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View Full Version : strange intonation issues on a cheap Mahalo...



gcconspiracy
12-16-2009, 06:15 PM
so I just recently got an entry level Mahalo as a first uke (as a guitar player, the uke has interested me for a while). Anyways, long story short: my first and fourth strings intonate perfectly (open, 12th fret, 12th harmonic, etc), but my 2nd and 3rd strings are slightly off at the first fret (they intonate perfectly on the 12th fret, but sound a hair sharp when I play first fret barre chords). Is this uncommon? Is there anything I can do, or should I simply appreciate the fact that the uke was dirt cheap and love it for what it is? Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

-gcc

ps - the uke still has the factory strings on her, as they did not have any strings in stock when I picked her up a week ago.

buddhuu
12-16-2009, 11:02 PM
Cheap ukes - Mahalo, Makala etc - often intonate poorly out-of-the-box. Fortunately the problem is rarely anything as serious as bad fretting or misplaced bridges. The most common cause is simply that the action is too high at nut, bridge saddle or both.

If the strings are too high then the act of fretting stretches them out of tune. Fretting notes too hard can also make your uke sound out of tune. Nylon strings are very stretchy. If the action is good then you only need to fret with enough force to hold the string firmly against the fret wire. You don't need to press it down to the wood of the fingerboard.

If you have tools to alter the slots in the nut (files, sand paper or some people even use craft knives) then that's the end to check first. As a rule of thumb, set action at the nut end before setting the saddle height.

Here's the best guide I know of on the subject of setting the nut action of a fretted instrument (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/GenSetup/NutAction/nutaction.html).

It is a good idea to get a couple of spare nuts or blanks from a luthier supplier or from ebay. If you do the adjustments on the new blank then you always have the original to put back on if you screw up and need to restore status quo.

MartinLil
12-17-2009, 02:58 AM
What would you do if this were the case with one of your guitars? Whenever intonation is off, change the strings first. Obviously, you will change the action to suit your preference. Changing at least the saddle could do the overall sounds some good too.

brickerenator
12-17-2009, 03:24 AM
New strings helps, fixing the action helps as well


But honestly, it's still going to sound horrible, I have one myself.

seeso
12-17-2009, 03:41 AM
First thing to do is get new strings. Aquilas should help. Next thing to do is try turning the saddle around. Sometimes that helps with the intonation.

gcconspiracy
12-17-2009, 05:25 AM
wow, thanks guys! I am a little unsure of doing any of the nut/bridge work myself (most of my set-up experience is on my very forgiving stratocaster, so working on acoustic instruments is new to me), but I will be sure to try changing the strings out. As for the action, it feels about perfect to me (just high enough not to buzz, but still nice and close to the fingerboard), but again I am speaking from my experience with guitars. Anyways, thanks again, and I will definitely look into all of the solutions offered (buddhu, I like the idea of a blank to practice on so I don't mess the original nut up any more than it already is... this I may have to try!).

-gcc

seeso
12-17-2009, 05:30 AM
No filing/sanding is required to turn the saddle around.

http://ukenoob.blogspot.com/2007/12/mahalo-u30-improving-intonation.html

gcconspiracy
12-17-2009, 05:51 AM
No filing/sanding is required to turn the saddle around.

http://ukenoob.blogspot.com/2007/12/mahalo-u30-improving-intonation.html

fair enough, but the saddle is compensated (unlike the REALLY cheap mahalos)... is it still possible that this could make an improvement? I mean, I'm more than willing to try it out, I just figured that it might not work well on a compensated saddle.

seeso
12-17-2009, 06:17 AM
fair enough, but the saddle is compensated (unlike the REALLY cheap mahalos)... is it still possible that this could make an improvement? I mean, I'm more than willing to try it out, I just figured that it might not work well on a compensated saddle.

Give it a whirl, it can't hurt. I did think you had the U-30, though. You didn't specify.

gcconspiracy
12-17-2009, 07:48 AM
yeah, I realized I didn't specify - sorry about that (since I live in Canada, the model numbers seem to be all different... I have a UK-51, but can't really find info on it anywhere!). Anyways, I will give it a whirl this afternoon!

I've posted some pics of the uke, so they may help in the identification of it: http://bencrumback.posterous.com/my-new-ukulele

-gcc

ps - thanks for the help seeso, and sorry for the misunderstanding due to my lack of info.

gcconspiracy
12-18-2009, 12:29 PM
well seeso, I apologize for doubting you; I turned the saddle around yesterday, and waited for the strings to resettle (I will be replacing them soon, but live in the boonies, so I'll have to wait for that), and my intonation issues almost entirely gone! Anyways, I am very thankful for all the help that I recieved on my first real post here; I can see this forum is going to be a valuable source of info as I figure out the uke!

-gcc

seeso
12-18-2009, 01:59 PM
well seeso, I apologize for doubting you; I changed the nut yesterday, and waited for the strings to resettle (I will be replacing them soon, but live in the boonies, so I'll have to wait for that), and my intonation issues almost entirely gone! Anyways, I am very thankful for all the help that I recieved on my first real post here; I can see this forum is going to be a valuable source of info as I figure out the uke!

-gcc

LOL, no worries, bro. I wasn't sure it would work. Glad it did! :shaka:

Doug W
12-19-2009, 11:10 AM
gcconspiracy,

For the benefit of others can you clarify something here; did you do something with the nut or did you turn the saddle around?

gcconspiracy
12-19-2009, 12:16 PM
gcconspiracy,

For the benefit of others can you clarify something here; did you do something with the nut or did you turn the saddle around?

I turned the saddle around. I realized I had mistakenly said "nut" in the previous post; I have since edited that post to save further confusion.

-gcc