View Full Version : Best intonation I've ever achieved...

04-11-2013, 11:53 AM
For the first time, I've found strings for one of my ukes that make it intonate "perfectly" at the 12th fret as measured by a stroboclip tuner! I've come close with some other ukes (some intonate "perfectly" as measured by a Snark but show slight movement on the stroboclip).

Let me stress that I'm talking about intonation up the neck here. I consider "perfect" intonation at the first fret as measured by the stroboclip to be essential - if I can't take the nut slots down far enough to get there without buzzing it means the uke is defective - again, that's my opinion but since I have to play them I'm sticking to it. :)

But, intonation up the neck is far more a matter of finding the right strings for a given uke because about the only other thing you can do is make slight adjustments by compensating the top of the saddle (the saddle is too narrow for anything beyond a slight adjustment). Actually, I suppose I should mention that the uke I achieved this "perfect" intonation on is my Kiwaya longneck which comes from the factory with a compensated saddle.

Contrary to popular belief, saddle height has relatively little affect on mid-string intonation - the saddle has to be really high to pull the strings noticeably sharp at the 12th fret because it is right in the middle of the string. Though...if you have an extended fret board then a very high saddle might pull the strings noticeably sharp at the highest frets (17th, 18th, etc.).

I understand why a lot of people get confused about this. A nut that is even a little high can pull intonation at the first couple of frets very sharp but you have to look at how close those frets are to the nut. The middle of the string is not that close to either the saddle or nut and therefore they have to be outrageously high to have much impact on the intonation around the 12th fret.

Anyway, back to the Kiwaya. The intonation was good with other strings I've had on it (Aquilas, Seaguar fishing leaders in medium gage) but it is superb with the strings I put on a few days ago. I've also had really good luck for intonation with these strings (Seaguar leaders in heavy gage) on other ukes. In fact, every uke that I've been able to use them on has intonated better than with any other strings I've tried (I've got a theory that the high tension has something to do with it but it's just a theory). Notice I said "every uke I've been able to use them on." My KoAloha longneck soprano was not at all happy with the heavy gage - it pinched the sound right down and I couldn't get them off fast enough. My Mainland mango loved the strings - but it was just too bright with them - if you're looking for a lethal weapon then that might actually be a good combo! My Mainland mahogany soprano and tenor love them, though (until I put these strings on the Kiwaya, the Mainland mahogany soprano was the closest I'd come to "perfect" intonation up the neck).

Other things worth noting on intonation up the neck: I've noticed that since I stopped manually stretching new strings when I install them I seem to have fewer intonation issues. I stretched the steel strings on guitars for twenty years and never noticed any problems and, to be honest, I never really noticed any problems when I was stretching uke strings. But, Ken Middleton is much older and wiser than I, and I was taught to respect my elders, :biglaugh: so a good while back I decided to follow his advice re not stretching strings. It didn't hit me until the last couple of string changes but overall my intonation up the neck has been improving a little on each uke as I swap out the strings. And, I'm talking about improving over what I'd recorded at the last string change, so it's not that the old strings were the entire issue. Coincidence? Could be, but I'm not going to go back to manually stretching them to find out. (BTW, what I do now is just keep tuning them up a half-step to a full-step sharp for the first few hours and by the next day they're pretty stable.)

04-11-2013, 12:53 PM
Interesting stuff, John!

04-11-2013, 11:22 PM
I took Ken's advice on this too when I fitted his Low G strings to my tenor (previously, knowing no better, I did the stretching thing that I saw from the HMS setup video).

To be honest - the intonation of the Living Water Strings was pretty decent on as soon as they were fitted - certainly a massive improvement over the Aquilas it came fitted with as standard (which were way flat on a couple of strings higher up the fretboard, even after setting up) - and I've just checked again and all I get is the odd momentary flicker off centre on the higher frets. To me that's pretty perfect.

By far the biggest single improvement I've made to any of my ukes and I'll be going with LWS from now on ....... :D