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View Full Version : Beginner needs some help on ukulele maintenance and strings.



bighatbulls
08-07-2017, 08:01 AM
The ukulele is a Kala SMHC like this one from Hawaiian Music Supply.
http://www.theukulelesite.com/kala-ka-smhc-solid-mahogany-concert.html

In fact it was purchased from HMS by my husband for my Christmas present. I live in a dry climate, so the uke resides in a canvas covered case with an oasis humidifier when not in use.

Last month I changed the strings on the uke, from the Aquila Super Nylgut strings that came with it, to Aquila Carbon Black strings. I like the Carbon Blacks but I have a rattle. I have learned that there is a difference in string gauges between the Carbon Blacks and the Super Nylguts, and believe that the thinner Carbon Black strings are rattling about, This was very noticeable when I first put them on, and has seemed to lessen over the last few weeks. I wouldn't say the rattle is completely gone, but it is not as noticeable.

When I changed the strings, I oiled the fret board. I noticed that the bridge looked a bit dry, so I wiped some oil on that as well. It sucked the oil up pretty quickly.

In a few days I should be getting a set of Aquila LAVAs. I purchased these thinking that I should go back to something more similar to the Super Nylgut strings to get rid of the rattle.

Here are my questions:

1. Should I play it safe and just stick with Aquila nylgut, or is there a brand of string that can improve on my ukulele's warm voice?

2. Does the uke need to be set up every time I change the strings? Does it need to be set up if I swap from Nylgut to Fluorocarbon?

3. Does the bridge need to be oiled if it looks dry?

mikelz777
08-07-2017, 08:24 AM
I'm not a fan of nylgut strings, they sounded dull and muddy on my ukes so I play with fluorocarbon strings. To me, they sound and feel so much better. I'd recommend trying either Martin or Oasis fluorocarbons. Whenever I change my strings I oil both the fretboard and the bridge.

Croaky Keith
08-07-2017, 08:48 AM
I've changed strings a few times & not had any rattles on my ukes. so just to be sure, check that the ends of the strings aren't moving around when you play, (they can create some weird noises sometimes), but 'rattle' would suggest something loose, to me, maybe the washer type bits on the tuners.

bighatbulls
08-07-2017, 09:03 AM
The ends are snipped (long ends drive me crazy) and it seemed that the rattle was coming bottom half of the ukulele, from the strings. Now, it seems that I can't get it to rattle at all. :confused: I don't get it, I sort of feel like the car owner who tells their mechanic that the car is making noise, but the mechanic can't make the car reproduce the noise the owner is complaining about. If the rattle is gone I will try these out till its time for a string change.

I will check the tuners.

jollyboy
08-07-2017, 09:14 AM
I wonder if it's possible that something got inside the body of the uke? (maybe when you changed the strings?) I've had this happen - little bits of 'stuff' rattling about inside the instrument. A good shake usually fixes it :)

mikelz777
08-07-2017, 09:37 AM
You may want to check to be sure that the rattle isn't shirt buttons on the back of the uke or sleeve cuff buttons on the front of the uke when playing.

bighatbulls
08-07-2017, 09:54 AM
You may want to check to be sure that the rattle isn't shirt buttons on the back of the uke or sleeve cuff buttons on the front of the uke when playing.

Now that is an interesting thought. I mostly wear t shirts, and I can't stand to have the forearm of my strumming hand covered when playing the ukulele. Sleeves get in the way. When we perform I wear a Hawaiian Shirt that is button up, I will need to pay attention to see if that could be a possible source for the rattle.

bighatbulls
08-07-2017, 09:57 AM
I wonder if it's possible that something got inside the body of the uke? (maybe when you changed the strings?) I've had this happen - little bits of 'stuff' rattling about inside the instrument. A good shake usually fixes it :)

I shook it and didn't hear anything in there, then I shook it upside down, nothing came out. My husband got a laugh out of it and started teasing me with Peter Forrest's Ukulele tricks. :rolleyes:

jollyboy
08-07-2017, 12:09 PM
I shook it and didn't hear anything in there, then I shook it upside down, nothing came out. My husband got a laugh out of it and started teasing me with Peter Forrest's Ukulele tricks. :rolleyes:

:) s'funny

bighatbulls
08-07-2017, 07:40 PM
You have seen them then! ;)

bighatbulls
08-08-2017, 05:35 AM
1. Should I play it safe and just stick with Aquila nylgut, or is there a brand of string that can improve on my ukulele's warm voice?

2. Does the uke need to be set up every time I change the strings? Does it need to be set up if I swap from Nylgut to Fluorocarbon?

3. Does the bridge need to be oiled if it looks dry?

I would really like these questions answered. :o

I am going to add two more questions.

Could oiling the bridge cause potential problems?

