Saturday, March 02, 2013

'Ukulele Review - Part Two

Now, as every guitar player knows, there are the magic, best, perfect strings for one's axe, and there is all that other waste-of-time crap. Many among the musical have spent their lifetimes in search of the Holy Grail–the strings that sound wonderful, last a long time, and don't cost an arm and a leg. Alas, many of the seekers have fallen short.

It's a hard road.

I went through about ten different brands before I found Aquila Nylgut strings, out of Italy, for my classical guitar. Love the tone, the volume, they aren't too spendy, and they last several months of daily playing. The Grail for my guitar.

And the uke I got came with Aquila, so I was intrinsically happy, right?

Um. Well. I thought I was ...

See, each instrument is unique, and what sounds great on one might not sound so great on one just like it. The Aquila strings are good, but they do better on a really cheap box. On one that is pretty good, vis a vis the volume, they can be too bright for my taste.

Yeah, that's part of it, too. Why there aren't any "best" strings, because the ones you love, somebody else will hate. Drat that subjectivity!

Musicians use a slew of terms when it comes to describing the tonal qualities of instruments and strings: Bright, dull, woody, fat, round, warm, sharp, thin, on and on, and I tend toward the fat-warm-woody tones, which the Aquilas deliver on my guitar. Cedar top as opposed to spruce. 

But the Aquilas don't sound quite right on the uke. 

Sigh. Thus the Quest begins. Ring? A ring is nothing! Strings? Ah ...

I've ordered four different sets, what are considered high-end uke strings, and I'll install them, stretch them out, and play them for a while until I get one that sounds like I want. 

Four more brands might not be enough. And if the other brands don't do it, there are yet more options. Jake Shimabukuro uses nylon guitar strings on his ukes. You can buy a couple sets, mix and match 'em, and create a different sound. There are YouTube vids that show comparisons, and there really is a difference in extra-hard tension guitar strings and standard uke strings, both in the sound and playability. (Extra hard-tension strings, as you might suspect, require a bit more finger strength to play. They also produce more volume.)

One that is too slack will buzz against the frets. One that is too tight will eventually peel the bridge up ...

So, I'll be comparing: Aquila, Ko'olau Gold, Worth Browns, Living Water, and Southcoast strings to begin with, all with low G's, some of those wound and some not.

Stay tuned ... 


Kris said...

Excellent. My girlfriend will be paying attention to your results. Thanks!

Ukulele Buy said...

Ukulele is a very beautiful instrument to use.

simon george said...

thanks for all the info, picking up a new instrument can be a big endeavor! good luck! Great post keep up the hard work. Check these out IStillGotMyGuitar.