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australe
12-02-2011, 03:00 AM
So I've seen people talk about when they get a new uke it needing a good "set up". What exactly does that entail? I'm pretty sure my Lanikai LU-22 CFM is playing well, but its my first one so it might not be. Are there things that are recommended to do?

NoahOathKeeper
12-02-2011, 03:14 AM
man around here even the best music shops seam to treat there ukuleles like the ugly step child the one closest to me that in there name " Fine Musical instruments " don't do a set up on there ukuleles but do on all there other instruments
i would recommend buying a ukulele from a shop that sets up all there ukuleles before they sell them . it really makes a huge difference

sweetiecino
12-02-2011, 03:16 AM
This video is pretty helpful > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adeFF0nQyzM

hopkid
12-02-2011, 03:21 AM
Here's a brief description from Hawaii Music Supply: "We now set up each instrument to ensure you get the absolute best for your money! This includes Saddle and Nut heights, Fret work and intonation checks, and a thorough inspection for cosmetic flaw."

australe
12-02-2011, 06:53 AM
huh... I wonder if the shop I got mine from does it... I worry about the added cost. I watched that video and it didn't look like they did anything to my Uke

Drew Bear
12-02-2011, 07:19 AM
A proper setup does take time, so it should add to the price of the uke. I think that's why some of the most frequently recommended vendors do not necessarily offer the lowest price. They're still competitive, just not the absolute lowest price.

I think I read somewhere that a proper setup by a trained luthier (preferably experienced with ukulele) would cost $30-40? Can anyone confirm this? So this was what I added when comparing prices of ukes that would come directly from some generic music outlet to one coming from HMS, Mims, etc.

australe
12-02-2011, 07:21 AM
I'll have to check at the place that I got mine from... and the other place I didn't get mine from locally it looked like they had a workshop set up in the store..

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
12-02-2011, 08:00 AM
australe, if your Lanikai is playing well, don't worry about it. If there are no obvious problems (buzzing, out-of-tune notes, strings ridiculously high off the fretboard), there's no reason to spend any money on setting up your ukulele. My only recommendation: have fun playing!

australe
12-02-2011, 02:45 PM
australe, if your Lanikai is playing well, don't worry about it. If there are no obvious problems (buzzing, out-of-tune notes, strings ridiculously high off the fretboard), there's no reason to spend any money on setting up your ukulele. My only recommendation: have fun playing!

I agree... and its not something I'm probly going to jump right on, but I have been noticing (and I'm not sure if its just me) But when I try to do higher chords, like an Em I tend to hear a bit of a buzz that bugs me. I'm thinking after looking at the video above that my strings are probly a bit too high...
I'm wondering too.... is it a common thing when setting up a uke that they file the frets down just a bit to flatten the the top out, instead of it being completely rounded? My brain is theorizing that if the top of the frets is somewhat flat instead of rounded that you wouldn't need to push down on the strings as hard to get a clear note, am I right?

TCK
12-02-2011, 03:04 PM
It is exactly the opposite- a good crown on the neck allows you to push less (and less accurately in my findings) because the string contacting the fret surface area is less. I have a few vintage ukes with worn frets and they are a bear on some chords- my Martin Gets a death grip on B flat every time or it will buzz (part of the fun for me with really old ukes), and all my May Bells have a funny fret here and there. SOme day I will fix them and be totally lost because I played them so much while they were jacked. Frets in a set-up uke are filed first to assure they are at the same height, and then re-profiled or crowned to be round.
With an Em chord buzz, it could be a fret issue (easily isolated- play a single not on each string from the nut down until you get a buzz), but more likely than not it is a fingering issue if you are new to the Uke. Em, Bb and E will give you fits for DAYS, but they will all sweeten out with practice.
Most factory ukes are set High- there is a reason for that. If a player "over-strums", or is just that punk rock, they will get a buzz if the action is low. SOme folks like (need) a higher action because their attack does not work at a low one. I bought a Uke from Jnobianchi that he played beautifully, but I new he was far more ginger in the strum department than I am. When I got it, I could not play it without it buzzing, but that was all action, not the Uke itself. I raised the action and it plays like a dream for me...while he would pick it up at this point and think it was rubbish. Does that make sense? Different strokes for different folks. The only uke I have had commissioned to be set up by a luthier required I played it for him before he did the work ($20). He watched me play a few tunes and did his thing and knocked all the buzz out of it for me in about an hour.

