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DocDallas
11-17-2012, 04:19 AM
I don't know if its me or the ukelele. Or both. But I'm really getting frustrated. I tune it with my Snark tuner and just practice chord progression. The easy chords like a7 and c sound fine. But my G, D, and F chords all either sound severly out of tune or plunky. When I double check the tuning, it's still in tune. I realize that I'm still an ultra beginner, having only had my uke for less than a month, and it very well could be me. But I also realize its a Mahalo and they tend to be sketchy. Any advice?

Caddy65
11-17-2012, 04:27 AM
I would say it's one of two things. Either a poor setup, with the strings too far off the neck at the nut saddle, or both. It could also be that you are bending the strings slightly, or depressing them too hard, when playing some chords that have more fretted notes.

DocDallas
11-17-2012, 04:34 AM
Well, this thing was not set up. I can tell you that the strings are a ways off the fret board towards the saddle, but not so bad near the nut.

OldePhart
11-17-2012, 04:53 AM
Definitely a setup issue. That's very common even in factory instruments costing several times what the Mahalo does. What's happening is that the string slots in the nut are not deep enough so when you fret a string (especially at the first couple of frets) it pulls sharp. Since with most chords some strings are fretted and some are open this makes many chords very, very out of tune with themselves.

It's not too difficult to deepen the nut slots if you are patient. Work on one slot at a time and try to get it low enough that the string does not go sharp on the tuner when you fret it at the first fret. (I.e. the 2nd string fretted is an F, not a few cents above an F, and so on.)

If you go too deep, the string will start buzzing when it is played open. So, it's a balancing act. If you do happen to go too deep you can use just a dab of super glue to build the slot back up again and start over.

I've only had one uke that was bad enough that I couldn't get it to intonate properly without leveling the frets - that was a Dolphin.

For future reference, around here we tend to recommend only buying ukes from established uke sellers with good reputations for setting up the instruments they sell. HMS, Mim, Uke Republic, etc. Ironically, this is even more important on the low- and mid-priced ukes then it is on better ukes. Most of the Hawaiian ukes, for example, are quite well set up at the factory.

John

DocDallas
11-17-2012, 05:22 AM
Yeah....unfortunately I found this site after making the purchase. Lesson learned. Thanks for the input!

Lalz
11-17-2012, 11:02 AM
You could try just taking off the saddle and try sanding it a bit at the bottom to lower the action at the bridge. There's a certain height the strings should have at the 12th fret (bottom of string to top of fret) but I don't remember the exact numbers. You get there partly by lowering the saddle. Maybe 1 mm off would be enough?
This should help a bit but if it's not enough and you feel confident about what you're doing then you could try OldePhart's method. Otherwise, best to bring it to a guitar repair shop and ask to have the action lowered at the nut too. It can get a bit tricky to do it yourself because you might get buzzes. Personally I prefer to have pros set-up my ukes rather than doing it myself.

OldePhart
11-17-2012, 12:28 PM
Actually, never lower the bridge until you get the nut right first. Intonation problems at the first fret are pretty much always caused by nut slots not being low enough. If you lower the bridge end first you may get to the point where the frets are buzzing before the nut slots are low enough.

One thing that can help though is to change the strings, especially to fluorocarbon strings which happen to be a little thinner than the cheap nylon strings on some ukes. Sometimes the thinner strings will sit a little more deeply in the slots and make the uke just tolerable.

John

DocDallas
11-17-2012, 12:39 PM
I upgraded the strings the day after i got it. I put sone D'Addario's on it. I also found a repair shop that says they can adjust the action and level the frets. I'll take it in Monday. To be honest, I am not confident doing any of that myself. It wouldn't be a big deal if I mess up the uke, I just don't want to be without one if i damage it beyond repair. I'm currently pestering my wife to let me buy a Luna Pineapple from HMS. So close.

RyanMFT
11-17-2012, 12:43 PM
Welcome to UU Doc, I would say save the bucks on the setup and get the Luna from HMS.....that will take care of the whole thing, until you need a KoAloha in another month!

DocDallas
11-17-2012, 12:50 PM
If I had my way, I'd buy a higher end one and skip the Luna, too. But, meager military wages, eh?

blue_knight_usa
11-17-2012, 01:21 PM
I have to side with RyanMFT. If it's just a matter of filing the slots on the nut, that takes a few minutes and should not cost anything. If your talking 25+ bucks, I would look at something like a Gretsch G9100 http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/GrchUkSpSt/ I have their Tenor and it's great for the price. 99 bucks. Put the 25 into the new uke and you can use this one in your trunk to just pick out things while your on the road and not worry about it getting beat up. I just recently got one of their tenors. I just posted a short review on UU earlier today. Only thing I did was change the strings that came with it (Aquilas) and put my own strings on. Plays perfect.

I would see if you can find one in a store to play and if not, I think it's worth the blind bet. The other one that is a little more expensive is the Islander line by Kanilea (made in China) ...very nice for the price and I have played a few of them. Gretsch is also made in China and I am seeing more quality lower priced instruments coming out of China which everyone things is junk but I think under the supervision of the right folks they can make a production uke like anyone else once they have the expertise there showing them how to do it.

