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Ukulele Strings have come a long way in the last several decades.  It wasn’t that many years ago that when it came to “treble” or non-wound string material, the centuries old option of gut, or the “modern” option of the original DuPont nylon were all there were.   “All treble” or “all plain” material sets have been the overwhelming choice for traditional ukulele stringing.  Over the last few decades, more and more formulations have become available.  The options with plain material are better now than ever before.  These new formulae give sounds from soft to bright, and their different densities open new possibilities for selecting tensions.  With wound strings there has been progress as well.  New construction techniques have allowed tremendously reduced hand noise in some wound material, but most of these developments have fallen short in regards to tone, or have focused on applications better suited to the guitar rather than the Ukulele.  We’ve gone beyond what anyone else seems inclined to do, and that is assemble all our sets in a way that gives better balance in tone, tension and feel.  With wound material, since guitar strings have all failed in one respect or another, we’re now taking a good portion of the processing in house to produce wound strings that are truly suited for the Ukulele.  Mixed Material Sets   Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your strings could have more or less the same tension across the board, produce the same volume and vibrato and even have a fairly even size?  Most all Ukulele sets follow the old practice of building plain sets with different gauges of a single material, or wound sets with a single plain formula coupled with a single wound design.  This sort of practice means less inventory and management for the supplier, and this simpler system should lead to cheaper set prices as well.  But if you’re looking to play the best possible set of strings, this sort of compromise is not for you.  While orchestral strings, in contrast, are much pricier than guitar and Ukulele strings, it’s because they are generally built from strings that are individually formulated for a blending of tone.  With a single material set, the heavier gauges are always lacking response compared to thinner material.  With the orchestral, or mixed material approach, denser material is used for the low notes and less dense for the high notes.  This gives much more even response in tone.  A side benefit is that this also tends to even out the gauges used, so that the diameters are more even from string to string - you get improved feel.  Then we also optimize these selections for tensions, again partly for feel, but also to give your notes equal emphasis.   Thus the criteria for Southcoast string selection.  Almost no guitar sets and no Ukulele sets at all are built in this fashion.  But we feel the Ukulele deserves a premium option.  After all, in one sense what you play are your strings, not your instrument.  Appropriate strings turn an average instrument into a thing of beauty, and let a finely built design reach its true potential. Southcoast Plain Strings  As indicated above, our plain sets, and even the plain strings used in wound string sets are individually selected for balance in tone and feel.  A plain string set, as a result will often have four strings made of four different formulae.  How does this all work?  Learn more from this archived Tips letter. Southcoast Wound Strings  Wound strings were designed centuries ago to produce better response for low notes, and for good reason.  As plain strings increase in size they diminish in response, and at some point, a wound string is not just a choice, but a necessity.  And properly executed, there is no more beautifully sonorous tone than that produced by a fine wound string.  These combinations of wound and plain material made up the first “Mixed Material” sets, and are still the most common form of mixture today.     Still, we understand the reluctance of ukulele players to play wound strings, as they are not traditional with the older small models.  We agree their use is seldom appropriate on those instruments.  Their true environment is on the larger instruments, yet they are almost universally misused when applied to those circumstances.  Hear them as they should be, formulated from high grade materials and integrated properly into a string set, and your opinion of them will almost certainly change. We are pleased to offer unique options in wound materials.  They lack the overly metallic sound of less expensive strings and with our new Version 1.5 formulae, noise under hand is now practically non-existent while durability has increased as well. Most of our wound string sets feature a pair of wound strings in the 3rd and 4th position, coupled with treble material for strings 1 & 2.  Standard practice for 4-string sets has been to offer only one wound string - the 4th string.  The way this is normally seen - with a guitar string - is such a bad way to use wound strings on a 4-string instrument that it is in large part responsible for the poor reputation of wound string sets in general. The diameters generally used in a normal gauge string set produce such a difference in tone between a typical wound 4th - with it’s power, sustain and clarity - and the thick treble third string - in comparison, dull with little sustain - that the whole set is out of balance, and the wound guitar 4th string sounds like a droning duck out of water.  Using wound strings for both the 3rd & 4th strings means the transition from wound to treble occurs between the 3rd & 2nd strings.  As the 2nd string is much thinner and livelier, the transition is smoother and the whole set becomes balanced.  We’re not sure why it’s not done universally, except that it is more expensive.  The exceptions to this protocol come with our lighter gauge sets.  Our Light & Light Medium Gauge Linear sets serve as examples.  When the gauges become light enough, the 4-3 transition, in effect, almost becomes a 3-2.  At that point, a single wound string can function well, though not with the mass of a guitar string.  Our single wound 4ths are relatively thin compared to a guitar string, made from an alloy that produces a mellow sound, and then strung on a high density core to keep the mass down.  The result - when coupled with our brightest plain 3rds - are strings that transition well and don’t overpower their other string mates.     Our wound string formulae are unique, in that they now all give practically noiseless performance under hand with tone uniquely suited to the Ukulele.  We continue the mixed material approach with our wound strings, and with certain aspects of the finishing process in house, we have even greater capabilities to produce balanced tone and tension in our wound sets.  


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