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backdoc972
04-25-2008, 03:55 PM
Hey folks,

I wonder if anyone can shed some light on playing my new tenor. I got a Pono PTO from MGM (great service by the way) and it is beautiful. I am having a terrible time playing any barre chords on it though. I have a concert that I have no such problems and I have played acoustic and electric guitar for 30+ years.

Whenever I try to play a barre on the first fret (eg C#7) I can't get a clean sound from the e string. The setup on the Uke looks perfect. Action is not too high. The strings seem very, very stiff though. Would different strings help? Any suggestions for tenor strings? I am used to my lanikai (hohner) with solid spruce top, so brighter strings might suit my ear better, but my main concern is how hard it is for me to get a clean barre.

I'm open to suggestions.

p.s. please in no way take this as any unhappiness with the quality of the uke or with MGM, like I said I'm sure it's just me or perhaps will be cured with different strings.

Thanks for any help!

deach
04-25-2008, 03:58 PM
Isn't the tension on a tenor much greater than a concert or soprano? If that's the case - more finger push-ups for you my friend.

Keonikapila
04-25-2008, 04:25 PM
What kind of strings are on there now? I'm assuming Ko'ola'u Golds...in my experience the Golds were stiffer some other strings. If you're looking for "softer" strings try a set of Worth Brown Mediums a try. Worth Browns are a fairly mellow string, they're bright sounding, but not abrasively bright...

You might also like Hilo strings...They're a really comfortable string. Hilos are rectified though, so they've got a little bit of texture to em, and that does make them a little noisier

Plainsong
04-25-2008, 04:37 PM
I have a similar problem with my Pono PTO, and it's not a problem I had with my tenor Fluke. Right now the strings I'm using, Aquilas, are making it worse. it's easier for me further away from the nut, but the lower down the fretboard I go, the hard it is.

It's not impossible, just the action is a bit higher. Seemingly crazy-high compared to my concert koa Flea, whose action is crazy-low. I think a string change is going to do wonders there, but I want to stress that I agree it's not unplayable or something, but a tad more of a workout.

I'm betting with the Worths that are on the way, the action is going to have seemingly fixed itself to just right. :)

Keonikapila
04-25-2008, 04:49 PM
I'm betting with the Worths that are on the way, the action is going to have seemingly fixed itself to just right. :)

What kind of Worth strings are you getting? If you're getting Browns they're quite a bit thinner than Aquilas (well, they're quite a bit thinner than every other string out there), so the action might seem a little higher...that said, they're a lot more supple than Aquilas, so it'll be easier to fret, so in that case the "higher" action might not be as noticable.

Do you mind me asking where you got your Pono? I've owned 3 Ponos and they've all had nice low action and unbelievable playability

Plainsong
04-25-2008, 05:15 PM
I got it from MGM. The action didn't seem so bad with the Koolaus that it came with. I'm familiar with Worth strings, yeah. They're what I use on my Risa uke-solid concert, and what I used on my Koaloha soprano.

I got the Risa branded Worths, but they're the same as the brown premiums. I like to throw some business Rigk's way when I can. :) No wait, I lied. I got the Low G Worths from theukeshop.co.uk. I got the Risa Worths for the Koa Flea to see how they compare to the Aquilas.

A lot of the problem is when I look close, the C string of these aquilas does not fully fit into the nut. I guess I could file it down but that would hose my chances of using other strings. It's just a point of a millimeter but that can make the action seem crazy-high when it isn't. It's just a case of bad string-uke synergy is all.

Keonikapila
04-25-2008, 05:19 PM
I got it from MGM. The action didn't seem so bad with the Koolaus that it came with. I'm familiar with Worth strings, yeah. They're what I use on my Risa uke-solid concert, and what I used on my Koaloha soprano.

I got the Risa branded Worths, but they're the same as the brown premiums. I like to throw some business Rigk's way when I can. :)

A lot of the problem is when I look close, the C string of these aquilas does not fully fit into the nut. I guess I could file it down but that would hose my chances of using other strings. It's just a point of a millimeter but that can make the action seem crazy-high when it isn't. It's just a case of bad string-uke synergy is all.

oh ok, that'll do it. Is it the wire-wound C-string or the plain Nylgut? I used to use Aquilas, but the wire-wound C kept breaking on me...funny thing is I never had a problem with the wire-wound G's...but then again, they're wound with different metals

Plainsong
04-25-2008, 05:23 PM
The C string isn't wound, but it's so thick I feel it may as well be. Aquilas do seem a hair of shade thicker than other strings. Sometimes that's a nice thing. :) And ya know it's also possible to get a bum set of strings. It happens with clarinet reeds, why not strings too? The fact that this wasn't an issue with the also-thick Koolau golds tells me not to rush and file anything down just yet.

It's not unplayable or anything like that. I would have said the action was good until comparing it to the action on the koa Flea. But a string change will help.

backdoc972
04-25-2008, 05:34 PM
What kind of strings are on there now? I'm assuming Ko'ola'u Golds...in my experience the Golds were stiffer some other strings. If you're looking for "softer" strings try a set of Worth Brown Mediums a try. Worth Browns are a fairly mellow string, they're bright sounding, but not abrasively bright...

