Unusual resonance on A string with new to me Kamaka HF-3 - flat fret wire suspected

UkeinPDX

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Hello all!

Haven’t seen any discussion related to this so thought I’d get one started. Got an HF-3 holy grail to me uke and the A string just never sounded great to me. Tried different strings and assumed maybe the instrument just needed some time to acclimate. It sounded like a banjo for a few notes along the string. A weird metallic echo that I also thought might be due to a loose brace or something in the body. One thing I noticed was that the noise got much less when having my finger up against the fret wire when playing a note. After a few days of trying to just get used to the sound and hoping that it goes away. I finally saw it. Some of these are so flat it looks like a table or something! And wouldn’t you know it, the frets that visually look the worst also sound the worst. The worst of all is the fret closest to the nut, which makes sense given that it is the deepest note along the string and would cause the most vibration. Going to get it sorted tomorrow and will report back.
 

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To clarify things. The A string is the one closest to the camera in the pictures. It appears that during setup, the fret wires were sanded down along the A string and never properly crowned, so when played, the string is vibrating against the flat part of the fret.

This is an 07 HF-3 that sat for a while.
 
I once spent years chasing a buzz on my Kamaka. The action was high from the factory. Local “guitar” tech made the setup so low like on an electric guitar, that it buzzed. Then, two different guitar luthiers tried fixing it which entailed more fret work. Eventually, it was like playing a fret less instrument. Finally, just mailed it to Kamaka for a full re-fret. I think Chris Kamaka said, yeah there’s not much left on there.
if I had to do it again, I would just send it to Kamaka in the first place..

I also have a KoAloha tenor set up by musicguymic, and the frets look like mini tables. Super low action, very comfortable, no buzz. It sounds like what you are describing is a high fret somewhere or the nut or saddle being too low. Try putting a shim in the a string slot (slip of paper) and see if that fixes it.
 
Taking it to kamaka might be in the cards for me as I’m picking up my 70s baritone from them in September! It tried adding a shim at the nut and the saddle and the sound is identical so I ruled those out!
 
Taking it to kamaka might be in the cards for me as I’m picking up my 70s baritone from them in September! It tried adding a shim at the nut and the saddle and the sound is identical so I ruled those out!
start at the first fret and pluck the string. Then proceed down the fretboard. Once the buzzing stops, that may be your high fret. In Theory raising the saddle high enough should solve that problem, but may make it less playable,
 
Yes if this was bought used then it may have been tampered with and effects of setup are often difficult to reverse. If it is an unmodified NOS then the neck is likely dried out and some aggressive humidification may help.
 
This was used so I am guessing it was a bad setup from whoever the original buyer bought it from.
 
I took it to my local music store today, and the guy working there was very dismissive. He played through all of the notes, and said the action is fine and there is no buzzing. He did note that the fret wires were a bit flat in the spots I mentioned, but said that they were within spec, and he wouldn't touch them, despite noticing there was a bit of noise from them. He more or less said that I was being overly sensitive, or a perfectionist, or something like that and the instrument was fine.

I went home, taped up the fretboard, and had a nice few hours sanding down the top 6 fret wires with 800, 1500 and 2000 grit. I am so happy I did. Now it sounds great :D
 
Thanks for posing the problem and finding the solution UkeinPDX. This will have a good chance of helping another UU member in the future. (y)
 
Well, after carefully listening while playing the sound is still there. I think what I did helped slightly, but it is still there. I think this one might be coming with me to Hawaii in a few months so that Kamaka can look at it. So frustrating!
 
Well, after carefully listening while playing the sound is still there. I think what I did helped slightly, but it is still there. I think this one might be coming with me to Hawaii in a few months so that Kamaka can look at it. So frustrating!
Raise the saddle like 3x what you normally would. So if you put one business card in there, put in three. You’re just trying to diagnose the problem. It sounds like a high fret which could be caused by unlevel frets or a warped neck. Another suggestion is to put in a nylon A string like the original kamaka string. Nylon strings are thicker.
 
I tried both of those with no success. To add insult to injury, last time I put a few shims under the string in the saddle, it over stressed the string or something, which snapped and left a gouge in the finish… so no returning it now. It’s mine and it’s gonna get fixed one way or another!
 
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