Tuning the ukulele in GDAE

The ukulele is usually tuned to gCEA (standard) or aDF#B (D tuning), with its infamous reentrant tuning. That is, the strings don’t go in order from low to high. They go high to low between the fourth and third strings, and then go up again for the rest of the strings. I’m not a fan of strumming and playing accompaniment, so after trying this tuning for a while it became very limiting to me.

Soprano ukuleles typically have between 12-15 frets, and with the standard tuning that’s a very narrow range. That’s one octave and a 6th (C4 to A5) for 12 frets, and two octaves (C4 to C6) for 15 frets. Instruments with 17 frets also exist, but that’s still just a whole tone more than 15 frets (C4 to D6). With such a narrow range I have to move around the neck all the time to play anything that spans more than one octave.

A common solution to the range problem is to change the high G string for a low G string. That’ll increase the range of the instrument from one octave and a 6th to two octaves and a whole tone (G3 to A5) on a ukulele with 12 frets. But adding a low G string only adds a small amount of low end, and it doesn’t solve the problem of moving around the neck. So I started to look for alternatives. That’s when the GDAE tuning came to mind. On top of already being familiar with the tuning since I play both violin and mandolin, it solves both problems I had.

The range is increased to two octaves and a 6th (G3 to E6) for 12 frets, and three octaves (G3 to G6) for 15 frets. With just 12 frets we already have a much wider range than a ukulele with 17 frets in standard tuning. This also means I have to move less around the neck. After much research and experimentation, I ended up making a set of strings that I’m satisfied with.

Ukuleles used

My first ukulele was the Mahalo UK-220. It’s a very cheap soprano ukulele made in China. The UK-220 is made of mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard fitted with 12 brass frets. Its scale length is 346mm. The bridge and neck is made of nato. The nut and saddle is made of ABS plastic.

Photo of the Mahalo UK-220 Ukulele
The Mahalo UK-220, from paprica music

Despite being very cheap, it sounds decent. The tuners got updated to open gears tuners in later models, but mine came with friction tuners and it had some trouble keeping the low G and the high E string in tune. I also had to file down both the nut and the bridge to fit a low G string. The bridge came off after a few days of tuning it to GDAE.

After the UK-220 broke I bought another ukulele specifically to tune to GDAE: the Enya Nova U Mini. It’s made entirely of carbon fiber & polycarbonate, even the frets. It has 17 frets and its scale length is 348mm. Due to its material and type of bridge, its really hard to damage the instrument with tuning experiments. At the same time, the frets get damaged by strings really fast, especially if they’re metal wound.

Photo of the Enya Nova U Mini Ukulele
The Enya Nova U Mini, from Amazon

For a carbon fiber ukulele this cheap it sounds really good. The open geared tuners works really well and they have no problem keeping strings in tune after they become stable. The nut and bridge holes didn’t require any filing to fit a low G string. The only problem I had was that some of the thinner E strings kept slipping out of the bridge holes, requiring me to use different knots.

Strings I’m using

I’m currently using a mixed set of strings. My objective was to have a balanced set of strings with decent sustain and projection, while having about the same tension between strings. They have a bright sound in the first position and gradually go darker in higher positions, but they don’t sound dull or muffled. Here’s what I’m using right now:

E Sunline #6 Ester N/A 0.405 0.0159
A Worth Strings CL A 0.49 0.0192
D Aquila Red 84U E 0.75 0.0295
G Aquila Red 70U G 1.01 0.0397

And here’s how they sound:

Ishihara · Final Fantasy IV - Welcome To Our Town

The E string is a black polyester fishing line. It has a bright sound, which goes well with my other strings. It’s a bit tense, losing some amount of sustain (especially on higher notes). Japanese fishing lines follow a number system and I tested lines from number 5 to 7. The #5 (0.37mm) was a little loose, with some amount of fret buzz. The #7 (0.435mm) is too tense and can break or damage the ukulele. The #6 is also a bit tense, but there’s no fishing line in between 5 and 6 so I went with the #6.

