How often do you have to tune?

tluxtele

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I know this is a subjective question. Here's the quick of why I'm asking.

I have a Kala KA-15. I know it's not a high dollar uke. My daughter has been using it to learn and has actually said she could stick with using it if it would stay in tune. I'll tune it up, play a song and it's already out of tune. It's usually the C string that's the issue.

The uke is about 7 years old and has the original strings on it. It hasn't been played that much in those 7 years until the last few months. I've read, and watch videos, about stretching the strings... but not stretching them so much they develop flat spots. I've tried to gently stretch them and it hasn't really made a difference.

I don't expect a lot from a $60.00 instrument, but it would be nice to get through a song and still be in tune. Is there anything I can do to help it keep tune longer? Do I need to re-string it and stretch those strings? Do I need to just keep stretching these strings some more? I would think with being on there for 7 years, and being played for the last two months, they would be stretched... but I don't know.

Any advice will be welcomed.
 

Larry Usselman

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Those strings are long dead and should be replaced. Once you replace them, they should stabilize in a week or two and only need occasional minor adjustments to the tuning. The original strings are probably Aquila, so if you like you can stay with the same brand, or if you want to try a different sound, fluorocarbon strings are a good choice.
 

rainbow21

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It is not clear that the issue is the string and not a tuner that is slipping as you play it. So if you tune it and play a song, does the string need retightening by the end of the song. If so, I would see if the string is slipping on the peg or if the tuner is slipping (loosening) as you play it. You will want to know this before you replace the strings (which can be done anyway but won't solve the issue if the tuner is at fault).
 

Peter Frary

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I generally check tuning between numbers, albeit only small tweaks are required. While recording, I check between nearly every take. Of course I prefer the dynamics and tone of new strings. Also, the surface of new strings are silky and smooth under the fingers. Abrasion from my nails tend to rough up my strings quickly so I need to change them out every two to four weeks if I'm playing that instrument daily. For recording, I change even sooner, usually every week.

AS for the OP, I can't imagine 7 year strings being any good. Old strings are no longer true in diameter and don't tune well, not to mention sounding dull and lifeless. Put on a good set of carbon strings. Once they settle, tuning is normally fairly stable unless your machine heads are slipping.
 

Graham Greenbag

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I know this is a subjective question. Here's the quick of why I'm asking.

I have a Kala KA-15. I know it's not a high dollar uke. My daughter has been using it to learn and has actually said she could stick with using it if it would stay in tune. I'll tune it up, play a song and it's already out of tune. It's usually the C string that's the issue.

The uke is about 7 years old and has the original strings on it. It hasn't been played that much in those 7 years until the last few months. I've read, and watch videos, about stretching the strings... but not stretching them so much they develop flat spots. I've tried to gently stretch them and it hasn't really made a difference.

I don't expect a lot from a $60.00 instrument, but it would be nice to get through a song and still be in tune. Is there anything I can do to help it keep tune longer? Do I need to re-string it and stretch those strings? Do I need to just keep stretching these strings some more? I would think with being on there for 7 years, and being played for the last two months, they would be stretched... but I don't know.

Any advice will be welcomed.

You’ve used the Uke for a few months over seven years and even in those months I doubt that the use has been intense. The strings though have been under tension for seven years if not subject to impact and abrasion from use. Goodness knows what strings were originally fitted, if they’re white then Aquila’s (they’re OK) but if black or clear then probably Nylon (typically problematic).

There are threads on here (somewhere, find via the search function) about fitting new strings. A set of Aquilas shouldn’t cost much but will take a couple of weeks to settle.

You haven’t said if the Uke has been set-up or not. If not then it will be physically harder to play and notes away from the nut may well be out of tune.

Edit. I normally check my tuning every time I play, sometimes just by ear but mostly with an electronic tuner. As the strings settle, which can take weeks of time plus playing, strings seem to need less and less adjustment. Some of my Ukes can remain un-played for months and when picked up again they’re still in-tune.
 
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merlin666

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I usually need to tune my solid wood ukes once a week or so as the wood changes with the weather over some days. That also affects laminate ukes if they have a solid wood neck.
 

Bluesy

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I'm with Snargle. Change those strings so that you eliminate that as a variable. Then if you still have a problem, you can explore other issues.

