Tuning question

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  • #44633
    joelnal
    Participant

    Hi,

    I am having issues with tuning the of my ukulele and have a few questions about it. I use an electric tuner and tune my strings accordingly. It usually stays in tune pretty well and I only need to adjust every few days, though I check tuning every time I play.

    Since I have been going through the beginner course, I am playing a lot more on the higher frets than I ever have, for example learning “Our First Song” for the January challenge. I am noticing that I am very out of tune in the higher frets. And if I adjust the tuning to be in tune there, the lower frets are out of tune.

    There are a few things that I think could be causing this and wanted to get an option:

    1. Could the strings be old? I have had the instrument for about a year and a half an have never changed the strings.
    2. Could it be the instrument itself? I have an Ohana TK-20 Tenor.
    3. It’s been very cold here in a usually warm climate. Can that be the cause?
    4. Something else I’m not thinking of?

    I can post a video if that is helpful.

    Thanks in advance!
    Joel

    #44644
    Andrew
    Keymaster

    Sounds like #2 (no pun intended ha!)

    It’s an intonation problem. It could be fixed with a set-up. If they can’t fix it via that, then it’s a manufacturing issue.

    #44645
    gstriph
    Participant

    I’m no expert but did spend time with a luthier setting up the bridge compensation and the fretboard of a uke that I built so I learned some of this. Strings playing sharp up the neck is a problem with the uke’s intonation. It is possible that your strings have stretched over time and new strings will help. However, unless you also did this tuning/testing last year, you really don’t know if you have a “pre-existing condition.” Most ukes will be slightly sharp as you move up the neck. The luthier tries to reduce this by the action height (if high, there will be more downward motion shortening the string to get to the fret as you get closer to the bridge) and slightly tilting/angling the saddle. He’ll also carve grooves for the expected gauge of the string or cause the bend of the string at the saddle to be at a slightly different position. It is amazing how a fraction of a mm changes the intonation. It’s unlikely that a factory made uke has frets in the wrong position. Low humidity will shrink the wood (I used to feel fret ends more before we got a house humidifer). Hope this helps!
    Jerry

    #44646
    joelnal
    Participant

    Lots of great information. I may contact the shop I bought it to see if they can adjust the set up to see if it helps.

    I appreciate the info!

    Joel

    #44708
    robinboyd
    Participant

    1. Could the strings be old? I have had the instrument for about a year and a half an have never changed the strings.
    -> It could be that. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it can’t hurt to change the strings and see what happens.

    2. Could it be the instrument itself? I have an Ohana TK-20 Tenor.
    -> It could be that too. It would be unfortunate if it was, though.

    3. It’s been very cold here in a usually warm climate. Can that be the cause?
    -> It also could be that, but changes in humidity will affect it more than changes in heat. It would be a good idea to get yourself a hygrometer. They aren’t very expensive.

    4. Something else I’m not thinking of?
    -> The big thing I’d look at would be the setup. It’s hard to get perfect intonation, even with impeccable setup because of the different thicknesses of strings. The way to get around this is to have a compensated saddle (like this: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0113/2302/products/saddle_1024x1024@2x.jpg?v=1462839634). Otherwise, intonation will always be a bit off as you go up the neck on some strings. Low action will mitigate this, though, because with a low action, you don’t have to stretch the strings as much in order to fret cleanly.

    #44756
    joelnal
    Participant

    Thanks for the great info Robin!

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