Ukulele beginners tips - All things strings

26 Nov 2009

Ukulele beginners tips - All things strings

(NOTE - This is a very old Got A Ukulele post from 2009. I used to update it to reflect changes in string brands, but it became an endless task. I therefore consider it a bit out of date! Bear that in mind!)

A bit like guitar, there are a range of strings available for the Uke. If you are a Ukulele beginner and have bought an entry level instrument, the chances are, it will arrive with cheap basic strings on it (usually GHS). You can tell, they will be jet black and shiny, or clear and shiny.

One of the very best upgrades you can make to a cheaper Uke is a string upgrade - probably costing you no more than about £6 or £7.

Now, dont expect to walk into your local music shop and see a huge range - that aint gonna happen. The internet, and ebay, is your friend however. As for which, it's hard to recommend a perfect string for everyone, simply because such a thing doesn't exist. The thing is, we all have different ukulele, different playing styles, different tastes and different ears. There is no one size fits all. What may suit one person may not suit another. The answer is to experiment.

A couple of brands that you may come across include:

Aquila - Italian made from a substance called nylgut, which attempts to recreate the properties of real gut that instruments used to be strung with. They are pretty thick, and are not slippy - have a kind of rough coating. They are white and opaque. make sure you get the right set for your size of instrument (ie soprano, tenor etc), and choose high or low G string.

In my view, Aquilas are superb strings, particularly at bringing cheap ukuleles to life - they are loud, have loads of bell like sustain and are quite bright sounding. Some people, however, dont like them - they are thicker than some strings, and if you are an absolute beginner, they can hurt the fingers. The rough coating can also make a noise when you slide your fingers on them that some people dont like. For me though, as a guitar player - my fingers are used to the soreness, and the noise you get from wound strings. If they dont sound right for you, take a look at the next suggestion.

Worth - these are Japanese strings, and come in a bewildering range of styles. As well as size styles, they come in different thicknesses, and two colours (brown and clear). I personally like the Brown Mediums, labelled as BM (well... duh!). These strings are thinner than Aquilas, and are smooth in finish (so slippy). I think they also have less tension, and are easier on the fingers. They sing better than Aquila to my ears when picked, but I prefer Aquilas when strummed. - Horses for courses I suppose. They work very well on mahogany instruments. Some say there is no difference between the brown and clear strings, but to my ears, the brown are mellower. Worths generally I find are a mellower sound than Aquila.

Others - you will probably struggle in the UK to find much else to buy - but if you do see others, try out Martin flourocarbons - nice strings apparently. I think the key is to go for flourocarbon strings, not nylon.

To be honest though, there are SO many and you want to know what I use don't you? I use these. Seriously!

Have fun - but I do urge you - if you have an entry level instrument with cheap strings - upgrade - it is well, well worth the effort.


  1. Complete novice wants to know how tight the strings need to feel? A bit vague I know but, complete novice!

  2. Difficult to say as can depend on string type and scale of uke. But generally if you push inner strings outwards to edge of fretboard at halfway point, you shouldn't be able to push them much further than that

  3. Hi Barry, many thanks for a great overview. I am a relatively new player (can play the guitar) and have been following your good advise on trying out different strings on a Kala solid acacia tenor. So far I have done 6 string changes: Aquila NylGut, Worth (BT & BF), Living Water, Martin and Kala Pearls. I found things I liked and didn't like in every set. At this point I have found that I prefer the sound of fluorocarbon over nylon. And I find that clear fluorocarbons do sound slightly brighter than dark ones. Which I like. However, my favourite gauge and tension have been the Pearls by a mile. So I don't know if you have played Pearls before, but if you don't mind me asking, are you familiar with a set of fluorocarbon strings that have the same or similar gauge and tension to Kala Pearls? Thanks!

  4. Hello Barry Saw your YouTube on Seaquar blue label fishing say to visit your website re info...but I can't find it???...

  5. Link in the description on the video should take you here Robert
    But this was the link -

  6. If I have a soprano body with a concert neck I would need to buy a set of concert strings hey?

  7. Hi, I’ve just restrung a cheap tenor-sized pineapple uke in Mandola tuning (CGDA) using cheap normal tension classical guitar strings, using the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th strings. I got the idea from a guy on YouTube. It’s not a CGDA pitch yet -sitting at Ab, Eb, Bb, F- but sounds promising. Do you know if these strings as CGDA tuning would have more or less tension than normal uke strings at normal tuning? I don’t want to tear the bridge off or fold the uke in half


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