After a couple of years enjoying my Kala Elite, I had real difficulty keeping it in tune. At first I thought it was a problem with the nut. It drove me crazy. Then it dawned on me that I had not changed the strings in a couple of years. Problem solved with a fresh set.

Bluesy.
 

Larry Usselman

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Its not really a subjective question.

It is an objective fact that strings need to be replaced when they wear out and 7 years is a long time, even for ukulele strings.

The tuning of the strings may change a lot in the first week of being fitted. After that they will settle down and will often change a few hertz overnight as the temperature changes force the wood to slightly expand and contract with the diurnal cycle. You should tweak the strings at the start of every session, it takes about 2 minutes with an electronic tuner.

If you are tuning by ear, tune to the unison intervals, not the fifth intervals. Then you will find it a lot easier and less frustrating, teach your children to tune by ear to unison intervals. Ukulele fretboards are designed and made to have Equal Temperament, so the fifth intervals are not exactly a ratio of 1:5, and the audible effects you use to tune your violin wont work by ear on properly set up ukulele, you will just go around and around in an iterative circle. The idea is that the makers and designers provide an instrument that works in every key, hence the use of Equal Temperament. Then they have allowed enough string height and fret spacing so you can tune to a perfect 1:5 while you play with technique, in any key. Its not a difficult concept, and it works all the way along the neck if your uke is set up with enough string height to make the fine adjustments while you play, all you have to do is realise that your ukulele in not a violin, you do not tune it like a violin. The manufacturers have provided you with a very simple system which works using an electronic tuner or your ears listening for the unison interval. Even with a 7 year old Kala 15.

If you child is picking up a 7 year old uke, still with original strings, I suggest you fund a set-up and a new string set. Get it spruced up and looking good so the child enjoys playing it. The uke is likely to be fine if it has been stored safely, and a nice set-up will be like icing on the cake. If the set up person finds an issue, just buy another Kala 15 and get it set up. Ignore how cheap the Kala is and the relative cost of the set-up, just get the uke well set up and teach your child how to use a tuner and how to tune by ear to the unison interval.
Help an old guy out here. What is "tuning to unison intervals"? I just use an electronic tuner and when the needle (or lights) say it's in tune, it sounds good to me.
 

Ms Bean

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Help an old guy out here. What is "tuning to unison intervals"? I just use an electronic tuner and when the needle (or lights) say it's in tune, it sounds good to me.
It means to tune the open A string against the A on the 3th string, 5th fret. Then the open E (second string) against the E on the 3rd string (4th fret). Then the fourth string, for a low G, you can check the C on the 5th fret against the open 3rd string. For a re-entrant 4th string you can pick the G on the 3rd string (7th fret) to check it against the open 4th string. Then you can cross check a few others on strings that aren't next to each other.
 

kissing

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In the absence of strings physically slipping, I don't think a cheap ukulele (made to decent standards like Kala) requires any more tuning than an expensive ukulele.

The 'subjective' part of the question is, I guess, what is our comfort level.
As a general rule, I always check the tuning each time I pick up the uke for the first time in the day.
However, while I am working on a recording I am checking the tuning pedantically nearly every time I pick up the ukulele again (mild OCD symptoms perhaps?).

The strings go a little bit out of tune during playing, perhaps due to the physical forces exerted on the strings themselves.

Generally when I record, I prefer the strings to be settled in (at least a month in), and no older than 1-2 years ideally.
7 years is a bit long (though I've hardly owned a single instrument for that long.. my collection has seen a lot of movement).
 
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To answer your (Title) question, frequency of tuning varies by string brand and "type". Strings made of nylon stretch more and will need more frequent tuning, especially when new. Over time -after they've 'settled in' a tuning before each playing session is likely. Fluorocarbon based strings don't take as long to settle (days versus weeks, when new) and tend to hold a tuning for a few days. However, tuning at the beginning of every playing session is the best habit to develop (and one that every instructor begins a session with!).

Seven year old strings aren't worth discussing : - ) so purchase some new ones, and make sure you order ones that match the scale of her/your uke. (I believe the KA-15's come in both Soprano KA-15S or Tenor KA-15T). If she likes the bright, traditional sounding soprano, consider a nylon string. For a tenor scale, I prefer fluorocarbons.

