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Action, Intonation - Setting Up Your Ukulele

All about ukulele strings - links, information, brands, types of string material, changing strings, and string miscellaneous string resources.

Terms and Definitions

A description of the terms you'll most likely encounter regarding the setup and maintenance of your ukulele.

Action

Basically how is the pitch accuracy of a musical instrument. Does your ukulele play in tune without the notes being flat, sharp, or both if within a chord.

This is a function of the placements of the frets, the nut, bridge and saddle as well as the height of the strings in relation to the frets when fretted or played open. The distance of the strings from the fret . fingerboard is referred to as the Action.

All but the fret placement can be maintained by yourself or a qualified technician, luthier, or repair person.

Check out the String Action for more information...

Intonation

With fretless string instruments such as violins or cellos, intonation depends on the exact placement the musician's fingers pressing the strings against the instrument's fingerboard, as well as any pull or push the musician exerts on the string, either along the string's length or perpendicular to it.

For fretted string instruments, which is the ukulele, several factors affect fretted instrument intonation, including depth of the string slots in the nut, bridge saddle position, the position of the frets themselves, and the technique of the musician.

All of these can be addressed by a qualified luthier, technician or musician.

If the fret placement, all the notes along a string at each fret play in tune is correct you good to go. This can be checked with a quality tuner.

You can check the intonation of a ukulele by playing the harmonic at the twelfth fret and comparing it to the fretted note at the twelfth fret on all the string individually.

One thing that I have ran across as a music store owner and private music teacher with quite a few ukulele students is - "Intonation is a comprise on most ukuleles and on lower end ukuleles it is not even an option, you're not going to get it to play in tune beyond the third fret on most ukuleles under $50. So the question, "Can I get an really good, inexpensive ukulele that plays in tune?" - Basically, NO!. However the Makala Dolphin and Shark ukuleles are actually quite good.

Several things can help. 1) Higher tensions strings of better quality. 2) Have the nut adjusted as most beginner ukuleles come with the nut slots way too high causing the first few frets to play out of tune. 3) Don't press too hard as that can cause the note to play out of tune.

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Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books!Peter Rhee

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LearningUkulele.com has one of the largest collections of lessons, songs, and TABS, luthiers, ukulele builders, ukulele festival and club information, and, ukulele links on the web. I’ve been on the ®Internet since the early 1990's and This site just never stops growing!!!

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