- Apr 15, 2017
Bill1, that's very good advice. Sorting out and setting up a cheap uke is a hugely useful learning process. Mass produced ukuleles usually have the frets in the right places, relative to each other, as they are produced by an automated process, but is not unknown for the nuts and the bridge/saddle to be incorrectly sited, relative to the fretboard. The 'action' (string height) is often wildly wrong.
I still have a Yellow Mahalo from earlier in this century. After some fettling it turned into a decent little instrument.
Looking at your Avatar I see an old style (fat waisted and with friction tuners) Mahalo U30 and I know that you have very many ‘better’ instruments, but to my mind the yellow painted Mahalo conveys the joy of Ukes rather well. In a strange way those original Mahalos represent, to me at least, a lot of what Sopranos are about: relatively affordable, easy to move about, fine enough for percussive playing and effective music makers despite their imperfections. When I first came to Ukes I was looking for such a ‘folk instrument’ and a Soprano ticked all the boxes - no wonder that they are so popular.
I’m not a flag waver for Mahalos but the old ones that I’ve bought - and Dolphins too - have allowed me to learn much about Uke set-up. Indeed buying any cheap and cheerful Soprano is almost always an exercise in putting things right but you’re rewarded with: a better playing instrument, a sense of achievement and an improved skill set that can be usefully used on better instruments. Education is a wonderful thing and particularly so when applied to one’s interests.
It’s perhaps not right to ask for details, but if the OP hasn’t yet got out his ruler and checked the scale over then I suggest that he does so soon. Errors happen to the best of us and Sopranos have to be built to smaller tolerances than bigger instruments. Measure from the nut to the centre of the 12th fret, double that size and that’s the nominal scale length to which compensation should be added. Measure from the nut to the crest (centre) of the saddle and compare the two dimensions.