Light Tension Strings for Elderly Student

Lori

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I just started giving private ukulele lessons to an 88 year old man. He has a brand new Cordoba Tenor uke, with Aquila strings on it. He is at the very, very beginning, with no music experience whatsoever. So, our first lesson was about the very basics. He is not used to playing stringed instruments, and is having trouble getting a clear tone from his fretting hand. I have to push down on his fingers, to get him to feel the amount of pressure he needs to apply. I am hoping he will be able to practice up his grip (and build strength), since he was a trophy winning tennis player at one time. I was wondering how much would lighter tension strings help in this area? What are the lightest gauge for a tenor uke? Any suggestions for easy playing string brands?

–Lori
 

Doc_J

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I've got some lights from SouthCoast on a concert that sound pretty good, and have low tension.
 

WhenDogsSing

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You might try tuning his instrument down a half step or even a whole step.
 

kissing

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Martin fluorocarbons are the lightest I've come across.
 

strumsilly

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You might try tuning his instrument down a half step or even a whole step.

what he said, you can make any strings lower tension by down tuning. you can tell when you go too far , they get floppy and muddy sounding. it's actually fun to experiment. some ukes actually benifit .
 

connor013

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Tuning down is a good idea.

The Southcoasts lights are a great string, but I think Worth's light tensions are even thinner if I remember correctly.
 

SailingUke

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I have an Ohana tenor with phd's. Phd's are a clear flourocarbon similar to Worth and Martins.
It is tuned down to DGBE (rentrant) it sounds good and is very easy on the fingers.
Tuning his uke down is a great way to reduce the tension, the advantage of going all the way to G is there are some published chord charts.
Good Luck !!
 

Lori

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Thanks for the suggestions! I will try him out on tuning down first, and see if it helps. In the long run, he wants to play with the uke workshop at the YMCA, with other players. It would be too confusing for him to have to play different patterns, or use a capo, so the long term solution might be strings. I need to keep it simple with him, since learning/ memory is an issue, and even simple things need to be repeated many (many, many) times. He seems to have a lot of enthusiasm though, and I hope that will help carry him through.

–Lori
 

chiefnoda

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Hi Lori

I'm sure you looked at his set-up, but make sure that the nut slots are properly cut and the action low. Holding a ukulele in a proper geometry helps, too - maybe a strap <wink!>

I also keep it in mind that sometimes (may not be his case) it is *easier* to play a higher tension string - you get a better tactile feedback and a string does not slip under your finger. This probably depends on players.

All kudos to your student - I hope I get to try something new at age 88. And kudos to you, too, to accept him as student and be accommodating!

Cheers
Chief
 

Teek

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As someone with hand and finger issues, I would get rid of the Aquilas and put Southcoasts on it, they are the slinkiest string out there and have a better ring. Dirk likes higher tension on his strings, but I have a mahogany tenor wearing the mediums that sounds great a full step down and which is very easy to fret. I've found that adjusting the action is also really important for old hands.

I'd drop Dirk a line and ask about his lights. I have a six string set on my Maui Music six that sounds great as well, and I have the C tuning set on my Martin bari which really shows off the sound and even with the extra scale length helps me play it much easier than when it was strung with Aquilas. They do need a few days to really stretch but then look out!

I also second, can he wear a Uke Leash? They sure help me with a lot of my ukes. ;)
 

poppy

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First get the action set very low , then get either worth bm's or freemont blacklines.
Had the same/similar problem. Our skin seems to get thinner as we age and the pads on our fingers are thiner. I can't even play aquilla's for a half hour even bar chords hurt. I run a worth bm low g with freemont c.e,a. on my concert and I can play for hours and my fingers never get sore. Played bass and guitar, they are all parked in the closet as the steel strings are no longer an option. I was looking for a small classical on utube when I discovered the uke, I just play for my pleasure but I can enjoy it again thanks to the uke.
 

mm stan

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Yes Drop tune and use GHS or Hilo......they might be kindy thinny sounding strings...but when you drop tune it sweetens the tone and improves the playability and comfort with the less tension
strings...look for a softer compound thinner low tension strings...Tell your new uker I said Aloha and happy strummings from me
 

Sonic

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I found Matrin M600 strings are thinner results easier holding advanced chords than Aquila :rolleyes:
 

frets alot

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All I can say is HOORAY FOR HIM......learning your first instrument at 88 is AWESOME!!! Thanks to you for being a great and caring teacher. :cheers::shaka:
 

Lori

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I went ahead and ordered some Southcoast Light Ukulele strings, and we will see what happens. They probably won't get here before his lesson on Saturday, but in the meantime I will try tuning down the Aquilas he has a full step and see if that helps.

Thanks for the tips!

–Lori
 
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mm stan

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Aloha Lori,
Oh he has a tenor.....in drop tuning, I like to tune by ear.....for perfect pitch.. let me know

F# -40/-50, B-40, D#-40, G +30/+40
 
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Lori

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Aloha Lori,
Oh he has a tenor.....in drop tuning, I like to tune by ear.....for perfect pitch.. let me know

F# -40/-50, B-40, D#-40, G +30/+40

I tried tuning one of my tenors down one whole step, and I think it might help. I just spoke with my student today, and he said it is hard for him to hold 3 fingers down at once. I have only been teaching him C and F, so I am not sure what he is practicing yet, unless he attempted the Gm I had on the Glow Worm song sheet. He said he hasn't practiced as much as he hoped (sounds like me), but hopefully he will find more time before Saturday. I considered some kind of Slack Key tuning, but I don't think barre chords are going to be any easier for him (probably harder). I might try some Rock Tips liquid callous on his fingertips.

–Lori
 

PhilUSAFRet

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I had a Cordoba tenor that came with Aquilas and I quickly took them off too brash. This is a beautiful sounding uke, but not with those strings. The light strings I have on my Mele koa tenor are lovely and should work at least as well on that Cordoba.

Regardless of strings, the hand strength will begin to come back in several weeks. I also like a silicone rubber ball filled with silicone beads inside and kiwi fruit like spikes on the outside I bought at Walgreens. Gentle but amazingly effective at strenghthening hands and fingers. I have a little arthritis in my thumbs and it helps a lot with that too.
 
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KoaDependent

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I have a Kala tenor I've been meaning to get in for a nut/saddle adjustment because the action's a little too high. Using the suggestions here, I dropped the tuning down to DGBE and tried playing it like a baritone. The slackness in the strings added a nice jazzy feel. An interesting experiment, thanks! Dropping a step and using a capo on the first fret helped the action on the second as well.