Strings String tension ignorance


Well-known member
Jun 3, 2013
Reaction score
The title is my confession. I see folks talking about high tension strings, low tension strings and it pretty much goes over my head. Can someone offer a simple explanation on the topic or point me to a good resource?
Why do string tensions vary from one string type to another? How does string material affect tension? And how does string tension affect playability? Hoping to learn something!
There are many threads about this so do a search. Nylon, Nylgut, and Fluorocarbon have different density and tension is a function of thickness and density and length. So denser string can be thinner for same tension. There is small effect on playability, if you have higher tension then strings will be less bendy and fast playing will be more accurate. On the other hand if you play bluesy style and want to bend strings then that may be easier with lower tension.
Seems that high tension would just stress everything more? So if I take Nylgut off my banjo uke and install nylon, it will put less pressure on the bridge and raise my action?
The string manufacturers publish the diameters of their strings. Worth, for example, sells fluorocarbon strings in low, medium, and high tensions. Higher tension strings are thicker. Nylon strings are lower density, so need to be thicker than fluorocarbon for the same tensions. Higher tension generally gives you richer tone and more volume, but they can require more effort and better technique to play well.
For the most part, nearly any packaged ukulele string set will work well enough. For most strumming, finding a set that sounds good overall is usually the best way to go.

When playing individual notes, sometimes a less desirable sound/tone/volume is highlighted. Trying to improve individual note sound/tone/volume is where the can of worms is opened. But there can be notes that strings can't fix.

The basic rule is the thicker the string the more tension. But sometimes the same thickness can have different amounts of tension. And generally more tension gives a richer tone. Strings with less tension usually give a brighter tone. But like most things, generalities don't always hold true.

Over the years I have ended up using fluorocarbon fishing leader for strings. I tend to not recommend it. It is usually not worth it unless a person really wants to make up their own unique sets, which usually takes some experimenting, a lack of patience, and willing to make the investment in various diameters and tensions (lb weightings).

I have found that different string-to-string tensions help to maximize the tone of each string. Too much tension can choke a soundboard and too little doesn't drive the soundboard enough.

There also seems to be an impact of the overall string set tension on the soundboard; since the strings are pulling on the soundboard and putting stress on the braces. So increasing the tension of one string "sometimes" effects the other strings, sometimes good and sometimes not so good.

Top Bottom