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Icelander53
07-25-2014, 01:41 PM
I sure have learned a lot in the few months I've been here posting and the road stretches out far as I can see with so much more to learn.
Honestly my only regret is that I've gotten here so late in life. My health is finally going after a stellar run of adventure and activity and my great fear is that one day soon now I may not be able to play my uke without major pain. So I'm doing what I can to make that day far far off.

I sure love my new Pono. I really love the sound of the Ko'olau Gold Strings on it. They are to my ear a wonderful string and I really want nothing else on this Pono. However they are a high tension string and so can be a little difficult to play for long hours. Now I'm quite aware that I need to play more relaxed and with less finger pressure. I'm working on that guys, seriously I am. When I'm alone I do pretty good too but when playing with my gf I guess my ego gets in the way and I try too hard and just use too much pressure fretting. My thumbs especially are in pain today after about three hours of play. That's where most of my arthritis is located. So in the mean time I need some stop gap help until I refine my technique. So I'd like some advice on some low tension strings that might sound great on a Cedar top/Mahogany side and back pono. All suggestions welcome. And I'd like to know where you get your strings.

Ukejenny
07-25-2014, 01:47 PM
I will be watching this thread because I'm interested in some low-mid tension strings on my cedar rosewood Ohana concert. I'm using Worth Clears on it right now and loving them, but want to see what else is out there. They are medium tension.

PereBourik
07-25-2014, 02:37 PM
I'm not aware of string tension really.

When I work my thumb too hard I paint my thumb joint and wrist with Biofreeze and slip on a Futuro Thumb Stabilizer.

Icelander53
07-25-2014, 02:39 PM
Tell me more?

Icelander53
07-26-2014, 05:57 PM
Bump

Still looking for ideas for some low to medium tension strings for my Pono. Help! Anyone?

PereBourik
07-26-2014, 07:33 PM
Tell me more?

Just that. It splints the thumb and keeps me from over stressing it. I don't (usually) play with the stabilizer on. The Biofreeze is a topical analgesic that mutes the pain and may stimulate blood flow and reduce the soreness.

Maybe because I use flourocarbon strings the tension is pretty much the same across all the sets. But I play both concert and tenor so that clouds the issue a bit.

Icelander53
07-26-2014, 09:40 PM
I ordered some biofreeze. Thanks for the lead.

chuck in ny
07-27-2014, 04:07 AM
icelander

re your health and only if you are up to doing this. this is the internet age and there are alternative approaches to maladies as close as your google bar. the body is a machine, and much of what can break, can be fixed. it hurts to see your fellow creature suffer.

Icelander53
07-27-2014, 05:14 AM
I'm using what I can. I was a buyer of nutritional supplements/herbs for 19 years before retiring to play ukulele full time. :) I think I'm doing ok still but I worry on the bad days.

Ukejenny
07-27-2014, 06:33 AM
Do you do any stretches before you play?

Icelander53
07-29-2014, 10:05 PM
Bump.

I'm still looking for some suggestions for lower tension strings. It sure would be helpful if these string companies got their acts together and listed string tension on their web sites.

I may just go back to Aquilas as they seem to be the best sounding low tension string I've found. I was just hoping there might be something else to try that would be very easy on my hands playing for longer hours.

DownUpDave
07-30-2014, 12:40 AM
Hey Ice

If you saw my string thread I am looking for strings for my Pete Howlett tenor that are medium tension. Here is were just using the word tension gets misleading. Most of us are strong enough to play most strings, it is not just tension. What I have found that make strings more UNCOMFORTABLE to play over another are a combination of three things. High tension coupled with small diameter coupled with a hard material. I think some people are influenced more by one element over another. That is why you get one person saying Aquilas are high tension and another saying they a low to medium tension. So I am now going to refer to strings by feel. They either feel easy to fret or hard to fret. For me a larger diameter with a softer material feel easy to fret.

I have three more string sets coming for the Howlett. I am chasing a certain sound with a certain feel, I have found both but not together. I have in transit : Living Water, Freemont Black Line mediums and Orcas, from Uke Republic. I like to give each string set 2 - 3 weeks so it will be a while till I can give you feed back on those three. See my " Another string thread " for my thoughts on Oasis warm high and low G, Aquila Reds, Worth CM, Aquila nylgut and Worth BT. These are all on the same instrument so it has been a good test bed and education for me

cdkrugjr
07-30-2014, 01:17 AM
Bump.

