Changing strings for the first time is another hill to climb on the ukulele journey. Ukulele strings get worn and dirty after lots of playing. This makes them hard to tune and hard to play. Eventually, you’ll need to change them.
Adults get dirt, oil and dead skin on ukulele strings. Kids will get all that plus other stuff: whatever food they ate last, boogers, glue — who knows what else.
How often? One pro teacher says every six months. But kids will probably get their strings dirty faster than adults. So let’s say three times a year for kids.
String changing can be a little tricky for kids. The thin strings need to be secured in two places: the bridge at the bottom of the uke, and the tuning post at the top.
Making that first string change is a great short project for parents and kids. There are some important skills involved, such as reasoning, estimating and dexterity — not to mention the value of finishing the job.
Securing the strings
If you bought a uke with a pull-through bridge, like the Aklot or the Donner, securing the string at the bridge is pretty easy. You just have to tie a knot at the end of the string.
But if your uke has the traditional bridge, you have to do a little more.
Here’s why it’s tricky: You need to thread the narrow strings through the narrow holes in the bridge. Then wind a short end back around and tie a knot in the slippery string.
This video from Cordoba Guitars explains ukulele string changing better than anyone can in words, even using a giant size replica of a ukulele bridge.
Take a look and then see the step-by-step breakdown below.
Securing The String At The Bridge
- Tie a knot at one end of the string.
- Run the string through the bridge, with the knotted end sticking out a few inches below the bridge.
- Bring the knotted string end across the bridge.
- Wind the knotted end under the string and create a loop.
- Create a second loop.
- Pull the string tight.
Securing the String At THe Tuning Post
- Pull the string through the tuning post. Let a few inches go through the post, and leave a little slack on the string below the post.
- Make sure the string is inside the slot in the nut (the string guide at the base of the head stock).
- Turn the tuning peg.
- Left on the pegs closest to the ceiling.
- Right on the pegs closest to the floor.
- As the string winds around the peg, you’ll need to create a “lock” that will tighten as the string tightens.
- Guide the leading edge of the string under the string at the post. Then, on the next turn, guide the leading edge over the string. This will lock down the string.
- Keep winding, and when the string tightens, check the pitch with your tuner.
Use a wire cutter to cut excess string length at both ends. Be careful, because you can’t un-cut if you cut too close.
Don’t Forget to stretch them out
New strings will have some slack for a few days and this may cause tuning problems. So make sure you stretch out your new strings.
Tune the strings, then pull on them. If the string returns to tune, you’re good. If not, tune again and stretch until the strings stay in tune after stretching.
After a few days, your strings should “settle.”
Is there a way to ease this process? Yes. Learn how to stretch strings out in your sleep.
Get new strings
Of course, to change strings you’ll need some new strings. Most ukes come with a spare set. Aquila strings are the gold standard, and are included with some beginner ukes. If not, get Aquila strings here.
Want to make string changing even easier?
Try these Ernie Ball ukulele strings. They have ball ends, so you don’t even have to tie a knot at the bridge.
Aquila color coded strings solve another problem: it’s hard to tell which string is which when they are all clear and so close in size. Great for kids learning to restring their ukes. They only come in Soprano size, though.