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rjjenkins
12-10-2010, 01:49 AM
Hello

I just bought a second hand banjolele - it seems in reasonable condition with new strings. But ... I can't get it to stay in tune with itself. For example if I play an F chord, the A on the first string (with a finger on the second fret) is quite a lot sharper than the open A on the fourth string. Even though the open strings are in tune.

It makes me think that the frets aren't properly spaced, or maybe the bridge is at the wrong angle?

Something that bothers me slightly is that the metal thing that holds the strings to the body of the instrument, beyond the bridge (sorry don't know what it's called) is not parallel to the bridge - when I tune up, the tension on the strings pulls it to an angle. But I don't think this is the reason because the only important factor in tuning is the length of string between bridge and fret.

Any ideas? I am a bit of a novice with ukes, although I can play other instruments, and I have noticed that other (cheap) ukes I have played are not very in tune with themselves. Is this just something you have to live with?

hoosierhiver
12-10-2010, 03:55 AM
There's an old saying, "It takes a village to tune a banjo". It could be any number of things throwing it off. As you said it could just be intonated incorrectly, but it could be a bad string, incorrect bridge placement, maybe you need to tighten the head a little and check the action. They just take more fiddleing with than a regular ukulele. Tou may even want to un-string it and set it up again. One thing I've noticed is that clip-on tuners don't work so well on banjo-ukes if they are on the vibration setting, be sure to use the mic setting. Hope that helps

Jnobianchi
12-10-2010, 04:02 AM
There's an old saying, "It takes a village to tune a banjo".

:D

Everything Mike said, and one other note. If your tailpiece is pulling at an angle, it may not be properly set on the bezel ring, which holds down the head. Taking the strings off, tightening up the tailpiece and making sure it sitting hooked over the ring, may be needed. Also, you may already know this, so forgive me if you do, but you want to make sure you place the bridge the same distance from the 12th fret as the nut is from the 12 fret; you should get a nice, strong harmonic at the 12th. I've seen people place the bridge up to an inch off, and that effects tuning seriously.

darkwater
12-10-2010, 04:11 AM
A couple of things to check:
Try moving the A side of the bridge slightly toward the tailpiece to see if that helps. You can then check octaves with a clip on tuner or a good ear. First, make sure the open string is in tune. Then play the 12th fret harmonic by lightly touching (don't press down) the string above the 12th fret to get a clear chime an octave higher than the open string. If the bridge placement is off you may have to move your finger around a bit to find the sweet spot. Compare the harmonic to the fretted 12th string note. If the fretted note is higher than the harmonic move the bridge slightly toward the tailpiece. If it's lower move the bridge toward the neck.
If that doesn't help the action may be high. Fretting a note with the string action too high can make it stretch sharp compared to the same note on an open string. You can try a lower bridge or try sanding the feet of your current bridge a little at a time by rubbing the bridge lengthwise along a sheet of medium fine sandpaper laid flat on a table.

hoosierhiver
12-10-2010, 04:39 AM
Another thought, if you get it sounding great, make a small mark on the head where the bridge is sitting so you can easily see if it is still in place.

rjjenkins
12-10-2010, 05:45 AM
Another thought, if you get it sounding great, make a small mark on the head where the bridge is sitting so you can easily see if it is still in place.

Thanks for all the advice - I'm learning a lot.

Is it possible that the nut is too high? There is a definite tendency for notes to go seriously sharp as I go up the fingerboard. I have seen someone on youtube recommending filing down the grooves in the nut with a nail file, but I'm a bit reluctant to do that because there's no way back.

Strangely, my tuner (with a microphone) finds it hard to fix on the pitch - I think there must be a lot of harmonics in there. It's almost easier to tune the open strings by ear.

aaronckeim
12-10-2010, 06:00 AM
Action that is too high at the nut is the most over looked problem for intonation on ukes. It can make your fretting go sharp very easily. Don't worry about the nut. If you go too low, you can always shim the nut from below or make a new one.
A

hoosierhiver
12-10-2010, 06:24 AM
Stewart McDonald sells 4 string banjo saddles that work if you need a repalcement.

kenikas
12-10-2010, 06:58 AM
Stewart McDonald sells 4 string banjo saddles that work if you need a repalcement.

If I remember right Stew Mac only had 5/8" banjo saddles which usually mean a lot of sanding, Elderly and Uke World (I think) have 1/2" 4 string saddles which are usually much closer to the hieght needed.

SailingUke
12-10-2010, 07:06 AM
Another thought, if you get it sounding great, make a small mark on the head where the bridge is sitting so you can easily see if it is still in place.

Using the tuner is an easy way to check the intonation. Once you make sure everything is properly tensioned use your tuner to fine tune the bridge placement.
I just replaced the head on my UB-2. I measured nut to 12 fret, then placed the bridge at the same distance from the 12th fret. That was my starting point then I did the harmonics trick.
Once I am happy I use a pencil on the inside and color in the bridge feet. In case I bump the bridge or it slips during a string change I have the sweet spot.

Ukuleleblues
12-11-2010, 04:25 AM
Thanks for all the advice - I'm learning a lot.

Is it possible that the nut is too high? There is a definite tendency for notes to go seriously sharp as I go up the fingerboard. I have seen someone on youtube recommending filing down the grooves in the nut with a nail file, but I'm a bit reluctant to do that because there's no way back.

Strangely, my tuner (with a microphone) finds it hard to fix on the pitch - I think there must be a lot of harmonics in there. It's almost easier to tune the open strings by ear.

A high nut can make for sharp notes when you fret. As a starting point. measure the distance from the front edge of the nut (edge that points to the bridge) to the middle of the 12th fret. Now measure from the middle of the 12th fret to the front edge of the saddle/bridge (edge that points to the saddle. The distance should be roughly the same. If it is shorter you will go sharp.

You can figure out if the fret spacing is off by fiddling around with a fret calculatore like this. http://www.stewmac.com/FretCalculator You will notice if you put in a 13" scale the bridge placment is actually 13.0767. So you can measure the saddle to 1st fret or 12fret and compare against different scale lengths in the calculator to see what you have.