Changing ‘ukulele strings takes some practice, but once you learn how, it’s something to look forward to, because I find it makes the ‘ukulele sound and play better.
How often you should change your ‘ukulele’s strings is debatable. Some people change them every couple of weeks, some every couple of years. In general, you will get more mileage from a non-metal string. Wound strings have a tendency to wear right over the frets and rust. So how often? Here are some signs that it might be time to change strings:
They become hard to tune. I find that I have to tune an old set of strings way more than a new one and when I can get them in tune, they still don’t sound quite right.
One breaks. If a string breaks, unless the set is new, I would just replace all of the strings. If two in a row break in the same place, you probably have a sharp edge ether on the nut or the saddle. This has nothing to do with how old the strings are and should be checked out before you put on a new set.
The wound (or any) strings are falling apart. A little bit of wear is okay, but when pieces of metal start to chip away, it’s time to change. Besides probably starting to buzz, a string that snaps while you are playing stings like crazy if it hits your hand on the way by.
Here’s how to change strings:
Note: a string winder will save you a lot of time winding and unwinding the tuning pegs. I’ve just got a low budget one, but some of the fancy models like those by Planet Waves have string cutters too.
1. Loosen the tuner until you can pull the string out of the machine head. Then undo the knot at the bridge and slide the string out of the bridge hole, making sure to keep the string from scratching the surface of your ‘ukulele.
2. Take the new string out of its pack and feed one end through the hole in the bridge. There should be two or three inches sticking out toward the ‘ukulele’s base.
3. Next tie a knot like this:see pic at bottom
Loop the string over the top of the bridge and wrap it around the long side to the left. Then wrap around the part over the bridge, going over, under, over, under. The last under should go over the corner of the bridge and point at the ground when you hold the ‘ukulele. A third loop will help hold the smaller strings tighter if you are having problems with slippage.
4. Now hold the short end to the right of the bridge and pull on the end of string that goes to the nut, so that the bridge-knot tightens up.
…Or with bridge pins:
1. Loosen the strings and pull the pins and old strings out.
2. Tie a knot on one end of the new string. Feed it into the hole in the bridge. If there is a little slot you can rest the string in, do so.
3. Fit a bridge pin into the hole snugly, but not too tight (if there is a groove on one side of the pin, line this up with the string).
4. Pull on the long end of the string until you feel the knot settle into the pin. Push the pin in the rest of the way into the hole and continue pulling the long end until everything is tight.
5. Pull the string across the fretboard and up the center of the headstock (in between the two sets of upward and downward facing tuning pegs). Pull the string through the hole in the tuning peg until you have about an inch of clearance when you pull the string up off the fretboard (this distance changes depending on what string gauge and type you use. Heavier strings need more clearance, lighter strings need less).
6. Now place the string in the correct nut-slot and start winding the string counter-clockwise onto the tuning peg. The first time around, the string should go over the loose end to prevent slippage. Continue winding the string neatly below the loose end of the string until tuned. see pic at bottom
Some of the smaller strings might try to slip when tuning up. To avoid this, add an extra loop of string through through the tuning peg hole so that there are two lengths of string going through instead of only one.
7. Repeat steps 1-6 for the rest of the strings on your ukulele.
8. Now tune up.
You can pull the string off the fretboard a few inches to get them stretched and tight around the tuning pegs. Stretch and tune up, stretch and tune up, until the string doesn’t go flat when you pull on it. (This will happen by itself over the period of a few days to a few weeks, but doing this speeds things up)
I also recommend clipping off the loose ends of the strings so that only around a 1/4-1/2 of an inch is left sticking out. I’ve seen guys who can wind up the extra string really nice on the headstock, but I haven’t figured out how they do it yet, so for me it’s an eye hazard with those long ends poking out at odd angles.