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View Full Version : Would you pay to have an inexpensive uke set up?



Ukettante
11-11-2015, 11:36 PM
I just can't make up my mind. The cost of a setup where I am is nearly the same as the price of the beginner's uke that I learned on. After receiving an Ohana SK-38, I handed over the beginner's uke to my 15-month-old twins for them to bang on. One evening I pried it out of their hands, played it a bit, and was startled to realize it wasn't a bad uke at all! And I thought maybe I should try to make the best of it. But after inquiring about the price of a uke setup at a local music shop, I found it would cost as much as the uke itself.

Do you guys think it's worth it? Or forgo the setup and just slap a new set of strings on it?

Pukulele Pete
11-12-2015, 12:26 AM
Forget the setup , just put strings on it.

Pirate Jim
11-12-2015, 12:29 AM
It's honestly not too hard to do a basic setup yourself. Lowering the saddle, getting rid of sharp fret edges and lowering action at the nut are all pretty simple things to do with some pretty cheap tools. The saddle needs sandpaper, the fret edges a small file and I lower nut slots using welding torch tip cleaners (they don't last long but are only about 3 so it doesn't matter). Have a go yourself! There's tons of help on youtube and Bazmaz has a good page too:

http://www.gotaukulele.com/2015/10/get-to-know-your-ukulele-its-designed.html

sopher
11-12-2015, 12:30 AM
Dude,
It's your first!!! Def get it setup. I still have my 1st guitar from 45 years ago and I have spent several times it's original price on setups and adjustments. You never get over your first!!

Tootler
11-12-2015, 12:53 AM
Dude,
It's your first!!! [...] You never get over your first!!

Who says you don't? I was only too glad to get rid of my first ukulele! It served its purpose but but no amount of set up would have made it right. There were just too many issues.

That said, the OP's Uke is a basically decent instrument from a reputable maker and is definitely worth having a set up done. As long as you're careful adjusting the nut and saddle are doable as a DIY job as long as you're careful.

kissing
11-12-2015, 01:12 AM
I used ukuleles like that to practice doing my own setups.

On most ok quality cheap ukes, you can get away with just sanding the saddle down a bit.

Filing the nut is a bit more complicated, but not rocket science either.
However, I have rarely needed to touch the nut on most of my setup projects.

SteveZ
11-12-2015, 02:07 AM
ii
I just can't make up my mind. The cost of a setup where I am is nearly the same as the price of the beginner's uke that I learned on. After receiving an Ohana SK-38, I handed over the beginner's uke to my 15-month-old twins for them to bang on. One evening I pried it out of their hands, played it a bit, and was startled to realize it wasn't a bad uke at all! And I thought maybe I should try to make the best of it. But after inquiring about the price of a uke setup at a local music shop, I found it would cost as much as the uke itself.

Do you guys think it's worth it? Or forgo the setup and just slap a new set of strings on it?

Doing a "set-up" depends in how much work one feels like doing and how bad the instrument is.

1. For most ukes it seems that folk are first interested in lowering the action at the nut end so the fretting at the nut end is easier on the fingertips. Filing nut slots is not hard, provided the person is willing to invest $5 for a set of welding rod cleaners (all hardware stores have these - see pic) which can be used as round files. Just view any video on how to do this and one can be an instant expert. For most ukes that's all that's needed.

2. Lowering the action at the saddle end is not often needed. If it is, some fine grain sandpaper is all that's needed. Again, watch the videos. I don't recommend this step unless the action is way too high at the high end if the fretboard and one plays those positions a lot. Intonation can be affected, and if done too close, so can buzzing on some frets.

3. Filing down high frets requires having the proper files and level/straightedge. Unless there are definite burrs or a fret that is way too high, I never touch the frets.

85246

Pukulele Pete
11-12-2015, 03:03 AM
ii

Doing a "set-up" depends in how much work one feels like doing and how bad the instrument is.