And, if you still find the uke going out of tune during a song, you've likely a problem with the mechanical tuners (machines). If that becomes the case, post a photo of the tuners here and someone might suggest how to adjust them or suggest a replacement.
 

Jeanpaul

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Frequently I've noticed that I have to re-tune the uke later on if I tune and practice early in the morning, either with my plastic outdoor or solid K brand ukes. Might the temperature and humidity influence not only the uke but also the tuners?
 

Larry Usselman

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Frequently I've noticed that I have to re-tune the uke later on if I tune and practice early in the morning, either with my plastic outdoor or solid K brand ukes. Might the temperature and humidity influence not only the uke but also the tuners?
Since the tuners are all metal, it's unlikely that temperature or humidity changes would have a noticeable impact. What is affected by temperature and humidity changes are the strings, particularly Nylon.
 

merlin666

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Some comments mention the age of strings. I don't think that this matters for tuning stability. The uke that I have owned for the longest time and played most has Super Nylgut strings that are getting on to 7 years and they tune and sound the same as always. One of them broke as wear on the fret may have been too much and got replaced by a spare New Nylgut. My second uke has had Fluorocarbon strings for at least 3 years and while I can see wear above the frets I don't notice impact on tuning or sound from age.
 

casualUkuleler

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Almost every day! A lot depends on the temperature and humidity. But, I make it a habit to check whenever I play unless I don't care and am just noodling for a few minutes.
 

Jim Yates

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Unless they're brand new strings, I usually tune once a session. Once in a while I'll have to touch up a string or two, but not often.
If I've just made a string change, they'll still be stretching for a few days and require more frequent tuning.
 

Peter Frary

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Some comments mention the age of strings. I don't think that this matters for tuning stability. The uke that I have owned for the longest time and played most has Super Nylgut strings that are getting on to 7 years and they tune and sound the same as always. One of them broke as wear on the fret may have been too much and got replaced by a spare New Nylgut. My second uke has had Fluorocarbon strings for at least 3 years and while I can see wear above the frets I don't notice impact on tuning or sound from age.
I think the wear has more to do how much you play, and how you play, rather than age. I play the crap out of the strings, so if they're over a month old, they're dead, scratched and difficult to tune. I literally ding and grind the strings against the frets from constant arm and finger vibrato. The diameter becomes untrue and the string produces out of tune overtones and is out of tune up the neck. But, yeah, you're right. Tuning stability isn't impacted, but you can never get it in tune! Tune the open string perfectly and it's way out at the 5th or 7th fret. A new string usually fixes that.
 

kypfer

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I'd be inclined to look at the string jamming in the nut or a loose/defective tuner, assuming the string is fixed securely at the bridge end.
My ukuleles are all well over seven years old, they've all been played regularly, they all have the strings that they came with (or Aquila 'reds' that were fitted soon after) and none of them go out of tune more than a "touch or so" either during an evening's playing or between sessions, which may be some time for the banjolele or the low-G instruments.
The only strings that have needed to be replaced are the two wound strings on my "low-5ths" baritone, they simply wore through.
Assuming the troublesome string is a "plain" string, and not some wound replacement fitted in an "emergency", I'd be looking elsewhere than changing the strings for a solution to the problem.
 

Larry Usselman

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Regardless of what the final solution is, changing strings is still a useful, cheap diagnostic tool. If new strings don't cure the problem, then it's time to dig deeper into mechanical issues with the tuners. My money is still on old, dead strings as the problem source.
 

rafter

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+1 for changing the strings. Even if it's not the cause of tuning issues, after 7 years it's overdue. Think of it like an oil change. You do it every X number of miles (playing). But even if you don't use it too often, you should get a change after a certain amount of time.

You could start off with new strings because they're cheap, and you could use a change anyway. Yes, they'll take a few days of tuning to settle. Not a month and definitely not years. You don't even need to stretch them (that's just to speed up the process). If it's still a problem, then it's probably you're tuners. Humidity is an issue as well, and can cause instruments to go out of tune. But unless the air in your environment is changing rapidly, I doubt that would cause tuning issues so immediately. If it's the humidity, the changes in tuning should be about as gradual as the changes in humidity.