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keymoo
04-24-2011, 11:02 PM
Hi,

I am just starting out and am getting to know my new (cheap) soprano ukelele. I am practising tuning the uke, but discovered something odd. If I tune the G string to G, my tuner tells me it is at 392.0 Hz. I then tune the A string to 440.0 Hz.

Now, if I place my finger on the second fret on the G string and play it, the frequency I expect is 440 Hz (same as A), but I get 447.8 Hz and the A note played on the G string sounds wrong and grates against the A string - the two notes are not exactly same.

Is this a common thing with ukuleles, or do I have a very cheap, nasty uke?

bunnyrawr
04-24-2011, 11:16 PM
Scratch that, I've realised who you are :)
It sounds to me like your strings are still stretching and settling and in my experience this takes a week or so to even out.
They're going to slip out of tune pretty much continuously until they've settled and you'll have to tune a LOT.

Hope it helped :)

keymoo
04-24-2011, 11:21 PM
Scratch that, I've realised who you are :)
It sounds to me like your strings are still stretching and settling and in my experience this takes a week or so to even out.
They're going to slip out of tune pretty much continuously until they've settled and you'll have to tune a LOT.

Hope it helped :)

Thanks for the reply, but carefully read my post again. I have just tuned the G and A strings to my tuner so they are PERFECTLY in tune. However when I hold down the 2nd fret on the G string the pitch is different to the open A string. That's not right, is it?

bunnyrawr
04-25-2011, 12:18 AM
Thanks for the reply, but carefully read my post again. I have just tuned the G and A strings to my tuner so they are PERFECTLY in tune. However when I hold down the 2nd fret on the G string the pitch is different to the open A string. That's not right, is it?

I apologise, I thought they were slipping (the strings) between you tuning them and picking them.
I honestly can't think of a way to resolve your conundrum because I've never experienced it, but no doubt some of the more knowledgeable members will be able to help :D

ichadwick
04-25-2011, 01:56 AM
Is this a common thing with ukuleles, or do I have a very cheap, nasty uke?
On inexpensive ukes, it's not uncommon to have intonation problems, but they're usually found much higher up the fretboard where the distances between frets is much more critical. At the second fret they're usually not noticeable.

Where are you pressing your finger? It should be slightly past the fret, not directly on it. Your finger position may be sharpening it.

Once you have all the open strings at pitch, turn the tuner off. Make micro-adjustments by ear. 4th string 2nd fret and open 1st should sound in tune. But try 1st string 7th fret open 2nd (an octave apart). 2nd string 8th fret open 3rd. And 3rd string 7th open 4th.

Try 2nd string 3rd fret open 4th. And 1st string 3rd fret open 3rd.

Most people rely on tuners only to get the open strings in tune, then do the rest by ear.

SweetWaterBlue
04-25-2011, 02:33 AM
It is not uncommon on inexpensive ukes (or expensive ones that haven't been set up properly) to get sharp notes, as you are getting, when you finger frets near the nut. Almost every inexpensive uke I have ever bought had this problem, until I set it up myself. The reason is that the strings are so high that it requires stretching them a lot to get them down to the fret. That results in too much tension and a slightly sharp note. The manufacturers generally ship them with the strings too high to prevent buzzing if you change brands of strings, strum very hard, etc.

All that is usually required to fix it is to cut the nut slots deeper on the offending strings with a nut file. I usually use an old nail file or hacksaw blade and go slowly checking it numerous times before going deeper. If you go too deep, its not a life threatening situation. You can always build the slot back up with super glue and some baking soda or slip of tissue paper, or just buy a new nut for about $3.

A simple test (before filing or cutting) is to take a sliver about 1/4" wide of a business card and place it under the string at the first fret. The card should be free to move about there on an open string. Then, push the string down at the 3rd fret. That should capture the card and make it harder to pull out. If it doesn't, that string is probably too high at the nut. You are shooting for about a 1mm space between the first fret and the bottom of the strings at that point, but I usually don't take my ukes down any lower than I need to get the intonation right on the first few frets.

