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RafterGirl
08-24-2017, 08:30 AM
What's the deal with friction tuners? I see a lot of folks who comment about preferring geared tuners over friction. Others seem to be strongly against friction tuners. One of the concert ukes I'm considering in the future (Loprinzi) comes with Grover friction tuners. Is it a personal preference thing, or are there definite disadvantages to friction tuners? Is it possible to change them out to something else when I buy (probably from HMS, as I'd also get a pickup installed). All my current ukes have geared tuners of some sort, so I have no knowledge about anything else.

Rllink
08-24-2017, 09:01 AM
Geared tuners have a turn ratio that lets you bring the strings into tune gradually, so you can sneak up on it. Friction tuners can be touchy and often times you have to mess around setting the tuners themselves so you have just the right amount of friction to hold the strings in tune, but still turn smoothly. There is a learning curve in figuring them out. But they are quite simple. They are a one to one ratio, and once you get them set up and get used to them, you can bring a string into tune very quickly. Friction tuners have that old school, "look how cool I am" sort of thing going for them. I like them both, in each their own way.

hoosierhiver
08-24-2017, 09:11 AM
Friction tuners get a bad rap, decent quality friction tuners work fine and generally weigh less than geared tuners. Geared tuners are often 16 to 1 ratio, and friction tuners are straight 1 to 1. They just take a little more finesse and a few more seconds to get them in tune as you generally go a little sharp, then flat until you dial it in. If you decide to try friction tuners and don't like them, it is not hard to convert it to geared tuners. If you do have friction tuners, I do recommend carrying a small screw driver in your case in case they have to be tightened.

DownUpDave
08-24-2017, 09:15 AM
Geared tuners let you bring the strings into tune gradually, so you can sneak up on it. Friction tuners can be touchy and often times you have to mess around setting the tuners themselves so you have just the right amount of friction to hold the strings in tune, but still turn smoothly. There is a learning curve in figuring them out. But they are quite simple. They are a one to one ratio, and once you get them set up and get used to them, you can bring a string into tune very quickly. I like them both, in their own ways.

Rolli has hit all the important points.. I have both and because friction tuners are 1 to 1 ratio you just turn them a little and it makes a lot of difference. I think about snugging them up as opposed to turning them. If you live in a dry climate the headstock can shrink and the tuners become loose because they clamp down between the front and back of rhe headstock. If you are comfortable with a screw driver you just tighten up the screw that runs through the button. They require more attention is all but it is not that big a deal.

Booli
08-24-2017, 09:21 AM
This topic is usually debated with a religious fervor here on UU, about every 4 months or so (at least in the 4 yrs since I've been here).

Coming from playing guitar my whole life prior to discovering ukulele, all guitars I ever encountered always had some form of GEARED tuners, and no matter how many times I've tried, with friction tuners, they are not for me.

From the cheap ones that are nearly useless and simply do not work at all against string tension, to even the spring-loaded, and/or high-end ones that fans of friction tuners rave about as 'the best ever', I find them extremely frustrating to use, to the point that if I buy a uke that has them, I will IMMEDIATELY replace them myself either with the Grover 9NB open gear tuners, which are about $15 per set everywhere, OR with the Gotoh UPT-L 'planetary geared tuners', which LOOK a lot like friction tuners, but have a gear system inside (think of how an old-timey clock works) and are seamless and awesome to use, but cost about $60 per set.

HMS sells and installs the Gotoh tuners, so if your uke is coming from HMS, you can have them installed, but it will add to the delay before it ships since additional work is being done to your uke, BEYOND their normal setup procedure. Adding a pickup will ALSO delay shipping to account for the time needed for the pickup installation.