I'm still looking for some suggestions for lower tension strings. It sure would be helpful if these string companies got their acts together and listed string tension on their web sites.

I may just go back to Aquilas as they seem to be the best sounding low tension string I've found. I was just hoping there might be something else to try that would be very easy on my hands playing for longer hours.

Southcoast "Soft" series, might be worth trying. There's no substitute for trying different things yourself.
:)

AndrewKuker
07-30-2014, 02:57 AM
I gotta say I am so jealous you play for 3 hours in a day. You're my hero. One day. Anyway I just chimed in to say, over tighten your truss rod and it will be more comfortable. Your dynamic range and volume might be compromised but unless you are playing with other or trying to be as loud as possible it will make it much more comfortable and that might matter the most. If you play ultra hard it will buzz, so what, your hand won't hurt and you'll learn to finesse it just right. Take the allen wrench, stick in the hole, turn toward the E and A a few times. Test and repeat as needed. Quick and easier than trying the gajillian string options. At least try first since you like the tone of the strings but want an easier feel. After you try that try Aquila Nylgut, NOT the new Super Nylgut (IMO) But straight up fact to beware of fake Aquilas. We can buy those for less than a dollar a set but don't because..well they are bad, bad people with a bad product. They probably do best on fake purses and other soulless attempts at success. They really milk every penny when they dive into ukulele strings though. And we regularly get hit up. Weird world economy thrives on cheapest winning. Crap is rampant/ But never mind all that and just tighten that rod more! Facing the insert and right to tight. A neck with no relief could be just what the doctor ordered.

FrankB
07-30-2014, 03:23 AM
Ukulele strings have relatively low tension, and I'd look more at technique. It's quite possible that the tension you create in your hand/arm have a greater effect on your comfort than the brand your using. This assumes that your nut slots have been adjusted for comfortable playing, and that your ukulele suits your hand size. Playing anything smaller than a tenor cramps my hands, so I don't play anything smaller than a tenor.

Try playing scales, and focus on using the lightest finger pressure possible. Don't use songs first, because they can have complexities that create tension in your mind and hand. Keeping the neck up should help to keep your wrist straight, and that should reduce tension in your hand as well. I play all ukes and guitars in the classical guitar position, but sometimes slouch on the sofa with a bent wrist. That lasts for a few minutes, and the pain begins.

Icelander53
07-30-2014, 06:49 AM
Then you need to explain to me why some strings are much easier for me to play on than others. All my ukes I'm talking about here had a set up by HMS. Andrew at HMS informed me that I might find it harder to use the stock strings due to the higher tension. Was he pulling my chain?


I'm going to guess you are young with no age related issues that would inhibit your playing style. Even two years ago I wouldn't have been making this thread. I did address the technique issue here I believe and I've already talked about my work on improving technique. Do you feel what I said is irrelevant?

Icelander53
07-30-2014, 07:01 AM
I gotta say I am so jealous you play for 3 hours in a day. You're my hero. One day. Anyway I just chimed in to say, over tighten your truss rod and it will be more comfortable. Your dynamic range and volume might be compromised but unless you are playing with other or trying to be as loud as possible it will make it much more comfortable and that might matter the most. If you play ultra hard it will buzz, so what, your hand won't hurt and you'll learn to finesse it just right. Take the allen wrench, stick in the hole, turn toward the E and A a few times. Test and repeat as needed. Quick and easier than trying the gajillian string options. At least try first since you like the tone of the strings but want an easier feel. After you try that try Aquila Nylgut, NOT the new Super Nylgut (IMO) But straight up fact to beware of fake Aquilas. We can buy those for less than a dollar a set but don't because..well they are bad, bad people with a bad product. They probably do best on fake purses and other soulless attempts at success. They really milk every penny when they dive into ukulele strings though. And we regularly get hit up. Weird world economy thrives on cheapest winning. Crap is rampant/ But never mind all that and just tighten that rod more! Facing the insert and right to tight. A neck with no relief could be just what the doctor ordered.


OK, thanks so much for your help here. They mentioned the truss rod deal at HMS but I felt a little intimidated to fiddle with it and thought I'd try strings first but maybe I've got that backwards.

I often get in two hours or more of playing a day because I'm retired and it's a new love as I've only been playing about a half year.

I buy all my strings from HMS or Strings by Mail and I think they are selling the real deal.

And again thanks, you've been a lot of help.