You might also like Hilo strings...They're a really comfortable string. Hilos are rectified though, so they've got a little bit of texture to em, and that does make them a little noisier

That's indeed what is on there. They seem very stiff. I will try some of those other strings. As someone else mentioned,it is only close to the nut that it is so difficult.

Again though. the action and setup on the uke is superb. I got out my feeler gauges and everything was just right. I just think the gold's are stiff.

Keonikapila
04-25-2008, 05:39 PM
That's indeed what is on there. They seem very stiff. I will try some of those other strings. As someone else mentioned,it is only close to the nut that it is so difficult.

Again though. the action and setup on the uke is superb. I got out my feeler gauges and everything was just right. I just think the gold's are stiff.


Yea, I really don't like the new style Golds for that reason...they feel stiff and they sound ...well, stiff (to my ears anyway...I know a lot of people to like them)

GX9901
04-25-2008, 07:57 PM
There was a discussion about Pono tenors on another ukulele forum a short while ago. Basically several people (including me) pointed out that for whatever reason their Pono tenor seem a little more difficult to play than other tenors (mostly more costly ones).

One of the possible reasons discussed was that Pono uses shorter frets than most other tenor ukes. Shorter frets would theoretically cause the distance between it and the string to be longer, thus requiring more pressure to push the strings down. On my Pono cedar top tenor, I too found it to be more difficult to play than other tenors I own. The action does check out to be pretty decent, but the nut slots are perhaps a hair too high, so I'm going to try and file it down a little bit to see if it improves playability.

Having said all that, I don't think the Pono is bad or anything. It is in fact a perfectly fine playing uke. It's just more difficult to play than say a Pineapple Sunday, which is should be expected.

Kekani
04-25-2008, 11:49 PM
Interesting slants in this thread. Here's more.

Changing strings cannot possibly change action (assuming they fit in the nut properly). They can change the feel of the playability, but the action as measured from under the string does not change.

Feeler guages are not the best way to measure action, either at the 1st fret for the nut (as in fret the 3rd and measure), or the 12th fret.

Thinner (shorter) fretwire doesn't affect action either (unless you change the frets and leave the nut and saddle alone, which, I'll venture to say, wouldn't happen). Setting action .100" above the 12th means you set it above the fret, not the fretboard. In some cases, shorter fretwire may require more accurate fretting and chording, but that's a technique thing, and not an instrument thing.

There are other factors involved besides setting action that can determine playability of the instrument, including (but not limited to) neck profile, fretboard width, fret end dressing, fret leveling, string gauge/composition/tension, etc.

-Aaron

backdoc972
04-26-2008, 02:35 AM
Looking at the nut, it looks like the strings sit high in the nut, but looking at the height over the frets, it seems fine. I used the guitar method of fretting at the second fret and seeing how much room there was over the first. I was able to slide a thin paper in there, but not a business card, so I don't think it is too high.

I do hope that changing the strings will make it easier to play at the first fret. Suppleness of strings would be the thing I am looking for. I certainly know that changing strings would not change the action or string height. Even if the string is thinner, it will still be the same height over the nut and bridge since those points determine where the bottom of the string is regardless of the thickness.

Thanks for the suggestions. I guess I'd better get a couple of different string sets ordered to try.

Where do you guys get the Worths?

Plainsong
04-26-2008, 03:16 AM
I know changing strings doesn't change the action. It's all just perception. I guess I wasn't clear. When I talk about music I tend to add other senses into it.

But having said that, the C string doesn't quite sit as well. I've already said the rest so I don't need to repeat it, I think. I guess I just shouldn't have said anything but I do know a little bit of what I mean at least. :(

Kekani
04-26-2008, 08:44 AM
Plainsong, no offense intended, but I think we do have clarification and are on the same sheet of music (no pun intended).

Also, please, forums like this are for sharing experiences, so don't stop.

I do have to ask - if the string is sitting high above the nut, I'm taking it as not properly seated. Or does that mean the string is seated properly, but because of the thicker gauge, it sticks out more? If its the first, work is needed. If its the second, and the string pops out when playing, then a nut replacement is needed. Based on your measurement over the 2nd, I'm guessing its the second. If so, the only potential problem there (other than popping out), is the string is too thick and wind bind in the nut and not move as needed (tuning and playing).

So I'll throw something out that I'm sure others will disagree (and I hope they say so). In my experience (and those of a few of my friends), Aquila's cause intonation problems, are sensitive to saddle shape, and some other issues. Yes, its depends on the instrument(s), but I've seen it happen too often for my taste.

As for Worth Strings, I just get them directly from KoAloha (but that may not help). MGM usually has them. If not, he can get them.

Just my $.02. -Aaron

Plainsong
04-26-2008, 11:17 PM
I'm not offended, it's just that it's frustrating over-explaining something really really really really simple. This problem is isolated to just this set of strings, which is why I noticed the problem to begin with. The string isn't popping out of the nut and I don't need a new nut. It's just either aquilas and this Pono weren't meant to be, or it's a bum set of strings. I did not have this problem with the set of Koolau Golds it came with.