The A string is the A string from Worth Strings CL set, which is their light gauge set. The normal gauge string is on the tense side, and it sounds dull on higher positions.

The D string is the E string from Aquila Red 84U tuned down to D. It’s a little loose, but tuning the C string up to D results in a string that’s too tense. Another option would be to use the E string from the concert or tenor set. It’s thicker than the soprano, but still thinner than the C string from the 84U.

The G string is the unwound G string from Aquila Red (70U). It was the only string I found that didn’t sound tubby or buzzy and has the exact right amount of tension. It sounds good in every position.

Every diameter above was measured by a caliper. It’s hard to find accurate information about Aquila Reds and I wanted to double check. The Worth Strings A string is not correct, so the information above is not what you’ll find online or on the package. The fishing line was very precise.

Problems with GDAE

The only set of strings available for this tuning is the Aquila New Nylgut 30U (aka AQ-30), which is not exactly easy to find everywhere. And the 30U’s E string is famous for breaking often and this string is not sold separately. If you can’t buy the Aquila strings or don’t like them for some reason, the only alternative is making your own set. Making a balanced set of strings can be complicated and cost a lot of money.

The sound might not be what you’re expecting and can be disappointing. The soprano is too small to have a decent bass and not all low G strings sounds good. The D string can be tense or loose depending on the string and won’t sound right. The high E string might sound like a toy, with very little sustain and projection. In fact, expect any string to sound dull from the 7th fret onwards.

You may need to adjust the way you tune the E string depending on its material and tension. They can be fragile especially when they’re fresh. Don’t try to bring them up to pitch as soon as you put them on the instrument or they might break. It’s good practice to let them rest for a day at a lower pitch (around three semitones) before bringing them up to E. That’s usually the case for gut and nylgut strings, and fluorocarbon to some degree.

If you’re coming from standard tuning you have to make sure your instrument can use a low G string. Not all ukuleles are made with a low G in mind. The string won’t fit the nut and/or the bridge of the instrument because they were made to fit a much thinner string. You’ll have to either file down the nut/bridge yourself or pay a professional to do it for you.

Depending on the bridge type of your ukulele, you might have some problems with the E string. Thinner strings can easily slip out of some bridges after adding some tension. This can be solved by making a bigger knot or attaching a bead to the string.

Another issue is that your instrument might not be able to take the additional tension from the tuning. Unfortunately, this is not something you can know in advance, so proceed with caution. The additional tension can pull the bridge right off, warp the top, or break the neck. You’ll know it couldn’t take it if it breaks. The bridge of my Mahalo came off after a few days with the GDAE tuning.

For comparison’s sake, the New Nylgut set for the standard gCEA tuning has 14.02Kg of tension. The same set with a wound low G string has 14.12Kg of tension. The GDAE set has 14.85Kg of tension. The Aquila set should be pretty safe to use in most if not all ukuleles, but be careful when making your own set.

Solutions for GDAE

You could buy the Aquila set and call it a day. If that’s not an option or you don’t like the set for some reason, the only option is making your own set. The easiest and cheapest solution is to buy a standard tuning set with a low G and use a fishing line for the E string. For the D string you can tune the C string up, or tune the E string down.

To keep tension balanced you should use a C string with a lighter gauge if tuning up, or an E string with a heavier gauge if tuning down. If you don’t want to buy two sets just for a single string you could try the following: light gauge gCEA set and a separate low G, or an aDF#B set and a separate low G. For the light gauge gCEA set, tune the C up to D, and tune the high G up to an A if the A is too light for you. For the aDF#B set, you can use the A and D strings as is.

For the E string, you have to match the material of your other strings for a balanced sound. Different materials have different densities, so you need strings with different gauges depending on what you want. To have a baseline, we can take a look at what Aquila is using for their E string and use their handy string gauge converter. Aquila is using a 0.42mm (0.017in) string made of New Nylgut. For nylon strings you should buy a 0.46mm (0.018in) line, and for fluorocarbon you should buy a 0.36mm (0.014in) line. If you can’t find something with this exact diameter, start with a slightly thinner line.

