Whether you plan to learn the ukulele on your own or attend a class, knowing the order of strings and their names is among the first things you should remember. This information is also useful for advanced players because they need it to tune their ukulele correctly. Besides, you’ll be better equipped to play scales, among other things.
However, if you have zero knowledge about the ukulele, the instrument can be quite intimidating. But don’t fret (pun intended). We’ve provided a comprehensive guide on ukulele strings. Find out their names, their order, and more in this article.
Ukulele String Names
How Many Strings Does a Ukulele Have? The best thing about a ukulele is that it only has four strings, making it easier to master. String names are labeled by the note that the open string plays. An open note refers to the note played when you pick a chord without holding down the strings on any fret.
The strings are known as:
- 1st String: G string
- 2nd String: C string
- 3rd String: E string
- 4th String: A string
The top string (the one closest to you) is known as the G string. This string is also the thickest (unless you’re using reentrant tuning). The strings get thinner as you move down the instrument. The next string after that is tuned to a C string. The third is tuned to E, and the last one is tuned to note A. These are the standard notes for tenor, concert, and soprano ukuleles.
Therefore, if you have any of these three instruments, these are the notes you’ll hear when you tune your ukulele. However, if you’re playing a regular ukulele and you’re left-handed, the order of strings will be reversed. Such ukuleles prove challenging to play for lefties due to the order of strings. If you’re left-handed, it’s best to get an instrument designed for lefties.
High and Low G Ukulele Tuning
Ukulele tuning is a complicated subject. The tuning is different for baritone, tenors, soprano, and concert ukuleles. This is why it’s crucial to learn the different names and notes of each string. However, as a general rule of thumb, you can tune your ukulele to either standard or reentrant.
Standard tuning is the common way to tune open string notes. In this type of tuning, the G string is on the same octave as every other string. This type of tuning is known as low G tuning. However, in the standard reentrant tuning (also known as high G tuning), the G string is one octave above middle C.
This means that the G-string will be a pitch higher than the C-string. An easy way to tell that the instrument has high G tuning is to look at the G string. If it’s in lowercase, it means you’re using high G tuning. High G tuning is the primary reason ukuleles have a bright and charming sound.
Baritone Ukulele String Notes
When it comes to a baritone ukulele, you have more options. You can tune your instrument to either high or low G. In addition to this, you have the option of playing your ukulele to a D-G-B-E tuning. Most people, especially guitar players, prefer this type of ukulele tuning because it’s similar to how a guitar is strung.
This type of tuning is done linearly, which means that the lowest note is the topmost string as you’re looking down on the instrument.8
Ukulele String Numbers and Order
While ukulele string names seem relatively easy to remember, you also need to familiarize yourself with the string numbers to learn the ukulele. Most teachers and players prefer to follow numbers because they follow easier logic.
When you’re using numbers, you count the strings from top to bottom, i.e., 4-3-2-1. If you’re holding the instrument in a playing position, string 4 is the one closest to the ceiling, and string one is the one closest to the floor.
The number of strings corresponds to different notes as follows:
- String 4: G
- String 3: C
- String 2: E
- String 1: A
If you’re playing a baritone ukulele, the number of strings doesn’t change. It remains the same.
A Simple Way to Remember Ukulele String Names
With all the different ways of naming and numbering ukulele strings, you’re probably confused and wondering if you’ll ever master all of them. Don’t worry. There’s a fun and easy way to remember the names of the strings.
These rhymes are especially entertaining and easy to remember for kids. Therefore, if you’re a music teacher or you’re trying to teach a child to play the ukulele, you may benefit from these rhymes.
Fun Rhymes to Remember Concert, Soprano, and Tenor Ukulele Strings
As we’ve mentioned, concert, soprano, and tenor ukuleles are tuned the same way – from ceiling to floor:
- 4: G
- 3: C
- 2: E
- 2: A
You can use any of the following rhymes o remember the string order:
- Good Children Eat Apple
- Great Cats Eat Always
- Gouts Can Eat All
- Get Crazy Every Afternoon
For a baritone ukulele that’s tuned to D-G-B-E, you can use any of the following rhymes:
- Dogs Going By Everyday
- Do Good By Everyone
- Dogs Go Back for Eating
- Darkness Gonna Be Early
If you and your class can come up with even more rhymes, it’s better. Everyone has an easier time remembering rhymes when they create them.
Must-Know Ukulele Chords
Learning ukulele chords is one of the most intimidating lessons for beginners. Most people believe it’s difficult, and they’ll take a long time to master the chords and play a song. Thus couldn’t be further from the truth. You can play hundreds of songs with just a couple of chords. Below are the must-know chords for beginners.
There are different variations of playing C Major on the ukulele. The most common is where you place your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the bottom A-string and leave the other strings open. Other variations include:
- Press down the index finger on the bottom two strings at the 3rd fret. Next, place the middle finger on the 4th fret of the C-string and the ring finger on the 5th fret of the top G-string.
- Place the index finger on the 5th fret of the top G-string. Next, place your ring finger on the 7th fret of the C-string. Rest your little finger on the 7th fret of the bottom A-string. String E should run open for this C major chord variation.
- Place the index finger on the 7th fret of string C. Your ring finger should be resting on the 8th fret of string E, and the middle finger should be on the 7th fret of the bottom A-string. Let all the other strings run open for this variation.
- You can also achieve this chord by placing your middle finger on the 9th fret of the top G-string. Your index finger should rest on the 8th fret of the E-string and the little finger on the 10th fret of the bottom A-string.