FrankB
07-30-2014, 08:01 AM
Then you need to explain to me why some strings are much easier for me to play on than others. All my ukes I'm talking about here had a set up by HMS. Andrew at HMS informed me that I might find it harder to use the stock strings due to the higher tension. Was he pulling my chain?


I'm going to guess you are young with no age related issues that would inhibit your playing style. Even two years ago I wouldn't have been making this thread. I did address the technique issue here I believe and I've already talked about my work on improving technique. Do you feel what I said is irrelevant?

I'll be 53 soon, and have always had hand problems when playing fretted instruments. It was only when I began playing classical guitar 13-14 years ago that I was able to play without pain. I've been able to play steel string acoustic guitar for the past couple of months, and I had given that up years ago.

I don't read every single post you write, but have read enough. You've said that you play with others, and that can create stress in your hand. Many things can create stress in your hand, and you have to assess your playing technique frequently. Pono ukuleles do perform better with higher tension strings, so that's what they come with. Andrew's suggestion of a flat neck is excellent, and my steel string guitar has been adjusted so the neck is dead flat. The action is very low, and I can play without taking Advil. Oasis Bright strings are fairly easy to play, but provide a decent amount of volume and good tone. Plain nylon will give you low tension in smaller gauge sets, but you'll need to have your nut slots adjusted if they've been set up for flourocarbon strings. Drop the action at the 12th fret as low as you need, and you should be good. It's generally said that low action will result in low volume, but it's better than not being able to play. ;) You can always dig in harder if you need volume, or get an amp.

Don't be afraid of a Pono truss rod. They've been in the game long enough to make a working system (some manufacturers use junk truss rods, or poorly constructed systems). Just tweek it a quarter turn, and give it a look. Some people recommend waiting 15 minutes between turns, but I've never had any problems just getting it done in one shot. The string tension is low enough on ukes relative to steel string guitars, and you're not going to strip threads on the rod. With a steel string guitar, I usually bend the neck back by hand a bit, and then turn the nut for the truss rod, but you should be good just using the truss rod itself.

ericchico
07-30-2014, 08:23 AM
I am a new Uke player also, coming from guitar. When I get a little crampy in my hand I stretch it out, shake it and have a beer then go back to practicing scales instead of chords. I have only used D' addario and Aquila strings. I like the Aquila's, they just feel better, the D' addario's seemed more crisp though. I will try others someday, maybe. Good luck

FourSilverMoonbeams
07-30-2014, 08:32 AM
Another solution is to tune your uke down by a semitone or even a tone. This can be OK if you play mainly on your own. A tone down can be nice if you play with someone else, but the downside is you have to learn new names for the chords!

Icelander53
07-30-2014, 10:49 AM
I am a new Uke player also, coming from guitar. When I get a little crampy in my hand I stretch it out, shake it and have a beer then go back to practicing scales instead of chords. I have only used D' addario and Aquila strings. I like the Aquila's, they just feel better, the D' addario's seemed more crisp though. I will try others someday, maybe. Good luck

Yeah, I do play a lot of chords without a break as I'm just now starting to practice finger picking. Aquilas never seem to be a problem for me. They feel soft and low tension. At least compared to what I'm using now. But I'll try backing off the chording and playing more scales since you and another poster both suggested it.

As I stated earlier. I know I have a beginner technique problem of playing too hard. I'm working on it but it's not changing overnight. In the mean time I wanted to see if there was a temporary measure that I could use until my technique improves. That seemed like a reasonable thing to do. But frankly I'm not in the know on most of this. I'm just beginning for the very first time in 60 years to tackle a musical instrument and what I don't understand is most everything at this stage of the game. Not to say I'm not making real progress. I believe I'm doing ok at this stage. It certainly could be better but I'm a bit of a slacker by nature.

Icelander53
07-30-2014, 10:54 AM
I'll be 53 soon, and have always had hand problems when playing fretted instruments. It was only when I began playing classical guitar 13-14 years ago that I was able to play without pain. I've been able to play steel string acoustic guitar for the past couple of months, and I had given that up years ago.

I don't read every single post you write, but have read enough. You've said that you play with others, and that can create stress in your hand. Many things can create stress in your hand, and you have to assess your playing technique frequently. Pono ukuleles do perform better with higher tension strings, so that's what they come with. Andrew's suggestion of a flat neck is excellent, and my steel string guitar has been adjusted so the neck is dead flat. The action is very low, and I can play without taking Advil. Oasis Bright strings are fairly easy to play, but provide a decent amount of volume and good tone. Plain nylon will give you low tension in smaller gauge sets, but you'll need to have your nut slots adjusted if they've been set up for flourocarbon strings. Drop the action at the 12th fret as low as you need, and you should be good. It's generally said that low action will result in low volume, but it's better than not being able to play. ;) You can always dig in harder if you need volume, or get an amp.