The problem with friction tuners vs other tuners, is that the only mechanical force that is resisting the pull of string tension, is some form of rubbing interference (friction) between different parts of the tuner, or the headstock wood itself, in order to prevent rotation of the tuner shaft.The advantage of friction tuners is that restringing is very quick because the friction tuners are a 1:1 ratio.
With geared tuners (or machine heads as they are sometimes called), the tuner button is on a shaft that has a worm gear, and that worm gear turns another gear that is 90 degrees offset in rotation, and that second gear turns the shaft where you wind the strings on. The offset of the 2 gears creates a resting mechanical force that resists rotation from string tension. Unless the tuner is malfunctioning, this resistance is absolute, and when folks say that geared tuners 'do not stay in tune' this is an incorrect perception, because the geared tuners absolutely CANNOT turn by themselves from string tension, and ONLY by rotating the button with your hand.

This 'tuners do not stay in tune' which is littered all over Amazon reviews is simply pure ignorance over the fact that new strings for ukulele and classical guitar are made of polymer materials that take much more time to stretch and settle to concert pitch than steel string instruments (like electric/acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin).

Geared tuners also have a ratio usually starting at about 12:1. which means that you must perform 12 complete rotations of the tuner button, in order to rotate the string-wound shaft 1 full rotation. Thus a manual or powered string winder is helpful, unless you literally enjoy, twiddling your thumbs while bringing the strings up to tension.
The Gotoh and similar (but thinner) PegHeds 'planetary geared tuners' are based upon the same technology as the geared tuners used mainly for banjos. And have a similar system of gears, but all inside a barrel assembly next to the tuner button. They do have a 'reduction' or ratio, usually 4:1, and work similar in the way as a 10-speed bicycle, locked into a 4:1 ratio, which means 4 rotations of the tuner button - 1 rotation of the string-winding shaft, an these are much faster to restring, and more sensitive to altering the pitch when tuning than the previous tuners in #2 above. They are a pleasure to use, and well worth the upgrade if you have the budget, and also are usually lighter than any of the tuners mention in #2 above, this means that on a soprano or concert uke, you are less likely to have a headstock-heavy instrument.


Hopefully the above helps to understand the differences.

If not, ask away and either I or someone else will reply with more info.


[edited to add:] Funny - while I was typing out all the above, you guys Rolli, Mike and Dave, already beat me to it in explaining some of this, however, I will leave my post here any way. It's all good. :)

RafterGirl
08-24-2017, 09:44 AM
Thanks everyone. I'm not a big fan of "fiddly things" so they might not be my cup of tea. Good to know that I could have them changed.

bunnyf
08-24-2017, 02:53 PM
I have changed my feelings on a number of ukulele subjects over time.i use to hate wound strings. I thought all fluorocarbon was the way to go. Used to prefer tab, now I like standard notation. Used to hate friction tuners (first experience was my flea). Now I have a LoPrinzi soprano with friction tuners and I'm ok with them. They operate smoothly, hold well and look good. Adjustments are minimal and I am pleased with them. If I wasn't, I would consider Pegheads or such, but frankly, even though I was a hater, these don't make me wan't to bother to change them.

igorthebarbarian
08-24-2017, 07:09 PM
Grover UPT's are really the best of both worlds. The 4:1 ratio is perfect for smaller adjustments, but also quick for string changes. I personally don't mind friction tuners at all and prefer them on soprano's/ concert's.

kkimura
08-25-2017, 01:58 AM
Yes, like the dreaded E chord, learning how to use friction tuners effectively takes a while. And, like the E chord, friction tuners are not a problem once learned.

RafterGirl
08-25-2017, 02:14 AM
Grover UPT's are really the best of both worlds. The 4:1 ratio is perfect for smaller adjustments, but also quick for string changes. I personally don't mind friction tuners at all and prefer them on soprano's/ concert's.
The Loprinzi lists Grover friction tuners. Is that the same as Grover UPT, or something different? They use the friction tuners on their soprano & concert ukes. Grover geared tuners on their tenors & baritones.

Tootler
08-25-2017, 03:00 AM
Yes, like the dreaded E chord, learning how to use friction tuners effectively takes a while. And, like the E chord, friction tuners are not a problem once learned.

I've never really had major problems with friction tuners once they're properly adjusted. It does take time to adapt to making very small movements to use them effectively and I guess some people are never quite able to manage it.

