Since you’ll have to replace your uke string set at some point, it’s essential that you learn how to change ukulele strings properly. Also, collecting some tips and tricks along the way will turn the changing process into a breeze.
However, the inexperienced who have never had to deal with instrument string replacement before may face some difficulties.
For that reason, I made this post to give you the clearest guide on this topic. Now, let’s get right into the post, shall we?
What is the best way to change ukulele strings?
1. Take Out The Broken Uke Strings: Loosening and removing the strings from its bridge.
2. Set Up The New String Set
3. Tune Your Ukulele
And now, let's Jump right into detail.
What You Need To Know Before Changing Your Ukulele Strings
Ukulele Strings Vs. Guitar Strings
Many people who just stepped into the uke world find themselves confused about the difference between an uke and a guitar. This misunderstanding can lead to some common mistakes while restring a uke.
Since each type goes through different production and construction, the maintenance and care they require are relatively different.
To be more specific, guitar strings are often made out of metal (acoustic guitar) and silver-wound (classic guitar). For that reason, their ability to withstand corrosion, rusting, and stretching is fairly weak.
If the guitar strings come into contact with harsh weather conditions or environments repeatedly, the steel and silver material will soon oxidize. Due to that, there’s a high chance that the guitar will result in unwantedly low, distorted sounds.
Therefore, I highly recommend you do maintenance on a standard guitar monthly and change the strings at least every five months. By doing this, you can prevent about 80% of the string corrosion and sound distortion on the metal frets.
On the other hand, there’s no need to repeat the guitar’s maintenance routine on a ukulele. It is because the uke frets have durable nylon strings that can protect themselves from oxidation and rusting.
Some people who had owned a guitar before getting a uke might apply the same care routine on the uke without realizing it is unnecessary.
When Should You Change Your Uke Strings
So, after learning about the difference between the two, you might wonder when you should change your uke strings. The question is, unlike guitars, the requirement for maintenance depends largely on each uke.
You can assess the condition of your uke on the basis of some symptoms below:
You have some problems trying to tune the strings properly: As opposed to new string sets, an old fret that has been through excessive use takes a longer time to be tuned properly.
If you have to spend an uncomfortably long amount of time dealing with the string’s tonation, your uke is likely in need of a transformation.
And one more thing to keep in mind, even when it is considered “in tune,” old frets won’t produce proper sound. When it happens, you know it’s time to give your uke a revamp.
- You break one of the strings: Sometimes, if one of the uke strings is broken even though the string set is relatively new, you might be the one to blame.
However, if the snapping keeps happening on the same string, or your fret has served you for a couple of years, I highly suggest replacing the whole string set for the best performance.
- The strings show signs of wear: A few years into playing, you might notice some signs of wear on your ukulele. It is fine if the wear is not significant and doesn’t affect the overall sound quality.
However, if the wear takes a toll on the string’s integrity, you may want to consider restring your uke fret. Frayed strings are more susceptible to strong force, consequently, break easier.
Optional Gears To Help You Out
A string winder:
It is the ultimate tool to save you time when dealing with the tuning pegs. Even though using merely your hands is completely fine, it will take more time and effort to screw and unscrew the pegs.
Some new models also include string cutters, but their price might be too steep. You can opt for the low-budget option; they work just as well as the high-priced one.
A nail clipper:
If you don’t want to invest in a specialized string cutter, using a normal nail clipper is a great alternative.
Even for experienced uke players, tuning the strings entirely by ears can be sometimes challenging. So if you are someone who has never replaced any string set before, you should invest in a guitar tuner of any kind.
Step-to Step Guide On How To Change Ukulele Strings
Take Out The Broken Uke Strings
Before setting up the new string sets, properly removing the frayed old set is equally important. There are a few steps that you should follow closely for the best result:
- Loosening your ukulele strings
Many people who have never dealt with instrument strings before might jump to the next step right away. It’s a common but rather undesirable and even dangerous mistake.
Without unfastening the strings first, they go straight into cutting away the broken strings. It can cause unexpected snapping and severely injure your hands.
For that reason, it’s best to unscrew the tuning peg (another name is the tuning key or machine head) before proceeding to the next step. Keep unwinding until the strings have loosened completely.
However, if you still insist on cutting them when they are still firmly wounded on the fret, remember to wear protective gears for your eyes and hands. After cutting the string into two parts, you can remove the two string ends later.
- Removing the strings from its bridge
After the strings are unfastened to the point where they are off the tuning key, you want to pull the bottom sides of four strings out of the peg’s holes.
Moving on to the other string ends that are fixed on the bridge. You start by undoing all four knots slowly. When it is done, you can safely separate the old string set from its housing.
Set Up The New String Set
1. Do a quick cleaning
Before putting on new strings, you should do a quick cleaning of the housing. Even though being one of the places that collect the most dust, it is the hardest place to clean when the strings are fully on.
Therefore, you should take advantage of this occasion and make sure the fingerboard is dust-free. Pay more attention to the area around the bridge and the tuners since they accumulate the most dirt.
2. Achor the string onto the bridge
Take one string and start by feeding one end through the hole chiseled inside the bridge (you should start from the hole on the outside).
After inserting the string through the bridge’s back, now you want to tie a knot. This step is the most challenging step when restring a uke since it requires a lot of practice and experience.
What you need to achieve when tying the knot is basically to wrap the string around itself tightly so it won’t move anywhere.
There is a lot of guidance out there on how to tie the best knot. However, it all comes down to these few basic steps:
- Winding the string’s slacking end around the peg,
- Tightening it by wrapping the string around itself a few more times,
- Checking if the knot is tight enough by pulling the untied end hard in the opposite direction of the knot.
3. Feed the string around the tuning peg
You put the strings in place by feeding them through the holes inside the pegs. Since you need to get the string snug around the peg, it’s best to leave 1.5 to 2 inches of slack to wind them around the peghead later.
With this excessive length, you can wrap the string around the peg about three times. Doing more than three wraps might negatively affect the tuning, while the string can not be secured if you do fewer wraps.
4. Wind the strings
In the last step, you will have to wind the string. It is when a string winder comes with a helping hand.
Just before you start wrapping the string above the peghead’s hole for the first time, push the string down under the hole and continue wrapping for the second and third times.
Repeat the same process for the other strings, and you can move on to tune your ukulele.
Tuning Up Your Uke
Your setting up process doesn’t just stop at setting up the strings. To make the new string set playable, you need to get it tuned properly.
If you are musically trained and have the basic knowledge about tonation, notes, and keys, you can tune your uke by ear with no problem.
On the other hand, if you are a beginner without a musical background, I highly suggest you opt for a tuner to achieve the most accurate tuning.
With any new string set, you may have to retune it a few more times until the sound production is perfect.
The Bottom Line
You have made it to the end of my guide on how to change ukulele strings. I hope this post has shed some light on this matter and simplified the process for you.
If you find yourself struggling in the first few tries, remember it is an art that requires time and experience to master. Once you get the hang of every step and remember all the necessary tips and tricks, things will get better!
All in all, I wish you luck, and don’t forget to drop by in the future for another similar post from us!