Like any stringed instrument, your uke strings will discolor, wear out, fray, go out of tune, and become hard to tune at some point.
That’s why learning how to change ukulele strings is essential.
This knowledge and skill will also come in handy if you want to experiment with various ukulele tones or sounds.
You’ll find several ukulele string replacement methods, but what we’ll share with you is a favorite of ours.
This process will hold the new strings more securely and help you get your ukulele in tune more quickly.
How To Change Ukulele Strings the Right Way
Before replacing the original strings of your instrument, figure out whether it has a tie-bar or a standard bridge and slotted or standard heads.
That’s because some steps will differ for each type of bridge and head.
What You’ll Need
To restring your ukulele, you need to prepare the following:
- A new set of high-quality strings; pick the right size for your instrument
- Wire or string cutters, nail clippers, or scissors
- Clean microfiber cloth
- A pencil
Unlike the rest of the materials above, the following tools are optional. However, they will make the process of changing your ukulele strings more convenient:
- A ukulele tuner for an easier and quicker tuning process and more precise tuning
- String winder to easily and quickly reach the perfect pitch
What You Need To Do
Before we proceed with the steps in this guide, here are some crucial reminders:
- Hold your uke’s head away from you to prevent any accidents or injuries in case the string breaks.
- Restring your uke’s strings one at a time, starting with the C, then the E.
Now, you’re ready to restring your instrument! Just follow these nine steps:
Step 1: Loosen the Old String
Turn the tuning peg in the right direction.
If you are unsure whether to turn the tuning pegs clockwise or counter-clockwise, pluck the string after turning the peg.
If the sound has a lower pitch than usual, you’re turning the peg correctly.
If the pitch becomes higher than it usually sounds, you’re tightening the string instead of loosening it. Thus, turn it in the opposite direction.
Once the string is loose enough, proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Remove the Old Strings
To remove the loose string, you can pull it slowly for it to slip off of its peg.
Alternatively, you can cut your ukulele’s string using clippers, a cutter, or scissors. Ensure you remove the remaining string from the headstock.
After that, remove your uke string from the bridge, which will depend on the type of bridge your instrument has.
For standard-bridged ones, remove the knot securing the string to the bridge.
Then, slide the string out of its corresponding bridge’s hole, ensuring you pull it down from the uke’s bridge.
You also have to do this step gently to prevent leaving scratches on your ukulele’s smooth surface.
Meanwhile, if you have a tie-bridge uke, gently push the string’s free end into its knot until you feel it is loose enough. Next, untie the ukulele string knot.
Once done, wrap the used string around a small piece of cardboard and put it aside. You can throw it out or bring it to a recycling company near you.
Step 3: Clean Your Ukulele
Now that your instrument is string-free, take a microfiber cloth, dampen a small portion with water, and wipe the neck using a bit of pressure.
Pay special attention to the fingerboard, the bridge, and tuning pegs.
Doing so will help remove any accumulated dirt you can’t remove with regular, commonsense instrument care techniques while the string is attached.
It will also make your ukulele’s frets shiny. Wipe your uke with the dry part of your cleaning cloth afterward.
Step 4: Add Graphite to the Nut
Not all ukulele string replacement tutorials include this step.
Still, we find it essential because this extra step will help your new string slide through the bridge or nut slot easily.
All you have to do is add graphite to the nut slot using your sharpened pencil.
Step 5: Install the New String
Open your new set of quality strings and take the first (C) string, which should be easy to locate because most manufacturers individually wrap and label them.
Alternatively, you can find the instructions on identifying the different strings in the packaging.
Next, feed one of the string’s ends through the right bridge hole, ensuring two or three inches are sticking out toward your instrument’s base.
The next step is to tie a knot, which will once again depend on your ukulele’s type of bridge slot.
For a standard bridge, tie a ukulele string knot at the very end of your string.
Make sure you leave a couple of inches, around 0.5 (1.5cm), of the string on one of the knot’s edges.
Gently pull the string toward your musical instrument’s head and slip it through the hole of the first tuning peg’s metal pin.
For a tie bar bridge, start by sliding the new string through the bridge hole.
Using the string’s end that just passed through the hole, make a loop behind the string’s end and lead it into the hole.
Continue looping under the string over the tie bar’s top portion two times. Next, gently pull the string’s free end toward your ukulele’s head.
Lastly, slip it through the hole of the first tuning peg’s metal pin.
Step 6: Tighten the String
To tighten your newly installed string, you need to wind it. Firstly, pull the string taut and place it in the right nut slot.
Take your string winder if you have one, and wrap the first turn above the ukulele’s tuning peg hole.
As you reach the final turn, slowly push it down below that same tuning peg hole.
Continue winding to wrap your string around its excess length and prevent it from slipping. Stop the winding once you reach the right pitch for that string.
Keep in mind that while the process is the same, whether you do it manually or with the help of a string winder, the wind direction for each string will differ.
Generally, you need to turn the C and G sets of tuning pegs in a counter-clockwise direction. The A and E should tighten following the clockwise direction.
These string windings keep your strings running up correctly in the ukulele headstock’s center.
Step 7: Repeat From Steps No. 4 to No. 6
Now that you have successfully installed your ukulele’s first string, it’s time to install the second, third, and fourth strings by repeating Steps 4 to 6.
Ensure you install each string in its corresponding peg and bridge knots or slots.
Step 8: Tune Your Ukulele
While we consider the string installation process the most challenging step, tuning the strings to reach the optimal tone is the most exciting!
We suggest you tune your instrument with the help of a tuning machine to avoid any tuning trouble. That said, you can always opt to tune it without a ukulele tuner.
Step 9: Cut Excess String
Once done, the last step is to snip off the excess uke string using a pair of nail clippers or string cutters.
A Ukulele With a New Set of Strings!
Most types of strings today are durable enough to last a few years of use.
Still, you wouldn’t want to be caught in a situation where you need your instrument but can’t use it unless you bring it to someone who knows how to replace the strings.
Master this nine-step process on how to change ukulele strings, and you’ll never have to worry when you have discolored, worn-out, out-of- or hard-to-tune, and frayed strings.
As you use your instrument with fresh strings, you might find it going out of tune, which is expected because the strings are new.
Just re-tune your ukulele each time it happens.