If you want to try other materials of fishing line (like polyester, Dacron, Spectra, Dyneema, etc), it’s a good idea to research the density of the material first. If they’re lighter than what you’re using, go for a slightly thicker string. If they’re denser, use a slightly thinner string. Feel free to contact the manufacturer to ask questions about the material if you can’t find information about it.

Now, that should be enough information for you to try making a set of GDAE strings. If you’re curious about how I reached the current set of strings and what strings I’ve tested, keep reading.

How strings work

Without getting too much into physics, what affects the frequency of the sound produced by a string is: length, tension, and linear density (mass per unit length). Basically, the shorter the string, the higher the frequency. The higher the tension, the higher the frequency. And the lighter the string, the higher the frequency.

Soprano ukuleles have a scale length of around 35cm. Scale length is the distance between the bridge and the nut of the instrument. That’s the length a string has to vibrate. For this reason it’s also known as vibrating string length. While this can vary between instruments, it doesn’t change within the same instrument. All strings have the same length to vibrate. It’s by changing the mass and tension of strings that manufacturers change their frequency for a specific instrument.

That being said, what happens when you put the same string on an instrument with a different scale length? If you want to keep the same pitch and the instrument is longer, the string will have more tension. If the instrument is shorter, it’ll have less tension. If you want to keep the same tension and the instrument is longer, the string will produce a lower pitch. If the instrument is shorter, it’ll produce a higher pitch.

What if you want to change the tension and keep the pitch of a string on an instrument? If you want less tension, get a lighter string. They have less mass and need less tension to produce the same pitch. If you want more tension, get a heavier string. They have more mass and need more tension to produce the same pitch.

While usually lighter = thinner, and heavier = thicker, that’s not always the case. Wound strings add more mass while reducing thickness, and different materials have different densities, so this can be misleading. A wound Aquila Red low G string has a diameter of around 0.71mm, and an unwound Red has a diameter of around 0.96mm. Their Red C string has a diameter of 0.81mm, and the Nylgut C string has a diameter of 0.95mm. The Reds are denser than the Nylguts, so they’re thinner.

In order from lightest to heaviest material, you have: nylon, old nylgut, new nylgut/gut, Aquila reds, fluorocarbon. You can find a string gauge converter on Aquila’s website. Basically, the lighter the material is, the thicker it needs to be to achieve the same frequency.

Using strings from other sets

Let’s see those principles in action when working with strings made for the ukulele, since this is what you’ll be using for most of the set. First, let’s take a look at the G string. As I said before, you can just buy a low G from a set or buy them separately, but that’s not always an option. For example, D’Addario doesn’t have a low G for their soprano ukuleles.

In this case, you can buy a G string made from the same material as your other strings from another manufacturer. Or you can use a string from a bigger sized ukulele. Let’s take a look at a few set of strings to see why this works. The table below gives us the diameter of strings in inches.

SET 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Worth Strings CM 0.0205 0.0260 0.0291 0.0224
Worth Strings CF 0.0244 0.0291 0.0319 0.0260
Worth Strings C-LG 0 0 0 0.0358
Worth Strings C-LGEX 0 0 0 0.0433
D’Addario EJ99SC 0.0205 0.0260 0.0319 0.0224
D’Addario EJ99TLG 0.0205 0.0260 0.0319 0.0413
D’Addario EJ99B 0.0244 0.0319 0.0413 0.0350

We have the medium (CM) and fat (CF) sets from Worth Strings, followed by the single low G string in its regular (C-LG) and fat (C-LGEX) variants for soprano ukulele. From D’Addario we have the Pro-Arté Carbon ukulele strings for soprano/concert (EJ99SC), tenor low G (EJ99TLG) and baritone (D’Addario EJ99B) ukuleles. All strings are made of clear fluorocarbon, with one exception: D’Addario uses a wound Nylon Core low D string for the baritone ukulele.