Don't be afraid of a Pono truss rod. They've been in the game long enough to make a working system (some manufacturers use junk truss rods, or poorly constructed systems). Just tweek it a quarter turn, and give it a look. Some people recommend waiting 15 minutes between turns, but I've never had any problems just getting it done in one shot. The string tension is low enough on ukes relative to steel string guitars, and you're not going to strip threads on the rod. With a steel string guitar, I usually bend the neck back by hand a bit, and then turn the nut for the truss rod, but you should be good just using the truss rod itself.


OK thanks. It sounds like you know what you're talking about. I'll work with your suggestions and I appreciate you taking the time to explain this all to me.

70sSanO
07-30-2014, 04:31 PM
I'm not exactly sure what strings are considered to be low tension. My wife has a cedar top ukulele and I tried different strings and ended up with Aquila Reds. They seem to require a less pressure that Nylguts and have good volume and sound better.

John

Icelander53
07-30-2014, 04:59 PM
Well it's very hard to get that question answered here. lol

PTOEguy
07-30-2014, 07:14 PM
I've got a Pono Tenor with Ko'olau strings on it. It definitely plays a little harder with the higher tension strings on it. I've had both Aquilas and Southcoasts on it, both of which were easier on my left hand. That said, I found that lower tension strings lose a little something in the tone.

I haven't tried Aquila Reds on my Pono, but they are even easier to play than standard Aquilas on my Flea.

I don't believe I saw what size uke you're playing, but if it is a tenor, it will tend towards higher tension because you're tuning a longer string to the same pitch as a concert or soprano. String design takes away some of this, but I the smaller sizes tend to be lower tension. So, you could move down a size, or tune the pitch down. (see Southcoast's string guide for some discussion of various string factors -http://www.southcoastukes.com/stringuide.htm)

