View Full Version : High hopes - lowered action - HUGE difference

06-08-2012, 05:26 AM
My Lanikai LU-21C is my first (and so far, only) uke and I did what most people here would advise against, buying it from an online store (though reputable) which basically moves instruments, they didn't do setups. The factory action was set pretty high to the point where my fingertips (especially my index finger) would get numb and my wrist would get sore after playing for any length of time. My thumb would even get a bit sore from having to squeeze the chords so hard to get a good sound. I measured the action at the first fret with a credit card. I could place the card on the first fret and there was still space between the card and the bottom of the strings! Time to get the action lowered to make my uke a little more playable.

I was a bit nervous because in talking with people, I got potential cost estimates ranging from $20 to $75 to get a setup done. That could potentially almost double what I paid for the uke so I hoped I could find a place that could do it for a reasonable cost. I called a local guitar store and they said lowering the action sounded like a $20 job. That sounded reasonable so I was all-in. When I picked up my uke, they only charged me $6.00!! Even the clerk commented that they must not have had to do much to charge only $6.00. Once I got it home and started playing it, I noticed that it didn't feel a whole lot different than before. I should have looked at it a bit closer at the store but upon closer inspection, I noticed that they only lowered the action at the bridge and not at all at the nut. I went back, the guy was apologetic and joked that they charged so little because they only did half the job! They had it ready for me the next day and when he called me, he said that playing this uke would be a breeze compared to what it was. When the clerk asked him what the charge would be for the additional work, he said that since I was made to come back twice for the uke that they would only charge me the $6.00 for the entire job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Plus they threw in a free store pen. Now that's customer service! ;) )

He was right about my uke playing like a breeze compared to what it was. The difference is HUGE, it's like night and day. Even barre chords up on the first fret are almost effortless. Now when I do the credit card test at the first fret, the card fits snugly between the fret and the strings and is held in place by the pressure of the strings. I'm now a full-blown advocate for getting the action properly set up on a ukulele. Everyone's advice to get it done was right and I'll never buy another uke without a proper setup. Playing the uke before was fun but now it's also a pleasure!

06-08-2012, 05:34 AM
Great story, and really underlines the importance of proper setup. Most ukes will ship with the action on the high side, since it is much easier to lower action than it is to raise it, and everybody's preferences are different. A basic setup shouldn't be too pricey, as it's fairly short work for someone who knows what they're doing (and a potential disaster for someone who doesn't).

The best part of this story is that you have a local shop that treats you right. While your setup should have been completed properly the first time, mistakes do happen, and the shop took appropriate and generous steps to earn your business. A good local shop is worth its weight in gold and then some.

06-08-2012, 08:48 AM
Having recently gotten a new Pono baritone from HMS that was set-up before it was sent to me, I can really appreciate proper set-up now. I have had a Kamaka tenor for some time that sounds wonderful except for buzzing more frequently than I would wish. Naturally I thought the buzzing was all me, but the Pono plays much easier. It actually sounds as if i have some knowledge of where to put my fingers. I'm starting lessons next week with a gentleman with 30 years of experience so I'm going to show him both and get advice about having work done on the Kamaka. The Kamaka was sold to me straight out of the shipping box (I watched it being unpacked) and I didn't know anything about set-up. Probably have to take it to Oahu for adjustment. Thank you for the post.

06-08-2012, 08:59 AM
Very similar experience to my purchase of a LU-21. The intonation of it was so bad I was going to take it back but decided that a setup my fix it. I dropped by Dusty Strings in Seattle about 10 minutes before closing and asked what they thought. They took it to their back room, worked some magic and before closing they had lowered the action and charged me only $7. Like Mike said, what a huge difference taking it from only suitable for the grand kids as punishment to one that I enjoy playing from time to time.

06-08-2012, 12:59 PM
Lowering the action at the nut is critical to facilitate ease of playing on the lower frets. Lowering the action at the saddle helps for playing up the neck but doesn't materially affect playing on the lower frets where all beginners learn. Action at the nut can be lowered in about 5 minutes by filing the slots. You don't have to remove the strings to make string height adjustments at the nut. Kudos to the shops who did this work for you at a reasonable cost, that's as it should be.

By the way, I do this work for free when someone needs it.

06-08-2012, 07:18 PM
I'm really loving this new, lowered action! It's sooooooooooooo much easier to play. Looking back on how it was before, I can't believe I was trying to play it with such high, torturous action. In comparison, this is like a dream.