Table of Contents
Everything About Low G Ukulele Strings
What is a Low-G?
A low-G ukulele string is a slight tuning variation from standard GCEA. It’s a more contemporary sound that’s gaining recognition each day. In this guide, we’ll walk you thru all the things you have to implement a low-G string on your uke.
A low-G is a replacement string that you could put on your ukulele to change the pitch of the G-string down one octave.
Normal re-entrant tuning goes high-low-high, like this.
Changing to a low-G moves the first note down one octave and keeps the strings ascending all through the tuning. That is known as linear tuning.
The pitch you’ll be able to tune each string to has to do with its physical mass. All things being equal, a thicker string could be tuned lower than a thin one.
This is the reason, you need a replacement string so as to tune to low-G.
When you detune a normal high-g string by one octave it is going to be very flabby and sound bad.
However, when you try to tune a low-G string up an octave to a high-g pitch, it’ll most likely break since it will be super tight for its size.
Here are two ukuleles of the same model, one with high-g, and one with low-G:
It’s only a pair hundredth of an inch difference, however, you’ll be able to see that the high-g is smaller in diameter than the low-G.
What is the Difference Between High-G and Low-G?
The primary difference between the high-g and low-G ukulele string sizes is how they sound.
High-g has a more focused, brighter sound as a result of its note range isn’t as large (middle-C is the lowest note). High-g is finest for a more traditional, Tin Pan Alley or Hawaiian rhythm sound or a Campanella picking style.
It keeps the notes in a chord closer together for tighter-sounding voicings. This could create cool piano-like note clusters which actually kick ass when taking part in jazz chords.
Low-G extends the range of the ukulele by 5 notes (G below middle-C is the lowest note). This makes for a warm, full sound and creates a wider range of notes whenever you play any chord.
Having these extra “bass” notes may be helpful for solo fingerpicking arrangements which let you get a more rounded sound when playing by yourself.
To get an idea of what styles and sounds you’ll be able to achieve
- Jake Shimabukuro
- Troy Fernandez
- Del Rey
- Early-era Eddie Kamae
- Brittni Paiva
- Herb Ohta Jr.
Implementing a Low-G String on Your Ukulele
A low-G string simply replaces a high-g. You place it on your ukulele just like every other string, although sometimes you just may use only one wrap within the “tuning knot” on the bridge due to the string’s thickness.
Ukuleles are often set up for a high-g string from the factory since that is the commonest tuning. This means the string will sit properly within the nut at the right height over the fretboard.
However, in case you attempt to put a larger string in a thin nut slot, it won’t be capable to fit. The string will sit up in the slot and rest too high above the fretboard. The playability of your ukulele will suffer and also you’ll push the string further down to make contact with each fret.
To fix this, you need to file the nut slot to an appropriate size for the low-G string.
This can be an easy enough change to make in case you have the skills, but it’s irreversible. So ensure you’re confident before you begin. Otherwise, hire somebody competent to do the job.
You do not often have to adjust the depth of the slot, only the width.
The simplest method to do this is by folding a piece of fine-grit sandpaper a number of times till its width is just like the brand-new string and the edge is nicely rounded.
Then, place the sandpaper file in the nut slot and gently slide it back and forth alongside the length of the slot. Go slowly and check the fitment of the string usually to be sure you don’t sand too much.
Oftentimes wound low-G ukulele strings will fit right into a stock nut slot. This isn’t normally the case for unwound low-G ukulele strings.
Since more and more persons are transitioning to low-G ukulele string, many uke companies are anticipating the usage of both string types and file the nut so that it’s going to accommodate either.
How To Swap High G For Low G
Tuning a Low-G String
Getting the octave right on your low-G string could be a problem when you’re just starting out. You need to ensure you’re tuning the string to the octave it’s intended for – where it’s not floppy, but additionally not too tight. When you try to tune a low-G string to a high-g pitch it’ll most likely break.
For reference, a low-G note is G3: 196hz. A high-g is G4: 392hz. Some tuner apps will tell you which octave you are in addition to the pitch of the string.
Tuning your Uke, Low-G
Low G Ukulele Strings Options
Low-G strings come in two types: wound and unwound ukulele strings.
Wound Low-G Strings
Wound string is created just like you’d think: with a nylon or metal strand in the center and metal winding around it on the outside. Due to this design, wound strings can hold the same tension as an unwound string with a smaller diameter.
Wound low-G technology has improved through the years. At first, these strings have been overly rich-sounding and would sustain far longer than unwound strings.
This gave them a little bit of a bad stigma because the transition to and from a wound low-G would usually be distracting as you played. They also usually would squeak whenever you slide your finger on them.
Thankfully, leaps and bounds have been made in wound low-G production and there are some actually good choices out there nowadays that address both imbalance and squeaking issues.
