View Full Version : Very bright Ukulele....recommendation for richer/darker strings

03-01-2014, 12:19 PM
As the title states...I have a Tenor ukulele (Spruce/rosewood) that is really bright (to the point of being "metallic", I am using Aquilas (Low wound G) on it now. What would be a good set of strings to try that will be darker/richer sounding?



03-01-2014, 12:28 PM
To help deepen the tone use fluorocarbon strings on CEA, tune it down a half or whole step.
Maybe use a wound C too.

03-01-2014, 12:30 PM
the new 'SUPER NYGLUT' are less bright. kinda pricey, but I think I'm liking them. they have the red low g, which is also less boomy than their wound.

03-01-2014, 02:09 PM
Might want to try LaBella strings. I use those on my Spruce/Rosewood.

Spruce is a very bright wood, so even strings will just have a moderate impact at best.

03-01-2014, 02:22 PM
Worth Browns seem to be a popular mellow string set, Ko'olau Mahani's, and the low g idea sounds good to me too. Can also check with Southcoast.

03-01-2014, 02:57 PM
Definitely experiment with detuning the instrument. Most of my tenors are detuned 2 or 3 semitones. May not be the sound you want but try it before replacing the strings.


03-01-2014, 03:13 PM
Ukulele strings are bright, is my conclusion. Sure, wounds have more heft, but they're still hard, and so have a lot of attack.
GHS and Hilo sound a little mellower to me in some situations. I rejected them because they aren't as clear, but it might help a little bit.

Spruce on Rosewood is a very bright combo.
Spruce is light and vibrates easily, and rosewood is hard, so the high frequency spruce noise just bounces right off it, creating very hard sounds, and crisp crackly highs.
Might just not be your cup of tea. Someone else might love it though, so if you did part ways with it, it might be more appreciated elsewhere.

If I were given this task, and had to make it work, I would probably go at it from the physics side:
The rosewood is hard, so I'd spray something inside on the back that was softer than rosewood, like dilute tru-oil.
That would take the hard edges off the sound.
Then, I'd try to add weight to the soundboard to make it vibrate at lower frequencies, like a heavier bridge, saddle, or even something as simple as it sounds, attaching coins to the inside of the soundboard below where the bridge is. I'd first just tape them, and then if I liked the sound, I'd glue them.
That of course is in most people's minds heretical, but like I said, if I had to make it work, I would.

03-01-2014, 04:40 PM
Ko'Olau Gold strings are my first choice for taming a bright uke. They are, however, temperature sensitive and I've found them not suitable for playing outdoors in changing weather. Indoors, I can keep on top of the tuning by gently rubbing the strings while I am waiting my turn at an open mic or what have you. Otherwise, on a tenor they can change tuning by twenty cents between their resting state and having been played for a couple of songs or just "rubbed" for a warm up.

Last year at UWC in the rain and rapidly changing temperatures I finally gave up and put the tenor in my car and played my Kiwaya Longneck Soprano strung with fluorocarbon strings for the entire week.


03-01-2014, 05:33 PM
Sounds to me like you have the opposite problem that I have whenever I buy a new Kamaka: the D'Addario strings they ship from the factory with are pretty much the opposite of "bright" - so I'd say give those a try. They're sold here (http://www.ukes.com/accessories/ukulele-strings/kamaka-ukulele-strings.html) as "Kamaka" strings but I think they're the same as these (http://daddario.com/DADProductFamily.Page?ActiveID=3768&familyid=35&productname=Hawaiian_Traditional), which D'Addario places on the far end of the "mellow" spectrum.

03-01-2014, 05:38 PM
My theory is that fluorocarbon strings are brighter than nylon. So I suggest trying a good nylon set of D'Addario or Ko olau.

Aquila strings can be someone else's department. I've read of people talking string choices out with Dirk at Southcoast Strings. He has some understanding of woods that may be helpful.

03-01-2014, 07:40 PM
Great tip from John about Koolau Golds changing tune, I'll keep that in mind, thanks John. I see what you mean about them sort of dulling the uke down a little, say from aquila nylguts, but they increase the attack, so I wouldn't say they're a fix if that's a factor you're trying to reduce as well.

I agree with PereBourik, nylon seems darker than flouro, so stick with nylon.

I second Janeray's suggestion of Kamaka strings. I'm not sure which is mellowest out of Kamaka, GHS, and Hilo, but I'm sure you can use MGM's videos on youtube to find out, bless his soul.

You might try coating the strings in something that makes them duller sounding, like a coating of tru-oil, or some kind of flexible varnish.
Or, like I said before, tape a coin or two or three, on the underside the soundboard, I would be surprised if it didn't make a huge difference, and if you liked it, you could glue them there. It might sound strange, but this is how tabla drums work: they put some pine sap with iron dust in the middle of the drum membrane, which adds weight, which makes them sound way deeper, even though they are small drums.

03-02-2014, 04:10 AM
Great thread.

I am looking at a Kala KA-FMT Solid Spruce Top with a Spalted Maple back and sides.

I see the Maple is a harder wood than Rosewood. And perhaps if I go with it, I need to get some darker strings and Nylon. Or Southcoast.

However, I like warm tones and own a Pono Mahogany Baritone and a Pono ETSH5 with a Cedar top.

Perhaps I should just pass. Any thoughts?

Bill Mc
03-02-2014, 05:40 AM
D'Addario Nyltech strings and tune down 1/2 step.

Phluffy the Destroyer
03-02-2014, 06:02 AM
I usually change strings when they stop sounding bright, so I'd suggest just asking around for used strings.

Pure theory here: I wonder what would happen if you tuned a normal set of C strings to D tuning then tuned them back to C after they stretch...

mr roper
03-02-2014, 06:11 AM
Worth browns sound best on my Lanikai with rosewood laminate sides and back and solid spruce top.

03-02-2014, 08:28 AM
... but they increase the attack, so I wouldn't say they're a fix if that's a factor you're trying to reduce as well.

Yeah...that's one of the things I love about them. :) A lot of "mellow" strings don't make me happy because they also seem kind of mushy and undefined - the Ko'Olau Gold have really good attack without being at all shrill which I just love when doing finger rolls (which I do a lot of - I'm getting to the point where I rarely strum, in fact, I'll start out strumming and before I know it I've switched to finger rolls without thinking about it).

It's just really a shame that they are so temperature sensitive. The Ko'Olau Alohi are also a little temperature sensitive (all nylon strings probably are more sensitive than fluorocarbon) but nowhere near so much as the Gold.


03-02-2014, 08:54 AM
Generally speaking, the spruce/rosewood combination will be on the brighter side of the sound spectrum, but not always. A good luthier can mellow out the sound by wood thicknesses, bracing, etc.

The uke owned by the OP sounds like the woods are on the thicker side, maybe shallow body design, heavy finish or overbraced, maybe all of the above. IMO there isn't much one can do to mellow this uke out, strings can only contribute so much to the sound. It might be best to get another uke.

King David
03-02-2014, 09:00 AM
Give Southcoasts a try if you don't want to give up hope and get a new uke. The tensions/gauges are higher(lighter gauages = brighter sound) but I am a big fan of Southcoast Heavy-Mediums for C tuning which tones down the brightness of my koa uke or the Southcoast Heavy set for tuning down to Bflat tuning(which really takes away the brightness).

03-02-2014, 10:00 AM
Thanks everyone, I will check Dirk's offerings at Southcoast.