Icelander53
08-01-2014, 02:50 PM
www.southcoastukes.com

The Importance of String Gauge and Tension



This edition of String Tips is about something we seem to get questions about on a somewhat regular basis. The questions often take the form of "what gauge are your ..... strings" or "what tension are your ..... strings". The idea is that this information can be used to compare one set of strings, in this case ours, with strings someone may already be familiar with. In other words to know what to expect from ours. Obviously, this sort of information might be extremely useful in purchasing strings for your Ukulele from anyone.
How then, can you avoid the common "shot in the dark" process of simply blindly buying one string set after another - hoping against hope that the next set will be "the one"? How can a knowledge of string gauges and tension be used to make your buying experience more certain.
In short, it can't. Or to state it another way, that sort of knowledge is practically useless. Actually "useless" is being kind. This sort of data almost always just confuses matters and making the buying experience worse.
There is a very limited application for this sort of thing. Diameter and tension would, indeed, figure into the calculation of a set of strings for a new scale or tuning, based on a specific material whose properties you already know. We can't emphasize "specific" enough. This sort of knowledge, in other words, only applies when comparing apples.
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Let's start with tension and show how anything other than comparing apples won't work. The problem with tension data as it's currently presented, is that it doesn't correspond to the common use of the word. When people speak of string tension - this includes us - the common meaning is that we're talking about how tight or loose a set of strings will feel. Tension data, however, tells you about strings before you feel them. It's a measure of the pull exerted by a string or set of strings when they are at rest. That's not your main concern, however, because it doesn't tell you how they'll feel or how they play. It's useless to you because that data ignores flexibility.
The best example of this is a wound steel string. By this, I mean a true steel string, an all steel winding, not the common wound Classical string, where metal is spun over a softer core. If you think about it, why would you wind a steel string to begin with? Plain steel strings are smoother, and thus noise free under hand. Why not just continue the practice of using a plain steel "rod" so to speak, as is used in the thinner gauges, when you need a heavier string for a low note. It's because of the need for some flexibility.
At some point, the "steel rod" gets thick enough to where it just doesn't function as a musical instrument string. You'd bring it up to tension, and then try to strum it, and you'd feel like you'd broken your finger. Not only that, but the tension of such a string would actually have to be very low in order to keep that stiff, inflexible steel rod from tearing off the bridge. By contrast a spiral, or "round wound" steel string having the same weight per inch could actually be brought up to a higher tension and yet still feel much easier to play.
While this situation may be easier to conceptualize with wound versus plain steel, the example can be applied to any two types of string material. With wound strings, a flat wound string will flex less than a comparable round wound string. Because of this they also will generally have less tension. When you play them, however, the lack of flexibility will give them a "harder" feel. Our flatwound strings, for example, are classified as "Medium Heavy", yet they have less tension than our "Medium Gauge". Those who rely on tension data might think the flatwound set, because of lower tension, would have a more relaxed feel. They would be wrong.
These kinds of examples are useful with various types of plain strings as well. A fluorocarbon string, for example, is typically stiffer than a nylon. So, up to a certain point, a typical all fluorocarbon string set could actually have a lower tension than a typical all nylon set, and yet be more difficult to play. Hopefully these examples serve to illustrate the futility of relying on tension data to make an informed decision on string choices. It can only guide you when comparing strings of exactly the same formula, so you have the same sort of flexibility. Apples to apples.
****************************
When it comes to relying on string diameter to help you in your choices, there is also a key missing element. In this case it is density. A simple example of this would be to compare a wound string and plain string, each of a gauge that would allow them to be tuned to the same pitch at the same tension. The wound string would be substantially thinner, because it is denser, or heavier. Another way to look at this would be that if instead, the strings were of the same diameter, the wound string, per inch, would weigh more.
These same considerations also apply when comparing wound strings to each other, or plain strings to each other. One wound string may use a heavier metal for its winding -- with others, the proportion of metal to core (often nylon) will vary. With plain strings, you can use the example of a typical fluorocarbon versus a typical nylon. The fluorocarbon is denser, so again, with strings tuned to the same pitch -- same scale -- same tension -- the fluorocarbon is generally thinner.
We say "generally", because as we stated earlier, for diameter to be meaningful information you need to know the specific material. Just knowing that's it's a fluoro or a nylon is not enough. There are hundreds of fluoro formulae -- thousands of nylon varieties. They all vary in density, and the result is that in some instances, those materials have started to overlap in how they perform as musical instrument strings.
To give a specific example from our own strings, we have a very popular all plain set called the LMU, or Light Medium Ukulele set. In this case, it is an all fluoro set, but as is always the case with us, it is made of mixed materials. There are four different fluoro formulae in the set to give better balance, both in tension and playing diameter. The outside strings (this is an Ukulele reentrant set) are of the exact same diameter and they're almost exactly the same in tension as well. This is in spite of the fact that they're tuned a note apart. The moral is, even when comparing a "type" of string, such as fluorocarbon, if it's not apples to apples, as in same specific fluoro formula, you can end up way off in the tension you'd want by relying on diameter.
Of course there are some who will use diameters, not to try to estimate playability or tension, but to decide whether or not there might be a problem with their set-up. This is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.
The "bones" on a plucked stringed instrument are removable precisely so they can be easily adjusted. This feature is an essential part of the design of a stringed instrument. Play your strings at first without regard to intonation or buzzing until you find the sound and feel you're looking for -- then make the adjustments your instrument was designed to allow.
****************************
As you can see from the examples above, Tension and Diameter data for string sets like ours would totally confound the "apples to oranges string scientists", and unfortunately, popular mythology has created a sizeable number of people who have been led down that path. "Traditional" string set formulation ("Cheap" sets, as we refer to them) would appear substantially different from us when looked at from the standpoint of tension and diameter. Of course we do that by design, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't confuse the heck out of someone with an incomplete understanding of what tension and diameter data can actually be used for.
Traditional / cheap sets are made from as few materials as possible. With plain sets, that would be one material. With wound / plain sets, that would be two. Looking at an all plain set as an example, the "cheap" sets have a wider variation, both in tension and diameter than a comparable set of ours would have. A typical cheap reentrant set, for example, would have a 3rd string that's thicker in relation to the outside strings than one of our sets would have. The tension on most cheap 3rd strings would be lower than ours, and the tension on the outside strings would be higher.
This is done to try to balance the tone. With only one material, the thin strings are much brighter than the thick strings, so the thick string is made as thin (floppy) as possible to keep the tone as bright as possible, and the outside strings are given extra thickness/ tension to try to muffle their brightness a bit.

Couldn't fit in the whole article sorry