Let’s compare the soprano/concert D’Addario set with Worth Strings medium set. The A string is 0.0205in for both, the E string is 0.0260in for both, and the high G string is 0.0224in for both. The only difference is the C string. D’Addario uses a thicker C string (0.0319), which is equivalent to what Worth Strings has in their fat set. Since those sets are made of the same material, we know that those strings are going to have the same tension when tuned to the same pitch. And the C string on the D’Addario soprano/concert set is going to have a higher tension because it’s thicker.

Then let’s compare the low G strings. D’Addario uses the same string for both the tenor and the baritone ukuleles. They’re both 0.0413in thick. The difference is the tension: 10.53lbs for the tenor and 12.38lbs for the baritone. Remember that putting the same string tuned at the same pitch on a longer instrument will make it more tense. If the instrument is shorter, the string will be less tense.

Now, if we compare this G string to Worth Strings low Gs, we can see that its thickness is in between their regular and fat variants. Worth Strings regular low G is 0.0358in, D’Addario low G is 0.0413in, and Worth Strings fat low G is 0.0433in. So now we know that using a D’Addario low G string from a bigger set will work, and it’ll be heavier than Worth Strings’ regular low G.

Another alternative for the G string is to use the baritone ukulele low D string or use a guitar D string. Both options work, although the tension might not be ideal.

For the D string, let’s go back and see what I said for a regular gCEA set: use a C string with a lighter gauge if tuning up, or an E string with a heavier gauge if tuning down. Or you can use an aDF#B set. If you aren’t satisfied with it, you can try using a string from a bigger ukulele, as seen above. Go for something that has a diameter between the soprano’s C and E strings and it should work just fine.

For the A string, you can use the A string as is, tune the high G string up to A, or tune the B string from an aDF#B set down to A. Or you can also use a string from a bigger ukulele if you’re not satisfied with the options available.

Using fishing lines

Now, the world of fishing lines is too big for me to cover in this article, but there are basically two types of fishing lines: monofilament and braided. Monofilament lines are made of a single material (one filament), but this term is typically used interchangeably with nylon lines and some people consider fluorocarbon lines as a separate category. Braided (also known as microfilament, multifilament or PE) lines are fused or braided strands of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene and they aren’t really suitable for instruments. There’s also copolymer or hybrid lines, which are a single strand of a blend of complementary resins or different materials. I didn’t test any hybrid lines so I won’t comment on them.

When buying fishing lines, you only need to pay attention to what material it’s made of and the diameter of the line. Some brands won’t show the line diameter in the package, so feel free to ignore those unless you can find an accurate measurement somewhere. Another thing to ignore is the strength of the line since they’re all over the place between lines. For an example, let’s compare some nylon lines and see how close they can get to 0.46mm (0.018in) for a set of strings:

Berkley Trilene XL 25 0.45 0.018
Berkley Trilene Big Game 20 0.46 0.018
Ande Premium Monofilament 20 0.45 0.018
Berkley Vanish 20 0.41 0.016
Stren Original 20 0.46 0.018
Sufix Superior 20 0.46 0.018
Momoi High-Catch 20 0.40 0.016
Maxima Ultragreen 20 0.43 0.017

You can clearly see how the Berkley Trilene XL is stronger than the Berkley Trilene Big Game even though it’s thinner. And lines like the Berkley Vanish, the Momoi High-Catch and the Maxima Ultragreen are thinner than what we need even though they’re rated with the same line strength.

Now, let’s go back to what I’ve said about E strings: Aquila is using a 0.42mm (0.017in) string made of New Nylgut. For nylon strings you should buy a 0.46mm (0.018in) line, and for fluorocarbon you should buy a 0.36mm (0.014in) line. If you can’t find something with this exact diameter, go for a slightly thinner line.

