Breaking the strings of any stringed instrument could be dreadful for beginner musicians. But, in the case of ukulele, can ukulele strings break easily?
Ukulele strings can not break easily because most of the ukuleles have nylon strings or carbon strings which are strong, elastic, and durable. Of course, they are not invincible; but to break the ukulele strings, you’ll have to break a sweat first.
In my long experience of playing stringed instruments, I’ve hardly seen any ukulele string breaking on my watch. Obviously, the ukulele strings are more durable than guitar strings, but there are tricks to make them last even longer!! Keep reading this 5-minute blog to find out.
- 1. Why Ukulele Strings Don’t Break Easily?
- 2. Reasons why Ukulele Strings Might Break
- 3. Signs to Change Your Ukulele Strings
- 4. Tips to Increase the Strings Longevity
- 5. FAQs
- 6. Final Words
Why Ukulele Strings Don’t Break Easily?
Now that you’ve already known that ukulele strings don’t break easily, it is better that you know the reasons as well. And, to understand better, let’s compare it with standard acoustic guitar strings.
|Factors||Ukulele Strings||Guitar Strings|
|String Materials||Polycarbonate or nylon strings that are more elastic and durable.||Usually steel with copper/brass coated string; less elastic, so breaks quite easy. (except for classical guitars)|
|Usage of flat-pick||Ukulele is mostly played by fingerpicking, which is a gentle form of playing style. So, the strings are less likely to break.||Acoustic guitars are widely played by Flatpicking and strumming with the pick. This playing style is a bit rough, therefore strings are likely to break in the hands of the beginners.|
|Strumming position||If you look closely, the ukulele strumming position enables you to hit the stings almost in the middle. So, the strumming force is well distributed along the strings.||The guitar strumming position enables the strings to be hit close to the soundhole. So, the force distribution of the strumming is more at the bridge side. As a result, strings might break due to heavy strumming.|
|String tension||Moderate in standard tuning.||Pretty high string tension in standard tuning.|
|Scale/string’s Length||Smaller-scale length for the width of the string. Hence, the strings are stronger.||Longer strings compared to the width of the strings.|
Reasons why Ukulele Strings Might Break
As I said, the strings of a ukulele are not invincible. ukulele strings are quite elastic and strong, so only a few extreme cases can cause a ukulele string break.
To avoid such disappointment, you should know the reasons why ukulele strings might break beforehand.
This is so obvious that old strings are prone to break. Usually, ukulele strings perform very well up to six months. Even, a year can be passed without changing ukulele strings, if you maintain the strings properly.
Always use high-quality strings on your ukulele. Some brands for ukulele strings are mind-blowing! An example would be, Aquila nylon strings. But keep in mind that, over a long period of time, even the high-quality strings can deteriorate and break when played rough.
Standard tuning is perfect for ukulele strings. Every tuning peg of the ukulele is designed to maintain optimal string tensions at standard tuning. However, alternate tunings that are of higher pitch (A-D-F#-B) increases the tension of each individual strings.
Such alternate tuning and usage of a heavy pick can snap your ukulele string straight away, especially for smaller ukes like the tenor ukulele or soprano ukulele.
Nut Slot Abrasion
Every single string of the ukulele has its designated spot in the nut slots. Putting wrong strings on the nut slots would cause them to go through rough abrasive action. So, it is better to use the strings whether they are nylon or carbon strings, in the designated string slots.
Sometimes, a left-handed ukulele player might buy a right-handed ukulele and re-string them in reverse order. This will put the ukulele strings in reverse order in the nut slots and the strings might break due to long-term abrasion.
String Connection at the Bridge
For every different style of bridge, there is a technique to tie the strings. You’d notice that some ukulele bridges have string knots, whereas others don’t. Bad winding at the bridge knots could break your strings.
Bridge knots of the ukulele strings should be tied properly; not too tight, not too loose. Loose knots would loosen up the string more during heavy strumming and super-tight knots will erode themselves due to increased tension.
Signs to Change Your Ukulele Strings
Nothing lasts forever, although ukulele strings would last more than you’d expect. Even so, don’t wait till the last moment where your ukulele strings totally give up on you. If you don’t change your uke strings on a regular basis (like once every six months), change them whenever you see these signs
Strings are Constantly Out of Tune
Tuning stability issues might appear if your tuning peg holes or tuning gears have been damaged. But most of the time, it is the strings. Whether they are too new or too old, and I’m sure would know how old or new your strings are.
Old uke string constantly getting out of tune signifies that the time has come. Time to get some fresh new Aquia strings!
Deep Grooves Under the Strings
A good idea is to often check the crevices or grooves under your uke strings. Those crevices can be found along the strings where they meet the fret wires. Over time, the ukulele strings would erode along the fret wires.
When you’d feel the crevices with your hand with ease, it would be time to let go of those old nylon strings.
Weaker Sound while Strumming
When your uke has its strings for over 6-12 months and won’t sound as loud as before, change your uke strings. Unless the uke is damaged somewhere in its body, in that case, you should fix that first in order to restore the loudness of your ukulele.
Fret Buzz could mean two things: intonation/alignment problem or the strings have lost optimum elasticity. If the alignment of your uke is perfect and still it’s causing the fret-buzz, that’s the call of the strings wanting to retire.
Tips to Increase the Strings Longevity
Taking good care of your ukulele strings would make them last even longer! Here are some pro-tips, take it from an experienced and expert ukulele player.
Clean the Strings with String Cleaner
Always clean your ukulele and its strings. With a thin polish cloth and using a string cleaner, clean your ukulele string every day and every time after playing.
Tune With Care
Using a clip-on digital tuner, carefully tune your ukulele strings so that it doesn’t get more tightened than it needs to be. Also, take time to tune your ukulele by turning the tuning pegs slowly. Turning the pegs hastily would stretch the strings quickly, and damage their elasticity.
You probably don’t do that, but just in case. Even if you are tempted to use a flat-pick to strum the ukulele, let me tell you: it doesn’t sound that good either. Ukulele sounds best when the magic of your hand strumming prevails.
Do All Ukuleles have Plastic Strings?
By plastic strings, most people, in general, refer to nylon strings. And yes, almost all the ukulele in the market has nylon strings or poly-carbonate (simply carbon) strings. In my lifetime, I’ve only seen one ukulele that has steel strings.
So, if you wish to try out steel strings on a ukulele, you’d have the option.
How Often Should I Tune My Ukulele?
A rule of thumb is, tune your ukulele whenever needed!! If your ukulele is out of tune whenever you intend to play it, tune it accordingly. But like I said, tune it with care. The frequency of tuning doesn’t affect your uke strings as long as you do it carefully and properly.
Is it Ok to Strum Ukulele with the Thumb?
Yes of course!! In fact, it is one of the most common practices to strum the ukulele with the thumb. Use your thumb and index finger to master frequent up-and-down strumming to get the Hawaiian vibe.
I hope you have a clear idea about how sturdy the ukulele strings are and how you can make the best out of them. Take good care of your ukulele strings as well as your ukulele, and it will love you back even more!! Happy strumming!!