String Types

ukulele strings packaging
Image by bunky’s pickle via Flickr

Gut Strings – Italian gut strings have already been in production in the beginning of the 17th century, in places such as Verona, Venice, Padoa, Vicenza and Treviso.  Historical data provides evidence that these type of materials were manufactured consistently well going into the 20th century.

Since the conception of the ukulele in the year 1879, they have been using strings made with natural gut.  It is this type of string that has gained so much popularity in the market, until the discovery of the nylon made by DuPont in the advent of the World War II.  Aquila gut strings have been well known for making the finest gut strings, making use of the freshest gut available, which is in-line with the customs and traditions in Vicenza.

Humidity and changes in temperature can easily affect your old gut strings, and therefore make them out of tune.  Currently produced gut strings now have better coating and are more stable as compared many years ago.  There simply is nothing like the warmth and harmonic tone of real gut strings.

Nylon Strings – Upon the conception of the nylon string, the world of stringed instruments simply was never the same again.  Strings made from nylon typically have more consistent properties and are uniform in diameter while also being able to deliver decent sound quality.  And the best part is, they are really very cheap to produce.

Currently, most ukuleles you will find in the market have strings made from nylon polymers.  It is important to note however that not all nylons are the same.  Each manufacturer will have its own grade of nylon polymer, and this makes each brand unique.  Those cheap, low-quality nylon strings are usually made from the materials used to make the bristles of scrubbing brushes, and it is best to stay away from them.

As for nylon strings, they usually need some time in order to settle down – this can be accomplished by “breaking-in” your strings first.  And even after the strings have settled down, you will still need to make some adjustments in order to set your ukulele to the right pitch.

NYLGUT Strings – Being a patented product line of Aquila, you can expect them to have a much more solid sound as compared to the regular monofilament strings.  The only downside to them is that they tend to be more susceptible to cuts , which means they are less durable than monos.

Fluoro Carbon Strings – This type of string is relatively new in the market and is entirely different and very dense type of polymer.  It has a measurement of 1.6 which has a big difference over the nylon’s 1.3.  Despite the smaller diameter of the strings, they still have incredible durability.  Because of this, the resulting sound of the ukulele is crisp, lively, loud and bright.   With regards to the cost, the Fluoro Carbon string is more expensive as compared to regular nylon, and is usually sold in “double” sets.

Wound Metal Strings – This type of string has been coated with metal in order give the string additional weight but not compromise its flexibility.  Metal windings are commonly used to coat the nylon floss core, which is quite similar to a dental floss.  This coating is very important because without it, the string would have a very dull sound.  Most ukulele users do not prefer this type of string because it can cause some kind of discomfort when you are dragging your fingertips over the string windings.  In order to address this issue, manufacturers now make use of finer metal windings, which are commonly called “studio” quality strings.

Wound Nylon Strings – A lot of manufacturers are now producing a new type of overwrapped wound polymer string.  Flexibility is the primary feature of this string, and also has excellent sound quality.  The only problem with this string is that you won’t be able to cut the string off because doing so will undo its winding and therefore will destroy your string.

Steel Strings – This is one of the worst types of strings you can put in your wooden ukuleles.  Although acoustic guitars, banjos and mandolins have metal strings, they are very much different from a ukulele and having metal strings along with it can really produce an unpleasant sound.   And if that’s not enough, you can also easily damage your wooden instrument in the event that you over-tighten your strings.  An exception to this would be the recently designed baby “electric guitar” ukuleles which were made to accommodate metal strings only.

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