When to Use the Different C Major Chord Variations
If you’re a beginner or don’t have a lot of experience playing the ukulele, it’s best to stick to the first C major chord variation because it’s the easiest chord to master. However, if you’re a skilled player, you can use the different variations depending on what you’re playing and in what setting.
For instance, if you’re learning to play a jazz song, the second C major chord variation is the best because it gives you a jazzy strum. However, if you’re playing a melody where the highest melody note is the G note, it would be best to stick to the 5th variation.
If you’re playing in a band, using a different C major variation from your band members will enrich the sound and make the melody well-rounded and interesting.
The suggested fingering for A minor is the middle finger on the 2nd fret of the topmost string. This is perhaps the easiest chord because you’re only dealing with one finger, and the fret placement is relatively easy.
Place your index finger on the 1st fret of the second string and the ring finger on the 2nd fret of the topmost string.
Place your index finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string. Ensure your ring finger rests on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string and the middle finger remains on the 2nd fret of the bottom string.
Press down your index finger on the 1st fret of the 3rd string and the middle finger on the second fret of the topmost string.
Place your index finger on the 2nd fret of the bottom string. Your ring finger should press down on the 4th fret of the third string.
Place your index finger on the 1st fret of the 2nd string. Next, place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the topmost string and the ring finger on the 2nd fret of the third string.
Rest your index finger on the 1st fret of the 3rd string. Next, place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the topmost string and the ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 2nd string.
Place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the topmost string. Place your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string and the little finger on the 2nd fret of the 2nd string.
Press down your index finger on the 1st fret of the topmost string. Next, place the middle finger on the 2nd fret of the bottom string and the little finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd string.
Bar down the bottom three strings on the 2nd fret using your index finger and place your ring finger on the 4th fret of the top string.
Key Specs to Look for When Buying Ukulele Strings
The type of strings you have on your ukulele can make or break your entire experience. For this reason, it’s best to know what to look for when you’re buying a new instrument or thinking of changing the strings you already have on your instrument. Some of the key specifications to consider include:
Ukuleles come in four different sizes – soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Interestingly, so do the strings. It’s easy to overlook this fact and get the wrong size. Therefore, before you purchase your instrument, ensure it’s the right size and type you’re looking for.
And no, you shouldn’t think of cutting the strings if you discover that they’re longer than what you were looking for. In most cases, if you cut longer strings for smaller ukuleles, they tend to unravel and cause many problems while playing. Therefore, to save yourself the hassle and ensure a flawless experience, familiarize yourself with the different sizes and get the right one for your instrument.
Ukulele strings are also made of different materials. As a beginner, you may not know what to look for because you lack experience and may not know what the various materials offer. Here’s a breakdown of the different materials used to give you an idea of what to expect:
- Gut: This material dates back to 1879, when the first ukulele was invented. At the time, all ukuleles used this material that was derived from sheep intestines.
- Nylon: In 1940, most ukulele manufacturers started using nylon over gut for their instruments. The reason for the shift was because nylon was cheaper, consistent, and produced a greater sound. However, some people still preferred the gut sound. However, the production of gut strings plummeted, and nylon became the standard.
- Fluorocarbon: Today, most players prefer fluorocarbon strings. Compared to nylon, it’s louder, brighter, and less sensitive to temperatures. And because this material is denser, the strings are produced at smaller gauges. However, these benefits come at a higher price than nylon.
As we’ve mentioned, the standard ukulele tunings are high and low G. Fortunately, you can find string packages for both tunings in all four ukulele sizes. However, if you have a baritone, it’s best to use a DGBE string set.
The strings may also be different for soprano ukuleles. Sometimes, the strings for this ukulele are tuned ADF#B, which is known as d-tuning.
You may also come across string sets for alternate tuning or those labeled “high tension.” Unless you’re looking for these specific types of strings, it’s best to stick to the standard tuning of your ukulele.
Some strings, typically the G and C strings, sometimes have an outer winding over the inner nylon core, depending on the type of package you purchase. Some of the materials you’ll find in the winding include:
- Phosphor Bronze
The type of winding you choose is entirely a matter of preference. However, you’ll find that nylon strings with metal winding tend to produce a louder and brighter sound. But there’s a level of compromise. With these types of strings, you’ll have to deal with squeaky sounds from finger slides. Most people hate this, and it’s among the reasons they don’t use nylon strings wound with metal.
The only way to find out what works for you is to try the different types of string and identify which one works best for you.
Some people believe the brand also matters when it comes to ukulele strings, and some players don’t think it’s an important consideration. Besides, it’s a topic that brings up a lot of debate in the ukulele community. Nevertheless, it’s always advisable to purchase quality strings. Buying from reputable brands gives you a level of assurance of quality.
Some of the brands you can trust include:
- Aquila Strings: This company specializes in making ukulele strings. They have patented nylgut (a combination of gut and nylon) strings, which offer more benefits than the individual materials used alone.
- D’Addario Strings: This company has been in business since the 1600s. They make strings for almost all instruments, and they never slack when it comes to quality.
Strings on a Ukulele Named and Ordered, Closing Thoughts
There you have it; a comprehensive guide on ukulele strings and tuning. If you’re a beginner, you’re on the right track with this information. You’ll not only have an easier time choosing the right strings for your instrument but also find it easier to follow your instructor’s instructions while learning.
Take some time to practice the different chords, and always ensure your instrument is tuned correctly for the best experience. As a general rule of thumb, check your ukulele tuning every 15 minutes. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it’s how you learn!