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Thread: What is setup and do I need it?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2020
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    8

    Default What is setup and do I need it?

    I see on a lot of ukulele shop websites that they do “setup on every uke before it’s shipped” or words to that effect. Ohana says they setup before they ship from the factory. I bought an Ohana and it seems fine to me, and I know my local music store just tuned it and nothing more.

    Wondering if I’m missing out on something, I looked at the website of a repair shop near me and saw this list (some not applicable to ukes):

    Set ups include 22 point adjustment
    Adjustments made if needed, set up points:

    1. Take incoming measurements: on string gauge, relief height, nut slot height, neck and bridge radius, action at 12th fret
    2. Straighten neck and check truss rod
    3. Lubricate truss rod nut
    4. Remove old strings
    5. Check for worn or high frets
    6. Check for loose bracing or cracks in the body
    7. Check and tighten all screws and bolts
    8. Check and clean electronics
    9. Clean and oil fret board
    10. Polish frets
    11. Restring
    12. Check nut slots for proper height and string width
    13. Adjust relief in the neck up to specs
    14. Tremolo system adjusted
    15. Saddle height up to specs
    16. Radius at the bridge up to specs
    17. Pick up height set
    18. Intonation set
    19. Play to check all area's on the fret board
    20. Clean and polish body and neck,
    21. Oil tuners
    22. Vacuum out case


    Is this what those uke stores do before they ship? Also, what should I look for to tell me I need setup?

    Thanks for your input!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
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    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota
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    Default

    I think Mim ends up setting up every ukulele that she sells, even Ohana models. Would your instrument benefit from a set-up? Most would, regardless of vendor...but there are a couple of companies that are unbelievably reliable when it comes to set-up from the factory.

    For sure the process includes:

    1) Adjusting action to be low at the nut and saddle
    2) Making sure frets are level
    3) Making sure frets are not sharp (ends)
    4) Making sure those frets are crowned after any work
    5) Making sure the neck is straight or has a slight amount of relief (if not, they are generally returned and not repaired)
    6) Checking for any buzzes on the instrument (especially in connection with #2 above)
    7) Overall look-over for any cosmetic or actual damage

    And in cases where it is requested/purchased: changing of tuners and/or installation of a pickup
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
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    USA
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    234

    Default

    Here is a demonstration of the setup process from a popular American retailer.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2020
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    190

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kidlowell View Post
    Do I need it?
    That's a bit like asking, "do I need a haircut?"

    What I mean by that is, it depends on the condition you're starting from (is your hair already nice and neat, or long and sloppy?) and to a certain extent, it depends on your personal preferences (do you want short hair, or long?)

    Some things that happen during a typical setup are, to a large extent, a matter of personal preference. What strings do you like? What action do you like? A setup will include adjustments to accommodate a specific brand/weight of strings (setting the nut slots to match those strings, adjusting intonation for those strings, etc), and adjustments for a specific action (usually expressed as string height over the 12th fret, which is set by adjusting the saddle height). You can't really determine if you "need" a setup unless you know if those things are set to your preferences to begin with or not. If you want brand X strings at 2.5mm action, and the uke already has brand X and is set to 2.5mm action, you don't need those portions of the setup process done.

    Other steps typically included in a setup are, in my opinion, more about fixing problems (which, ideally, a new instrument shouldn't have in the first place). People sometimes lump things like leveling frets into a setup. This makes sense as routine maintenance on a well-used instrument. But to me, a brand new uke should have level frets. Checking for level frets shouldn't have to be a special extra service. If a new instrument doesn't have level frets, that's a manufacturing defect, and fixing it shouldn't be seen as a special perk or something the customer should have to pay for. I don't want to present an opinion that sounds critical of popular vendors, but advertising fret leveling as part of a special free (or worse, cost-added) setup process for new instruments strikes me about like a car dealer telling you that it's a special perk that they will make sure your brand new car has the wheels bolted on right.

    In short - setups are about adjusting the instrument to your preferences. If the instrument is already adjusted to your preferences, you don't need a setup. As an aside, if a newly purchased instrument has defects, yes - those should be addressed. And if your dealer includes those fixes as part of a setup, then yes you need the setup.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    Proxima B
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwizum View Post
    That's a bit like asking, "do I need a haircut?"