The E chord remains a problem and always will as I do not have the stretch for either 4442 or 1402 and I have no intention of straining my hand to try. I can manage 4447 and 444x and both will do fine AFAIC.

Neither are necessarily as easy as you are making out

kkimura
08-25-2017, 03:32 AM
Sorry, didn't mean to imply that either was easy. Personally, it still takes me a few seconds to form the E chord. A little better using friction tuners but you don't have to keep time when tuning.

WhenDogsSing
08-25-2017, 03:52 AM
The Loprinzi lists Grover friction tuners. Is that the same as Grover UPT, or something different? They use the friction tuners on their soprano & concert ukes. Grover geared tuners on their tenors & baritones.

Grover friction tuners are not the same as Gotoh UPTs. To my knowledge, Grover does not make a UPT tuner.

WCBarnes
08-25-2017, 09:18 PM
I personally like friction tuners. As others mentioned, it takes a little getting used to, but the look (vs the "ears" of geared tuners) and less weight at the headstock make it worthwhile for me. Especially on a soprano or concert.

That said, my favorite tuners are the Gotoh UPTs. They have the benefits of friction (looks and weight) and are a 4:1 ratio, so fine tuning is easier. I just got a LoPrinzi baritone from Donna earlier this year and I asked her to put UPTs on it. There was a small upcharge, but it was well worth it.

igorthebarbarian
08-28-2017, 02:14 PM
Grover friction tuners are not the same as Gotoh UPTs. To my knowledge, Grover does not make a UPT tuner.

Sorry, my typo - I am thinking of GOTOH UPT (not Grover). GOTOH UPT's are amazing. Well worth the upgrade if you're buying from a place like HMS/The Ukulele Site. I have them on my Kiwaya KS-5. Buttery smooth, easy and quick to finesse tune, and quick on string changes. If I could have them on every uke, I absolutely would.

EDW
08-28-2017, 02:26 PM
I like friction tuners and have never understood what all the negative fuss is about. In my experience, they work really well.

I really dislike the look of geared tuners on a ukulele. So many of the new lower end instruments seem to have geared tunes and I really don't care for those "ears" on the instrument. They look out of place to me and friction pegs look so much more elegant.

Another option- Pegheds http://www.pohakuukulele.com/store/?category=Ukulele+Tuners

Tootler
08-28-2017, 11:16 PM
My multi string ukes both have slotted headstocks with geared tuners so the tuner pegs face backwards rather than stick out like ears - same arrangement as classical guitars. I notice some makers are offering slotted headstocks on some of baritone & tenor ukes. Best of both worlds in a way. Fine adjustment of geared tuners but with a neater look. I definitely prefer friction tuners of soprano and concert ukes from an aesthetic viewpoint and don't really have any problems using them but peghead or GOTOH UPTs are a good way to go if you want finer adjustment. Personally I don't feel like spending the money to replace them on any of my ukes. There are other ways I'd rather spend the money. I have wondered about fitting geared tuners to my Flea, though but then I don't feel it's worth the effort the friction tuners work fine.

jimavery
08-30-2017, 11:09 AM
My top tip for friction tuners:

When fitting new strings, don't trim them all the way back at the peg, but leave an inch or so 'tail'. This acts as a visual indicator when making fine adjustments.

WCBarnes
08-30-2017, 01:20 PM
My top tip for friction tuners:

When fitting new strings, don't trim them all the way back at the peg, but leave an inch or so 'tail'. This acts as a visual indicator when making fine adjustments.

That's a good one. Mine is if you have to make a minor adjustment, first make a major adjustment and come up to pitch. Chances are you will hit it a lot sooner/easier this way than twiddling around on each side of the note.

spongeuke
08-30-2017, 03:00 PM
Wading in on friction tuners.
When properly set up the wooden friction tuners are easy to use except for those whose fingers are weak. The Violin family have been using them for centuries.
They are totally appropriate for early ukuleles and retro new ones. Peg dope is necessary.