Gretsch runs about 99 bucks, Islanders I think are around 135 bucks on sale at time. If money is tight, the Gretsch is a good bet. I played some Islanders before they were announced at a uke retreat a year ago and I was impressed by the sound and build for the price.

coolkayaker1
11-17-2012, 01:26 PM
If I had my way, I'd buy a higher end one and skip the Luna, too. But, meager military wages, eh?

The Luna Pineapple is lousy. I owned one. They're terrible.

Paying to set up a cheap uke is like buying a double wide trailer and putting in granite countertops.

I just got this from HMS, I can;t even see the blem, and it's a superb ukulele by a real and genuine, respected uke company. I love it, and own many ukes (see signature). It's well off the "non-blem" price, putting it right in your range. HMS is outstanding. (The Concert size is $50 more, same website.) Side note: Eddie Vedder plays three brands of ukulele, one of which is Pono. Yes, Pono.
http://www.theukulelesite.com/pono-ms-micro-blem-sale-solid-mahogany-soprano.html

OldePhart
11-17-2012, 01:26 PM
Ryan has a point - it's probably not worth paying for a setup on a Mahalo or Makala - put the money toward a little better uke with a setup then use the cheapy to practice doing your own setups on. If you have a decent uke it's not such a big deal if you make some mistakes learning to do a setup on the other one.

John

Lalz
11-17-2012, 01:40 PM
Actually, never lower the bridge until you get the nut right first. Intonation problems at the first fret are pretty much always caused by nut slots not being low enough. If you lower the bridge end first you may get to the point where the frets are buzzing before the nut slots are low enough.

Hm, makes sense. Thanks for the correction!

RyanMFT
11-17-2012, 01:48 PM
Jay is right, the Gretsch is an excellent choice and so is an islander! Might as well get the most uke for your dollar......and as you can see, we are happy to help you spend it!

Whatever you decide, keep jamming and having fun.

coolkayaker1
11-17-2012, 01:53 PM
A recent thread of pertinence to original poster's quest. Good info and opinions.

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?70667-Pono-vs-Islander&highlight=pono+islander

DocDallas
11-17-2012, 04:35 PM
Thanks, Bill. That is all sound advice. My only issue is I live in an area that has two guitar shops. One has two fenders and a few staggs. The other has one lanikai. Neither of them are knowledgable in ukulele's. I've already gotten to where I know I'll be playing for many many years. So now it's just a matter of sticking with the mahalo and being endlessly frustrated until I move to Hawaii in September and can go to HMS and mess around, or buy something mud range to hold me over for the next couple of years.

itsme
11-17-2012, 04:47 PM
Doc, I know it can be frustrating to not have much of a local selection. But there are a number of on-line retailers (like Mim, Uke Republic, HMS and Mainland) that all participate at UU and are reputable. They'll also ensure your uke is set up properly. That's important because factory made ukes can often be hit or miss in that regard.

Contact them, tell them your budget and what you're looking for, and I'll bet they'll have some helpful suggestions for way you beyond your local options. :)

Normagal
11-18-2012, 01:24 PM
This may not be helpful at all, but thought I would share the stupid mistake I made. My uke had been sounding fine...but then one day it sounded terrible. It appeared to be tuned just fine. Turns out, I had the G and C tuned sharp,and didn't notice the little # sign. I tried an online tuner and figured it out. It was that simple.

Tootler
11-18-2012, 11:35 PM
A cheapo uke is just the thing to give lowering the action a try. I was wary but I gave it a try on a cheapo Lidl uke I bought recently and it was not difficult.

Ideally a fine triangular file is what you need but I suspect emery boards sold by manicurists for filing nails would probably work - or fine emery paper folded over. Just do it bit at a time and keep checking. If you do go too far, a useful tip I saw on a You Tube video was to put a straightened paper clip up against the nut to act as a zero fret. It was a Mahalo that the video used to demonstrate. I think he secured it with a dab of superglue once he was happy with the positioning.

OldePhart
11-19-2012, 09:35 AM
This may not be helpful at all, but thought I would share the stupid mistake I made. My uke had been sounding fine...but then one day it sounded terrible. It appeared to be tuned just fine. Turns out, I had the G and C tuned sharp,and didn't notice the little # sign. I tried an online tuner and figured it out. It was that simple.

Heh, heh. I've seen somebody do that on guitar before. A couple of years ago we had this girl playing rhythm guitar in our band. She wasn't very good, mostly because she insisted playing an overdriven electric guitar with open chords instead of barre chords - i.e. she tried to play overdriven electric guitar like she would an acoustic.

I remember I was letting her use one of my amps because all she had was a little tiny practice amp. She was on the other side of the stage from me so I couldn't hear her playing. But, about a half-hour into rehearsal she finally complains, "I can't make this amp sound good." It was a modelling amp with lots of knobs so I went over to help her out. As I was doing the knobbology I told her to strum it - she did - so I told her, "no, strum a real chord." She said "I did, that was a G" - whereupon I activated the built-in tuner on the amp and had her tune the A string back down to A from A#... :)

John