australe
12-02-2011, 03:14 PM
It is exactly the opposite- a good crown on the neck allows you to push less (and less accurately in my findings) because the string contacting the fret surface area is less. I have a few vintage ukes with worn frets and they are a bear on some chords- my Martin Gets a death grip on B flat every time or it will buzz (part of the fun for me with really old ukes), and all my May Bells have a funny fret here and there. SOme day I will fix them and be totally lost because I played them so much while they were jacked. Frets in a set-up uke are filed first to assure they are at the same height, and then re-profiled or crowned to be round.
With an Em chord buzz, it could be a fret issue (easily isolated- play a single not on each string from the nut down until you get a buzz), but more likely than not it is a fingering issue if you are new to the Uke. Em, Bb and E will give you fits for DAYS, but they will all sweeten out with practice.
Most factory ukes are set High- there is a reason for that. If a player "over-strums", or is just that punk rock, they will get a buzz if the action is low. SOme folks like (need) a higher action because their attack does not work at a low one. I bought a Uke from Jnobianchi that he played beautifully, but I new he was far more ginger in the strum department than I am. When I got it, I could not play it without it buzzing, but that was all action, not the Uke itself. I raised the action and it plays like a dream for me...while he would pick it up at this point and think it was rubbish. Does that make sense? Different strokes for different folks. The only uke I have had commissioned to be set up by a luthier required I played it for him before he did the work ($20). He watched me play a few tunes and did his thing and knocked all the buzz out of it for me in about an hour.

Thanks so much... this is why I ask questions so I know that I'm maybe not figuring something right. I'll keep playing around on it, once my hands get used to playing better and strengthened up more I'm sure it'll get easier... I've already noticed really good jumps everyday in how easy it is for me to play different chords, thats exciting to me and is keeping me really into learning. I'm loving this uke! Will continue to work on my form though.... I'm liking that I'm hearing its not an arm and a leg to get it set up if I decide to go through with that a little later on... not something I really feel a need to jump right into right now, but its something I was curious about... All of you have been a great help to me with the questions I've posted so far :)

modern day ukuleleist
12-02-2011, 04:45 PM
Just watched the video about ukulele set up.

He said all ukuleles will buzz at some point... Is it a bad idea to take a ukulele to a guitar shop for fixing? Aren't exactly many (read: any) ukulele shops within a couple hundred miles from here.

TCK
12-02-2011, 05:43 PM
Best bet- read everything you can about set-up...especially if the letter MGM are attached to the post (the best ukes I have ever played were set up buy him-no hype because we love him...as I bought them both second hand). Then get yourself some needle files and go for it- worst case scenario, new nut and saddle ($10 bucks tops). I know what perfect feels like for me because I have 14 ukes laying around, but really there is nothing stopping you from lowering your own.
Might as well break down what I like- of course it is infused with Mike's Mojo (yeah, I took a caliper to the two he did). OK- First bit, fret yourself a C chord. Now, slide a business card under the first fret while you are doing that. When you pull it out, you should feel the slightest drag on it- it isn't stuck, but it isn't totally free either. Repeat with all the strings- fret the third and slide. That is right where you want that nut height. If it is not right, file. I use a triangle needle file as I change strings so much...and the triangle needle gives me a little lee-way as to what I can string with. If you love your strings, file with a round file and make the slot exactly the diameter of the string (caveat- my triangle file slots look hokey).
Now- head down to your 12th fret. Action there ought to be about 2.75mm. Factory is usually about 3mm, but that is too high, even for me. Some ukes are 2.5mm....nice, but I make them buzz- in any event, this is a starting point! Play your uke at 2.75 mm and see if you like it, if not, sand it a bit. There are lots of ways to sand a saddle...and lots of ways to mess it up. I use a plate of glass with some paper (150 grit) taped down to it, and even pressure. The key here is to sand a little, play a lot- tune it up and see if you are where you want to be. Also, EVEN PRESSURE is important. I have a friend who is in the middle of no where and had no glass, so she taped the sand paper to a window in her house- biggest thing here is that it is FLAT. If you heed my warning and play a lot and sand a little, you will find your sweet spot...which you will want to make a measurement of and write down. Makes the next one easier.
Hope that makes sense- nothing about leveling and crowning as your uke is new and should not be warped or wonky in the frets. Let me know if you need anything else on doing it- I have done about 15 at this point and I am getting pretty good I recon :)

australe
12-03-2011, 01:58 AM
Thanks so much for the information!, TCK! Its kinda scary to me to really consider going to town on my ukulele, but like you said it also is a cheap fix if you screw it up... What happens if the nut is larger than the strings? As in my Lanikai has aquila strings on it and I'm totally happy with them but I've heard people say before that they prefer thinner strings, is that an issue if I decided at some point to try some thinner strings?
So the saddle always gets flat sanded and the nut is etched... I think I would be able to actually try sanding down the saddle a bit if I decided to... I haven't exactly measured it, but I have an idea what a mm looks like and I'm pretty sure the strings are high. If you sand the saddle down though then what effect does that have on the, lets say 3rd fret?