You can do a search for set-up to find out how high the strings should be down near the 12th fret, as well. That shouldn't be higher than about 3-4mm. If they are too high there, you need to sand or file a bit off the bottom of the saddle. Always be aware that if you get the strings too low you risk getting a buzz on some frets. You also lose some tone and volume when you lower the strings, so the whole thing is a balancing act.

wolfybau
04-25-2011, 05:24 AM
sweetwaterblue could be correct if it is high action.
IMO it might be better though to remove the nut altogther and file the bottom of it down and reglue it instead of fliing the slots. otherwise you could end up with rough slots that the stings catch on when trying to tune them. You can take a flat razor blade to break the seal of the glue and pop it off. you my wnat to lower the saddle too if its a real problem

Ive not tryed this shown in the video below and havent run into this problem of an intrument having the nut set bac to far, but i guess if the above isnt the problem you might try it as an easy fix



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNKcdlWJu2I&playnext=1&list=PL16AB93938DA59C6D

OldePhart
04-25-2011, 07:37 AM
Actually I much prefer filing the slots, rather than the bottom of the nut. Usually, each string needs individual attention - you will rarely get all of the strings perfectly intonated with no buzzing by filing the bottom of the nut. You really do want to use a decent file, though. It doesn't have to be a nut file but a nut file will pretty much eliminate any "string hanging" problems. Nut files are expensive, but you don't really need a whole set like you do working on guitars. you can order just the ".026/.032" combo file from StewMac and it will do all the slots on a soprano, concert, or reentrant tenor just fine. If you're going to be doing a lot of low-g ukes you probably ought to get the next size up, as well.

I bought a complete set of files years ago when I realized that even many guitars in the $1k price range really need touching up on the nut, and every guitar in the mid-priced range that I've ever purchased needed the nut slots deepened.

To the OP - your uke isn't "too cheap." Some ukes costing hundreds of dollars need nut work. Any time you buy a "factory uke" that hasn't been set up by the seller you're looking at kind of a crap shoot on the nut height.

John

SweetWaterBlue
04-25-2011, 07:45 AM
I agree with everything OldPhart said, although I have never had much trouble using make-shift files or hacksaw blades and/or sandpaper. I am sure its better to use real ones.

I will also note that at least one of my ukes was set up by a great dealer, but it still required that I give it my own touch. You don't have to read many reviews here by good players like JumpingFlea (Kala Acacia YT review) , or Ken Middleton (Ohana Tenor review) to realize that this is not unusual. Action is kind of an individual preference thing and can even change with a string change. I can't imagine being tied to a dealer or luthier to make such adjustments for me. Its not hard to learn to do.

bazmaz
04-25-2011, 08:38 AM
Maybe, maybe not - there are some SHOCKING cheap ukes on the market - I won one randomly in a competition I didnt know I entered - totally unplayable and unfixable (the neck angle was totally wrong).

That said, more common in even the better cheap ukes is intonation issues, but often can be sorted with a minor setup and better strings.

See - http://www.gotaukulele.com/2010/04/ukulele-basics-intonation.html

and - http://www.gotaukulele.com/2010/09/ukulele-intonation-what-is-it.html

As well as some nicer ukes, I regularly gig with a Makala Dolphin that is nicely set up - it cost me 25!

mm stan
04-25-2011, 12:13 PM
Aloha Keymoo,
Let me get this right...If you are a beginner all your strings should be at 440Hz unless you are using adjusted tuning....Set your G string at 440HZ and fret the second fret...it should sound
like an open A string...at 440Hz....if you need further help let us know.. Good Luck, MM Stan

SweetWaterBlue
04-25-2011, 01:20 PM
Aloha Keymoo,
Let me get this right...If you are a beginner all your strings should be at 440Hz unless you are using adjusted tuning....Set your G string at 440HZ and fret the second fret...it should sound
like an open A string...at 440Hz....if you need further help let us know.. Good Luck, MM Stan


