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View Full Version : my first ukulele just sounds bad to me now...



aehalt
03-01-2012, 11:24 AM
i bought a soprano about a year and a half ago. a real cheap one (49$) off brand ukulele. It was my first ukulele, since then i have purchased a tenor, concert and banjo uke. being my first ukulele, its slightly sentimental, but after playing the other sizes that are also better quality, i feel like my soprano sounds quite crappy and almost out-of-tuney, even when "in-tune".

I don't think the neck is warped since at the 12th fret its just slightly sharp of an octave. i really like the soprano size but i don't want to play with something that doesn't give me an ear-ache.

do ukulele's just get old? should i invest in another soprano and use my old buddy as firewood?

Kayak Jim
03-01-2012, 11:30 AM
I think your ear has just gotten better. Consider donating the old uke to a friend or family member to get them into the fold. And yes, get yourself another soprano that sounds good to your educated ear.

Jim B

OldePhart
03-01-2012, 11:59 AM
Your ear has become refined enough to notice the intonation issues that were always there. Most ukes right up through the mid priced ones have intonation issues unless they've been set up by a dealer who cares. Sometimes of them are really bad, sometimes not so bad.

Many people are capable of hearing pretty small intonation errors but they don't recognize what they're hearing. They just recognize that some ukes sound "sweeter" than others. The ones that aren't so sweet usually have intonation problems.

A couple of years ago I bought nut files and all the stuff I needed to set up my guitars (and now ukes) myself. Because for about two years I've been playing only instruments that are very nearly perfectly intonated my ear has reached the point where intonation off by a cent or two at the first fret is often noticeable and much more than a couple of cents is actually distracting on some chords.


This after being happy with guitars that were "only" ten cents off at the first fret for a couple of decades.

Better instruments actually do make better players, which is why you hear so many of us on this forum encourage folks to buy the very best instruments they can afford right out of the gate!

John

Gwynedd
03-01-2012, 12:04 PM
Donate it or sell it ....or, change the strings. Sometimes that helps and you can use it as a Battle Uke.

laundromatt
03-01-2012, 12:28 PM
Pass it on and let someone else discover the joy of uke-ing. To them, it may sound great. :D

mm stan
03-01-2012, 12:33 PM
Change the strings my friend ..martin M600 and do a set up.. you may be surprised..
if it has sentimental value which it does it seems..

itsme
03-01-2012, 12:59 PM
Yeah, if you haven't changed the strings since you got it, that should be your first shot.

Hippie Dribble
03-01-2012, 01:08 PM
6 and a half years on, I still have my first uke, a little painted blue 25 dollar mahalo. Sentimental? heck yeah!!!! Wow, plenty of others have come and gone in that time but that one's a keeper.

Take it to a guitar tech for a set-up adjstment and a new set of strings. see what that does. if it aint got no sentiment just give it away, someone will love it!!!

Mim
03-01-2012, 01:32 PM
Print out a few 4 chord G, C, Am, F songs and pass it along to someone to get them started on playing!!! Share the uke love! I got rid of the first uke I bought (though it was $14 and a piece of crap) I wish I had kept it, or lended it out so it would come back to me having helped someone else discover the joy of the ukulele!

JClifton
03-01-2012, 02:27 PM
I like the idea of lending it out. I plan on keeping mine around to teach my daughter in the next few years. Then it's sentimental value will go up even more.

SuzukHammer
03-01-2012, 09:56 PM
I think you should paint it and use it as a flower plant.

after you try new strings.

aehalt
03-02-2012, 07:04 AM
thanks for the input guys- i've changed the strings about every 3 months, i actually prefer the sound of the Martins over Aquila's on most ukuleles.

Lending it out is a good idea, but i also appreciate the best part about this little uke- i can leave it in the car, get in the pool with it, and just throw it around. that was the appeal but now that appeal is being overtaken by the earache it causes.

any suggestions on some cheap/ 100ish or less that are laminated sopranos? i just know i'll have it by the pool a lot this summer and i need something that maximizes quality/durability/cost

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
03-02-2012, 07:11 AM
Makala soprano ukes (MK-S and Dolphin) are less than $50 and they sound good. If you get a chance to play a few, you can find a really nice-sounding one.

mr moonlight
03-02-2012, 07:44 AM
I sold off my first uke. I just didn't see the point in keeping a perfectly good instrument in the closet with no chance of ever being played. I know how you feel about playing a uke that just doesn't sound right to you even if it is your beater. I ended up just buying a nice beater that wasn't quite as nice as my nice uke....I still wouldn't get in the pool with it although I have taken it to the beach and gotten it covered in sand a few times.

Manalishi
03-02-2012, 11:49 PM
My first uke was a painted Mahalo cheapie.It went when I broke
it up (deliberately) to use the neck on a banjo - uke I was making!
But as I run a local ukulele Club,I eventually got another one,still
a Mahalo painted cheapie,as a loaner for anyone who turned up at
the club,without an instrument. I set the action on it properly and
put Aquilas on it,of course.Sound thin and 'tinny' compared to my
better ones,BUT is still a playable beginner uke!

barefootgypsy
03-03-2012, 02:24 AM
Your ear has become refined enough to notice the intonation issues that were always there. Most ukes right up through the mid priced ones have intonation issues unless they've been set up by a dealer who cares. Sometimes of them are really bad, sometimes not so bad.

