Just over a week ago, before rushing off to spend a few days mooching around Devon with a very nice bunch of WI ladies, I put a set of the new British made fluorocarbon Living Water strings by Ken Middleton on my Tanglewood Cove Creek concert uke before I packed it to take for a sing-along at the end of the trip. We had such a busy schedule each day, rushing off to see the sights and going out in the evenings for meals (fabulous!) that until the last evening I had only a minute or two each day to play my ukulele. Just enough time to tune it up and strum a few chords and pick a few notes.
I now feel ready to give you my review.
First of all, remember - I'm relatively inexperienced, uke-wise... so please read what I say with that in mind. I can't give you any personal comparisons with other brands of fluorocarbon strings, because I've never used them; this is my first experience of fluorocarbons. (I do have a set of American ones ready to put on my banjo-uke, but that wouldn't count, anyway; a banjo-uke sounds so different.)
I have allowed just over a week for the strings to settle in, as they are flexible and stretchy. I did not tug at them in an attempt to stretch them and make them settle more quickly; I felt that was the safest approach so as not to risk spoiling them.
So this is my review, now that the new strings have pretty well settled in, and I have relaxed and played, and listened.....
First impression on receiving the strings was of the packaging, which is very attractive. Strings for each size of ukulele are packaged in a different metallic shade; e.g. concert size are in silver. Each string is in its own sellophane packet, clearly labelled by name and by position.
The strings are made of 100% clear fluorocarbon; they're colourless. They are, like all fluorocarbon strings, I believe, thinner than Aquila New Nylgut, which are the highly acclaimed brand leader in ukulele strings, and the strings I have bought and used up to now.
Here are the diameter measurements so you can see the difference.
Living Water fluorocarbons in the concert size are in diameter
1 = 0.52mm
2 = 0.66mm
3 = 0.74mm
4 = 0.57mm
Aquila New Nylgut concert strings are
1 = 0.62 mm
2 = 0.80 mm
3 = 0.95 mm
4 = 0.67 mm
Being thinner, the Living Water strings feel quite different under the fingers for fretting. The biggest difference is in the thicker middle strings, especially the C string. I like the feel of them very much. Although I love Aquilas and do swear by them, Aquilas feel thick and hard in comparison when I turn to my other ukes, which are still strung with them.
The sound of these Living Water strings is beautifully bright and crystal-clear. The more I play them, the more I love them, especially in finger-picking. The sound reminds me of the clear resonant sound when you flick the edge of a crystal glass. When I first put them on my uke and played it, I was immediately aware that I needed to get used to fretting them in a more precise way; I was getting some buzzing and the strings were showing up my lack of expertise. But it hasn't taken me long to adapt, and the sound is heavenly. Apt, I think, because Ken states on the front of the packets "Made in Heaven!"
This difference in diameter does make a difference to the sound. Generally speaking, thicker strings are louder, and I have noticed a difference in volume when strumming a song accompaniment. Aquilas are the loudest strings on the market, I think I can safely say! But this is only a small part of the story. For more information on strings generally see Ian Chadwick here.
I love the sound and feel of Ken's Living Water strings; the name is a stroke of genius... try them, and think about it!
In my last post on strings, last week, I mentioned that Aquila have now released a new line; their "Red Series" of unwound low G strings. Ken Middleton will also be releasing his own low Gs very, very soon.... so I await both kinds with anticipation!
The thing about Ken's strings is that he himself is a wonderful ukulele player, and he has researched and sourced his type of fluorocarbon string to get the sound and feel that he wants.
That itself says an awful lot about these strings! My advice - get some - they're going like hot cakes!
From his website; also now from ebay!