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Thread: String Tension

  1. #1
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    Default String Tension

    Just wondering what it is, besides whether action is low or high that makes action easy. I've noticed that on some ukes the strings go down easy, but in others, the tension is very high, making it somewhat more difficult to play. Sorry if this question is too basic.... I wasn't able to find in the search function.

  2. #2
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    When I first started playing, this really got to me too. I guess that's why I took up an interest in construction and so on. One of the things I noticed right away when I got my first tenor, is that it was much more difficult to hold complex chords than on my concert. The lightbulb went on when I figured out that longer strings need to be tensioned higher to produce the same note. So basically, the longer the fretboard, the higher the tension, and the resulting increase in finger pressure to fret a string. I'm not a very good player so one of the things I've had to do on almost every uke I've owned is to pull out the bridge from the saddle and sand it down to lower the action to where I consider it perfect. Almost every uke I've seen has action way too high. (Because I'm poor and buy a lot of used junk and try to fix it up) Now all my ukes can hold a business card under the strings over the first fret without falling out. Typical recommendations I've seen from luthiers and building guides say that action at the 12th fret should be around .090" for a tenor, but personally I find that WAY to high. As long as your uke has a straight neck, you should be able to get that down to .030" or better. That being said, string choice has an impact as well. I can't speak to that point too intelligently as I've not played many string brands. My local shop here carries two brands. Woo! I finally mail ordered a set of Aquillas and so I've played a total of three brands. I did notice a difference in the amount of pressure needed to fret the strings between the brands. There are real experts around UU who can guide you in your string choices. Happy strumming!
    In an insane society, the sane man must appear insane and must play the ukulele.

  3. #3
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    I also perceive some difference even among ukes of the same scale length, I think it comes down to neck angle and bracing. Perhaps type of wood also. My Koaloha feels much looser than my Loprinzi even though they're the same scale.

  4. #4
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by eleuke View Post
    Now all my ukes can hold a business card under the strings over the first fret without falling out. Typical recommendations I've seen from luthiers and building guides say that action at the 12th fret should be around .090" for a tenor, but personally I find that WAY to high. As long as your uke has a straight neck, you should be able to get that down to .030" or better.
    See, when there's a holiday, I get to hang out on UU.

    Its threads and responses like these that are worth taking some time to respond to.

    First of all, and we are talking Tenors, if you have your action set at the nut to where a it can hold a business card without falling out, and your string height over the 12th fret is .030", then you are definitely buzzing all over the place, unless you have steel strings, with extremely high tension, in which case you wouldn't be playing because your bridge popped (unless its pinned) or your soundboard caved in (unless you're playing a low end, overbuilt instrument, or a high end instrument built for steel).

    Getting back to the thread, there's a difference between high tension strings and how they feel, and high action. High tension strings don't necessarily make an instrument harder to play, nor does normal tension strings make it easier to play. I'm not sure which one are you concerned/asking about (because the title says "tension", but the post mentions "action"?

    Taking a stab:
    You can affect action with different tension strings.
    Given the same action, higher tension strings will feel stiffer.
    Personally, I can get the action lower with higher tension strings, comfortably down to about .100" over the 12th. Normals I usually leave at .105" or more, but I normally don't do normal.
    What you probably need is for your instrument to be set up, which, all instruments should be. Outside of customs, a good setup will probably run you $50 give or take, depends on if you get your frets dressed or not.

    Just my $.02 - Aaron
    Last edited by Kekani; 10-12-2009 at 09:48 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by eleuke View Post
    ...basically, the longer the fretboard, the higher the tension, and the resulting increase in finger pressure to fret a string.
    This is true if the instruments are tuned to the same pitch, but not necessarily so if one is tuned lower. Try increasing the pitch on your soprano to ADF#B (the other traditional tuning) and see how it feels compared to the tenor.
    Ian
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    “Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum, et tertium non datur. To err is human; to persevere in error is diabolical; there is no third option.”
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    Ukulele reviews * Vintage Uke Music * Tequila * Henry Hudson * Harmonica reviews * Blog

  6. #6
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    Thanks for all of your responses. Very informative. What are some examples of strings with lower tension. And does that mean that the strings are just more flexible? Can you recommend good low tension strings, and are there downsides to the sound if the strings are too flexible?

  7. #7
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    I thought this was going to be a thread on how well strings got along with each other...

    Worth makes light tension strings (as well as medium and high).

    Hilo strings are soft and depress and bend easily. But the C string can sound a but thuddy (technical engineering term) on some brands of ukes.

    The tips of my fingers noticed a difference moving from Hilo to Worth Clear Mediums. The Worth CM's were a smidge harder on the fingers and took a day or two to get used to.

    I imagine if the strings have too little tension they may start sounding a bit flappy (another technical term) if strummed hard, but at that point they'd probably also start sounding out of tune.
    Last edited by spots; 10-13-2009 at 01:36 PM.

  8. #8
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    My new uke has worth clear high tensions, and after three or four hours of continuous playing I noticed that my fingertips were actually a little sore...first time that's ever happened to me while playing ukulele.

    I think I would like mediums better.

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