Questions about restringing

Ila

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Hi. I've had my first uke for about four months now and today I noticed my A string starting to fray a little. Here are my questions:

1. How often should strings be changed? Every six months? Every year? Ever?
2. If you change strings, do you change them all, or do you only replace individual strings on an as needed basis?
3. Do you change the strings yourself, or do you have someone experienced do it for you?

Thanks for whatever insight you can provide.
 

LukuleleStrings

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I've always changed my own strings. There are plenty of videos on youtube that walk you through it, regardless of what bridge you have.

I also swap out all of my strings at once. While one string might be frayed, that's not to say the others aren't past their lifespan, getting dented, and losing their luster. I'd rather all of my strings be even and they don't cost that much.

Regarding when to swap them out, I'm bad about that and will use the same set of strings until I either get the inclination to try out a new set on a specific use or there's damage to the strings. There aren't any hard and fast rules because at the end of the day it's your instrument and the whole goal is for you to have a good time playing it and enjoy the sound coming out of it. ;-)
 

man0a

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In one of the Ukulele Underground podcasts, Aldrine recommends changing your strings every 2 months. He also says that he doesn't always change his that often and some of his friends are worse than him. I say if you see fraying or feel notches under the strings from rubbing against the frets, then I would definitely change them.

Some brands of strings come with an extra A-string in the pack since that string wears out more quickly. I also know people who buy bulk spools of Seaguar fluorocarbon to use as extra A-strings. If the other strings start to wear out, then you may as well replace the whole set.

I change my own strings. With a little practice, it only takes a few minutes.
 

mikelz777

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I've had strings that I didn't change for years and others that I changed in less than a year. For me, signs that I need to change them are when they start sounding dull and muddy or when they no longer ring/chime. Another indicator is when the strings get worn and dented above the frets, most notably the first three frets. I check that out by running a round toothpick along the string between the string and the frets at the top three frets. You can feel the difference, the toothpick will kind of catch on the string there rather than slide smoothly. Sometimes I'll still play strings like that for a long time because they still sound good. In the end, there's no rule that you need to change strings in "X" amount of time. I've always changed my own strings and I always change them all at the same time. The first couple times you do it you may want to take a picture of the headstock to be sure you're winding the strings correctly and in the right direction. I'm sure there must be lots of videos out there with instructions on how to do it. It really isn't that difficult.
 
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Graham Greenbag

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Strings can last years and they can last months, it all depends on: the strings fitted, how fussy your ear is and the amount of use the instrument gets. One old Soprano that I bought, repaired and sold on must surely have had the same strings on it for say a decade. The strings were notched underneath but the instrument played and sounded fine. I replaced the strings with another set of new similar Aquilas.

Take detailed photos before you change strings and in so far as you can change one string at a time rather than strip all the strings out and then change the lot. Obviously (?) change all the strings before reusing the instrument but taking the photos and working (in so far as you can) on one string at a time gives you guidance on what was done and how.

It can take a couple of weeks for strings to settle, so expect to retune frequently and the sound to change (improve) over that time.
 

NotJake

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Everyone has already given good advice. I will only add that if you are changing strings yourself, you should have two sets of new strings in case you break one or more strings while restringing. Also, always have a new set (or more) around the house in case any strings break, especially if you are waiting past four months before changing them. It is like light bulbs: you may only change them when the bulb burns out, but if you don’t have a spare, you are sitting in the dark.
 

merlin666

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It depends on the strings. I have tenors with low G and multi string ukes where the lower strings are made of different materials and wear out much faster than the others. So I keep a supply of replacement strings for those. With regular strings I sometimes replace a single worn out string if I don't have a replacement set available, otherwise it's usually time to replace a whole set if one string is worn. With normal playing this can be years but there are reports that some fluorocarbon strings may only last for months, some of these come in double length.
 

Rllink

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I change my own and if I change them all as a set. Like Mikelz777, I change them when I can feel dents on the bottom side of the strings where they contact the frets. I just run my fingernail under them to check but the toothpick method sounds like it would work as well. The only issue I take with Aldrine's two month rule is that time doesn't wear out strings, playing them wears the strings out.
 

rustydusty

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I also use the "fingernail under the strings" trick. I have found no appreciable wear on my baritone strung with "Worth clears" after probably three months of daily use. They still sound great too!
 

Kenn2018

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Ila, you probably play your uke every day. Maybe 10 minutes to several hours. So you're going to have your strings wear out in a few months.