I saw something about allowing the strings to have a "Break In" period before worrying about string buzz or rattle. Is that even possible? How does that work?

Rllink
08-08-2017, 06:36 AM
I would really like these questions answered. :o

I am going to add two more questions.

Could oiling the bridge cause potential problems?

I saw something about allowing the strings to have a "Break In" period before worrying about string buzz or rattle. Is that even possible? How does that work?

I'll try to answer them the best that I can.

Aquila's are not any more safe than any other string. It is a totally subjective thing. Some people make it a life long endeavor to find just the right string for their ukulele. But any advise you get is not going to help you find the right string for you. It is all up to you. It is pretty much as simple as that.

No, generally speaking your uke should not need a set up every time you change strings. I think more often than not you should not have to file and sand just to try out a new set of strings. There are exceptions to everything though.

I've never oiled my bridge. Over oiling can soften the wood or find its way under the bridge and soften glue over time. I only oil the fretboard once in a while, not regularly, that's for sure.

It takes strings a short period to stretch out and stay in tune. Sometimes a buzz will come from the tail of a string touching something, and as they stretch, sometimes the tail that is touching something moves a little and no longer touches. I mean, there in no end to what can cause buzzing, and things move over time. But if I had a buzz that was bothering me, I would not ignore it in the hopes that it would magically go away some day. Especially if I thought that it might be something inside coming loose.

That is just my experience talking. No doubt someone will come along and refute it. That is just the way it is with ukuleles.

Nickie
08-08-2017, 12:34 PM
I've never oiled a bridge. I just use whatever cleaner and polish that goes on the rest of the uke. I don't polish the fretboard. My luthier told me NOT to oil it, because oils tend to open up the pores in wood. I use LoPrinzi's fretboard butter, always have and always will. My fretboards are nice and smooth and slick, for many weeks.
If I was going from a large diameter string like Aquila to a fluorocarbon like Oasis or Worth, which are smaller diameter, I'd check to make sure there isn't too much slop in those little slits on the nut (the plastic or bone thing the strings rest in by the headstock)
I'm glad your rattle went away. I hope it stays gone.

bighatbulls
08-08-2017, 03:11 PM
Thanks guys, I will take your recommendations into consideration and see what comes out of it, then share my results.

Dean Beaver
08-08-2017, 08:14 PM
The Neck may have warped slightly for a temporary period of time.
I've had it happen on a Acoustic Guitar under hot dry conditions, I did change to new strings which didn't help btw, and after removing the Guitar from the back of my vehicle and keeping it in shade, as well as rubbing on/off lemon oil to the fretboard, it improved and recovered after several days, or probably more like a week or so.
Originally the problem was just enough to cause the high e string to give a bit of rattle, but as I say it did improve and recover.
I think it does this because timber, once seasoned and set, can warp like any timber though to a much lesser extent than unseasoned timber, however some types of timber will often recover and set itself back again given some time and right conditions for it to do so, it's probably one of the reasons why particular timber for Necks/Fretboards is specifically selected as timber for Necks/Fretboards.
It's the only real suggestion I can reasonably offer at this time.

I don't think you are imagining the problem, and I don't think changing strings will make the difference.

As mentioned, don't oil your fretboard too often, I only do mine when I do a string change, which can be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, it's only really designed for the surface and shouldn't soak right into the timber, you don't want it saturated, just enough for it to be decently sealed and protected in usual circumstances, it should just be a bit of time to rub on and rub off.

btw, if anyone has a Maple Fretboard, it should not be oiled at all, I don't exactly know why but it's written on Instructions with Fretboard Lemon Oil.

Happy Ukeing ...

bighatbulls
08-08-2017, 09:30 PM
I live in the central valley of California near Fresno. We are a semi arid or Mediterranean climate, so we treat our ukuleles like they are children or pets. They ride in the car but do not stay in the car.

Dean Beaver
08-08-2017, 10:20 PM
I live in the central valley of California near Fresno. We are a semi arid or Mediterranean climate, so we treat our ukuleles like they are children or pets. They ride in the car but do not stay in the car.

My comments weren't specifically about cars or vehicles, it was merely an example which relates to my experience of a similar problem, which btw also happened in Semi-Arid environment.
It's a lot more to do with drying out of timbers, and hence irregular shrinkage which causes warping to various extents.
I can understand, I am inclined to avoid leaving my instruments in a hot car, though in my case I didn't have a home at the time, so I didn't have a lot of choice, I travelled in my vehicle and stayed in my tent, at times like that I keep an instrument with me at all times, no matter what, as well as my dog who is now passed away unfortunately.
Incidentally, I do take care of my instruments but I don't baby my instruments, life takes precedence over an instrument, which is why my Guitar was kept in the back of the ute with everything else, while my dog got the seat in the front riding with me.
Anyway, I wasn't suggesting it's your fault if it's dried out, it's just the nature of timber.
Regardless, if it's recovered I would suggest to enjoy your Uke and not feel over-concerned about it.
Or perhaps I've missed something, reading the thread I did get the impression it's not buzzing or rattling anymore, though maybe I'm mistaken.

