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Thread: Electric uke neck relief (truss rod adjustment)

  1. #1
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    Default Electric uke neck relief (truss rod adjustment)

    I couldn't find specific discussion about how much neck relief do people set up for their electric ukes' necks.

    The electric guitar general guideline is to have less than 0.3 mm in between the lowest part of the heaviest string and the fret that's halfway, when pressing down on the 1st and 12th (or 14th, or 15th, or last, or wherever the neck joins the body... - it's a bit messy and depends on the source) frets. So a "standard" business card shouldn't fit.

    I suppose the uke scale length would mean that that measure should also be shorter. The tenor uke scale length (that my Clearwater, as well as Vorsons and many other solid body ukes are using) is, as we know, about half that of guitar's. If my geometrics is right, the relief should be a bit more than half that of guitar's, no? What measure do you guys use?

  2. #2
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    I set up my Vorson the same as I set up my Strat. You may be able to get away with lower action on a uke since the shorter string will wobble less (assuming the same tension, which probably isn’t the case). It’s within my margin of error. YMMV. My basses are higher, but the play style is different too.

    A tenor uke is about half the scale length of a standard bass guitar and about 2/3 the scale length of a guitar.

  3. #3
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    Good point about the differing tension. Come to think of it, I don't have a clue how they'd compare exactly; I currently have 11s on my Clearwater tenor, tuned to dGBE. So probably the tension is lower than it would be on a guitar, tuned to same notes...

    And thanks for correcting the scale length difference too, my brain fell asleep there.

  4. #4

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    In my personal experience, I give ukuleles a similar amount of relief (or maybe a tiny bit less) as guitar.

    The somewhat "universal" standard is hold a string down (usually 1st string) at the first fret and last fret (it helps if you put a capo on the first fret) and there should be enough space between the string and the 11th fret to fit a thin piece of cardboard (D'addario string packaging cardboard is the standard).

    However, what I've found from doing many setups is that there's no "one size fits all" when it comes to setup in general.
    The final decision needs to be made from gut feeling on how the instrument feels to play.
    It's not black n white either - people prefer different amounts of neck relief.

    As a general rule of thumb, there should be at least some observable space between the string and 11th fret when you hold down at 1st and last fret.
    If there is no space, then you don't have enough relief.

    Once you have some relief, you need to play the instrument and decide from how it 'feels'. Is there any notable "buzz"?

    For me, the sweet spot is when there is a minimal amount of buzz when I play the notes very hard, but no buzz when I play normally.

    Also, the neck takes about a day to settle after making an adjustment. After setting the neck, you may need to re-assess the next day to see if the neck has moved and re-adjust.
    Last edited by kissing; 04-04-2021 at 03:41 AM.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the thorough insight! I'll look into the 11th fret as well, when the adjustment has settled. I tightened the rod earlier today after finding out a business card still fit (snugly) under the strings when testing.

    I also might still tighten the strings - it might be that the 11s might have to be tightened higher than dGBE in order to sound good. I might try 12s later, but I'm not convinced my hands can handle the tension...

  6. #6

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    If you're trying to tune to DGBE on a tenor ukulele scale using electric guitar strings, I'd get a 9 set's ADGB (5-4-3-2) strings and tune it to DGBE.
    That's generally worked for me in the past. 10's if you want higher tension.

  7. #7

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    From what you have described, the neck seems about right as long as it feels comfortable to play.

    The other major factor at play is string action on the individual strings, adjustable at the bridge by turning the little vertical screws up or down (two screws per string)

    For a steel string electric ukulele, maybe around 2mm height at the 1st and about 2.25mm at the 4th (middle strings incrementally in between) might be in the ball park for me. Some people prefer lower and some prefer higher.

    Ensure to adjust intonation by turning the horizontal screws that change the scale length per string... follow instructions as per doing it for an electric guitar such as a Stratocaster
    Last edited by kissing; 04-05-2021 at 05:36 AM.

  8. #8
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    God darn it, the forum deleted my previous post, when I only tried to edit it! I pressed edit and then to the text field - all gone.

    So, for future reference, kissing's previous answer might seem out of context, so a brief recap of my now-deleted post that was there before it:

    - Detectable space at the 11th: string sleeve fits, business card lifts string a bit
    - Some buzzing (maybe individual strings) if strummed hard
    - Neck looks straight, no bow to other way

    And yes, I'll check the action too. Previously, when I hadn't checked the relief, the action had to be over 3mm at the 12th fret, in order to avoid buzz...

    Another problem has been the inequal sensitivity to the mic: 1st string is quieter than others -> lifting the mic, but risks buzzing again if done too much. I don't like the sound of the other mic anyway; perhaps some day I'll find out how to replace it...

  9. #9
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    I used to know the measurements and use feeler gauges to set relief on electric guitars, but been doing them for 30 plus years now - so tend to do them by eye. Sighting down from the nut I kind of 'know' how much concave bow I like to play with. But... an electric uke is a far shorter scale and I am not sure the same would apply. I'd say there should be 'some' bow for steel strings, but probably slighter on a ukulele scale.

    not sure that helps much!
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  10. #10
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    Thanks Bazmaz, that might well make sense. At least it would agree with my basic understanding of physics... That's largely what one has to rely on, since there is little to no instructions about it online (that I've come across, at least), which is why I started this thread.

    Come to think of it, there might be some online resources about mandolins... Hmm.

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