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bsting
05-26-2008, 05:09 PM
hi everyone, newbie here :)

I just got my first real uke a few weeks ago used off craigslist.org, and it sounds great. However, the action is definitely higher than I would like. I mean, it's higher than my guitar. It's an old Harmony baritone (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bsting/2479341058/).

I guess my question is, do you think this can be adjusted? If so, would a guitar shop be able to do it, or would I have to take it to a ukulele shop? I'm currently using aquila nylgut strings, the kind designed for concert tuning. I've also wound the string around the tuning pegs several as you would when stringing a guitar, though I think I just read that this is wrong and a common mistake guitar players make. Is that wrong and could it make a difference?

It's still very playable, and sounds very good....but any help you guys can offer would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks!!

cMejilla
05-26-2008, 05:55 PM
most guitar shops that handle repairs should take in your uke if you bring it in.

seeso
05-26-2008, 06:32 PM
Hi, bsting.

A guitar guy can lower your action for you, but you can lower the action yourself. You can do this at the nut, the bridge, or both.

Check the action at the 12th fret. The space between the string and the crown of the 12th fret should be between 1/8 and 3/16 of an inch.

If it's too high, you'll have to adjust the action at the saddle. Before you do that though, check the action at the nut.

When fretting a string at the 3rd fret, you should be able to slide a business card between the string and the top (crown) of the first fret with a little bit of friction.

If there's no friction, then you'll have to lower the action at the nut.

To lower the action at the saddle:

Calculate the difference between your action at the 12th fret and 3/16 of an inch. Loosen your strings, take out your saddle, and mark this difference on it with a pencil, starting from the bottom of the saddle.

Get some 220 grit sandpaper, and start sanding the bottom of your saddle down to that pencil mark.

To lower the action at the nut:

Sand the bottom of the nut a little at a time, checking your measurements frequently. If you can't remove the nut, you can also file the slots in the nut a little at a time. Be careful if you choose this route. If the slots get too wide, you can have problems.

Hope that helps.

I wouldn't worry about winding the strings around the pegs. It shouldn't cause a problem. I've never heard of that causing a problem, anyway. Where did you read that?

Congrats on the ukulele. It looks nice. I would have replied earlier, but I was lost in your "jump" photographs. :)

bsting
05-26-2008, 06:52 PM
oh man seeso, you're awesome, thanks for the fast and detailed reply!!!

so, I just measured and it looks like it comes in at 7/32, just under 1/2 and a tad over 3/16...and it seems fine at the nut. so i guess now i have to decide if it's worth trying my hand at filing!

should the saddle come off easily? is it advisable to sand a bit off the top (i'm guessing probably not!)?

thanks so much again for your help, i really appreciate it!!

ps: haha oh yeah, i think i might have read that bit about stringing on the ezfolk forums? it's good to hear it shouldn't matter though! :)

seeso
05-26-2008, 08:16 PM
I'd go ahead and sand the saddle down to get to 3/16, bsting. You should totally try it yourself. Worst case scenario, you have to buy a new blank saddle for three bucks.

The saddle should come off easily. Just loosen/remove the strings and turn your uke upside-down. If it doesn't fall out, you grab a hold of it with your fingers and try. But it shouldn't be glued in.

And you're correct, do not sand the top. Bottom only!

1uke
05-27-2008, 06:45 AM
I'm currently using aquila nylgut strings, the kind designed for concert tuning.

Hey bsting, I would not recommend using concert tuning strings on a baritone uke. I say this for several reasons: Uke strings that are designed for baritone ukes are thicker (in order to produce deeper sounds) as well as longer (since the neck and body length is longer) than strings that are designed for concert ukes. Baritones are also generally tuned DGBE which is much lower than a concert. It's just as easy to find strings for baritone ukes, Aquila even makes some. I think you will find that the uke will sound better when you put baritone strings on it :)

As for the stringing method check out Aldrine's method in Uke Minutes Episode 5 (http://ukuleleunderground.com/category/ukeminute/page/4/). This worked well for me.
If you're looking to buy some Aquilas, I bought mine here (http://www.bernunzio.com/paper_list.php?type=Strings-QR).
This is a great site and they often offer free shipping!

bsting
05-27-2008, 09:03 AM
haha, alright, i'm gonna try it this afternoon! thanks again for the tip seeso! I'll report back with the results. :)

1uke, the gCEA strings I have were actually designed for the baritone specifically, Aquila and Hilo both make them. I bought the Aquilas at http://www.juststrings.com/aquilaukulele.html, since their warehouse is close enough to my parents house where I'm staying for the month that I can just go and pick them up, it's where the whole family buys strings. I just ordered two pairs of Hilos from MGM to see how those will feel too, since his shipping is only 75 cents. These should be fine for a baritone as they are designed for them yeah?

seeso
05-27-2008, 09:45 AM
There shouldn't be a problem even if you'd used concert strings on a baritone. The problems come when you try to tune a set of D G B E baritone strings to G C E A. Those strings are too thick to take that tuning. That's when your bridge goes flying.