1. For most ukes it seems that folk are first interested in lowering the action at the nut end so the fretting at the nut end is easier on the fingertips. Filing nut slots is not hard, provided the person is willing to invest $5 for a set of welding rod cleaners (all hardware stores have these - see pic) which can be used as round files. Just view any video on how to do this and one can be an instant expert. For most ukes that's all that's needed.

2. Lowering the action at the saddle end is not often needed. If it is, some fine grain sandpaper is all that's needed. Again, watch the videos. I don't recommend this step unless the action is way too high at the high end if the fretboard and one plays those positions a lot. Intonation can be affected, and if done too close, so can buzzing on some frets.

3. Filing down high frets requires having the proper files and level/straightedge. Unless there are definite burrs or a fret that is way too high, I never touch the frets.

85246

I agree with SteveZ. In My opinion " setups" are smoke and mirrors for a retailer checking a uke for obvious defects. The majority of ukes dont need it. Some very low end ukes could benefit from adjusting the action but may not necessarily need it , and you can do it yourself it is very easy. I know alot of people will disagree , but I think most will agree.

Rllink
11-12-2015, 03:31 AM
. One evening I pried it out of their hands, played it a bit, and was startled to realize it wasn't a bad uke at all

Do you guys think it's worth it? Or forgo the setup and just slap a new set of strings on it?I wouldn't spend money on it. Why don't you want to play the Ohana?

PeteyHoudini
11-12-2015, 03:37 AM
Doesn't setup include intonation checking that could involve moving the bridge? That's not for beginners.

Pukulele Pete
11-12-2015, 03:49 AM
Doesn't setup include intonation checking that could involve moving the bridge? That's not for beginners.

I don't think any "setups" include moving the bridge. Moving the bridge (unless it is movable) is a big deal . A cheap uke may need the bridge moved but if you paid someone to do it ,it would be expensive , probably much more that the uke is worth. An expensive uke on the other hand should not need a setup , it should not need anything. IMHO.

Ukejenny
11-12-2015, 04:00 AM
If you plan to play it, I would choose to have it set up. Feel is very important for me.

Ukulele Eddie
11-12-2015, 04:02 AM
As setup is typically $60 (here in LA, anyway), I certainly would not pay to have an inexpensive uke set up. However, if buying an inexpensive uke new, I would buy it from HMS who sets up all their ukes.

Kayak Jim
11-12-2015, 04:09 AM
Here's a video that shows how to adjust the action at the nut by removing it and sanding the bottom. I did it on my first uke (now gone to a new home). Yes, filing the individual string slot is the "proper" way but this works fine, is easy, and doesn't require special tools.

https://reyalpeleluku.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/ukulele-diy-video-how-i-adjust-the-action-on-a-cheap-uke/

Pukulele Pete
11-12-2015, 04:15 AM
Do a search here for setup ,lowering action ,etc. Go to Frets.com . You have an inexpensive uke , perfect fodder for learning to do it yourself.
I'd just put on new strings. Inexpensive ukes sound better with Aquila strings.
It may not need anything , all ukes do not need setups , you'd be wasting money.

spookelele
11-12-2015, 04:24 AM
What needs to be done to a uke, depends on the uke.
The one you bought, may not need a setup.
Manufacturers try to send ukes out the door, ready to play.
Some are more successful in doing that than others.

My local music store doesn't do setups. They unbox and rack.
When I'm in there I like to try them cuz it's free.
The vast majority of them are very playable without further monkeying, and although I'm sure they have to be out there, I have yet to hit one that buzzes.

Now.. changing the action.. I think is different from setup.
Action is a preference, so that's more individual tuning thing to me, because everyone is different.
Someone that mostly strums is not going to want the same action as someone that is doing alot of tapping.

And compensating a saddle for intonation.... I don't even think HMS does that.

70sSanO
11-12-2015, 04:41 AM
I agree with a lot that has been said. But first things first. I'd probably put on new strings and then get a clip on tuner. It will take some time for the strings to settle, but you can check the intonation by playing an open note and getting it in tune and then playing the 12th. That is the basic test for intonation. If the note at the 12th is off, you may need to compensate the saddle, but not quite yet. You can also do this at the 5th fret or 7th fret to see how bad it is closer to the nut. If it is good to the 7th fret and you are not playing further up the neck, it may not be a big deal.

