Ukuleles are quite cool. They are basically fretting string instruments that can sound similar to a guitar, mandolin, or even a banjo when played. They’re simple to learn, sound great, and are usually very affordable.
I’ve been playing ukuleles for approximately 6-7 years and have quite a good command of it. Usually, Ukuleles come with regular nylon strings. A few days back, while looking for some high-quality strings I wondered – ”Can Ukuleles Have Metal Strings?”
After a lot of research and trying out different sets of strings, I came to the following conclusion.
Metal strings aren’t typically used on ukuleles. They’re more suited to musical instruments such as the acoustic guitar and bass guitar in general. However, steel strings may be the way to go if you want a bright, twangy sound from your ukulele, as well as the ability to hold varied tunings reliably.
In this article, we’ll be discussing all your inquiries that you might have regarding this topic and will be clearing all your confusion. So, let’s get right into it.
- 1. Why Metal Strings Aren’t Used in Ukuleles
- 2. Is It Okay to Use Solid Metal Strings?
- 3. Do Metal Strings Put Stress on Ukulele?
- 4. Advantages & Disadvantages of Metal Strings
- 5. Common Types of Ukulele Strings
- 6. How to Choose the Right Uke Strings?
- 7. Frequently Asked Questions
- 8. Final Thoughts
Why Metal Strings Aren’t Used in Ukuleles
The ukulele, unlike other instruments like the guitar, does not perform that well when all of the strings are made of metal. Because ukulele is mainly distinguished by the sound created by the strings made of softer materials such as nylon, gut, or similar materials.
While we can find metal string sets in the market, most ukuleles’ metal strings aren’t actually metal strings. Only their exterior is made of a form of flexible metal, and their interior is made of nylon or comparable materials. These are referred to as wound strings and they are employed to produce lower notes.
Is It Okay to Use Solid Metal Strings?
Some players prefer wound metal strings, and a few even use solid metal strings on their ukuleles. However, keep in mind that they do so with the knowledge of what the gauge should be. A nylon string of the same gauge pulls with a substantially different force than a metal string of the same gauge.
So simply substituting metal strings of the same gauge for your ordinary nylon or fluorocarbon strings will do no benefit to your ukulele. Many brands, on the other hand, sell metal-wound strings that are significantly thinner than their counterparts but produce the same musical note, most commonly the G. That way, it’s easier to sustain the linear tuning.
Metal strings, on the other hand, make a different sound. They don’t have the same thrust as regular strings and have a different resonance. They also make a squeaky sound when you move your fingers over them.
Do Metal Strings Put Stress on Ukulele?
Because the ukulele, unlike the guitar, is not meant for intense stress, it is recommended for you to avoid using metal strings. It’s fine if your G string is only made of metal, but all-metal strings will put too much strain on your ukulele and even cause it to shatter!
Metal strings can be used on solid-body electric ukuleles since they are much sturdier. Keep in mind that other instruments, such as the mandolin, have metal strings and are extremely comparable to the ukulele. Because these instruments have their own distinct sound, putting steel strings on a ukulele will significantly change the sound.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Metal Strings
As metal strings are not that suitable for the ukulele, it’s better not to use them. However, there are few sides of metal strings that some players (especially electric guitar players) may like. Some notable drawbacks will be mentioned as well.
- They produce a dark, twangy, and brighter sound that attracts some players.
- They can hold different tunings.
- They put stress on the ukulele that can cause significant damage.
- They do not create conventional ukulele sounds.
- They squeak as fingertips pass over it.
- Most beginners find it difficult to push metal strings and produce precise tones as they have more tension.
Common Types of Ukulele Strings
The sound of a ukulele mainly depends on the string material that is used. There are some variations of strings, each with its unique tone characteristics. So, take a look at all the types of string that are usually used in a ukulele below and then decide which string is the right choice for you.
Nylon strings are the most common type of strings of ukuleles in the market. They are also referred to as plastic strings and produce a pleasant and warm sound. They are the modern descendant of traditional gut strings, which were produced from the intestines of livestock. Nylon strings can produce gentle Hawaiian music which is very soothing.
Humidity has no effect on nylon; however, temperature changes may necessitate retuning. In addition, nylon strings are perfectly compatible with the common tuning scheme of ukuleles – especially the famous Aquila nylgut strings.
The majority of ukulele strings are created from nylon polymers. There are various types of nylon polymers, resulting in a variety of sounds. The disadvantage is that it does not maintain tuning as well as other string materials.
Fluorocarbon strings are very alike to nylon strings; however, they have a brighter tone. The advantage of fluorocarbon strings is that A set of these strings may also last longer than nylon strings and be easier to keep in regular ukulele tuning. Also, temperature fluctuations have less of an impact on it.
This monofilament material is strong, durable, and has a little brighter tone than nylon stock strings, as well as more projection and volume. These types of strings are typically used by musicians who perform live regularly, as they produce a louder sound than traditional gut strings.
Wound Nylon Strings
These strings feature a nylon core wrapped in a polymer winding material and are commonly found as the two lower strings in ukulele sets for tenor and baritone ukuleles. Some players dislike the finger squeaks that these strings might cause.
Wound Metal Strings
These strings have a metal core and are similar to wound nylon strings. These are usually used in larger ukuleles. They’re as bright as you can get without switching to steel strings, which could make your ukulele sound more like a guitar. They are more suitable for a tenor or Baritone ukulele.
How to Choose the Right Uke Strings?
From our list of most common types of ukulele strings, choose the one that you’ll feel comfortable playing with. Based on your tonal preference, you can try out different sets. However, it is advised to stick with the stock strings for beginners.
When choosing strings, it is a good practice to consider the total length as well as the scale length, which is the distance between the nut and the bridge, or the length of the string that vibrates when plucked or strummed.
Strings on a soprano ukulele (standard ukulele) are 21 inches long, with a 13-inch scale length for standard tuning. Concert ukes are usually strung 23 inches long. As for the tenor ukulele, 26 inches strings are used for a 17-inch scale length. The strings for Baritone ukuleles are usually 30 inches and longer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It a Good Idea to String a Ukulele with Metal Strings?
Attempting to string a ukulele with metal or steel strings is generally not a smart idea because the additional tension they put on the top, bridge, and neck of the instrument will possibly harm it.
The Steel-string sound, on the other hand, is not similar to the traditional ukulele sound. Some advanced players use metal strings as they match their playing styles.
Does your Finger Hurt When You Play Metal-Stringed Ukulele?
As metal strings have high tension, they feel harder against fingers. So, some players may hurt their fingers when playing a steel string ukulele.
Ukulele is a very interesting, simple, and spontaneous musical instrument that has a jolly and friendly vibe in it. Most people like it because it is really quite easy to learn even if you don’t have any experience in playing any kind of musical experience.
As the ukulele is a beginner-friendly instrument, my personal recommendation would be not to use metal strings in your ukulele if u want to have a comfortable playing experience. They put a lot of pressure on your ukulele and may damage the body. Moreover, they do not produce the classic ukulele sound and may hurt your finger.
So instead of going with metal strings, go with nylon or plastic strings or any other strings that will suit you and keep up with your expectations. But if you are an advanced ukulele player and now want to create an acoustic sound similar to acoustic guitar then metal strings could be an option.
Best of luck on your ukulele journey and hope this article helped you to get to the right decision. Let me know if you have any more questions in the comments section below!