbons). I know somebody with a spruce-top Lanikai and Aquilas actually sound fantastic on that thing, but the strings it came with (origins unknown, black nylon, probably GHS) certainly did not.

sukie
02-26-2014, 07:40 AM
I agree -- it is highly subjective. What sounds good to your ear might not to somebody else. Some people like hard tension, others prefer softer tension. Plus if you play low g, there is a lot of debate over wound strings (less boomy but can squeak), etc.

Not to mention the fact that the "best" strings may not be the "best" on all your ukes.....
This is perfect.

PhilUSAFRet
02-26-2014, 08:20 AM
Are you able to join a club? Know other ukers? You may want to be sure you are fingering the strings cleanly before considering new strings. 6 weeks is a short time to have mastered much "technique." It may want to check the intonation of your Lanikai. http://www.theukulelesite.com/ukulele-setup.html

Pueo
02-26-2014, 08:21 AM
As you play more you will develop a preference for how you want your ukulele to sound and feel. Lately I have been putting Worth Clears on my "nicer" ukuleles and I have been happy with them. Ironically, I have a custom ukulele that sounds and plays best (in my opinion) with Hilo strings - $4 a set.
Generally, I dislike the harder-feeling strings. For me, Aquila is in this category. My Kala concert has Aquila strings on it now, and it is OK, but I will likely try Hilos on it next, just for kicks. The only strings I have universally NOT liked ever are GHS. I have had good luck with Ko`olau, D'Addario, Hilo, and Worth. When you have some extra $ just go buy some different brands and try them! It's not a huge investment and the more you change strings, the easier it gets. Plus, I use it as an opportunity to thoroughly clean my ukulele as well.

Cheers!

stevepetergal
02-26-2014, 09:47 AM
How Do You Know Good Strings?

To paraphrase Louis Armstrong, if you have to ask you'll never know.

kuzuyan
02-26-2014, 09:56 AM
Lots of great replies! I looked up my model and it says it's all mahogony.

To the gentlemen who pointed out it could be technical errors: I almost certainly believe the tinny sound I'm getting is me, but I thought I should include the concern anyway. You guys are awesome, thanks!

janeray1940
02-26-2014, 10:15 AM
I looked up my model and it says it's all mahogony.

To the gentlemen who pointed out it could be technical errors: I almost certainly believe the tinny sound I'm getting is me, but I thought I should include the concern anyway. You guys are awesome, thanks!

Give the Martin M600s a try - they're inexpensive and easy to find, so if you don't like them you won't be out much. Personally I like them on both mahogany and koa.

When I first started playing, I had a low-end uke that had some issues similar to what you describe. I thought the problem was me and my technique (or lack thereof), but decided to change the strings, and - no more issues! It wasn't me at all, but the horrible black nylon strings that the uke came with.

DaleR
02-26-2014, 10:40 AM
I like the new D'Addarios and Aquilas, but it is really up to the feel on your uke and the sound YOU like. Uke is cool, because you only have to answer to you!

OldePhart
02-26-2014, 11:37 AM
"Good" strings are those which sound pleasing to your ear and feel right in your hands.

"Superb" strings are those which feel right and sound pleasing to your ear and the ears of most others - i.e. the intonation is reasonably good so chords don't sound sour.

I've found that strings that are "good" on one uke may be "superb" on another.

So, finding "good" strings is something that is both subjective and, if you've got a well-developed ear for pitch, tends to vary from uke to uke. There have been several times that I've thought I've found the "magic bullet" that will work on everything, only to be proven wrong by a new uke. I've even had strings that I've given up on prove to be useful, though not superb, on a new uke.

If you're on an extremely tight budget then whatever is on your uke may have to be "good" until they break. :)

John

kuzuyan
02-26-2014, 07:59 PM
Again, great things to know. Thanks for the replies. I'm sure once I've had a chance to experiment a little I'll post about it.

cantsing
02-27-2014, 03:56 PM
I looked up my model and it says it's all mahogony.

If the description says your uke is "all mahogany," it might be a laminate. The words "solid mahogany" indicate a solid wood instrument.

PereBourik
02-27-2014, 04:35 PM
+1 for Martin strings. They are widely (and often affordably) available and a good example of fluorocarbon strings.

The string chase is one of the fun parts of playing 'ukulele. The sound of an instrument can be made or broken by your choice of strings.

vanflynn
02-27-2014, 04:35 PM
Happy hunting for the strings K. I've been there many a time and each journey can be educational and fun. Every $6 investment can lead to a different voice to your instrument. Please remember that it takes strings some time to stretch and settle in so give them some play time before judging.