???? - stan I must have missed something somewhere- if he sets all his open strings to 440Hz (middle C) he is going to have one strange sounding uke.

keymoo
04-26-2011, 02:14 AM
Thanks for the replies, everyone. Well, I've been "setting up" the Vintage VK15N uke I've got and it's a little better but it's almost impossible to set up. I'm using a fine hacksaw and file to bring down the slots in the nut, but I think the other end of the uke is too high as well (the bridge?). I've almost made up my mind to get myself a decent uke and I like the look of the Mainland ukes. I simply cannot get the intonations out of the Vintage, although it's quite close now. It was 15 on ebay (+6 for Aquilas) but I think I'd be a lot happier with a decent uke and I'm slowly convincing myself that it's worth the money. :)

I'm looking at the Eagle website (http://www.eaglemusicshop.com/products.asp/SubcatID/23/soprano-ukulele.html) and they sell soprano ukes in Cedar, Mango and Mahogany. I like the look of the Mango wood, does that sound good?

HoldinCoffee
04-26-2011, 02:34 AM
I have a mango Mainland concert, great uke! The sound is hard to describe, lovely for sure, but "deeper" than any other concert I've tried. Warm is a better word, perhaps. The one you're looking at says its got the gloss finish, VERY nice, buy it!

wolfybau
04-26-2011, 07:36 AM
Actually I much prefer filing the slots, rather than the bottom of the nut. Usually, each string needs individual attention - you will rarely get all of the strings perfectly intonated with no buzzing by filing the bottom of the nut. You really do want to use a decent file, though. It doesn't have to be a nut file but a nut file will pretty much eliminate any "string hanging" problems. Nut files are expensive, but you don't really need a whole set like you do working on guitars. you can order just the ".026/.032" combo file from StewMac and it will do all the slots on a soprano, concert, or reentrant tenor just fine. If you're going to be doing a lot of low-g ukes you probably ought to get the next size up, as well.

I bought a complete set of files years ago when I realized that even many guitars in the $1k price range really need touching up on the nut, and every guitar in the mid-priced range that I've ever purchased needed the nut slots deepened.

To the OP - your uke isn't "too cheap." Some ukes costing hundreds of dollars need nut work. Any time you buy a "factory uke" that hasn't been set up by the seller you're looking at kind of a crap shoot on the nut height.

John

I agree wth you on a lot of points.
my answer was geared for someone who is a beginner with no exerience of luthery as the original poster indicated.
without the right size file or knowledge of the fine points of slot filing such as string angle, which as you know, if you dont get this right you will get buzzing in the slot , the string moving around if its too wide and more probs than you started with.
IMO it seems a much easier to pop the nut off , sand a little off the bottom with some sand paper and glue it back one, all done with easily obtained things from around the house or local hardware store. these cheap ukes all seem to used the same preformed plastic nuts from what I can tell. you can do the same thing wth the white plastic bridge saddle.
you can test it before you glue it (don't glue the saddle just slide it back in) and if you sanded a little too much off and get buzzing, you can just shim it with a fine sliver of wood, no harm done. munge up the fret slots or cut em too deep, well that could be a real bummer to fix.

ksiegel
04-26-2011, 01:52 PM
???? - stan I must have missed something somewhere- if he sets all his open strings to 440Hz (middle C) he is going to have one strange sounding uke.

I thought 440 hz was an "A", not middle C....

At least, that's what the tuning fork had written on it....

-Kurt

SweetWaterBlue
04-26-2011, 02:01 PM
I thought 440 hz was an "A", not middle C....

At least, that's what the tuning fork had written on it....

-Kurt

You are right, it is an A, so all his strings would be tuned to A, not middle C (261.63 Hz) if all were at 440Hz.

keymoo
04-27-2011, 07:40 AM
I just ordered myself a Mainland Mahogany Soprano Uke, will be delivered on 4th May. :)

OldePhart
04-27-2011, 08:13 AM
That'll pretty much solve your problem! Great ukes.