    What I mean by that is, it depends on the condition you're starting from (is your hair already nice and neat, or long and sloppy?) and to a certain extent, it depends on your personal preferences (do you want short hair, or long?)

    Some things that happen during a typical setup are, to a large extent, a matter of personal preference. What strings do you like? What action do you like? A setup will include adjustments to accommodate a specific brand/weight of strings (setting the nut slots to match those strings, adjusting intonation for those strings, etc), and adjustments for a specific action (usually expressed as string height over the 12th fret, which is set by adjusting the saddle height). You can't really determine if you "need" a setup unless you know if those things are set to your preferences to begin with or not. If you want brand X strings at 2.5mm action, and the uke already has brand X and is set to 2.5mm action, you don't need those portions of the setup process done.

    Other steps typically included in a setup are, in my opinion, more about fixing problems (which, ideally, a new instrument shouldn't have in the first place). People sometimes lump things like leveling frets into a setup. This makes sense as routine maintenance on a well-used instrument. But to me, a brand new uke should have level frets. Checking for level frets shouldn't have to be a special extra service. If a new instrument doesn't have level frets, that's a manufacturing defect, and fixing it shouldn't be seen as a special perk or something the customer should have to pay for. I don't want to present an opinion that sounds critical of popular vendors, but advertising fret leveling as part of a special free (or worse, cost-added) setup process for new instruments strikes me about like a car dealer telling you that it's a special perk that they will make sure your brand new car has the wheels bolted on right.

    In short - setups are about adjusting the instrument to your preferences. If the instrument is already adjusted to your preferences, you don't need a setup. As an aside, if a newly purchased instrument has defects, yes - those should be addressed. And if your dealer includes those fixes as part of a setup, then yes you need the setup.
    Great answer , explained perfectly .
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  6. #6
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    Default

    That is a setup list for electric guitars. Generally new ukes don't need a setup as this is part of the production process. You only know if you need a set up after you have played it a while and then find it difficult to play or it sounds unpleasant even after you tried different methods of playing. Ukes also change over time so most often a setup is done after several years if ageing has changed the shape of the uke.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
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    plus, I think you're going into analysis-paralysis. You don't need to tell them what to do; they're professionals. Just toss them the uke and tell them to set it up and your will shall be done. It is similar to when I take my jeep to my mechanic. I don't tell him to do this or to do that; I'm not that erudite in matters of automobiles. I just say to tune it up and can rest assured that any fluids will be replaced, any mechanical parts will be fixed, and any problem will be remedied.

    As for do you need to get a set up, I just always do it and consider it as part of the uke's price. I always have the vendor set it up and add strap buttons. That just sets a baseline. You know from day one what the uke's supposed to sound like and then, in the future, if it ever should require some adjustment, your ear will tell you so.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    To merlin’s point:

    Most new ukes you buy at a big box store or from amazon were taken straight from the factory, put in a box, and shipped. If the QC was good at the factory, you may be OK. If not, you may have a lemon and have to return it or pay a luthier to fix it if it’s fixable.

    Specialty dealers like Mim or Hawaii Uke Supply or Uke Republic will check the QC before shipping, make any needed fixes.

    I’ve bought and returned several ukes with QC issues before I started shopping only from dealers or buying used from the Marketplace or eBay.

    It’s definitely buyer beware for you unless you make sure you have a setup.
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  9. #9
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    Some ukulele companies do an average setup for their uke prior to shipping. For what they believe will suit the majority of players. Others seem to not do a setup at all. I've had some new ukes with sharp fret ends. Others where the nut was very high as was the saddle.

    I have read that some fret wires can become loose and lift from humidity changes causing the fretboard to slightly swell. Not much, but it can be noticeable.

    If you buy a uke from Amazon, there is no inspection or adjustment of the uke before you get it.

    I have some arthritis in my hands and prefer a low setup to make barre chords easier to play on the first two frets. I'm willing to sacrifice a little volume or buzzing for that ease. So far, I haven't had any noticeable intonation issues because of it.

    Most of the better dealers will tell you that every instrument can benefit from a setup. I don't know if that's true. But the ukes I have had that did not have a setup prior to my ownership all played better after I had one done on it. Some sounded better as well.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you don’t begin to know until you begin to try to do.

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  10. #10
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    The question, do I need one. Not necessarily, but it certainly doesn't hurt anything. Considering that there are plenty of retailers out there who do setups and sell them at a competitive price, I consider it value added.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

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