View Full Version : what's involved with a set up

01-19-2010, 02:48 AM
I keep seeing on these threads about how valuable a proper set up is before you get your uke, I've bought mine from local retailers and have no idea if they have had this done.

What is involved?, can it be done by myself?

I'm just starting to think about if I am getting the most from my ukes

thanks in advance


01-19-2010, 03:25 AM
Some elements of a proper set-up:

Adjusting the nut height to insure proper distance from the bottom of each string to the top of the 1st fret
Adjusting the nut slots to insure proper "break" or angle of the string from the nut toward the headstock
Adjusting the bridge saddle to insure proper/preferred distance of bottom of each string to the top of the 12th fret. Also making sure bottom of saddle is flat, fit in bridge is properly snug.
Metal frets leveled and polished, "fret sprout" filed away
Fretboard properly moisturized with oil and/or wax
Elements 1 and 3 adjusted to insure proper intonation up and down the fretboard.

01-19-2010, 03:43 AM
Zoe - you can use the search function to see what string heights people recommend at the first and 12th frets, but there is not a consensus on that. Some like em lower and some like em higher. Most manufacturers set them too high on purpose to avoid buzz with all kinds of strings. Lowering them is mostly a matter of sanding and/or filing as RevWill is alluding to.

That said, I would say if you don't feel you are having to push down too hard on the strings to get good tone and to play the kind of music you like, I would check the intonation with my chromatic tuner by fretting each string all the way up to say the 12th fret or more. If the intonation is right, each note will be spot on a semi-tone higher than the next lower fret. On the G string, for example, the notes should read G,G#,A,A#,B, etc. Most ukes will have some variation but one with too high an action will be too sharp on the notes as you go up.

If you are happy with the intonation as described above, and you are not getting any buzzing, or having trouble playing it because the strings are too high, I would say its fine.

It would be intersting to hear some of the retailers weigh in on this, but if they told us how they do it, they would have to kill us to preserve the secret methods.

01-19-2010, 03:54 AM
SweetWaterBlue is right IMO. If your strings play in tune, feel the right height to you, and don't buzz you're fine. Some people have a strong preference for lower or higher action and they will need a more pro setup in order to achieve their preferred feel. If the nut is so high that fretted notes pull the uke out of tune, then it's set-up time.

The thing I look for mostly is friction at the nut. When you turn the tuners does the string change pitch smoothly or is there friction or binding in the nut causing the string to creak and pop? If that isn't smooth then I will gingerly file away the roughness and/or lubricate the nut slot with lip balm or powdered graphite.

01-19-2010, 04:36 AM
thanks for that, I'm starting to understand now
I've checked using my tuner how accurate the notes are on the way up the fretboard for each string, 3 of the strings seem fine but the G seems to be sharp, I don't want to do any unneccesary surgery on my beautiful uke, would changing the string make a difference.

oh yeah and what's a "fret sprout"


01-19-2010, 05:11 AM
A fret sprout is a "barb" which one of your fretting fingers feels in a certain spot or spots, as uncomfortable.. . . . . . . I think

01-19-2010, 05:22 AM
Fret sprout is when the ends of the frets feel sharp along the edges of the fretboard. It happens due to the fretboard drying out causing the wood to shrink.

Yes, your problem could be the string. Chances are pretty good that changing the string might fix the problem. If not, you may need the nut slot filed down just a hair.

01-19-2010, 05:27 AM
Good thread. I've wondered the same.

01-19-2010, 05:36 AM
thanks, I'll try the string first
I'll go to the music shop and straight to the desk and try to avoid looking at the wall of ukuleles that I know will be behind me.

thanks again

01-19-2010, 05:40 AM
snowy_zoe, "I know you can do it ". . . . . . be strong !

01-19-2010, 05:44 AM
i don't know if I'm that strong - I know there's a shiney resenator uke there - it's so pretty

Ahnko Honu
01-19-2010, 05:44 AM
Here it is straight from the proverbial horse's mouth: http://reviews.ebay.com/Ukulele-What-is-setup-Action-and-Intonation-mean_W0QQugidZ10000000004902503

01-19-2010, 05:50 AM
snowy_zoe, "I know you can do it ". . . . . . be strong !

I hope you can do it, I never seem to be able to manage it!

01-19-2010, 06:11 AM
thanks for the link Ahnko Honu - much appreciated

kenikas - luckily I'm broke at the moment, so I should be ok - strings is about as far as I can go right now