String stretching “tricks”?

tluxtele

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I have a feeling this will be a very short thread.

My question is in the title…
Are there any tricks to stretching, or not stretching, the strings after putting a new set on?

Background to the question…
I play bass and guitar. I was taught that I had to stretch the strings or deal with them going out of tune for a while. And that was true to my experience so I stretched every set of new strings for years (been playing for more than 30 years).

I can’t remember if I read it somewhere, if I didn’t have time or if it was just an act of laziness, but about 5+ years ago I discovered I didn’t have to stretch my strings.

Saturday night I finished going over the songs for church. I changed the strings on my tele and brought them up to pitch, put it in the case and went to bed. Next morning at church I checked and it was no more out of tune than any other time. Tuned it up and it stayed in tune. From that time on I stopped stretching my strings. I just put them on the night before, tune them and forget ‘em.

anyway, it’s not a trick but it saves time, and it’s probably mental, but they seem to stay crisp longer.

I know it’s a totally different material for uke strings. And I expect to be told to just stretch. But I was just wondering if anyone has tried anything different than the standard stretching advice and what the outcome was.
 

badhabits

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... I expect to be told to just stretch...
Or just play, and retune as needed. IME strings settle fairly quickly, of course there are the oddballs that take more time. But there is plenty of stuff on techniques people use on the 'net & youtube.
 

mikelz777

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I've never stretched my ukulele strings but I have a process which seems to shorten the time it takes for the uke to stay in tune. The strings actually settle pretty quickly. After changing the strings and bringing them to tune, I play a song. After playing the song, I tune the uke again and play another song. After that song I tune again and play another song and continue the process of tuning after every song until it will hold it's tune. I think it is a more exacting process because you are only stretching the string as much as it needs to stay in tune, not more or not less. By pre-stretching the strings you never know if you are stretching them too much or too little.
 
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Larry Usselman

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I find it helpful to tune up new strings a half tone, let them sit overnight, retune and play. After a couple of days/nights of that, they're pretty well where they need to be and only require minor, normal adjustments.
 

M3Ukulele

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I do the tune-play-tune the strings. I also gently pull string away from fretboard in between. Next day same thing. I find in a day or so strings have settle regardless of brand! Of course, I always put tuner on for playing session and tune before I start and check between each song or until I hear a string go out.
 

wqking

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Stretching does help to make the strings in tune faster. But if I was you, I would just play it and tune it every day for the first or two weeks, because I don't know if I trick the strings, whether the strings will trick me back :)
 

M3Ukulele

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I don’t suggeest The stretch between songs and tuning be aggressive. Very gently. When I’ve gotten too aggressive, I have the knot pull thru on my notch bridge ukulele. But sure, just tune and p,at for a week and you can get a very satisfactory result. Its whatever works for you!
 

ripock

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I have seen people stretch their strings sideways and not upward. What I've seen is people pull the string to the bass side and simultaneously with the other hand pull the string to the treble side.
 

merlin666

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I think you are taking about steel strings for guitars. Steel is not elastic and cannot be "stretched" by human force. Instead, what pulling on the string does is make sure that it is seated properly and will not move once tuned up. There should be very little time for steel strings to fully settle on once tuned up. Synthetic strings are elastic and stretch over time to the extent that they change diameter. Manually stretching them while installing can shorten the time it takes for them to get into their final state for a given tension by a few days. There is a nice video for the installation of Aquila red strings that shows good stretching technique.
 

Cluze

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Many people, including myself, have many "Strong Feelings" about the subject of string stretching, and I am fairly certain that I shouldn't wade into this, but I am going to dust off my soapbox anyway...

For the most part, just don't. Any tricks to "speed up" settling in are more likely to cause harm than to really help. There is one, and only one, thing that I suggest doing, and that is tune it slightly (and I must stress *slightly*) sharp at first. That's it.

Ok, now for all the details. Steel strings (and I am not talking about wound wrapped low G or low C uke strings, which still have a nylon/fluorocarbon core) don't really stretch. The tensions involved are much higher than our typically uke strings, but still not really enough to cause much actual stretching deformation. As such, once you tune up, they settle in very very quickly. Attempting to stretch these is pretty much just a waste of your time and effort.

When it comes to uke strings, we use totally different materials. They are most likely either nylon, fluorocarbon, or some proprietary mixture like nylgut. But all of these are just some sort of plastic and I mean the literal dictionary definition of plastic here; a synthetic material that can be made into a slightly elastic shape. They stretch. You can, and do, deform them when you put them under tension. You are literally altering the material when you put it under tension because it is slightly elastic.

When you put on a fresh set, you tune it up by putting a certain amount of tension on it. But it immediately goes flat because it can stretch a bit. So you turn the tuner some more to get it back to the correct tension. Wash, rinse, repeat, and eventually it has stretched as far as it will go (under that amount of tension) and it stays pretty much in tune. But you did that by pulling with *uniform force* from both ends of the string.

If you try something else, like pulling up on the string, pulling sideways on the string, or any of the other methods I have heard of (all of which give me nightmares), it is likely that you are *not* pulling with uniform tension along the entire length of the string. This can lead to a "local deformation"; a place where part of the string has been stretched more than another part of the string. Literally damaging the string. Can you get away with it? Sure, lots of folks do. But is it the right way to achieve the best, most uniform level of stretch to your string? No. (Does it actually matter? Many will argue that it doesn't.)

The best way, for the health of your strings, is to tune it slightly sharp and play a bit. It will then flat. Now tune it slightly sharp again, and play some more. I only go about a 1/2 step up. The only thing that actually "stretches" your strings uniformly is firm uniform tension and time.

Don't try to speed it up any other way.

