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Thread: Uke plays sharp around the 12th fret

  1. #1
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    Default Uke plays sharp around the 12th fret

    I just got off the phone with a Guitar/Uke repair guy who i was referred to by a local high end retailer. I told him that my KoAloha Tenor plays sharp beginning around the 12th fret, and I asked him if he could get it to play dead on. He said that any instrument with a fixed bridge could not be adjusted to fix this. He said it is just a matter of having the strings in tune with each other up the neck. He also suggested that it may be due to a problem with ukulele strings. He said Aquila strings are the best at keeping good intonation up the neck. I was wondering what you all thought of his response. Will my ukulele just play sharp up the neck?
    Kanile'a Concert
    KoAloha Tenor
    Mainland Mahogany Concert

  2. #2
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    I think that when you play a note on the 12th fret, you're bending the string an awful lot to get it from it's "normal" state to reach the fretboard. Imagine that you're bending a string while keeping it on the fretboard (like in a guitar solo). A bend of a small magnitude can cause significant modulation to the pitch of the note.

  3. #3
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    Is it just one string or all of them? Is it that the notes gradually get sharper as you go up the neck? If it's on just one string, then it's probably your strings. Replace them and see if that solves the problem. Some strings materials are better when it comes to intonation, but unless you got a bad batch all of the major brands make strings that will be very much in-tune. If it's all your strings and it's a gradual change, then it's probably that you need your uke adjusted. Even with a fixed bridge minor intonation issues can be fixed with some slight bridge adjustments and like ghardy said, it could also be high action. If the problem is bigger than that, I would contact KoAloha.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamdead View Post
    I was wondering what you all thought of his response.
    After the last statement, not much.

    -Aaron

  5. #5
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    Koaloha typically has the action a little bit high so you can ask a luthier to lower the saddle. Obviously the luthier didn't see it yet since you were on the phone. Since I bought my uke directly from Koaloha, I asked them to set it low from the get go.

  6. #6
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    The shop was about half right

    It is sometimes difficult to get strings to intonate perfectly up the fretboard using a straight bridge. If you look on most acoustic guitars you will see they use a molded saddle that compensates for (usually) the B string. A few ukuleles come with compensated bridges (Kiwaya, for example). I have filed the bridge on my KoAloha longneck soprano to a compensated profile and that brought all strings to within about five cents of each other at the 12th. That's good enough for all but the most discriminating ears (most inexpensive ukes and guitars will be 15-20 cents out on the first couple of frets unless the uke has been set up and non-players and newbies tend not to notice even that much).

    The way a string behaves up the neck is strictly a function of the tension, mass, and length of the string. Often, you can experiment with mixing and matching strings from different sets to get all of them very nearly in tune on a flat bridge saddle. Myself, I just compensate the bridge as best I can and live with it. The longer the scale gets, the less effective compensating the bridge is unless you start adding material like the compensated guitar saddles do.

    I have a blind friend with perfect pitch - excellent blues and jazz guitarist - he won't play acoustic guitars because even the best of them don't get the intonation good enough to make him happy up the neck where he tends to play the most.

    Edited to add - I am kind of disappointed that the high-end Hawaiiian makers, for example, don't use compensated bridges (or haven't historically, anyway). I realize that even in the $700 price range they probably can't afford a lot of hand work with a file to compensate the bridge - but they could use molded bridges like the guitar world and come much closer. Love my KoAlohas but I'm a bit tweaked about having to spend an hour with a file to get the strings within 5 cents at the 12th when, IMHO, it should have been that way from the start.
    John
    Last edited by OldePhart; 12-24-2011 at 02:10 PM.
    I'm not entirely convinced that it is possible to polish a turd. However, if one were to accomplish that feat one would still have a turd, and one all the more noticeable for being shiny.

