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View Full Version : Intonation going off down the fretboard



lalas
02-28-2010, 12:48 AM
Hello everyone... I didn't want to post this thread at beginners section, as I hoped for more expert opinions.

I just bought my first uke, for only $25, and I'm starting with some lessons. Here's what bothers me:

Uke is OK, all wood, no plastic, common nylon strings, and the sound is ok. I was tuning it by ear, using online tuners. However, yesterday I downloaded a tuning software for my computer, and checked the quality of my tuning, and I was relatively precise, two strings being perfectly tuned, one 1 Hz (Hertz) off, and one 3Hz off. I tuned all of them perfectly after that. BUT, WHAT I NOTICED is that with open strings precisely tuned - when I press E string at 5th fret which is "A" note, it should fall in tune as "A" string, but tuner says the tone is 7-8 Hz too high. Also with other strings "C" at fourth fret is 4-5 Hz higher than open "E" string, etc... you get the point.

My question is, is this a problem? Is this a case only with my uke? I guess its a problem because 8 Hz difference in frequency is probably recognizable by human ear. If its not too much trouble for you, I would like to know, do your ukes have those issues? You can use your digital tuners, or download the same software I used, its very convenient, and all you need is a microphone. You can download it at http://download.cnet.com/Audio-Tuner/3000-2170_4-10796453.html#rateit I'm not advertising the software, actually its a freeware with donation asked if you liked it, so I'm not posting it here because advertise it, but because I want your opinion.

Is there any kind of intervention that could fix this? Could it be because of the strings?

Ken Middleton
02-28-2010, 02:45 AM
Hello everyone... I didn't want to post this thread at beginners section, as I hoped for more expert opinions.

I just bought my first uke, for only $25, and I'm starting with some lessons. Here's what bothers me:

Uke is OK, all wood, no plastic, common nylon strings, and the sound is ok. I was tuning it by ear, using online tuners. However, yesterday I downloaded a tuning software for my computer, and checked the quality of my tuning, and I was relatively precise, two strings being perfectly tuned, one 1 Hz (Hertz) off, and one 3Hz off. I tuned all of them perfectly after that. BUT, WHAT I NOTICED is that with open strings precisely tuned - when I press E string at 5th fret which is "A" note, it should fall in tune as "A" string, but tuner says the tone is 7-8 Hz too high. Also with other strings "C" at fourth fret is 4-5 Hz higher than open "E" string, etc... you get the point.

My question is, is this a problem? Is this a case only with my uke? I guess its a problem because 8 Hz difference in frequency is probably recognizable by human ear. If its not too much trouble for you, I would like to know, do your ukes have those issues? You can use your digital tuners, or download the same software I used, its very convenient, and all you need is a microphone. You can download it at http://download.cnet.com/Audio-Tuner/3000-2170_4-10796453.html#rateit I'm not advertising the software, actually its a freeware with donation asked if you liked it, so I'm not posting it here because advertise it, but because I want your opinion.

Is there any kind of intervention that could fix this? Could it be because of the strings?

If it is going out of tune on all strings as you go UP the fretboard, it may well be that the bridge has been glued in the wrong place. If this is the case, there is not much you can do other that take the bridge off and glue it back on in the right place.

Other possibilities could be that the strings are too high at the nut and possibly saddle.

I'm afraid that some (not all) $25 ukes are just not worth buying. It is a big risk.

lalas
02-28-2010, 07:41 AM
So what would you suggest? Should I tune every string separately with tuner, or is it better to tune one string (C), and others to it? What could be better in my case?

Ken Middleton
02-28-2010, 08:12 AM
So what would you suggest? Should I tune every string separately with tuner, or is it better to tune one string (C), and others to it? What could be better in my case?

If there is a problem with the bridge position (and there may not be), it won't make any difference what you do, I'm afraid. Somenotes will always be out of tune.

If it doesnh't really sound out of tune, tune each string with a tuner.

clayton56
02-28-2010, 08:24 AM
first change the strings, then check the tuning of the 12th fret harmonic with the note fretted (held down) at the 12th fret. They should be the same, or perhaps the fretted note a touch sharp at the 12th fret (if your action is a little high).

If that works, your bridge is in the right place. You can also try measuring from the nut to the bridge, and make sure the 12th fret is exactly halfway between. If it's still a little off, you could try compensating the saddle a little before trying to unglue the bridge. Filing the saddle at an angle can change the point at which the string touches. File off the front of the saddle and the point goes rearward, and vice versa.

A high action sharpens the strings everywhere because of the extra tension, if your nut is too high your other strings might be sharp as well. And some strings just don't have great intonation to start with.

kenikas
02-28-2010, 08:39 AM
I would agree with what has been said, but before you get to involved in altering your uke, I agree with clayton56 that the first thing is to try some better strings. The cheap nylon strings most cheaper ukes come with are terrible! I'd suggest you get a set of Aquila Nylgut strings and try it with them. A heads up, the Aquila's stretch like mad for a week or so, but after that settle in.

SailingUke
02-28-2010, 08:51 AM
I agree with all the above.
Strings can make a difference.
Most likely it is a nut/saddle height thing. This is also known as action. Too high and you are strecthing the string sharp as you play.
Intonation issues are common on lesser expensive ukes and many times you just are not going to get it perfect.
It is my experience that beginning uke playes do not wander up the fret board too often, so if you can get it close for freats 1-5 you will probably be ok
until you skill level tells you to buy a new/better uke. When I go shopping I always take my tuner and check out the intonation it is a sign of a well made, properly set-up instrument.
My DaSilva is dead nuts on every string every fret, but then Mike makes each fret board by hand.