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Thread: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

  1. #1
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    Default GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Like many members of this forum I have experimented a great deal with strings looking for the "holy grail" of tone, play-ability and enough volume for playing with others. The abundance of reasonably priced, good quality Baritone Ukes with the 20" scale, which is amenable to the stretches required with a 5th tuned instrument, is an attractive platform. Nylon is warm, easy to play, easy on the fingers but generally lacks the volume of steel. And I must admit for session play and in general I prefer the sound of steel. There are two problems that I ran into when trying to adapt steel to the Baritone Uke. The first was to keep the total lbs of tension low enough for the top/bridge/neck of the Baritone Uke. They are designed for around 48 to 60 lbs of tension, while a tenor guitar might handle 80 to say 98 lbs or more tension. So to get lower tension we increase string gauge and things get floppy. The second problem is intonation. The steel strings generally need more compensation in the setup of the saddle/scale length.

    I found a solution to all this a couple of years ago and want to share it.

    Th solution came in trying out Thomastik-Infeld Classic S Series steel strings. Here is their description: Thomastik-Infeld S Series KF110 - A very unique string for classical guitars. The Classic S Precision are ball-end, soft steel strings with polished winding. Strings E, A, d, g, b are chrome steel flat wound on a highly flexible steel core,

    The soft steel core keep tensions very low. About 15 lbs per string. This keeps the overall tension within the design limits of the Baritone Uke. They also "give" more when fretted, relieving the intonation issue. They are also the best feeling strings I have ever played. They feel like butter. They are flat wound in stainless or nickel (depending on the string) and are highly polished. Folks these are expensive strings, around $5 each. But do not despair as they last and last and last, many times longer than the higher tension run of the mill steel strings and are worth every penny.

    Now on to the setups for Baritone Uke with the 20 inch scale. I give the string, then the string nomenclature.

    GDAE

    G KF38 .038
    D KF31 .031
    A KF24 .024
    E KF14 .014

    I also keep a Baritone set up in DGBE

    D KF31
    G KF24
    B KF18
    E KF14

    Here is a link that will take you to a place that sells these strings individually (I have no affiliation with this company, they give excellent service).

    https://www.stringsbymail.com/classi...-87/kf110-441/

    I hope this helps folks enjoy their instruments as much as I have mine now that I have finally found the "holy grail".

    Tom

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  3. #2
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Sounds great Tom, I have never tried them, what about the G string, is there a heavier option? Or do you think a 38 is the right choice?
    Last edited by fox; Jan-28-2020 at 2:53pm.

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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Fox,
    You are having the same initial reaction to the .038 wound string for the G that I did. I thought it would be too light, having been conditioned by 80/20 bronze strings on 6 strings. But it works just fine. In Thomastick-Infeld's set the KF38 is used on the E string of classical guitars!!! And it sounds lovely. Amazingly the KF14, .014 is a wound string. It is so highly polished you have to look closely to see it is indeed a wound string. On a full scale length classical it is the B string, I use it as the E string on the shorter 20 inch scale Baritone. Basically due to the shorter scale length of the Baritone Uke we are stepping each of these steel classical guitar strings up the scale and they retain about the same tension. I believe you already know all this as your posts indicate you have a deep knowledge on strings and string tension. I built a string tension calculator on Excell a number of years ago to help in experimenting with various strings and scale length for the Baritones Ukes I build for my use.

    Try out these Thomastick-Infeld strings. They are the best I have found for the instruments we use. I have a set on my Pono UL4-20 and they make the bass rich and full, the trebles bell-like. They have been on there a year and I play that one quite a bit.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    John Pearse Strings has a set which they worked with Thomastik to make a set that would give a classical guitar a more steel-string like sound. Sounds like these are the same strings. I had a rare old guitar strung with them and it sounded quite nice.
    Jim

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    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    I just ordered 2 sets plus a set of their rope core. Thanks for the tip

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    Registered User john bange's Avatar
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    I've been using the Thomastik-Infeld wound nylon tape strings in my Chicago tuned tenor guitar. They have enough tension to drive the top and give lots of volume. I use the .024 and .016 for my B and E along with silk and steel wound strings. I would be hesitant to put the T-I's on my baritone ukes because of the higher tension. Strings by Mail is great to work with. I get the singles from them.
    Martin 0-18t tenor guitar
    Martin baritone uke
    Sonny D baritone uke
    Favilla baritone uke
    Outdoor tenor uke
    Kerry Bannister baritone uke
    Hoyt 10" baritone 5 string banjo/uke GDGBE

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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    John,

