COMPANIES TO WATCH
|Fluorocarbon uke strings from Oasis.
Solutions for fretted instruments: first humidifiers, now new fluorocarbon ukulele strings.
CHEMICALLY SPEAKING, Polyvinylidene Fluoride is a high-purity plastic with applications from paints to pipes to skyscrapers. Musically speaking, the important thing to know about PVDF—also known as fluorocarbon—is that it makes an outstanding string. For Oasis, best known as a maker of stringed instrument humidifiers, new PVDF strings for ukes are the latest frontier. Based on a previous PVDF range for classical guitar and sold under the “GPX” label, the uke strings are also one of the company’s fastest-growing products, recording a sales increase of 40% this past year. They’ve been adopted by (among others) boutique ukulele builder Chuck Moore of Moore Bettah Ukuleles, who endorsed the line in a testimonial, saying, “I’ve really come to like these new Oasis fluorocarbon strings and will be using them on most of my ukes now.”
What exactly does fluorocarbon do for a musical instrument string? Proponents say it delivers some of the best properties of traditional gut—but without the temperamental qualities that come with gut strings, which are known to fray easily and react adversely to temperature and humidity changes. Hard and dense, fluorocarbon strings yield a clear, sonorous tone that many players prefer to nylon strings for live performance.
In its GPX range, Oasis offers two basic sets—“bright” or “warm”—each of which is available with either a high G or a low G string. For the low G string, there’s a choice of fluorocarbon (as used in the rest of the set) or two options in wound strings, depending on the desired sound. One option offers the same combination used in Oasis Sustenuto classical guitar bass strings—a nylon-core string with a round wire wrap made of silver-plated copper—while an alternate smooth-wound low G string, made from a nylon core and with a semi-flat wound phosphor bronze wrap wire, is also offered for players looking to reduce the problem of “string squeak.” Strikingly, all GPX strings are 63" in length—more than twice the length needed to string a concert, tenor, or soprano ukulele—so each can be cut in half to yield two strings long enough for any uke. The GPX range comprises nine sets in total, each sold as a double set retail priced at $4.95.
For Oasis, founded in 2005, the GPX range is the latest in a line of accessories to make stringed instruments play better. Founder and President Dave Hepple, a guitarist and longtime member of the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society, originally trained his sights on developing a new kind of humidifier to prevent cracking in wood instruments in low-humidity conditions. In an alternative to soundhole-style humidifiers, which some players find leaky and hard to use, Hepple devised the original OH-1 Guitar Humidifier, employing a hollow, multi-layer tube and proprietary Humigel crystals that suspend water in a gel, preventing leaks while releasing a consistent supply of moisture. The company has since expanded into a full line of humidifiers for guitar, mandolin, and ukulele. Its subsequent range of strings includes options for classical guitar, electric bass guitar, and now ukulele. GPX ukulele strings will be highlighted at the 2020 Winter NAMM show with special offers for dealers.