View Full Version : I think my frets are out of tune...

Katie S.
07-27-2011, 06:27 PM
I just got my first uke today; a KPK Soprano. I'm a musician, so my ear is pretty good. When all the open strings are in tune (so says the tuner, not even my ear!) everything else is sharp starting at the very first fret. I read that pressing too hard can cause this, but I don't think I can be any lighter.
Could this possibly be caused by the crappy strings my instrument came with? If I put, say, Aquila strings on there, would it make any difference at all?
I only bought this particular ukulele because reviews said the thing was fabulously in tune. Like I said, I'm new to ukulele, but I'm a music teacher and I simply can not stand how sharp this is!

07-27-2011, 06:42 PM
If you just got the ukulele, the strings should be stretching a lot during the first couple of days making the uke out of tune even by looking to hard at it. It could be that or you have a bad intonationproblem. But getting new strings is a good idea for most ukuleles since the factory ones generally do not justify the sound of the uke. So I would recommend getting new strings anyway :)

07-28-2011, 01:38 AM
I'd also check the intonation. There is a great thread here that I just couldn't find this AM. Nut may be a little high, etc. Worth doing if strings don't fix it.

07-28-2011, 02:12 AM
Start with the strings. Its likely that the uke came w/either Hilo or GHS strings, neither of which are generally considered "first choices". Next would be the height at the nut since it goes sharp at the first fret, but this may change w/the string change. So first either a set of Worth's (brown or clear) OR the Martin 600's (which you can usually find at local guitar stores). Then come back for a look at the many intonation/setup threads if needed after that.

Hope this helps!

mm stan
07-28-2011, 04:33 AM
Aloha Katie,
Sorry to hear your KPK is giving you issues...who did you buy it from..Jason or Ken??? was it on ebay...then it's Jason..Give him a call back...he usually sets them up...he is really good on
warranty and service it your uke is giving you intonation issues...do that before you do anything to void the warranty.....send him an email...I hope it helps..I love my KPK...bought a couple
of them....wait on the strings until you contact him and see what he says..Good Luck MM Stan

07-28-2011, 12:09 PM
If it's quite sharp at the first fret or two, then not so bad as you move up the neck, the nut is probably high. This is not unusual on factory ukes - very many of them need a "setup" to adjust the fret slots. It's not difficult but is something that requires a human touch to get the slot just low enough without buzzing - thus the omission on many factory ukes.

A good guitar tech can fix it pretty quickly.

If intonation is off everywhere then you can try different brands and gages of strings to find a set that intonate reasonably well.

Finally, most ukuleles do not have compensated bridge saddles so it's not unusual even on fairly expensive "K-brand" ukes to find the intonation "uneven" across the strings as you move up the neck to the 12th fret and beyond.

07-28-2011, 01:19 PM
I remember what happened when someone called frets "grits." I wonder what I'll hear now??????? My frets are out of tune?

Katie S.
07-29-2011, 03:36 AM
Thanks SO much for all the advice!
Upon further inspection, pretty much the whole instrument is sharp, and if even my boyfriend with no musical background can hear it, it's pretty bad. I'm not a total music idiot; I play violin, I'm just new to uke.
This first thing I actually did was write an email to the guy I got it from, Sam Bonnano, who actually makes Kamoa Ukuleles. He suggested that I simply return it for a Kamoa. I was going to return the kpk anyway, so a solid mahogany Kamoa is headed my way. It's got a nice warranty and guarantee as well, so if I don't care for it I'll just send it back. I'm feeling pretty optimistic, though; the reviews on that brand are pretty solid.

07-29-2011, 06:09 AM
Thanks SO much for all the advice!
Upon further inspection, pretty much the whole instrument is sharp, and if even my boyfriend with no musical background can hear it, it's pretty bad. I'm not a total music idiot; I play violin, I'm just new to uke.

If it's that bad all over and gets progressively worse as you move up the neck toward the bridge it's pretty likely that the bridge got installed in the wrong location. The bridge off by just a couple of millimeters can be pretty annoying to anyone with decent pitch sense.

If you've played violin for a long time and have a very refined sense of pitch and have not played any fretted instruments before you probably are not going to be happy with anything but a near-perfect uke - and those, sadly, are pretty rare. Fretted instruments of all types suffer to one degree or another with intonation imperfections that, on a good instrument, are slight enough that most of us don't notice them. On short scale instruments like ukes and mandolins those imperfections tend to be more noticeable than on longer scale instruments. With frets it's quite difficult to intonate "on the fly" the way a violinist can.

I have a blind friend with perfect pitch (absolute) and he avoids playing acoustic guitar because even after spending tons of money on high-end guitars and setup techs he's never been able to find one that intonates well enough to keep from driving him nuts. (With most electric guitars you can intonate each string individually and, assuming that the fretwork is good and the setup correct, you can achieve very close to perfect intonation all over the neck.)

07-29-2011, 08:01 AM
Funny story re: perfect pitch. My mom was also a violinist for many years, also had perfect pitch, and anything out of tune made her nuts too. As she got older her pitch slid up, and one time she told me my uke was out of tune, tuned it, and it then sounded off to me, so I put a tuner on it. It was exactly a half step above standard.