Guting uses tenor strings on his Rogue bari and never has any problems.

But yeah, since your strings are made for the bari specifically, you should be fine.

seeso
05-27-2008, 09:48 AM
Good luck, by the way.

Howlin Hobbit
05-27-2008, 11:11 AM
Get some 220 grit sandpaper, and start sanding the bottom of your saddle down to that pencil mark.

For the saddle to work best across all four strings it needs to sit flat in its slot. So instead of moving your sandpaper on the saddle move your saddle on the sandpaper.

That is, glue your sandpaper to a flat board -- rubber cement is da bomb for that -- and the run the saddle on it, keeping it flat at all times.

No need to get in a hurry either. For one, you end up sanding your fingertips if you do that. (Trust me on that one. Sad personal experience.)

seeso
05-27-2008, 01:23 PM
Whoops, thanks Hobbit. I should have made that clear... Uh oh. I hope she got your note before she tried it.

1uke
05-27-2008, 04:18 PM
Alright, I miss understood what you meant by concert tuning, however that sounds fine. I guess strings are a little more versatile than I thought.


it's where the whole family buys strings.
Oh and sorry for trying to impede on your family's traditions :o, hahahaha.

I have tried Hilos and I can tell you that you'll notice they have a satin finish and are a little less loud than the aquilas. Good luck with your ventures!:)

bsting
05-27-2008, 07:00 PM
hehehe i guess that sounded a little weird, i definitely have no snobbery when it comes to strings or where i get them ;), haha really.

do you generally like the hilos better than the aquilas? i'm so curious to see how they're going to sound on this ukulele.

howling hobbit, thanks for your tip, i still haven't taken the sandpaper to the uke because all i could find in my house was an electric sander...which after reading your note i realized would probably be very difficult to sand evenly with. so i'm going to wait and pick up a piece of actual sand paper and use your advice!

Howlin Hobbit
05-27-2008, 07:43 PM
Whoops, thanks Hobbit. I should have made that clear...

Got yer back, bro! ;)

bsting
05-28-2008, 06:24 PM
haha, so, as an update...

I tried removing the saddle, but it appears to be glued on. I even tried to take pliers to it, but it felt like it would shatter!! So I decided a baritone with high action would be better than nothing at all, and left it alone.

The pegs were hard to turn after stringing it the first time around, but now they're nearly impossible and it's driving me crazy. Tuning the thing is a serious workout. I know it'll settle after a few days so I won't have to deal with the pain, but man...

sooo......I just bought a soprano from MGM :o and that's my story...yeah, i'm nuts.


I think eventually I'll take the baritone to an actual shop.

Howlin Hobbit
05-28-2008, 09:28 PM
I tried removing the saddle, but it appears to be glued on. I even tried to take pliers to it, but it felt like it would shatter!!

Take the bari and lay it on its side on a table (with a pillow or wadded up blanket under it).

Now take a regular (i.e. not phillips head) screwdriver and a hammer. Put the screwdriver tip on the end of the saddle so it doesn't overhang onto the bridge itself, in other words, it's only touching saddle. Now give the handle of the screwdriver a sharp rap with the hammer. Make sure you're lined up so that the force goes straight along the saddle. It's also good to rest the forearm of whichever arm is holding the screwdriver on the uke itself so it doesn't skitter out from under you.

Also please note I said "sharp rap" not "go at it like freakin' Hercules unchained."

I had to do that with a soprano I was fixing. Popped the sucker loose with no problem.

As far as shattering the saddle goes, as long as you don't damage the bridge itself you're still golden. Saddle blanks are cheap and easy to work. Fabricating and replacing a bridge is a whole 'nother kettle of monkeys.

1uke
05-29-2008, 05:41 AM
Also please note I said "sharp rap" not "go at it like freakin' Hercules unchained."
HAHAHAHAHA!!!



do you generally like the hilos better than the aquilas? i'm so curious to see how they're going to sound on this ukulele.

Well I play a Mele Mahogany Concert, when I first got it it had Hilos on it. I then put on some Aquilas to give them a try. The biggest difference I noticed is the Aquilas have a really crisp,clear, but still rather mellow sound and are really loud when strummed. The only problem I've experienced with them is a slight fret buzz when I strum near the soundhole, they seem to be okay though if strum near the 10-12th fret. They are also a glossy finish so they ring a little clearer if you use your fingertips to pluck, but can be a little squeaky at times.