Another thing you are more than welcome to do is to make your entire set of strings out of fishing lines. If you want to go down this path, I highly recommend you to pay attention to the diameter of strings used in other sets. You can take a look at the Aquila’s New Nylgut page to see their strings measurements and use this as a reference. You can also find the same information below:

E 0.42 3.91 0.0170 8.62
A 0.62 3.80 0.0240 8.37
D 0.88 3.41 0.0350 7.51
G 0.70 3.73 0.0280 8.23

Diameter and gauge are basically the same thing. Gauge refers to the thickness of a string or wire. Both terms show up here because that’s what Aquila’s page had. Combine this information with the string gauge converter and measurements from other string sets when making your own set with fishing lines.

Strings tested

I’ve tested regular tuning sets, individual low G strings, and aDF#B sets. I’ll also list the fishing lines I’ve tested, although bear in mind I’m in Japan and the brands I have here might not be available where you live. I also can’t find several brands from other countries here, and in fact I felt my selection was quite limited.

D’Addario Clear Nylon EJ65S

The D’Addario Clear Nylon EJ65S is a nylon set of strings made for the aDF#B tuning. It says it has a warm, projecting acoustic tone. According to the package, a 346mm (13.625") scale length was used for tension measurements.

B 0.61 4.72 0.0240 10.40
F# 0.81 4.38 0.320 9.65
D 0.86 3.40 0.340 7.50
a 0.71 4.89 0.280 10.78

I didn’t like this set of strings. Perhaps it’s the ukulele I’m using, but they have a very dull and muffled sound, particularly after the 5th fret. Being made of nylon, it takes a really long time for the tuning to set. On top of that, they’re very stiff strings.

The reason I bought this set was the D string, but the tension was way too high. Even tuning the F# string down to a D didn’t solve the problem, as it was still tense. I’ve had the same problem with the A string and I’ve also tried tuning the B string down to an A. It simply didn’t work.

D’Addario Black Nylon EJ53S

The D’Addario Black Nylon EJ53S is a set of strings made for the gDAe tuning. It says it has a warm, dark tone. Like the EJ65S, a 346mm (13.625") scale length was used for tension measurements.

A 0.71 4.89 0.0280 10.78
E 0.84 4.29 0.330 9.45
C 1.02 3.42 0.400 7.54
g 0.74 4.91 0.290 10.83

Like the Clear Nylon EJ65S, this set was disappointing and had the same problems. Too tense, very dull and muffled sound, and it takes a lot of time for the tuning to set. I’ve tried tuning the G string up to an A, tuning the C string up to a D, tuning the E string down to a D, and using the A string as is. Like its Clear Nylon counterpart, anything after the 5th fret starts sounding even duller than normal.

Worth Strings CM & BM

I’m going to be putting two sets of strings together since they have the same measurements and weren’t that different from each other. The CM is Worth Strings’ Clear fluorocarbon medium tension gCEA set, and the BM is their brown fluorocarbon set. They claim their brown fluorocarbon strings have a milder sound. Worth Strings doesn’t provide the tension of their strings on their website.

A 0.52 0.0205
E 0.66 0.0260
C 0.73 0.0291
g 0.56 0.0224

The CM is actually the first set of ukulele strings I’ve ever bought and it’s what I’ve first used when experimenting with tuning. I actually really like how they sound, although they’re a bit stiff for me. I’ve tuned the C string up to a D, and the E string down to a D, but both strings didn’t have the right tension even though they sounded ok. Like the D’Addario strings, they sound dull and lose sustain after the 5th fret.

After a while, the A string will start to show some white spots inside the string, like some sort of stretch mark. And they also have a tendency to fray or shred, as if it’s slowly undoing itself. I take very good care of my nails and keep them short, but this keeps happening all the time.

Worth Strings CL & BL

Another two sets of strings put together. The CL is Worth Strings’ Clear fluorocarbon light tension gCEA set, and the BL is their brown fluorocarbon set. Again, they claim their brown fluorocarbon strings have a milder sound. The only difference between the light and medium tension are the G and A strings, which is disappointing because I actually bought them expecting a lighter C string.