Unwound Low-G Strings
These low-G strings are generally found as a part of a set and are made from the same materials as the other strings (often a breed of fluorocarbon).
The obvious benefit is that these smooth strings don’t make any noise whenever you move your hand.
The disadvantage is that to create an unwound string that can tune to a low-G pitch at a good tension, you need a larger string diameter. This step-up in size pretty much maxes out the ringing potential of an unwound string.
Therefore the reason most unwound low-G strings sound a bit lifeless and sometimes even muffled. It’s just because the diameter of the string is making a dampening effect on the string vibrations.
New, non-fluorocarbon materials like Aquila Red claim to achieve better tension with a smaller-diameter string, however, they haven’t appeared to have caught on so the jury is still out.
To hear the difference in the wound and unwound low-G strings, listen to Herb Ohta Jr.’s Ukulele Breeze album on which he uses a wound low-G, after which to Ukulele Journey where he switches to an unwound low-G.
To Low-G or Not to Low-G
Before you come to conclusions on whether or not you need to tune your uke with a low-G or high-g, but sure to try both. Seems obvious, but a lot of people latch onto one stigma or another and take whatever they read somewhere as gospel, avoiding that other string. At all times attempt to keep away from this and form your own opinions.
In case you mainly strum your ukulele, the difference between the 2 strings won’t – from a technical standpoint – be very noticeable. You’ll be able to strum the same way with a high-g or low-G and never have to change something about your playing. Simply answer the question: does my uke sound better with a high, tighter sound or a lower, deep one? Then string up accordingly.
However, in case you spend lots of time picking single notes or playing solo arrangements, you’ll have to rearrange your fretting patterns when switching from high-g to low-G – or vice versa. That is simply a matter of finding out the intricacies of the tuning matrix and discovering other ways to play the same notes.
A unique compromise to this dilemma is a 5-string ukulele. These instruments normally have a coursed G-string which uses both low and high-g for a full, octave sound. The issue is that these strings are positioned very close to each other and possibly canʻt be plucked separately.
Is the LOW G STRING right for me?
Low-G Wound Strings on the Market
Thomastik – Infeld CF27 & CF30
Made in Vienna, Austria, these strings are perfect. They balance fabulously with fluorocarbon and are flat-wound to scale back noise from hand shifts. Diameters: .027″ and .030″ (.035″ also out there).
Fremont’s are pure fluorocarbon strings made in Japan. It is a more expensive material than common nylon and can also be used by the Worth company. Many people like these strings and you could find forum threads etc if you wish to see suggestions. It’s always only opinions.
Most people that try these strings love them, and for good reason. They’re very high-quality strings with easy tension and an articulate voice.
Classical Guitar D – Strings
Any string used as a nylon classical guitar 4th, D-string may also be used as a ukulele low-G. Though not particularly designed for it, they are going to serve the purpose wonderfully. Options abound!
This covers all of the old-design low-g strings that, in my view, are inferior to other choices. These are normally round wounds (which implies squeaks) and don’t balance very nicely with other strings in a set – even though they often come as a part of a set. If you need a powerful low-G sound this could be a great choice, but most people discover them overpowering.
Low-G Unwound Strings on the Market
This special harp string is the proper compromise for my playing. It has enough tension to feel tight, however, is still small enough that it avoids some of the large-diameter dampening effects. The gauge is available in two lengths: the KF95 is 1 meter long, and the KF95A is 2 meters. Though the string material itself is precisely the same, I choose to get the latter which is long enough for 3 low-Gs and finally ends up being cheaper.
One of the “weirdest” strings to appear in the marketplace, possibly ever. This one is made from a proprietary material that feels and appears like hardened Sculpey clay. It additionally supposedly has a higher density that allows for a smaller diameter string.
This lets it ring more naturally. My impression is optimistic, but I don’t really feel just like the technology has matured enough to be a reliable choice just yet. The strings are delicate and have to be installed just so as to avoid breakages.
Generic Unwound Strings
The unwound low-G string that comes with sets from the likes of Worth, Living Water, Oasis, Fremont, and others are all very related in my experience. Theoretically, they sound good. Implementation is a trade-off between tension and over-dampening.
I discover that almost all of those options fall on the floppy side with low tensions. That is nice but could make for an unmatched (and unideal) feeling set. The exception is the monster Worth LGEX which is heavy enough to reel in an ‘ahi but additionally sounds like a shoelace.
I hope this answered a few of your questions. I suppose that the real kicker right here is that every ukulele is totally different and can respond and sound differently to totally different materials, strings, and playing styles.
The only time all of them sound the same is if you get pissed off and hit them with a hammer but that may be a short time period solution and there’s a lot more fun to be had by buying and trying new strings and coming to your personal conclusion.