If they are starting to fray, they are ready to be changed.

I rotate my tenors and play each on much less than you play yours. I probably change my strings once a year or less. When I do, and the strings are all off, I use the opportunity to clean the fretboard and maybe round the ends of some sharp frets. I may condition the fretboard and/or the bridge if they are looking really dry. But you don't want to do that very often.

If you are unsure of how to change them, TheUkuleleSite.com, Gotaukulele.com and other sites have great videos about how to change them. The first couple of times you do it it's a little awkward. Remember to put the correct string in the place it's supposed to go. So don't take the label off or remove them from the envelope until you're ready to use that string. (It's easy to get the High-g and the A mixed up.) Take your time and you'll be fine.
 

hendulele

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Ila, you probably play your uke every day. Maybe 10 minutes to several hours. So you're going to have your strings wear out in a few months.

If they are starting to fray, they are ready to be changed.

I rotate my tenors and play each on much less than you play yours. I probably change my strings once a year or less. When I do, and the strings are all off, I use the opportunity to clean the fretboard and maybe round the ends of some sharp frets. I may condition the fretboard and/or the bridge if they are looking really dry. But you don't want to do that very often.

If you are unsure of how to change them, TheUkuleleSite.com, Gotaukulele.com and other sites have great videos about how to change them. The first couple of times you do it it's a little awkward. Remember to put the correct string in the place it's supposed to go. So don't take the label off or remove them from the envelope until you're ready to use that string. (It's easy to get the High-g and the A mixed up.) Take your time and you'll be fine.
Another tip: Leave on at least one of the old strings (even loosely) until you have a new one in place. That way, you won’t have the saddle fall out of the bridge. May sound silly, but it happens, and if you don’t replace the saddle properly, your intonation will be off.
 

Ukecaster

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Another tip: Leave on at least one of the old strings (even loosely) until you have a new one in place. That way, you won’t have the saddle fall out of the bridge. May sound silly, but it happens, and if you don’t replace the saddle properly, your intonation will be off.
Good advice there. One time, I lost a nice ebony saddle off a vintage uke after I had taken all the strings off. Found it on the floor a year later, but the uke had already gotten a new one.
 

hendulele

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Good advice there. One time, I lost a nice ebony saddle off a vintage uke after I had taken all the strings off. Found it on the floor a year later, but the uke had already gotten a new one.
I also had a compensated saddle drop out and had a tough time figuring out which way was the right way to reposition it.
 

Larry Usselman

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Another tip: Leave on at least one of the old strings (even loosely) until you have a new one in place. That way, you won’t have the saddle fall out of the bridge. May sound silly, but it happens, and if you don’t replace the saddle properly, your intonation will be off.
I've been known to put a tiny pencil mark on the saddle, just so I'm sure I'm inserting it in the proper orientation.
 

Jules2018

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I also had a compensated saddle drop out and had a tough time figuring out which way was the right way to reposition it.
I am new to the ukulele world. I'm in a right old pickle, I decided to change my strings on Flight Phantom Tenor and the compenstated saddle fell out! What a plonker! How do I know in which direction the saddle should be fitted, is there a right way or a bad way? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
 

badhabits

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I am new to the ukulele world. I'm in a right old pickle, I decided to change my strings on Flight Phantom Tenor and the compenstated saddle fell out! What a plonker! How do I know in which direction the saddle should be fitted, is there a right way or a bad way? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
Generally, for re-entrant tuning the g and a strings are "shorter". You might try to find some photos online to confirm. Taking some pics of the bridge before removing strings could help in the future.
 

Jules2018

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Generally, for re-entrant tuning the g and a strings are "shorter". You might try to find some photos online to confirm. Taking some pics of the bridge before removing strings could help in the future.
Yes hindsight is a wonderful thing 😱 I have learnt that lesson. G and A are shorter so do they need to rest on saddle or be lined up with hollowed out part? I've tuned it now seems OK. I'll see how it goes. Thanks for reply.
 

clear

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Yes hindsight is a wonderful thing 😱 I have learnt that lesson. G and A are shorter so do they need to rest on saddle or be lined up with hollowed out part? I've tuned it now seems OK. I'll see how it goes. Thanks for reply.

Not sure what you mean by "hollowed out part", but if a string is closer to the saddle, then it is shorter than a string that's higher up off the saddle. (The nut, frets, and saddle height form 3 sides of a triangle; so, lowering the saddle height of a string shortens the string/hypotenuse of that triangle).

A picture of your saddle can help.