A 0.46 0.0185
E 0.66 0.0260
C 0.73 0.0291
g 0.52 0.0205

There’s not much to say about this set since the only difference is the G and A strings. Which kind of defeats the purpose if we’re looking for a lighter C or E string. That being said, I actually prefer the lighter gauge A string since it doesn’t have the stretch mark and fraying problem that the medium gauge A string has. It doesn’t sound that drastically different on higher positions when compared to the medium string. They’re what I use for my regular GDAE set.

Worth Strings C-LG & B-LG

The C-LG is a clear fluorocarbon low G string. A bit on the loose side. According to Worth Strings, it’s for players who love a clearer sound. To me it sounds tubby and sustain is poor after the 5th fret. The B-LG is a brown fluorocarbon low G string, and it’s pretty much exactly the same as the clear version, even though they claim it has a milder sound. I didn’t see any difference between the two. Diameter: 0.91mm (0.0358in).

Enya E6S

The strings that came with my Enya Nova U Mini. There’s very little information about it online, and in fact they aren’t sold separately. What Enya sells on their website is the E31 set of strings, and I don’t know if they’re the same. After some digging, it appears they’re repackaged PhD strings, since some sites list them with the same copy: Enya ukulele strings are made of PVDF fluorocarbon, a polymer of higher molecular weight and density than nylon strings. It produces superior volume, sustain and playability.

A 0.48 0.019
E 0.63 0.025
C 0.71 0.028
g 0.53 0.021

I’ll be very brief about them: they’re nothing special when compared to Worth Strings. And their tension is all over the place: the C and E strings are lighter than Worth Strings fluorocarbons, but at the same time their high G and A strings are thicker. They do in fact have a nice amount of tension for the D string, but they don’t sound amazing or anything.

Aquila Red Series 83U

Aquila’s gCEA set of strings. The 84U comes with a wound low G, but I can’t test any wound low Gs since my ukulele has plastic frets. Red strings are a composition of Nylgut combined with copper powder designed to increase the density of the string to around twice that of standard Nylgut. So they’re on a class of their own and they’re really well liked within the ukulele community.

A 0.56 3.48 0.0220 7.67
E 0.70 3.30 0.0280 7.28
C 0.81 3.00 0.0320 6.61
g 0.58 3.05 0.0230 6.73

The strings I’ve tested aren’t listed in any particular order, but I’ve actually bought Aquila’s unwound low G before buying this set. The string was so impressive that I just had to try their whole set. And I was in fact impressed by it. Like other sets, I’ve tried their A string as is, and tuning the high G up to an A. They perform just as well as Worth Strings’ A string, but I felt they were a bit warmer than I wanted. I also wanted to keep the tension of my A string on the lighter side.

For the D string, I’ve tested both tuning up the C string, and tuning down the E string. And I’ve decided to keep the E string tuned down to a D due to its lower tension. I’ve felt it also doesn’t sound as muffled in higher positions when compared to the C string tuned up, and the tension worked better for me. When measuring the strings with a caliper, I’ve noticed it’s a bit thicker than what Aquila has on their website: 0.75mm (0.0295in) vs 0.70mm (0.320in).

Aquila Red 70U

Unwound low G string. Not to be confused with the 134U, which is the Aquila Red wound low G. It’s my string of choice for my GDAE set. Everything about this string is good: it sounds beautiful, projects well, has good sustain, and you can play on higher positions without worrying about it sounding like someone put your ukulele inside a box. Aquila doesn’t have the diameter of the 70U on their website. And measurements found online were all over the place. I measured mine with a caliper and it’s 1.01mm (0.0397in).

Pirastro Chorda

Violin plain gut strings. I bought their medium E, A, and D strings since the G string from this set is wound. Pirastro uses a different system for measuring diameter, which they call Pirastro Meter. Basically, 1PM = 0.05mm.