    The woven steel "rope core" Thomastick-Infeld stings that you refer to do in fact reduce tension by about 1 1/2 lbs per string vs the KF110 strings I use. So total might be in the range of 58lbs of tension on the top for those strings and about 64-65 lbs for the strings I use. Some custom Ukes with thin tops might be sensitive to 64-65 lbs, and users must exercise judgement. Some nylon string setups are only in the 48 -54 lb range. The KF110 strings are on the higher end of what most ukes can tolerate. They do drive the top and can really sing. If I had a really nice Martin or a really nice custom uke I might hesitate to use these strings. But for most factory, good quality ukes I would not hesitate. You make a very good point and provide a nice alternative setup. What gauge silk and steel strings do you use for the D and G strings, I am curious because those are a higher tension strings, at least as specified for a standard classical guitar setup.
    Last edited by Granger; Jan-29-2020 at 12:35pm. Reason: add info/clarify

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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Jim,

    I have looked at all of the John Pearse strings and don't think they are the same. They don't seem to be flat wound nickel on mild steel cores., Unless of course I have not found the ones you are referring to in my digging about. Do you perhaps know the model number?? I am always looking to test strings.

  11. #9
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Hi Tom, do you know the actual string tensions of the strings in question?
    I have also ordered a set to try out but in the mean time I have been searching for more info, I can’t find any string tension figures but I assume they must be similar to a standard classical set?
    If you use an online calculator based on a standard baritone set you get less than 50lb total tension although I doubt if going upto 60 would cause any issues.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Fox,
    The string tension calculator that I use requires a value called the Unit Weight which I get from a D'Addario technical catalog. Since I don't have the unit weights for Thomastick-Infeld strings I used their specified tensions for classical guitar and arrived at the appropriate string tensions for Baritone Ukulele by the following thought experiment: First the specified tension for a 25.6 inch scale classical guitar are: E string KF38=14.7 lbs; A string KF31=15.8 lbs; D string KF24=15.8 lbs;G KF18=15.8 lbs; B String KF14=16.3 lbs. As will be seen the high e string will not be useful to us. Also note how nice a job Thomastick did in balance the string tensions in their design!

    Now we take our 25.6 inch scale classical guitar tuned up with these strings and we decide to tune the low E string down one full step to D. This will cause the string tension to drop about one pound from 14.7 lbs to 13.7 lbs and still sound good. We decide to tune the D string up one full step to E, causing the string tension to gain about one pound going from 15.8 to 16.8 lbs. Now we measure up from the saddle 20 inches and place a capo on the instrument. This is at the 5th fret and the instrument with open strings now plays G,D,A,C,E. The string tension did not change appreciably with the application of the capo. We now have replicated the 20 inch Baritone scale length and can readily see the strings that are useful for the GDAE tuning that we desire. We also know that the total tension will be right around 63 lbs.

    Tom

  13. #11

    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Quote Originally Posted by Granger View Post
    Jim,

    I have looked at all of the John Pearse strings and don't think they are the same. They don't seem to be flat wound nickel on mild steel cores., Unless of course I have not found the ones you are referring to in my digging about. Do you perhaps know the model number?? I am always looking to test strings.
    Thomastik-John Pearse® Guitar Strings

    "Now! The strings that established John's international reputation back in the 70's--the THOMASTIK- JOHN PEARSE® SET. A revolutionary departure from a "traditional" classical string construction, every string is wound, even the first! Made like a fine violin string, the trebles are a braided metal rope core wound on with a flat nylon monofilament, while the basses are a perlon floss core wound on with a silverplated bell bronze wire. For many years, the preferred strings of the top Brazilian guitarists, the THOMASTIK- JOHN PEARSE® set gives unbelievable clarity, projection and volume--almost like a steel string--with no more tension on the guitar than a traditionally made firm tension CLASSICAL set. TOTALLY UNIQUE!"

    https://www.jpstrings.com/brstring.htm

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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Huck,
    They do seem to be a different string design than the KF110 Thomastik-Infeld, but a very interesting design indeed.
    Thank you, I wonder what the tensions are on those? They seem like they would be excellent to try on a Bari Uke and I must get some and try them.

    Tom

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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    my tenor guitar "custom" set uses .028 and .023 silk and steel D and G strings. It's an 0-18t Martin and braced for steel so I'm sure I'm under-powering it but I like the sound. I might try the thomastik-Infeld's on my Kanile'a but not the Martin of Favilla
    Martin 0-18t tenor guitar
    Martin baritone uke
    Sonny D baritone uke
    Favilla baritone uke
    Outdoor tenor uke
    Kerry Bannister baritone uke
    Hoyt 10" baritone 5 string banjo/uke GDGBE

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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    I ran Toms suggested string choice through my tension measuring device and got this ...
    14 = 17.2lb
    .24 = 20.90
    .31 = 16.93
    .38 = 12.5lb
    Total around 67lb

    I think 10 18 31 38 might be a better bet for my own baritone but I have not actually tried them out as yet... pretty tempted to try them on my Yamaha classical first!

