View Full Version : String spacing at the saddle--why so wide/variable?

05-12-2015, 07:25 AM
This is a repost with a thread title that more accurately states the question (which focuses on spacing at the saddle). Couldn't see how to rename the old thread, please let this replace "Why do ukes often have such wide string spacing". Apologies if there was a better way to fix this, and advice or admin help is welcome.

Hi gang,

Preface: the uke is not a guitar--understood.

My (admittedly limited) research of about 15 different makes of tenor uke shows string spacing at the saddle to be significantly wider than, for example, my experience with classical guitars, which are themselves wider than most of the other instruments I play. Center to center spacings of 14mm or more have been common, whereas a fine concert classical guitar would typically be at 11.5 to 12mm in my experience.

Any idea why?

I don't see how it benefits the right hand, whether for strumming or note work--flamenco and classical players do plenty of both and are not clamoring for more space in the right hand.

I thought perhaps it had to do with left hand fingering the shorter scale/closer frets (roughly equivalent to starting at the 7th fret of a typical classical guitar), but the mandolin (which I also play) is shorter yet and has strings far closer together. The scale and chord forms are different on mandolin of course, but I'm still not seeing the benefit.

Going beyond thought experiments and comparisons, my experience so far suggests that 11-12mm (center to center at the saddle) gives more economical right hand movement for note work, smoother strumming (less tendency to "fall" between strings), and more distance to the fingerboard edge and hence less gutterball tendency on the A string, without any left hand disadvantage I can discern.

But...my playing background is from the guitar/mandolin/bass world. Am I missing critical uke-centric perspective? Are there uke playing techniques where this spacing really shines for instance?

Thanks in advance for your help!