Happy Ukeing :)

bighatbulls
08-09-2017, 03:43 AM
I didn't take it as you telling me its my fault. It was more like the thought of leaving my ukulele in something that has been hot enough to bake cookies in, scared me.

Dean Beaver
08-09-2017, 05:07 AM
No problem. I'm glad you didn't take it the wrong way, we can be on good terms then :)
If it's recovered then it's good anyway, and hopefully it will stay good. If it should happen again by a slim chance at least you will likely be aware of what has happened, though I doubt it will happen again, but you never know in those kind of climate conditions, I know well what it's like.

Well wishes with it, and Happy Ukeing ...

bighatbulls
08-11-2017, 05:10 AM
Dean Beaver, after re-reading this post, I see you said something about maple fret boards. Don't worry mine is rosewood. The reason you don't oil maple WITH LEMON OIL is because it causes the grains of wood to stand up and it gives the fret board a "hairy" feel.

jollyboy
08-11-2017, 08:28 AM
Ah, the great lemon oil debate :) I'm actually pretty sure that lemon oil isn't used on maple boards because they are usually finished and the oil simply isn't needed and wouldn't penetrate. So where it says 'not suitable for maple fretboards' it doesn't mean DO NOT USE THIS OR SOMETHING TERRIBLE WILL HAPPEN it just means that there isn't much point and no benefit will be gained. You're just likely to end up with a sticky residue of unabsorbed oil coating the board's surface.

Dean Beaver
08-11-2017, 07:44 PM
Interesting.
Thanks for sharing that info Bighatbulls .. I have have had Maple Fretboards before, particularly on guitars, Telecaster or Jazzmaster style guitars, I never did oil them. I never bothered to research the info though either so it's interesting to learn.

Jolly boy, Maple Fretboards aren't always coated, I've only had one which was and the others have been uncoated.
Personally I wouldn't want a furry feeling fretboard, it's really not necessary and not beneficial in any way, but you're right if a fretboard (any type) is coated it doesn't benefit from oiling at all, most aren't coated though they are usually raw, at least the ones I've had.
To be honest I sold my Jazzmaster because I wanted to cut back on guitars and the Jazzmaster had a gloss finished fretboard which annoyed me especially when doing a note bend or vibrato it just was really awkward, even though I liked everything else about it, I discovered I really don't like coated fretboards.
Saying that, I don't want a hairy fretboard either, and I think if it's specifically noted on the lemon oil bottle itself it's there for a valid reason. Otherwise I have nothing against using fretboard lemon oil and will always continue to use it appropriately on either Rosewood or Mahogany Fretboards. I also give my Bridge a light wipe with it.
I've heard people saying strange things like if you use lemon oil your frets will come loose and fall out and other strange things, although I've never actually heard of it happening, and I think it's more of a fearful type of concept, I mean ok if you soak it and saturate it may not be impossible for such things to happen, but it's unlikely especially when used properly, and I think there's more chance of harm to the timber if it's neglected.

jollyboy
08-12-2017, 12:30 AM
Jolly boy, Maple Fretboards aren't always coated, I've only had one which was and the others have been uncoated.

I'm not talking about a gloss/lacquer finish in all cases - some will be finished with oil. Raw maple is pretty rare.

Dean Beaver
08-12-2017, 01:22 AM
Originally I commented to help understand what I think had happened regarding the string rattle. As I mentioned oiling the fretboard, and it's a beginners forum, As an afterthought I considered it would be a responsible decision to additionally mention the written notice on the lemon oil bottle, as most beginners will be unfamiliar with it, and not everyone reads instructions.
The post was not about maple fretboards, and still isn't. I can only try to help. If someone chooses to oil their maple fretboard despite written caution on the bottle I'm not going to try to stop them, and I have no intention to get into any kind of debate, friendly, controversial, or otherwise, regarding maple fretboards, the point was simply that it's written on the bottle by the people who make the product, it wasn't intended as anything more than that.

Happy Ukeing :)

bighatbulls
08-12-2017, 06:08 AM
And all I did was to comment about what I have read about people who have had oiled their maple fret boards with lemon oil have said about the end result. I thought Dean was looking out for me, but didn't know about hairy boards so I supplied him with my penny's worth of knowledge that I knew about the subject. I didn't realize we were treading into hot water.

If it makes any difference, I really like my carbon black strings, and I for see myself trying some Worth Browns in roughly 5-6 months. I am on a quest to really bring out the warm voice of my Kala SMHC.