You need to repeat the same but play the first fret. That is a basic test for the height of the strings at the nut. If the note is sharp then the strings at the nut are too high and should be lowered. Keep in mind that with new strings you shouldn't tweak anything until they have finished stretching.

Another simple test is to play up the neck and see if you get any buzzing of the strings at different frets. If you do, it could be a high fret.

Now you can make a decision if you want to get a setup. If things are relatively close, and it plays and sounds fine, don't bother. If things are way off to where you can hear sharp or flat notes, or buzzing strings, then you have to decide if it is worth it. Keep in mind that different strings may create issues or eliminate issues to some extent. I've swapped out strings and had the intonation go wacko. I've also had bad strings or had to flip them around and that eliminated an intonation problem. It is generally prudent to play the instrument for a while before you crack open the Craftsman toolbox.

I do my own setups and it is pretty easy, but you do have to take your time and figure things out if you need to do anything more than sanding the bottom of the saddle to lower the action.

John

Rodney.
11-12-2015, 07:06 AM
Doesn't setup include intonation checking that could involve moving the bridge? That's not for beginners.

If the intonation is so bad the bridge needs moving you should return the instrument to the owner.
Sanding down or raising the saddle should be enough to adjust the scale. That's something anyone can do.

strumsilly
11-12-2015, 09:53 AM
I just can't make up my mind. The cost of a setup where I am is nearly the same as the price of the beginner's uke that I learned on. After receiving an Ohana SK-38, I handed over the beginner's uke to my 15-month-old twins for them to bang on. One evening I pried it out of their hands, played it a bit, and was startled to realize it wasn't a bad uke at all! And I thought maybe I should try to make the best of it. But after inquiring about the price of a uke setup at a local music shop, I found it would cost as much as the uke itself.

Do you guys think it's worth it? Or forgo the setup and just slap a new set of strings on it?
Why do you think it needs a set up?. Most inexpensive ukes [if they need anything] benefit from having the nut slots lowered. as others have said , not too difficult to do yourself. once in a while the fret may work itself up which will cause buzzing.. just tap it back down. It doesn't make much sense to me to spend more on a "set up" than the uke cost. that's just me.

jollyboy
11-12-2015, 10:52 AM
Here's a video that shows how to adjust the action at the nut by removing it and sanding the bottom. I did it on my first uke (now gone to a new home). Yes, filing the individual string slot is the "proper" way but this works fine, is easy, and doesn't require special tools.

https://reyalpeleluku.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/ukulele-diy-video-how-i-adjust-the-action-on-a-cheap-uke/

+1 I adjusted the nut on my first uke this way - it worked a treat :)

Edit: I actually swapped the stock plastic nut and saddle for bone ones, which I bought off eBay - they were really cheap (direct from China). I sanded down the bottom end on both to ensure a nice low action before installing them on the uke (a Makala soprano). The instrument definitely sounded better afterward and I would recommend this as a budget diy 'tweak' :)

PeteyHoudini
11-12-2015, 02:29 PM
@Pukulele Pete: Before I got my new Martin ukes, I wasted a ton of cash ($90 a pop) bringing in cheaper ukes (bought at $150+) to get a proper "set-up" to a luthier and he had to move the bridge each time. Saddle compensation didn't help. I won't mention the brands here. I'm past that now but I agree with you!

@70sSanO: You give VERY, VERY good advice. Impressive. I've had the same experience with cheaper ukes and changed the strings and the intonation went "wacko" as well. Thanks for saying that.

@Rodney: You're totally right, but I was nave back then in 2006-2010.

Pete

Ukettante
11-12-2015, 04:10 PM
OP here.

Thanks to everyone for the advice. In particular, 70sSanO's sensible advice is really appreciated. My biggest or only problem with the learner's uke I have is the intonation is off starting at the second fret on two of the strings. And it seems filing the nut might fix that. So yeah, as some of you have advised, I might try to file the nut a bit myself, rather than paying someone to do it for me.

