View Full Version : I now know the IMPORTANCE of a GOOD SETUP on your uke, whether cheap or expensive!!

11-21-2011, 07:55 PM
Hi guys

I must say here, that I have been VERY lucky in the ukes that I have had previously, as they have all been nicely set up - even my 2nd hand Mainland Banjo Uke that just played so sweetly straight out of the box ..... I knew I just HAD to have it & it has kick started me on the UAS quest!!

I recently made an impulsive bid on a Bruce Wei Pineapple ukulele on Ebay - and won it for like $7 + $80 shipping from Vietnam to Aussie - it is a sweet looking tenor uke with abalone inlay & I wasn't too worried that it would be a dud as it was made with Acacia (virtually the same timber as koa, just not grown in Hawaii and looked like it had been well made.)

However, when I received it, there was a lot of buzzing on the whole of the first fret - less so on the A string, but the others was very noticeable, so virtually unplayable.

I knew that Tudorp had received a few of Bruce Wei ukes that he had 'set up' and either sold on or kept for private use, so asked him his opinion on what I should do with mine. And I would like to publicly thank Tudorp for the assistance he gave me in understanding how the setup of a uke can totally change the 'playability' of the instrument!

It may be the difference in you PLAYING the uke or NOT PLAYING it at all ie, just writing it off as a Dud Buy!

It was obvious that the frets on mine were NOT the same height & I thought that maybe I needed the first fret totally replaced, to bring it in line with the rest of them. The strings were also very high from the frets, hurting my fingers to actually press down enough to get clear notes.

I took it to a local guitar luthier - Graham Bird - who lives about an hour away from me & he checked it out & said that it really needed a total 'Set Up' job & that he would do it! Whilst there, he showed me one of the 10 ukes that he had built from all Australian Timber, with King Billy Pine (15,000 years old) for the front & other beautiful timbers throughout the instrument - and the sound of this uke just blew me away!! The action was so sweet, I could easily do Barr chords & do like an electric 'slide' up the fretboard to any fret - almost sounding professional!! LOL I trotted out my 'Formby Soundalike' piece - totally unlike any Formby song that I have heard, but using the Split Stroke only - and gee it sounded good on that uke!! Another bloke had brought in a guitar for Graham to work on & he was intrigued as he watched me playing the uke - and I wouldn't be surprised if he has now bought one too as he just loved the sound!!

In the mean time, Graham was working on my uke, bringing it back to 'usable' condition! When finished, I couldn't believe how terrific the uke now sounded!! He had lowered the action of the nut & saddle and also filed & dressed & polished half of the frets so that they are all even now - and then oiled the fret board with lemon oil to 'finish it off' and give it back to me to play!!

Nut before & after setup
30189 30190

Actioon/Height at the 12th Fret before & after setup
30191 30192

If I was blind folded, I would have said it was a totally different instrument from both the touch & sound of it. It no longer hurt my fingers to play ANY chord, Barr chords included (on my arthritic fingers!!) It almost 'chimes' and the sustain is now long & sweet and almost perfect intonation. My husband is a beginner uke player, never having played an instrument before - but always wanted to learn something ..... and this is it!! He just loves his uke now.

I can't emphasise enough now, that whether a cheap uke or a real expensive uke that:

- if the strings are hurting your fingers (they don't have to, as the uke probably has too high an action)

- if you are not 100% happy with the sound of the uke, ie the notes go 'off' as you play higher up the fret board

- if there is buzzing on specific frets when forming chords

your uke most probably needs a professional Set Up!

It need not cost a lot either!! I don't know what a luthier or qualified technician would charge for a set up over in the USA - but Graham only wanted to charge me for the $30 that he had originally quoted to change the one fret wire - so I upped it to $50, as I was SO HAPPY with the uke now & I reckoned he had to do so much more work on the uke than originally thought necessary!!

So ..... take it from me - spending a few dollars on a good set up for your uke is well worth it!! Many ukes are sold 'as is' from the manufacturer - only quality shops like Mike at Mainland & Mim's Ukes, Hawaii Music Supply & others that you will know better than I - only quality Uke Shops check every individual ukes before they go out, for the height of the action, the level of the frets & the intonation up the fretboard!

If your uke has NEVER been set up - chances are, it may need it - and it will play all the sweeter for it!!

Cheerio - I look forward to reading your comments - unfortunately, I am having difficulty putting the video of me playing a 'sort of formby style tune' on the Bruce Wei Tenor Pineapple onto Youtube for some reason otherwise I would show you how nicely the Bruce Wei uke is playing now!



11-22-2011, 01:08 AM
Glad ya got it all worked out, and enjoying the uke. Bruce Wei ukes are pretty good ukes for the money, even with the cost of a good set up.

11-22-2011, 01:38 AM
Good on ya Roberta! Always glad to hear/read stories with great endings. Always good to have a luthier handy. :)

mm stan
11-22-2011, 02:15 AM
Aloha Roberta...
Glad to hear it worked out well and you are happy with the results...Happy Strummings..

11-22-2011, 09:17 AM
Thanks guys - everyone that sees & plays the Bruce Wei uke now is absolutely blown away by the lovely sound. It is mellow but chirpy. They also love the shape & the decoration. Most importantly, Keith really enjoys playing it & I've printed off a couple of songbooks for him to learn on, tho he reckons he isn't ready to join my 'beginners' group yet! LOL!

The 'after' photos (particularly of the 12th fret area) shows how much more 'flattened' the frets are, compared to the original 'before' frets. They were quite 'proud' before.

Absolutely, Tudorp - for the money & a good setup, it was well worth the purchase. I am surprised they haven't worked out that they need to play the instruments first, before putting them up for sale - then, they could start at a higher price as well! I see that his regular shaped ukes normally DO start higher priced. Maybe he had only recently started making the Pineapple uke?

Oh yeah - I then went and bought Graham's last uke in that run of 10! :D The King Billy Pine is really difficult to get now as big restrictions have been put on the amount allowed to be cut & milled - tho Graham had stocked up on some before the rules changed. He has said he will 'check it out & give it the once over' as it had been in the shop for some time, as most would pick it up, see the price tag & put it back again! It is my most expensive uke to date, but I am really happy with it! Here is a still of it, taken from the video that I can't upload to Youtube! Grrr I'll do some better pics soon!

Off fishing, then on to the uke group for 2 sessions today!!



mm stan
11-22-2011, 10:20 AM
Aloha Roberta,
Sounds like you have the uke by craze as all of us do...UAS (ukulele Aquisation Syndrome) You go girl....keep on buying and playin' Happy Strummings..