Learn to play ukulele : How to restring your uke and make it sound better

How to restring your uke and make it sound better

How to restring your uke and make it sound better feedback
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If you're feeling like your uke doesn't sound that good and being frustrated by that probably it's not because you're not able to play, since the uke is a friendly instrument that can be played by everyone! The possible cause of that are your strings. Strings are the cheapest and less intrusive way to make your uke reborn.

If you have a non professional ukulele and you didn't buy it from a renowned ukulele dealer, it is possible that it has cheap, old strings that sound dull and dead. There are a lot of good string producers out there, the kind (and brand) of strings is up to you. You'll have to try a lot of them to find the perfect ones that fit your uke and your playing style and that sound great to your ear. But to try them you have to know how to install them properly, otherwise you'll incur in some big problems as impossibility to stay in tune, strings slipping over from the bridge and so on...

Strings

After you've bought your new strings (according to te size of your ukulele), you need to recognise the right string in the packet for the right place on your ukulele, because they're not all the same. Usually strings are individually packed and on their sleeve there is the indication of the type of string. Looking your ukulele as you're playing it you can see the strings, that are numbered from the bottom (furthest from your sight) upwards, so you have the A string, the one at the bottom that is the first one, the E string that's the second, the C is the third and the G is the fourth. If there is not the name of the note on the string's sleeve there is the number and vice versa, but more probably you'll have both.

Removing strings


In order to remove strings you need to loosen them by twisting the pegheads at the end of the neck. Make sure you're twisting in the right way. You can doing that by plucking the string while twisting and listen if the pitch (the note) goes up, that's wrong, or down, that's right. It is better, when you change the strings, to remove one string at a time and immediately after replace that with the new one, and not remove all the strings and then start to put on the new ones, that's because the neck can be damaged by an improper string tension. Untie the strings from the tuners and from the bridge is quite intuitive, if it's not clear try following the instructions from the end backwards.

Type of bridges

There are mainly three types of bridges, so first of all you have to recognise the type of bridge that you have.

The most common one is the slotted bridge, where you make a knot at one end of the string, slip it in the little hole between the bridge and the top of your uke (at the end of the bridge opposite to the neck) and then slip it through the slot over it. For this bridge I usually do an oysterman's stopper knot.

The second one is similar to the one you can find on a classical guitar, for the uke is more common the bigger sizes. It is the tie bridge, with a hole that passes through the bridge where you slip your string and then, with the end of the string opposite to the neck, you pass under the part of the string that comes off the opposite side of the hole. Finally you come back to the part of the string between the hole opposite to the headstock and the tie you just made and wrap the final part of the string onto this part.

The last type of bridge is similar to the one you can find on an acoustig guitar with pins. It's rare on a uke. You can stop the string to the bridge by removing the pin and knotting some kind of bead at the end of the string that you'll slip in the hole, than replace the pin.

Tying the string to the tuner

After you've tied the string to the bridge, you need to stop it to the tuner. Make sure you choose the right tuner for the right string, but that's quite simple if you didn't remove all the strings at the same time. Wrap the string one time (more for the thinner strings, less for the thicker ones) around the tree of the tuner and then feed the string through the hole. Don't let the string be too loose, because otherwise you'll have to make it wrap a lot of times around the tuner in order to obtain the desired note. When you wrap the string make sure it twists outwards from the inner part of the headstock and that the various wraps don't lie one on the other, but one over the other, in an ordinated way. If the other strings on your ukulele are correctly mounted you can look at them and reproduce the same thing on the string you're mounting. To tie it better to the tuner you can make it pass through the hole another time, so after the first time just wrap it another half circle around the tuner and then feed it again through the hole.

Final tuning

After mounting the string, tune it to the right pitch. Use an electronic tuner and the other strings as a reference. Twist the pegheads in the right direction, as when you removed the old string, but obviously in the other direction. Rimember: a newly mounted string needs time to assest itself to the tension, so at first it's going to loose the pitch and go out of tune. You'll have to tune it a lot for the first days.

And now, enjoy the new, reborn sound of your uke!

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