    Check out my ukulele-themed "stuff" at http://www.cafepress.com/fivebyfiveukulele - proceeds go to a good cause...UAS treatment!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldePhart View Post

    Edited to add - I am kind of disappointed that the high-end Hawaiiian makers, for example, don't use compensated bridges (or haven't historically, anyway). I realize that even in the $700 price range they probably can't afford a lot of hand work with a file to compensate the bridge - but they could use molded bridges like the guitar world and come much closer. Love my KoAlohas but I'm a bit tweaked about having to spend an hour with a file to get the strings within 5 cents at the 12th when, IMHO, it should have been that way from the start.
    John
    Did you see this recent thread?
    http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/fo...ew-Kamaka-HF-2
    Aloha Royal Soprano | Koa Pili Koko Tenor Cutaway | Eleuke Tenor SL Series Koa | Big Island Tenor Cutaway
    Pegasus 8-string | ʻŌiwi 6-string | Sonny D tenor | Kanile`a tenor |Tangi tenor | Tom Guy tenor cigar box | Eleuke Rosewood Jazz
    Amps : Smokey - Honeytone - Roland Micro Cube - SWR California Blonde - Mesa Boogie
    pahu | `ili`ili | ipu heke | `ohe hano ihu | kamani hano ihu | ipu hoki'oki'o
    Liko Puha www.nowelo.org

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by manapualabs View Post
    Yep - in fact I have several posts in it I was kind of hoping to nudge KoAloha towards using compensated saddles... LOL

    Seriously, as has been very common in the guitar world for a couple of decades now, a molded compensated saddle offers a lot more "meat" to get the intonation right than a simple flat piece of 1/8" material filed to alternate angles. Look at anything from a Taylor down to a pretty humble Yamaha laminated guitar and you'll typically find a saddle with a molded "bump" sticking out wider than the saddle for the B string. Of course, this is required with guitar due to the longer scale, but even a concert or especially tenor scale uke would benefit from such "wider than the saddle" bumps.

    Just my $0.02.

    John


    John
    I'm not entirely convinced that it is possible to polish a turd. However, if one were to accomplish that feat one would still have a turd, and one all the more noticeable for being shiny.

    Check out my ukulele-themed "stuff" at http://www.cafepress.com/fivebyfiveukulele - proceeds go to a good cause...UAS treatment!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamdead View Post
    I just got off the phone with a Guitar/Uke repair guy who i was referred to by a local high end retailer. I told him that my KoAloha Tenor plays sharp beginning around the 12th fret, and I asked him if he could get it to play dead on. He said that any instrument with a fixed bridge could not be adjusted to fix this. He said it is just a matter of having the strings in tune with each other up the neck. He also suggested that it may be due to a problem with ukulele strings. He said Aquila strings are the best at keeping good intonation up the neck. I was wondering what you all thought of his response. Will my ukulele just play sharp up the neck?
    He said Aquila strings are the best at keeping good intonation up the neck. Beats the hell out of me why he suggested Aquila's on the KoAloha...arn't the "Bright" enough....he he

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldePhart View Post
    Yep - in fact I have several posts in it I was kind of hoping to nudge KoAloha towards using compensated saddles... LOL

    Seriously, as has been very common in the guitar world for a couple of decades now, a molded compensated saddle offers a lot more "meat" to get the intonation right than a simple flat piece of 1/8" material filed to alternate angles. Look at anything from a Taylor down to a pretty humble Yamaha laminated guitar and you'll typically find a saddle with a molded "bump" sticking out wider than the saddle for the B string. Of course, this is required with guitar due to the longer scale, but even a concert or especially tenor scale uke would benefit from such "wider than the saddle" bumps.

    Just my $0.02.

    John
    I've been wondering why the high end tenors and baritones don't have compensated saddles, also. I think it's great if Kamaka starts a trend towards doing this and it would be worth the extra money they would probably charge.

    Mele Kalikimaka!
    Aloha Royal Soprano | Koa Pili Koko Tenor Cutaway | Eleuke Tenor SL Series Koa | Big Island Tenor Cutaway
    Pegasus 8-string | ʻŌiwi 6-string | Sonny D tenor | Kanile`a tenor |Tangi tenor | Tom Guy tenor cigar box | Eleuke Rosewood Jazz
    Amps : Smokey - Honeytone - Roland Micro Cube - SWR California Blonde - Mesa Boogie
    pahu | `ili`ili | ipu heke | `ohe hano ihu | kamani hano ihu | ipu hoki'oki'o
    Liko Puha www.nowelo.org

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