A common question I am often asked - how often should I change my ukulele strings?
Firstly, the answer to the question does of course totally depend on how often you play your ukulele, and how aggressive your playing style is. Clearly, somebody who plays their uke for 10 hours a day EVERY day will need to consider a string change more often than a player who has a light strum on high days and holidays only! The real answer on frequency is 'down to you'.
Ukulele strings are made of nylon, or a nylon type substance like fluorocarbon, and as such stand up to oils and grease from fingertips far better than steel strings you find on an electric our acoustic folk guitar. Any guitarists reading this will know how quickly their strings go "off". To start with, you can see them deteriorate as they take on a dull look. On my guitar, when I am playing regularly, I can end up changing strings every month!
For a ukulele however, you will find that nylon strings last much longer than this, perhaps even months. I do see some horror stories of people keeping strings on for years like it is some sort of badge of honour though, and never really understand it. Strings are cheap and are MEANT to be changed!
As for the ideal time to change them, you should probably consider a change if any of the points below apply
1. Are there any nicks, flat spots or grooves cut into the strings? This can occur from constant pressure on the frets, or, as the string stretches, as the string is retuned the part that was resting in the nut becomes visible between the nut and the tuning peg - the tell tale sign are little horizontal lines across the string. These can affect tuning, intonation, and will eventually break. If you can't see any marks, it does not mean they are not there. Try hooking a finger under the strings near frets 1-5 and have a feel. Can you feel notches or grooves? If so, they are stating to wear.
2. Are you having trouble holding your tuning? - Whilst uke strings can be a real pain to keep in tune when they are brand new because of the stretching they undergo, when they have stretched to their optimum, they really should stay in tune when left alone. If you have some seasoned strings like this but are finding that tuning is going off, or intonation is becoming a problem, you might want to consider a string change.
3. Do they just sound dull or off? As ukulele strings age, they will eventually lose their tonal qualities and you may find that your uke just doesn't sound very bright any more - again - time for a string change. This is perhaps the hardest to quantify as it's so subjective. But I suppose if my ukulele was sounding lifeless and not doing it for me any longer, the first thing I would do is change the strings.
String changes are not difficult, and ukulele strings are not expensive, so give it a go! How often do I change them? Well, when I was performing in gigs every week, I was giving the strings a real battering. I would often change them about every month to two months. Ukuleles I was not using for gigs, far less so, but if I pick up an instrument I have not played for a few months I will play it and come to a view - if it sounds lifeless, I give it new strings. Because... why not?
Finally - if you are putting off changing strings because you dont like the idea of doing the change - really - it's not so difficult and it's something to get to grips with early on. Take a look at the videos below!