View Full Version : Sick soprano....

11-21-2009, 01:45 PM
I bought a "custom" soprano a few months ago. There are some photos in my user profile page. It's a pretty little thing, but I've not really warmed up to it yet.

At first I was convinced it was the soprano size, together with the GHS strings, that I didn't care for. When I played it, I just didn't seem to be able to sound as good as I did on my Kala concert. This isn't to say that I play well, but the soprano just didn't sound good to me. Chords always sound just a little "off"....

Last night I had a revelation. I tuned the soprano until I felt I had it near perfect, using a digital tuner. Then I checked the tuner as I fretted each string at the 12th fret. Should still be GCEA, right? Wrong! Apparantly the intonation is way off.

Is it possible something as simple as a string change could cure this? I have a new set of Aquilla soprano's on hand that I bought for it. I had hesitated to change the strings as I wanted to record the GHS's first.

Could it need a set-up, say, for the height of the action? I'm not sure how high it should be.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Maybe it's too early for me to be saying I don't like sopranos....

11-21-2009, 01:55 PM
A little more info would be helpful. Do the notes get progressively sharper as you go up the neck. If so, it could be either a very high action or lack of proper compensation. How are the harmonic notes at the 12th fret?


11-21-2009, 01:59 PM
I too purchased a "custom" soprano once and it was pretty but it was just off. Someone built it in their shop here in the States. I sold it on Ebay with a disclaimer. You're right, I just checked my inexpensive soprano Makai and it was just a tad flat at the 12th. I actually ran it up the scale and it tended to go a little flat as you went up but not to bad. I then checked my expensive Koolau pineapple soprano. It was barely flat as you went up and then it was perfect at the 12th.

So, my advice is to sell it off and buy a good soprano. The bad one will bother you everytime you pick it up. I've discovered that I like sopranos the best and baritones second.

But that is just my 2 cents worth.

11-21-2009, 02:06 PM
it might be the action or it might be the tension pulling the neck out of shape. since it is custom it is worth taking it to a luthier and getting it set up and get some advice on it. it wont cost much, if it's a turkey, well at least it will look nice on the wall.

11-21-2009, 02:22 PM
First off saying you don't like sopranos just cuz you got an off one is like judging all red heads by this one girl i dated once...

Really just take it to a Acoustic Guitar shop and have them take a look.

11-21-2009, 02:54 PM
I don't know what to tell you about the harmonics. I tried to produce harmonics at the 12th fret, but it didn't sound right. Wish I could be more specific, but I lack experience,

Using the tuner at the 12th fret, the notes are very sharp....nearly a half-step. The open string tuning is dead on, but chords don't sound right.

Free-dive, this has been my only exposure to a soprano uke, so I initially thought it might be the size and the scale length that made it hard for me to sound good on it. I'm certainly open to liking sopranos if I can get this one straightened out.

That red-head....got her number?

11-21-2009, 04:05 PM
If it's a custom, contact the maker. They may well be happy to fix whatever is wrong with it.
I make custom Irish pennywhistles, and believe me I don't want anything out there with my name on it that's not up to par. Short of a total wreck, I fix 'em for free. A reputable uke maker will probably feel the same.
And yeah, what they said about redheads... a good one is FABULOUS (I'm married to one :D )

11-22-2009, 12:32 AM
You might try bringing it in to Bernunzio's or Stutzman's both very reputable. They would give you a better idea of what the problem is. If you're near Canandaigua, Tim at Mobile Music is an excellent tech as well as the owner.

Edit: Agree with the other posters about sending it back to the maker if there is a real problem. Dave at Stuzman's advised me to do that with one of my guitars.

11-22-2009, 02:33 AM
To go along with everybody else. Strings and set up are the first step and since it's a custom, the maker is somebody you should talk to. If the intonation is that off, the builder might want to have a look at it.

11-22-2009, 02:58 AM

It is easy enough to check the set up on your soprano. First of all, get a straight edge (a good ruler will do), and lay it along the frets between the strings. The frets should all touch the edge. There might be very slight uneven-ness, but no significant rocking, or gaps of more than a few thou. Next, measure the gap between the top of first fret and the bottom of the strings. A good gap would be around the thickness of a credit card, but most stock ukes come with quite a bit more.

Measure the gap at the twelfth fret. One eigth of an inch, or a smidge less, is a good general setting. I'll bet yours is quite a bit more.

If the frets are level, set it up as indicated above, and see what difference it makes.

Measure the distance from the face of the nut to the crown of the twelfth fret. The distance from the twelfth to the crown of the saddle should be the same, or slightly more.

Let us know what you find.

John Colter.

PS. BTW did you get those arrangements I sent you?

11-22-2009, 06:32 AM
Thanks for all the great replies!

Brewerpaul....I hear what you're saying about the custom builder, but he's out-of-state. If it's correctable at this end, I'll do it that way.

About the redheads....I'm married to one, also, but boy do I have fond memories of the other one I dated thirty years ago. :D

guitharsis....Another local UUer? Where are you from? I've been to both places you've mentioned. I may end up having to go that route, but in the interest of costs, I'd like to try to "fix" this without.

ukantor....Very helpful tips. I'll do some further investigating along those lines this evening (measurements and such), and then get back to you here. As to the arrangements....sorry, never got them. But I share this computer with my wife, and who knows?

Thanks again, guys....I'll keep you posted!