Many people are capable of hearing pretty small intonation errors but they don't recognize what they're hearing. They just recognize that some ukes sound "sweeter" than others. The ones that aren't so sweet usually have intonation problems.

A couple of years ago I bought nut files and all the stuff I needed to set up my guitars (and now ukes) myself. Because for about two years I've been playing only instruments that are very nearly perfectly intonated my ear has reached the point where intonation off by a cent or two at the first fret is often noticeable and much more than a couple of cents is actually distracting on some chords.


This after being happy with guitars that were "only" ten cents off at the first fret for a couple of decades.

Better instruments actually do make better players, which is why you hear so many of us on this forum encourage folks to buy the very best instruments they can afford right out of the gate!

John

Hi John - you say you bought nut files - my new (vintage) banjo-uke is bad at the nut - too high, and the strings don't sit in there properly - it's making any chords sound awful, and very"boingy" at the first fret - the bridge is in the right place because it's playing an octave at the 12th fret - question is, did you get those cheap nut files that aren't really nut files that you see on ebay, or did you buy the real deal? 'Cos I need to get mine sorted.....thanks!

OldePhart
03-03-2012, 09:52 AM
Hi John - you say you bought nut files - my new (vintage) banjo-uke is bad at the nut - too high, and the strings don't sit in there properly - it's making any chords sound awful, and very"boingy" at the first fret - the bridge is in the right place because it's playing an octave at the 12th fret - question is, did you get those cheap nut files that aren't really nut files that you see on ebay, or did you buy the real deal? 'Cos I need to get mine sorted.....thanks!

I bought a complete set of the expensive files from Stewart McDonald luthier supply (stewmac.com) because I had a lot of guitars that needed work and tended to buy and sell (mostly buy) a lot of guitars.

However, for ukes the only one I've used out of the set is the one that is .026" on one side and .032" on the other. I don't think you'd need more than that one double file unless you were doing baritones or maybe an unwound low G tenor.

If you're only going to do one or two ukes there are some cheaper alternatives. I've heard of people using the cleaning tips for welding torches that are readily available at most hardware stores, though I've never used it myself. You can file some sharp notches across the edge of a feeler guage of the correct size (I'd go with a .030 or .035, probably). Again, haven't done this but have heard of people getting good results.

But, if you're going to do a lot of ukes the double file from StewMac will pay for itself as it is exactly the proper shape and it will cut much more cleanly and quickly than most of the improvised things.

Whatever you do avoid the little triangular needle files - a triangle shaped notch is the last thing you want. It will "trap" strings, digging in and making them not tune smoothly. Also, the action will change drastically for minor changes in string gage or even the age of strings (strings get marginally thinner with time when they are kept up to pitch).

John

molokinirum
03-03-2012, 10:05 AM
Print out a few 4 chord G, C, Am, F songs and pass it along to someone to get them started on playing!!! Share the uke love! I got rid of the first uke I bought (though it was $14 and a piece of crap) I wish I had kept it, or lended it out so it would come back to me having helped someone else discover the joy of the ukulele!

+1...This is a great idea. Spread the Aloha!!!!!!!

barefootgypsy
03-03-2012, 08:50 PM
I bought a complete set of the expensive files from Stewart McDonald luthier supply (stewmac.com) because I had a lot of guitars that needed work and tended to buy and sell (mostly buy) a lot of guitars.

However, for ukes the only one I've used out of the set is the one that is .026" on one side and .032" on the other. I don't think you'd need more than that one double file unless you were doing baritones or maybe an unwound low G tenor.

If you're only going to do one or two ukes there are some cheaper alternatives. I've heard of people using the cleaning tips for welding torches that are readily available at most hardware stores, though I've never used it myself. You can file some sharp notches across the edge of a feeler guage of the correct size (I'd go with a .030 or .035, probably). Again, haven't done this but have heard of people getting good results.

But, if you're going to do a lot of ukes the double file from StewMac will pay for itself as it is exactly the proper shape and it will cut much more cleanly and quickly than most of the improvised things.

Whatever you do avoid the little triangular needle files - a triangle shaped notch is the last thing you want. It will "trap" strings, digging in and making them not tune smoothly. Also, the action will change drastically for minor changes in string gage or even the age of strings (strings get marginally thinner with time when they are kept up to pitch).

John

John thanks for that, that's really helpful! I'll get this baby playing nicely if it's the last thing I do! :D

kirc
03-04-2012, 10:25 PM
I like the idea of lending it out. I plan on keeping mine around to teach my daughter in the next few years. Then it's sentimental value will go up even more.

This is what I did with my first 'Uke... not so much lent as given to my niece... and she's loving it...

Ingrate
03-05-2012, 06:02 AM
I had a <$50 used Kamoa soprano that didn't sound so good after I got a better 'uke. I decided to use it as a guinea pig. I made all sorts of adjustments to the bridge, made a custom nut w/altered string spacing, and experimented with fret height. I learned a lot about what makes a 'uke "sweet" - the action height and fret height are critical - especially on a soprano.

I improved it, but then I went too far with that poor old Kamoa, having lowered the frets too much. It was a worthwhile learning experience, however. I learned how to grind and recrown frets w/o damaging the fretboard, for example. I learned that one must be patient! YMMV.

In the end, I had some Kamoa kindling and much enlightenment. If you're interested in personalizing the set-up on your 'ukuleles, you can learn a lot this way.

:p