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View Full Version : Still learning, and hope this is helpful to some here



tbeltrans
07-22-2014, 03:03 PM
Recently, I had a local shop install a Schatten passive under saddle pickup in my Kamaka Ohta San concert ukulele. I didn't realize, despite the Schatten web site being very clear on this, that the passive version of the UKE-1 UST pickup DOES need a preamp. Without it, the pickup sounds OK on my AER amp, but I had to turn it up to the point that I got a bit too much hiss. Fortunately, the same shop had one Schatten Mini Preamp in stock, so I grabbed it and then the pickup really sounded good and no hiss.

However, yesterday, the end pin jack came really loose from the inside (i.e. I could not tighten it from the outside). The Kamaka is too small for my hands to fit into the sound hole, so I could not do anything without the proper tools, which I don't have. I don't know how I would have been able to change the battery if I had gotten the active pickup version. Anyway, I had to take it back to the shop. They fixed for me at no extra charge while I waited.

They told me that I need to cut the slot in my strap a bit longer to fit more loosely on the end pin, though they did put Lock-tite on the end pin jack nut to help it stay tight longer. More about the strap in a moment. I was in a hurry because I had a lunch meetup to go to, so I just picked up my ukulele and ran. Apparently the shop did not check the operation of the pickup, because when I tried it this evening, it was weak and distorted. I tried my one other preamp that seems to work with this pickup, an Ultrasound DI-Plus, and it did the same thing, so I know it was either the wiring or the pickup. I printed out the installation instructions (one sheet) for this pickup from the Schatten site and followed the instructions for seating the pickup under the saddle. That fixed the problem, luckily.

However, I noticed that the first string (the A string) was quite a bit louder than the other three strings (high G tuning). It took 4 or 5 tries of loosening the strings, removing the saddle, and reseating the pickup in a slightly different position to finally get it back into balance. I suspect that unless I change strings one at a time so I don't have the saddle falling out, I will have this problem again. I guess this pickup is just extra sensitive to placement. Maybe they all are?

I do really like the Schatten pickup because it was relatively inexpensive (compared to LR Baggs) and it sounds nice and full and clear. My tenor uke has an LR Baggs active pickup in it that was installed at the factory, so there have been no issues with it.

About the strap, I used an Exacto knife to cut the slot that goes around the end pin longer. That not only worked well, but now it is easy to remove the end pin part of the strap and coil it under the head stock when storing the ukulele in its case. If you don't cut it too much, it stays on well enough when playing, yet slips off easily for storage. I leave the shoe lace tied around the head stock when storing the ukulele in its case.

Somebody in another thread mentioned being careful about having the leather of the strap touching the finish on the ukulele if stored from some period of time, so maybe this is a solution (at least for the 1/2" wide strap that Janeray suggested and that I am now using). I did this also on my tenor ukulele and it works the same way for storage. Both have hard shell cases that came with the ukuleles. I would think a soft case would have more room for larger/wider straps.

As for strings, right now I still have the original Kamaka black strings (low G) on that ukulele, and Aquila (high G) on my tenor ukulele. I ordered several sets of Aquila low G concert sets for the Kamaka, with the red low G string and the others apparently the same as in the set I have on my tenor. Those should be here in a few days, so I will try them hopefully this week. I do like the clear, crisp sound I get with the Aquilas, but they do seem stiffer to play than the Kamaka factory strings.

Anyway, I am still learning about various things ukulele (and will be for a long time), both in playing and maintaining them so maybe some of this will be helpful to some and old news to many others.

Tony

janeray1940
07-22-2014, 03:12 PM
I always enjoy reading your updates - and we're ALL still learning, always learning :)

I've been hesitant to install a pickup in mine but it may end up coming to that eventually. My first Kamaka soprano had a factory pickup, and I had to do the same thing with my mando strap - X-acto to the rescue! I wouldn't have known that the strings keep the saddle in place; filing this away for future reference. I think I've always changed strings one at a time - actually I've never paid attention to how I do it.

And a bit of a subject change, but - I'm in the midst of strap experimenting at the moment. While I like the mando strap for my smaller ukes, I think a wider strap might work better for me on the Ohta-San, so I've got a couple of kids' guitar straps on their way to me. Might also try a strap button on the heel as well.

tbeltrans
07-22-2014, 04:06 PM
I always enjoy reading your updates - and we're ALL still learning, always learning :)

I've been hesitant to install a pickup in mine but it may end up coming to that eventually. My first Kamaka soprano had a factory pickup, and I had to do the same thing with my mando strap - X-acto to the rescue! I wouldn't have known that the strings keep the saddle in place; filing this away for future reference. I think I've always changed strings one at a time - actually I've never paid attention to how I do it.

And a bit of a subject change, but - I'm in the midst of strap experimenting at the moment. While I like the mando strap for my smaller ukes, I think a wider strap might work better for me on the Ohta-San, so I've got a couple of kids' guitar straps on their way to me. Might also try a strap button on the heel as well.

Currently, I am using those Levi straps on my both of my ukuleles - the Kamaka Ohta San and the Ko'olau. To me, the Kamaka is very, very light weight and seems perfect for this strap. The Ko'olau is heavier built, but that strap seems to work equally well for it. I like that they are very narrow straps so they are pretty much out of the way compared to a wider strap. Since both of my ukuleles are relatively light weight and low mass (small size, etc.), a very narrow strap works comfortably. On a heavier instrument such as my acoustic guitar, I will definitely want a wider strap.

It does seem to be a matter of experimentation, and even with that, how far you want to take it. Each of us seems to have different requirements. I wanted a strap for my ukuleles that stayed out of the way as much as possible, yet provided enough security so my hands are free to move around the fretboard and play fingerstyle freely, and fit nicely in the small ukulele cases the ukuleles came with. Once I have found that, I stopped looking because my requirements have been fulfilled.

I don't know what the Kamaka factory pickup would be and how well it would work, but I assume it is probably the best solution. I am now pleased with the Schatten pickup, but fully expect it to be a bit "fiddly" in that if the saddle is ever removed again, I would have to experiment to find the right positioning to have decent volume balance from string to string. The factory installed LR Baggs in my Ko'olau does not have that problem, nor does it have any problem with loosening of the end pin jack. So maybe the after-market installation is not quite as good as the factory solution, assuming the competence of the after-market installer is up to snuff.

Anyway, I really am hoping that my ukuleles are almost set the way I want them. I really like how my Kamaka Ohta San plays now that the action has been lowered just a little bit. Much more than on a guitar, just a tiny bit of change in the action on my Kamaka's action makes a big difference (to me) with regard to how it plays. I am going to have the shop where I got both it and the Ko'olau, lower the action on the Ko'olau just a bit too. For strings, I think I will stick with Aquila unless they don't work well on the Kamaka. What I want is an overall workable solution that is repeatable between string changes so I can just settle in with my ukuleles and just focus on continuing to learn to play them.

Tony