That's my 2-cents.
 

man0a

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A lot of so-called stretching is just poor installation technique. If you learn to pull your knots tight and don't wind the strings around the tuning posts more than 3 or 4 times, then your tuning will stabilize a lot faster.
 

WebParrot (s2)

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If I'm using a thru-bridge strung uke I know the knots will still have a little 'tightening' before they set in. (There's no way I can completely set a knot by hand stretching). So as with @Snargle, I'll up-tune a step or two on initial stringing, strum a bit, then let 'er sit a while. I'm also someone who tries to keep the string-peg-wrap under three wraps. Finally, while I don't use nylon, when I've tried them, there was no avoiding regular re-tuning; I wouldn't waste time stretching cause it wouldn't shorten break in sufficiently to justify the effort!

PS-If you insist on stretching, watch the stringing video on the Aquila website for their "Reds" brand. Good technique when your confident you've got a well-mounted bridge.
 

rustydusty

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I play with a band and always try to do a string change when needed, 3 or 4 days before a gig. There isn't time to retune between each song, but I always tune up between each set...
 

UkeOkay

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In my experience, some of the initial few days adjustments are due to the need to gradually tighten up the windings around the tuning peg and at the saddle. There can be a significant length of string that take a while for the tension to reach after going round significant bends.

Rubbery u-bass strings are entirely different experience. Some brands seemingly need to stretch out to near double their initial length.
 

badhabits

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I gave up all stretching tricks and now I just keep winding the string up to pitch as it needs it. I rarely wind them more than 1/2 step high.

Some of the stretching tricks may make the string thicker or thinner at one end or they stretch too much.

So it might take a few days, thats a good excuse to keep messing around with the uke.

If you do performances, then obviously you need to stay in tune throughout the show, so you may need to plan your string changes and may need to use some of these tricks.
Do they actually get thicker? Or are you talking relative to the rest of the string?
 

badhabits

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No they wont get thicker. They are basically made to be a constant radius. Each brand has a different name for the process. So the factory or process venue gets the monofilament and does some quality control and cutting and maybe polishing to package it as instrument strings. If you stretch the strings unevenly, which you can do if you are not careful, they may lose the shape that they are designed to have.

When you wind up the string with the tuner, you should be getting an even amount of tension and stretching. If you get a biro or pencil and run it along the string, as I used to, you will not evenly stretch the string.

If you need to get the strings in tune for a concert or performance, you need to do what ever works in time, including stretching the strings when you have no time left. Many performers change strings a lot more than the self-indulgent, maybe before every performance, so they may not be leaving the strings on for three years as I do. So the uneven stretching may be less of an issue for them.

But for the self indulgent like me, religiously refusing to stretch the strings is part of the ukulele lifestyle because it facilitates constantly messing with uke when it has new strings, and or the need to always have a working spare on hand so that you can play a tune in tune when you take a break from cleaning the house or some friends pop in for a jam. Its good to have some possibly plausible excuses to counter arguments from others who hope to change your ukulele lifestyle for their own purposes. Uneven stretching is a great excuse and reason, and if someone starts to get out a micrometer or take a detailed look at the theory, then you need to change the subject or leave quickly.
You had me at No.
😄
 

clear

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2 benefits of stretching strings and 1 negative. I think stretching shortens the string life, but I've never measured or noticed, it just makes sense. The benefits are that the strings settle much faster and you resolve any mistakes (carelessness) during strings sooner by taking up any unintentional slack in the string quickly.

So, I only stretch when I want a uke strings to settle fast; otherwise, I don't stretch them. Just playing a song and hearing it go out of tune is kind of fun in itself.
 

Joe King

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I never ever actively stretch my strings nowadays.

That was suggested to me once.

I tried it, and got really bad results. Several different methods.

The bad results were with both Aquila Nylguts, and again later with Worth Clear Mediums. Both times, resulted in severe intonation problems right away (less than 5 hrs of play time).

As suggested/recommended by Booli, actively putting in about 20 hours of play time, and re-tuning as needed, every other song at first, and less so as time goes on, as well as randomly tuning up a few times per day, get the strings to settle down in about 14 days.

The main factor to improve the settling is the amount of time that the string vibrates, which naturally stretches the string over time.

Once settled, they seldom ever need re-tuning after that. Been doing it this way for over 5 years now with no issues and no intonation problems.

Also, it is not my uke that is a problem, I only own and play a concert Flea from The Magic Fluke Company for about a decade now, and intonation on this instrument has been within 3-4 cents, all the way up the neck, when *not* doing any string stretching tricks.

I normally play or practice about an hour per day, and once my strings are settled (Either the Martin M600, or D'Addario EJ99SC, both fluorocarbon), I do not notice any degradation in tone or intonation until after about 90 days, at which point, I will then change the strings.

I had previously owned, and then resold more than a dozen ukuleles since I started playing, and all of that ended when I got my concert Flea. I am not a collector and I do not have UAS, so I am not interested in other instruments after owning the Flea.

I don't play out to any gigs, and have no interest, so I am not worried about replacing strings at a performance or anything like that, and also never had any strings break on me (yet) in over a decade since I first started to play.

Pre-Covid, I had a uke group and had seen folks break a strings during a meeting, but they just kept playing on without the broken string (like it never happened) and then changed out the whole set later during a break.

String stretching is a bad habit to me. but YMMV. To each their own. :)
 

tluxtele

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My daughter and I got through our first string change... that was a process. I was glad to read that most of you don't stretch the strings. There has been a decent amount of the strings settling but it's been 2 days now and there's much less tuning between songs now.

Wanna say thanks to all you who replied. So much of what I've seen online deals with manually stretching strings rather than letting them stretch and settle where they need to go. As I said, stretching stings on steel stringed instruments is the normal advice. It's what I was taught and what I did for a few decades. I was hoping the uke could be the same way.

Again, thanks y'all. Appreciate the help.