It just needs a string change. It won't be as slick to play as the koa Flea (I mean wow, the setup on that is slick, not your everyday Fluke or Flea), but it'll become much more enjoyable when the C string is in there fully.

backdoc972
04-27-2008, 11:46 AM
Well, I came home yesterday after being away all day and I opened my pono's case and the A string had broken while it was sitting in the case in my temperature controlled house! :mad:

So now I really do have to get some replacement strings. Unfortunately, I live in Ukulele wasteland and will have to order and wait for them to be sent. Grrr!

Once I figure out what I like, I guess I'd better get a few sets. I have so many sets of guitar strings, I could break a string once a week for six months and not run out. LOL

Plainsong
04-27-2008, 01:27 PM
Oh ain't that Murphy's Law? Well string-instrument synergy, well, of course it doesn't really affect action, but IMO the right match will make it even more playable. :)

backdoc972
04-27-2008, 02:41 PM
I certainly hope I start bonding with this Uke. I know it isn't that expensive, but $300 is still a good chunk of change for me. I don't know if it's the low frets or what, but this thing just sounds dull and lifeless to me. It's as if it is muffled or muted.

Maybe I need to try some brighter strings or maybe I am just too used to the sound my spruce top gives, but it sounds like there is a blanket stuffed inside.

NotoriousMOK
04-28-2008, 09:00 AM
There is no doubt that your spruce top is going to sing more than your new mahogany tenor, but the magic combination is YourEars+Uke+Strings is rarely attained right out of the gate. Fortunately, you're well armed with this community and your supplier.

I believe you got this uke from MGM, so just give him a call. He sells 'sampler packs' of several different strings so you can experiment. If one of his existing assortments are not a good match for you, he'll be glad to assemble something just for you. You already know he's quick getting it to your door. Be sure to tell him all you have mentioned here, he will be glad to listen and consider your needs. I have no doubt he'll get you squared away quickly and efficiently.

He's on here from time to time as well, so if you are unable to call him right away, at least shoot him a quick email with a link to this thread, and he will be better prepared to assist you when you connect.


Have fun!

backdoc972
04-28-2008, 09:48 AM
I just got off the phone with MGM and I bought some Worth BTs. He thinks that will help. Unfortunately, I am about as far away from him as I could be and still be in the same country, so I'll have to be patient and wait a few days while snail mail get's them here.

Good guy, I'm sure we'll get it worked out.

One problem I am going to have to solve myself is the string spacing. I play guitar and concert uke and this tenor has way wider string spacing. It seems like whatever barre chord I play, at least one string is at a joint on my index finger and doesn't ring out. I'm hoping the strings will help, but are there any technique suggestions from anyone? I am trying to roll my finger over to the side a bit more and even to back up the index with my middle, but I am getting some signs of tendinitis from squeezing so hard.

tad
04-28-2008, 10:02 AM
I just got off the phone with MGM and I bought some Worth BTs. He thinks that will help. Unfortunately, I am about as far away from him as I could be and still be in the same country, so I'll have to be patient and wait a few days while snail mail get's them here.

Good guy, I'm sure we'll get it worked out.

One problem I am going to have to solve myself is the string spacing. I play guitar and concert uke and this tenor has way wider string spacing. It seems like whatever barre chord I play, at least one string is at a joint on my index finger and doesn't ring out. I'm hoping the strings will help, but are there any technique suggestions from anyone? I am trying to roll my finger over to the side a bit more and even to back up the index with my middle, but I am getting some signs of tendinitis from squeezing so hard.

Press hard?

I don't know-- this is one of the main reasons I'm not buying a tenor until I can try one out in person. (Not too many ukuleles in the local music stores here...)

And strings from Mike tend to make it to the East Coast pretty quick.

Plainsong
04-28-2008, 05:33 PM
As I mentioned in one of the other string threads, Worths's will fix it. Wow, night and day for playability at least for me. And they're a better sonic match as well. True, it'll never feel as slick as the koa Flea, but that's actual action. The Pono is now as easy to play as any other uke I've had.

I know people who own flukes and fleas are thinking that while yes, they are nice to play, the action is nothing to write home about one way or the other, but the koa Flea, at least mine, has the lowest working action I've ever played besides this one guitar player's fretless guitar. Whoever set this Flea up did a bang-up job and it really does set this Flea apart as something special.

david98116
04-28-2008, 09:56 PM
I had the same problem with my new tenor Kala strung with Aquilas. I bought a set of Worth clears from MGM and it made all the difference. The Worth's feel so far a lot like the D'Addario J71's I have on my Kanile'a. You won't be disappointed.

NotoriousMOK
05-13-2008, 01:25 PM
I just got off the phone with MGM and I bought some Worth BTs. He thinks that will help. Unfortunately, I am about as far away from him as I could be and still be in the same country, so I'll have to be patient and wait a few days while snail mail get's them here.

Hey doc, any updates on this situation, did you try your new strings yet??