Nickie
12-03-2011, 04:34 AM
This is a very good thread. My favorite local shop (Sam Ash Music) has a luthier shop, and a luthier on duty, but they don't set up what they sell, unless you go see the guy on your own. My guy has worked on my uke 3 times, and has never charged me a dime, but he didn't use up any parts, and i bought it there.
I think proper set up is very important. Nothing aggravates me more than a buzzing string. If it's me, well then, I know I'm playing lousy. If it's the uke, there's a problem, and I'll never be happy with it. I replaced my 1st uke because of it, and well, also a C string (usually the worst buzzer) is also "muddy" sounding.
I think we all might do well learning to set up a uke ourselves. I used to set up my own fiddle, a musician friend showed me how. A fretted instrument is a horse of a different color, though.
Of course, as always, if the uke plays perfect for you out of the box, why mess with it? "Don't fix what ain't broke."
If anyone is brave or confident enough, could we have a video on that here? I'd love to take that knowledge to the members of our uke club.

TCK
12-03-2011, 07:23 AM
That would be where you would hit the snag mate. If the slots are a bit too wide for the strings you like, you could conceivably get a buzz. I learned this bit from MMSTAN- stick a little bit of paper under a string that is buzzing at the nut and guess what, no more buzz! Fixes it right out and is not noticeable. Just did it on one of my old BU's and it worked a charm after chasing a buzz for six months- should have tried it first.
Funny- it never occurred to me that by doing the nut first and then doing the saddle, you would effectively be lowering the action in a really small increment at the third fret (it would almost be negligible at most scale lengths I think)- you are a thinking man my friend! Pondering it- I would say a few things. First, hopefully someone who does these for a living will chime in with the "proper" order of operations, and that I have never done a Soprano (other than a BU- which is a whole new can of worms with an adjustable neck) which would suffer the most from that incremental change. Second, my process is never all at once. My wife loves it when I get a new uke, because I set my files and my glass plate on the coffee table for a week and make small changes while I play- so the measurements I am giving you are never exact, more like hunting until I get what I want, and every one is different, with the exception of the BU's- I know exactly where I want those and I put them there almost automatically. I think I am going to experiment and measure precisely to see how much the change at the third after lowering the saddle on my Cigar box (because I have new parts ready for it when I mess it up lol).

Thanks so much for the information!, TCK! Its kinda scary to me to really consider going to town on my ukulele, but like you said it also is a cheap fix if you screw it up... What happens if the nut is larger than the strings? As in my Lanikai has aquila strings on it and I'm totally happy with them but I've heard people say before that they prefer thinner strings, is that an issue if I decided at some point to try some thinner strings?
So the saddle always gets flat sanded and the nut is etched... I think I would be able to actually try sanding down the saddle a bit if I decided to... I haven't exactly measured it, but I have an idea what a mm looks like and I'm pretty sure the strings are high. If you sand the saddle down though then what effect does that have on the, lets say 3rd fret?

australe
12-04-2011, 04:21 PM
TCK, I like to ask questions and fully understand things that I'm developing a serious interest in, of course some of that might be because I'm female and over thinking everything is one of our curses ;) . I haven't had as much fun with an instrument ever in my life as I have with this ukulele in the last two weeks.

TCK
12-06-2011, 03:03 PM
Certainly nothing wrong with that frame of mind- I have the same affliction in it's male form I suppose. In any event- I figure part of the fun of the Uke is sharing it- close your eyes and dive in- it is a great way to spend your free time and makes other folks smile when you play. All win all around :)
TCK, I like to ask questions and fully understand things that I'm developing a serious interest in, of course some of that might be because I'm female and over thinking everything is one of our curses ;) . I haven't had as much fun with an instrument ever in my life as I have with this ukulele in the last two weeks.

MGM
12-06-2011, 08:12 PM
Thanks for the kind words TCK. One of these days I will let all my secrets out but one must rememeber a thousand factors can come in setting up a uke. Is it for a strummer, a fingerpicker, what kind of strings are their preference. Do you play properly just above the sound hole or your style makes you strum over the sound hole. Do you strum with your thumb or nails. Joel from the Hms video trained with me for three years and does a great job...experience with all sorts of problems counts...I can tell almost immediately if a buzz is caused by frets or a bad string. I can hear the difference. Strings as some mentioned are always a factor. Each has it's pluses and minuses on what goes wrong with each brand as to playability intonation and buzzing....Setup...a true one takes time...at a minimum 15 mintues...I seriously doubt that all these new sellers do one as thorough as it really should be nor do they understand the differences between a uke setup and a guitar setup....my learning curve was a slow and long one and cannot be taught on a 5 minute video....I mean. How many know how to rid a fret buzz with a chisel and hammer..I do it much more often than you would imagine. As someone said. If it sounds and plays good out of the box...don,t fuss whats not broken..just my humble thoughts

kaizersoza
12-07-2011, 02:07 AM
I am so interested in this subject, but it looks like you have to teach yourself with a lot of trial and error involved, i will be buying some cheap ukes in the new year and attempting to 'set' them up wish me luck i think i'm gonna need it, as was mentioned in an earlier post there is a massive gap in the market for ukulele luthiers
@MGM, is there any advice or help you can give me or any information online apart from the few you tube vids you can suggest that can help me in my plight, i realise this is no five minute job and needs experience and time, judging by the fantastic accolades i read about you every day on UU you are da man to talk to
thanx anyways
kaizer