Made out of nylon, most ukulele strings don’t break as often as the strings on other instruments. However, you might still find yourself wanting to restring your ukulele because the strings have worn down, or you want to try out some new strings.
To change the strings, you have to be aware of the process that needs to be followed to remove the old strings and fit the new ones correctly.
While it might seem overwhelming before you get started, I promise that with this guide and some practice, you will soon be changing your ukulele strings without any stress!
How To Choose The Right Ukulele Strings
The first thing you want to ensure is that you are buying the right ukulele strings for your level of playing. There are two options with ukulele strings: nylon and metal. Most ukuleles come standard with nylon strings, although some people prefer to use metal strings.
As a beginner, you don’t need to purchase the most high-end strings on the market, as you are not likely to get the same benefit from them as someone who has been playing for a long time.
However, you also don’t want to buy the cheapest ones as it will have an impact on the sound quality you get from your instrument and could be discouraging.
Ultimately, you get what you pay for.
This means that if you purchase cheap strings that are cheaply made, they are more likely to stretch unreliably or unravel and break sooner than you expect.
Another thing to keep in mind is to get the right kind of strings for your ukulele. Strings are made specifically for soprano, tenor, or baritone ukuleles.
If you aren’t sure what type of strings you need for your ukulele, reach out to your local music store for advice.
When To Change Your Ukulele Stings
You can technically change your strings whenever you want to, but there are some signs that your stings need replacing.
The first sign is a loss in playability and tone; this is something that you cannot see but rather can hear.
If the tone of your ukulele sounds dull or less resonant than when you initially started using them, that is a good sign they need to be replaced.
Also, if you find that the ukulele never seems to stay in tune and you are spending more time tuning the instrument than playing, it might be time to change the strings.
A more visible sign that the strings need to be replaced is that you can see nicks, grooves, or flat spots in the strings.
Depending on how often you play your ukulele, you could find yourself changing the strings every other month or every six months.
Keep in mind that when you change your ukulele strings, it takes a little bit of time for the string to stretch, so make sure you aren’t changing them right before a performance.
How To Restring Your Ukulele
Regardless of whether you are changing nylon or metal strings, the process is the same.
However, there are some differences to ukuleles; some have their tuning pegs to the side while others face backward. Some have standard bridges, while others have tie-bar bridges. Keep in mind that you might have to modify some steps in this guide to suit your specific ukulele.
What You Need
There are a few things you are going to need to have handy before you start resting your ukulele. This includes the following.
- A new string or set of strings to replace the ones you are removing.
- A pair of wire cutters or string cutters Sharp scissors can also work
- A safe place to put the string offcuts. Such as a garbage pail.
- A clean, flat working surface Somewhere that you can safely put the ukulele down or rest your ukulele while you are tightening the strings
- Optionally, a string winder
Tips Before Getting Started
There are a few things to keep in mind before you get started with changing your ukulele strings.
First, ensure that you are holding the headstock of your ukulele away from you. if one of the strings breaks, you don’t want to be in the direct line of fire to be hit by it
Second, only restring the strings one at a time. If you are trying to restring all of them, you will likely find yourself confused as to which string is supposed to go on which peg.
Finally, if you are replacing all of the strings on your ukulele, start with the C string then the E string.
Next, do the A string and finish up with the G string. The higher strings are thinner, which means you are more likely to break them by accident Started with the lower strings will give you the practice and confidence you need to tackle the higher ones.
To get started, begin by turning the peg to loosen the string. If you aren’t sure which way you should be turning the peg, pluck the string while you are turning the peg and listen to the sound. If the pitch is going down, you are turning it the right way. If the pitch is rising, turn the peg the other way.
When the peg is loose enough, remove the string from it; if your ukulele has a slotted head, you will need to unwind the string until it has slackened enough to push it through the hole.
As an option, you can unwind the string until it is slack and cut the string with the wire cutters. If you choose to do this, ensure that you remove the top part of the string from the headstock.
Next, you are going to remove the string from the bridge. Depending on the type of bridge you have, the method is a little different.
Standard Bridge if you have a standard bridge on your ukulele, you will see a knot on the end that is holding it in place at the bridge.
To take this off, you are going to have to slide the string off parallel to the body of the ukulele. Keep in mind that sometimes the string is wedged in tightly, and it might take some coaxing to remove it.
Be careful not to damage the bridge with excessive tugging. Also, never pull the string upwards from the bridge.
Tie-Bar Bridge: If you have a tie-bar bridge, the string will be tied to the bridge. You will need to untie the string from the bridge carefully. To do this, push the free end of the string into the knot until it has loosened enough for you to be able to untie it.
The knots are going to be very tight and will likely take effort to get them to untie. Remember to be gentle so as not to damage your instrument.
Now that we have removed the string from your ukulele, we are ready to string the new string!
Standard Bridge: To attach a string to a standard bridge, you are first going to tie a knot into one end of your new string. Be sure to leave a tail about an inch long. Next, you are going to tie another knot into the string in the same place that you put the first one.
Ideally, you want to reverse the second knot so the knots aren’t facing the same direction. Now you are going to slip the double knot into the bridge notch of the bridge where the old string was sitting.
To make sure the string is in the bridge the way it needs to be, pull the string up towards the headstock of your ukulele. Ensure that you are putting a decent amount of tension on the string to ensure that it is holding.
Once you know that your knots will hold, remove the string from the bridge and trim off the excess string from below the knot. You want to leave about 5mm of string under the knot in case there is any slipping. Once you have done this, put the string back into the notch.
Tie-Bar Bridge: if you are working with a tie bar bridge, the process is going to be a little different
You are going, beginning with, sliding one end of the string into the small hole at the bridge. You want to insert the string so that the end comes out the bottom away from the soundhole.
Slide the string through until you have about an inch and a half of the string on the bottom side of the bridge. Take the short part of the string and loop it up behind the string at the top.
Next, loop the end of the string under the length of the string at least twice, but ideally three times. Finally, pull the string out the bottom, so the loops are pulled tight.
Now that the string is attached to the bridge, you are ready to fasten the string to the headstock of your ukulele.
To do this, slip the other end of the string through the metal hole in the tuning peg or slot. Pull most of the string through the hole until it is taut and then begin tightening it with the tuning peg.
If you are having a hard time doing this, try pressing the string down with your finger between the nut and the tuning peg. This will allow the string to wind down towards the bottom of the peg.
Using your wire cutters, cut off the excess string at the top of the headstock. You can also cut off the excess string on the tie bar bridge.
Your ukulele now has new strings! Now you can proceed to tune your ukulele.
Remember that the strings are going to stretch out over the next few times you play, so you are likely going to have to retune them a few times before they have completely settled.