Incidentally, just to clear things up, as a few of you have misunderstood. The cheap uke I'm talking about is a no-name, all-laminate soprano. My "good uke" is the Ohana SK-38. I didn't hand over the SK-38 to my twin babies to play with. I was just thinking if I fix the intonation issue on the cheap uke, it could be my beater uke.

Rodney.
11-12-2015, 07:34 PM
Go for it. Nuts and saddles are cheap and easy to replace, so file and sand away. Look for tips on YouTube, a noname uke is perfect to learn how to adjust intonation and action.

Phluffy the Destroyer
11-13-2015, 12:21 AM
If you like the way it sounds, and it's comfortable to play then you probably don't need to worry about making permanent alterations. Assuming that your instrument was assembled more or less correctly, much of a professional setup is really just basic maintenance on your uke that you should be able to do at home.

You can always make permanent adjustments later, if it's still important to you. However, there's absolutely nothing wrong with having a professional setup simply because you want your instrument sound it's best. That's really all the justification you need, and if you feel comfortable spending the money then do it. There are no guarantees, but an honest luthier will tell you if you're wasting your money or not before even accepting the job.

Jerwin
11-13-2015, 01:22 AM
Doesn't setup include intonation checking that could involve moving the bridge? That's not for beginners.

You can compensate it by making a new saddle.

I've managed to missplace my bridge on a soprano ukulele (the glue covered position marks and the bridge just slided away) resulting in having my scale shorter. Had to make kind of "L shaped" saddle to prolong the scale lenght.

I suggest he should just learn how to do the setup hiself on a cheap ukulele. A lot of guides and if you are careful and patient, even begginer can do that.

SoloRule
11-13-2015, 04:39 AM
A low cost uke will always sound and feel cheap.
I don't think I would spend money on a set-up because you will just play for a few months then want something better.

SteveZ
11-13-2015, 05:03 AM
b
OP here.

Thanks to everyone for the advice. In particular, 70sSanO's sensible advice is really appreciated. My biggest or only problem with the learner's uke I have is the intonation is off starting at the second fret on two of the strings. And it seems filing the nut might fix that. So yeah, as some of you have advised, I might try to file the nut a bit myself, rather than paying someone to do it for me.

Incidentally, just to clear things up, as a few of you have misunderstood. The cheap uke I'm talking about is a no-name, all-laminate soprano. My "good uke" is the Ohana SK-38. I didn't hand over the SK-38 to my twin babies to play with. I was just thinking if I fix the intonation issue on the cheap uke, it could be my beater uke.

Filing the nut slots won't help intonation - the resulting distance difference is a millimeter, tops. Better to get decent quality strings and let them stabilize. If the inexpensive ukes still have the very inexpensive factory strings, it's a safe bet that may be the problem.

One more point - there is nothing wrong with having inexpensive ukes. Changing the strings and setting the action to a comfortable height has turned many a "sow's ear" uke into a decently sounding "silk purse" instrument. Don't get caught up in the "it has to cost a lot to be good" web. Usually a little care and maintenance can work wonders.

Tootler
11-13-2015, 05:27 AM
Filing the nut slots won't help intonation - the resulting distance difference is a millimeter, tops. Better to get decent quality strings and let them stabilize. If the inexpensive ukes still have the very inexpensive factory strings, it's a safe bet that may be the problem.


Not quite true. I agree that a string change from cheap factory strings will help. It did with my first uke, but high action at the nut leads to going sharp when you fret at the first two or three frets, however careful you are not to press too hard on the string. Carefully filing the nut slots will make a big difference. I certainly found that on one uke.

wconley
11-13-2015, 05:56 AM
I bought a Lanikai LU-21 for the grandkids to play. When I got home I realized that it was pretty much unlistenable. I was going to take it back but decided to get a setup on it. The setup cost $7 and it sounds great for what it is and the grandkids love it.