What sounds good to you is good.

kuzuyan
02-27-2014, 09:07 PM
Here is a link to the exact model I bought: http://lanikaiukes.com/laniblog/lu22sgc-ukulele/
I had to look up the terminology, but yeah, since it's definitely not all one piece, that makes it laminate, right?

Anyway, now I think no matter what I'm going to buy at least two sets of strings just to mess around and see what fits.

I read in a different part of the forum that it takes about 3-4 days to get the strings "broke in." This is while adjusting a few times throughout each day. Is that about right?

bazmaz
02-28-2014, 02:24 AM
That Lanikai is a laminate wood uke. but honestly - the correct advice on strings has been given above regardless of the uke. The best strings are those that sound and feel best to you.

I have had people recommend strings to me for a uke that they own the same model of, and I hated them. It doesnt make them 'wrong'. Just wrong to tell me they were perfect for ME

cantsing
02-28-2014, 05:08 AM
I read in a different part of the forum that it takes about 3-4 days to get the strings "broke in." This is while adjusting a few times throughout each day. Is that about right?

For me, it varies, depending on a lot of factors. Even though I'm prepared for it, I'm always a little amazed at how much strings will stretch. So, basically, just be aware that you will need to re-tune frequently after a string change.

And it's not a bad habit to check the tuning every time you play, even after the strings settle.

mikelz777
02-28-2014, 05:34 AM
I read in a different part of the forum that it takes about 3-4 days to get the strings "broke in." This is while adjusting a few times throughout each day. Is that about right?

I'd say that is a fair estimate if you are playing and adjusting your uke several times on each of those days, maybe a little longer. When I first change strings I try and play the uke a lot for a longer period of time. At first, I'll re-tune after every song. When I begin to notice that its holding its tune a little better then I re-tune it after every other song. When I notice that its holding its tune a little better then I re-tune it every 3rd or 4th song. With this method, you're stretching the strings several times over the course of an hour or however long you play and it speeds up the process. On the first and second day after changing strings, I'll tune each string up 1/2 step when I'm done playing for the day to stretch out the strings even a little more.

flailingfingers
03-01-2014, 09:58 AM
I think you know good strings by how they sound to you. That might change day to day lol. I need to work on playing better and getting too hung up on things like the sound of a particular set of strings, which can be pretty subtle to the untrained ear, is a distraction for me. Your milage may vary.
I used to think it was just me! The sound does change from day to day and here's the interesting thing to me: If I start off playing by taking my time to play really slowly and cleanly, letting every note ring and appreciate the sound, I swear the uke sounds beautiful for the whole session. The instrument knows???? Maybe everything just appreciates a little love.

Icelander53
03-01-2014, 12:28 PM
Right. I wasn't implying that strings make no sound difference. But as you say the best effects you'll get as a beginner is to learn to play well. Playing slowly is one of the major challenges I face as a beginner. I always want to be good enough to play fast like the big boys, when the truth is that I'm not. If I don't learn to play slowly and cleanly then my fast will always sound like a beginner.

kuzuyan
03-07-2014, 08:30 AM
I hate to dig this up, but I've been away from my computer for a spell while planning and driving for this vacation I'm on.

My buddy and I stopped into a Guitar Center while we were exploring Minneapolis, and they happened to have Martin M600s for right about $5, and I figured why not. So I got Lonny, that's my uke's name, restrung and have been retuning as needed the past day and a half. It wasn't hugely significant, but I'm happy to report that these strings sound brighter than the stock ones. It's subtle, but definitely worth it.

Ukejenny
03-07-2014, 11:22 AM
I like strings that sound good to my ear and feel good to my fingers. It may not be what someone else likes, but it has to feel and sound "right" to me. So far, Worth clears have been very nice. Aquillas have come on two of my three ukuleles and I changed the concert to Worth clears and love the feel and sound. The soprano I have left the Aquillas on. I've also noticed that a well set-up ukulele makes a huge difference in how the strings feel.

pixiepurls
03-07-2014, 02:37 PM
Seems like strings are like instruments, everyone feels differently depending on what they like! :) So that means try more then 1 kind! It would be neat to find a store that had several of the same model each with different strings. I went to a violin shop once and the lady took the violin and played the same song with 5 different bows. It was amazing how there WAS a difference between them all played on the same violin. Now hearing that violin and any of those bows on there own I would not have known the difference, but hearing them all played one after the other it was fascinating.