    Like I say I have not tried them but on paper I think the .38 is a weak link in the set but
    the total tension of 10 18 31 38 should be very close to a standard D'Addario baritone set which is ...
    E4 .028" Nylon .10.11
    B3 .034" Nylon .8.25
    D3 .030" NylW .19.7
    G3 .035" NyW . 18.44
    Total 56.5
    Click image for larger version. 

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  17. #15
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Well I put the strings on my Yamaha six string, certainly a different experience!
    Beautifully made strings that really ring out and look great but... it just changes the guitar into something completely different.
    To start with the feel is so weird especially the high E as we have gone from .28 to .10 and it is now also the loudest string, so whatever you play sounds completely different than it did with nylon.
    It is certainly entertaining but basically you are transforming a classical guitar into an steel string acoustic!

  18. #16
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    I just put a set (kr116) onto my €3:50 nylon 23” GDAE. I had a set of daddario folk nylons on it. With the kr116’s the sound is different alright! I used the G .025 for my A but it is too loud for most chords, so I swapped it for the B .024 which then sounded terrible (probably too slack) so I swapped them back. I prefer the sound of the nylon wounds over the kr116’s for the G & D. Prefer the kr116’s for the top A & E over the plain nylons only for flat picking tunes. For chording with songs & tunes the nylons are far superior for both sound & dynamics. I also bought a couple of sets of kf110 so I might give them a go tomorrow

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    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Last night I changed the kr 116 (rope core) to the kf110 (steel core) on my cheap (€3:50) 3/4 nylon 23”scale converted to tenor GDAE. They are louder & brighter than kr116’s but have a ringing quality that I don’t like. Maybe on an instrument or scale better suited to them they could sound really good! I’m interested to hear what Fox has to say about them especially how he finds the intonation as this cheapie of mine hasn’t the best intonation to start with.
    I did however take the .024 or B from the kr116 which is the rope core nylon tape wound put it onto the E on my 17” scale f hole tenor ukulele. The tape wound E blends in beautifully with the silver wound Hannabach nylons taken from a 1/8th guitar set. Sounds great but a wholly expensive grail.

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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Well I did try the strings on my 20” Harmony ukulele, I used the 10 the 18 the 31 and the 38 but I am not over keen on the effect, the 10 is much louder that the other strings and the 38 is to weak .
    I did not try the 14 or 24 as I would not be happy with the tension on my particular instrument.
    To be honest I find that standard nylon works really well as long as you use the correct strings although the weak link is the plain E .
    .28 p 24w 36w and 50w string sound great, are cheap and long lasting. The .24w is the one that can break but generally long lasting.
    However the Thomastik strings are very interesting, the wound strings make a nice sound and would probably work much better tuned in standard baritone fourths tuning.
    I would think they would be worth trying on a 23” scale tenor guitar tuned DGBE. If you fancy something different.
    Of course if the strings were made in a wider choice of sizes they would be far more suitable for GDAE.

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    So I changed the .10 E string to the .14 in fact I would say it sounds better as the string is not so high pitched but it does feel tight under the fingers.
    With that format we have approximately 14 = 17lb .18 = 12lb .31 = 17lb .38 = 12.5lb

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    Registered User Christine Robins's Avatar
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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    I tried the TIs in Granger's recommended gauges on my Pono MB model bari, and I love the result. Nice crisp and loud but balanced sound, much more guitar-ish. Great for finderpicking, strumming, or single-note playing. Both bare fingers and a flatpick sound fine. So it's now a short-scale tenor guitar.

    I'm tempted to put the TIs on my Favilla (19" scale, age unk.), but John Bange warned:

    " I might try the Thomastik-Infeld's on my Kanile'a but not the Martin or Favilla."

    John, or anybody else, why not? Are vintage bari's more delicately made than modern ones?

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    Default Re: GDAE steel string Baritone ukulele

    Christine, most baritone ukuleles are designed to use quite low tension strings around 50lb those thomasik strings are way over that!
    My test show 67lb total!
    It is quite easy and cheap to set up a baritone ukulele with steel strings if that is the sound you would like , and still stay within safe levels.
    In steel you can try 11 16 26w 38w (tenor banjo set) and that will only be around 50lb total.
    However in my mind ukuleles are designed for nylon strings, they have the correct type of bracing and bridge placement for nylon and they sound best with nylon... just my own view of course

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