E 0.575 6.60 0.022 14.55
A 0.725 4.60 0.028 10.14
D 0.975 3.30 0.038 7.27

These strings have a lovely sound on my violin, but when putting them on the ukulele they’re now suddenly way too tight and have a very dull sound. This is due to the difference in the instrument’s scale: A full-sized violin has a vibrating string length of 32.5cm. My ukulele has a scale length of 34.8cm. And here’s what I said before about putting the same string on an instrument with a different scale length: If you want to keep the same pitch and the instrument is longer, the string will have more tension.

So now we know why this didn’t work. This is something I should have researched a little bit better before trying, but was still a worthwhile experiment. I could try their lighter gauge strings, and even their plain and twisted gut G string. But bowed strings should be tighter than plucked strings, so this wouldn’t exactly work. What I can try later is buying gut strings from Aquila and use their string gauge converter.

Gut strings are a somewhat of an acquired taste. They take a really long time to set and become stable, they’re very prone to fraying if anything sharp touches them, and they’re not that bright, but I really like how they sound and feel.

Sunline Ester

Black polyester fishing line. I’ve tested their #5 size (0.37mm or 0.014in), and their #6 size (0.405mm or 0.0159in). They’re very bright and have decent projection and sustain. They also take very little time to set and become stable after tuning, which is highly unusual for E strings. The #5 size was a bit loose and had some fret buzz, and the #6 size is a bit on the tense side. If they had something in between I think it would’ve been perfect, but I still keep the #6 as my E string.

Valcan Kuro Hiden, Black Fluorocarbon

Black fluorocarbon fishing line. I’ve tested their #5 size (0.37mm or 0.014in), and their #6 size (0.405mm or 0.0159in). The #5 is very similar to the Sunline Ester line: they are bright and have decent projection and sustain, but they’re a bit lighter in tension. The #6 wasn’t that impressive, sounding borderline plunky. Unlike polyester, they take some time to set and become stable.

Valcan Kuro Hiden, Black Harisu

Black nylon fishing line. I’ve tested their #6 size (0.435mm or 0.017in), and their #7 size (0.47mm or 0.018in). I don’t know why, but I don’t like nylon strings. Like the D’Addarios, they sound really muffled with very little projection and sustain. They also take a lot of time to set and become stable, so you have to keep tuning them all the time. The #6 size was almost as loose as the Sunline Ester #5, and the #7 size had just the right tension.


Clear fluorocarbon line. I’ve tested their #6 size (0.406mm or 0.015in), and their #7 size (0.44mm or 0.017in). The #7 was the first line I’ve tried to use as an E string, and if you’ve read through this lenghty article you might have noticed that they’re thicker than they should be. The baseline I gave you before was 0.36mm. This was because I’ve read another person online talking about how they used a 0.018in monofilament line and it worked just fine. He was of course using monofilament to mean nylon.

Anyway, they’re extremely tense, and the #7 will in fact break if tuned up to pitch too quickly, or after playing for a while. This was the string that ripped the bridge off of my Mahalo. They sound bright, but due to its high tension they lose a lot of projection. The next line I bought before going down a rabbit hole to research things properly was the #6, which is still too thick for fluorocarbon strings. They are however decent strings, and it might be worth trying their #5 size later.

Closing thoughts

This article has been for over a year in the making, with hundreds of dollars poured into it. All I can say about the GDAE tuning is that I love it. It’s not a mandolin, and it doesn’t sound like a ukulele either. It’s like a new instrument. While I’m really satisfied with the GDA strings, I’m still willing to try new E strings and I’m also open to trying different strings. What I should try next is buying a better instrument made of wood and try this tuning on them. Perhaps other strings I didn’t like before will sound better and I can experiment a whole new world of sounds.

Another thing I really want to try is achieving the same tuning on a concert or tenor ukulele, and I also want to try the CGDA tuning on bigger sized ukuleles. All the principles from this experiment still apply and should make further experimentation easier. Achieving the CGDA tuning should also be easier since Aquila also has a set for this tuning, so we can have a baseline to work with.