As for what I can remember about the hilos is that they are really mellow and quieter than the Aquilas. They have a smooth mate finish.
I would say all in all the hilos sounded best when they were strummed and Aquilas sound best when there picked, I really can't say that either are preferable yet because this is only my second set of strings. I think I will also try Worths at some point too.

seeso
05-29-2008, 06:04 AM
Congratulations on picking up a soprano. I'm surprised Hobbit didn't say anything about that. He's the resident soprano preacher.

Be sure to post some pictures of your new baby when she arrives.

bsting
05-29-2008, 09:14 AM
Take the bari and lay it on its side on a table (with a pillow or wadded up blanket under it).

Now take a regular (i.e. not phillips head) screwdriver and a hammer. Put the screwdriver tip on the end of the saddle so it doesn't overhang onto the bridge itself, in other words, it's only touching saddle. Now give the handle of the screwdriver a sharp rap with the hammer...


haha thanks for all your help with this, i'll try and give it a go again. i think this saddle must have been on this uke for years, it looks ancient, so i'll definitely avoid a herculean blow ;)

1uke, thanks for the string comparison, the aquilas are nice, but i definitely hear the squeak you're talking about. maybe they'll compliment this instrument best since they're less mellow, but it'll be fun to try something different when the hilos come in.

seeso, yeah, i'll definitely post pics :D i can't wait for it to come in! haha then you guys can tell me if i made a good choice.

Howlin Hobbit
05-29-2008, 09:23 AM
I then put on some Aquilas to give them a try. . .The only problem I've experienced with them is a slight fret buzz when I strum near the soundhole, they seem to be okay though if strum near the 10-12th fret.

Check out my post in the "String buzz" thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=394&page=2) with the quotes from Dave Means. You may have a similar issue.

1uke
05-30-2008, 05:37 AM
Check out my post in the "String buzz" thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=394&page=2) with the quotes from Dave Means. You may have a similar issue.

Yes, thank you Howlin Hobbit, I had actually read your post earlier and I think that I have assessed that the Aquilas are a little too low of tension for my uke, therefore they have a little more play and buzz against the fret (this only happens when strumming though).

What I would really like to find are a set of strings that are as high a tension as hilos, sound similar to hilos when strummed(only a little louder) and sound similar to aquilas when plucked (this is a reference to my previous comparison observations).
Any suggestions, Aquilas only come in one tension right? What about Worths? Mele Ukulele recommends hilos and I like them, the only thing is that I find that they sound a little dull on the fifth fret of the E and C when plucked.

As well, is it okay to leave strings of lower tension on my uke if it's designed for higher tensioned strings? Will it cause any warping? The reason I ask is because I want to actually play these strings out for a while before changing them, the buzz is not really bad and I have already found a temp solution for it.

Howlin Hobbit
05-30-2008, 05:36 PM
...is it okay to leave strings of lower tension on my uke if it's designed for higher tensioned strings?

The sense I've gotten from various luthier's posts on the subject is that there really isn't that much tension on the neck in the first place, even with "high tension" strings cranked up to D tuning. Most ukes don't even have a stiffener of any sort in the neck. (Dave Means, and probably others, put something in. In Dave's case it's a strip of carbon fiber. The neck is definitely not going to warp on that one.)

I don't think it's going to make that much difference.

tammy08
12-28-2009, 03:22 PM
I didn't know what was wrong with my ukulele until I realized it had too high of action (I just started playing over the summer so I'm new to this). Seeso, your post really helped me out, I sanded the nut and now my uke sounds much better!!!! :D

austin1
12-29-2009, 03:01 PM
anybody know what we do if we have the reverse problem, and want to raise the action?

KC8AFW
12-29-2009, 03:13 PM
anybody know what we do if we have the reverse problem, and want to raise the action?

Unfortunately...you'll have to get another saddle. The up side is they aren't very expensive (they can be found for around $4), and if you screw it up you still have your original.

Carson Bailey
07-21-2010, 03:37 AM
Hey UU friends and members... All my Kahla Ukes, Concert, Soprano and Tenor (acacia, ooohh) lol, love them all My soprano has a concert neck from factory (sweetness) all this talk about "neck and action" got me to measure out the height on all of them. Seeso seemso right about all this stuff :)~ 3/16 is a good space between strings and fretboard. Not much for the idea of grooving the nut out..(on guitar the strings need to Not be down deep in the Nut groove, just half the string diameter.. I would imagine the same for Ukes. Worth and Aquila strings are the Best on Kahla's Ukes (for Me only I speak) peace2fingers!