At some point in every ukulele player’s adventure, they’re probably going to need a good ukulele repair service. And it’s not just to repair things like dings and scratches and dents or cracks – sometimes, a good ukulele repair shop can make your favorite ukulele even more enjoyable to play with a few adjustments or a great setup.
What Is an Ukulele Setup Anyway?
You’ve probably heard this term used when looking to buy a new ukulele. Most ukuleles that you can buy today do not arrive from the factory perfectly set up and ready to play. While every ukulele manufacturer has their own set of quality controls for the instruments they make, that doesn’t mean that they are going to give you the best quality of tone and intonation.
A ukulele setup done at a repair shop should include the following items:
- Adjusting the string height: You may have heard other ukulele players talking about their instruments and whether the action is “high” or “low” on their ukulele. This refers to the height of the strings above the fretboard. If the strings are too high above the fretboard, this can make them difficult to press down and cause muscle strain and pain in your fretting hand. If the strings are too low, you may notice a rattle or buzzing as they vibrate against the frets.
Taking the time to measure and adjust the string height at the saddle will ensure a comfortable playing experience and a superior tone.
- Level, smooth, and polish frets: It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes you may get frets on your ukulele fingerboard that are uneven or have sharp edges. Uneven frets can result in buzzing sounds or vibrating that affect the tone and intonation up the neck of your ukulele.
Sharp fret ends can be downright uncomfortable when you’re playing the ukulele, too. Most frets are made from metal, and unless they are filed down smooth, you’ll be shredding your fingers raw on those sharp fret ends.
- Oil fretboard and bridge: Oiling the ukulele fretboard is how we protect the wood of the fretboard against wear and tear, and from the oils that come naturally through our fingers as we play. Most ukulele fretboards shouldn’t need to be oiled very often, but when you get a new ukulele, it’s a good idea to provide some protection to the wood and to prevent it from degrading and breaking down.
Likewise, putting a little bit of oil on the wooden bridge of your ukulele to condition it can help extend the life of the bridge and prevent it from cracking or breaking.
- Reshape nut profile and nut slot: At the base of the headstock, you’ll notice a small strip of bone or plastic with little grooves in it to hold the strings. This is the nut on your ukulele, and it can make or break the tone and playability of your ukulele.
Each of the strings are nestled into a little groove in the nut. If the groove is too small, the string won’t fit properly and might cause vibrating or buzzing. If the groove is too big, you might have a hard time with the action and playability of the string, as it will sit too close to the fretboard. This is especially true for ukes that are being converted to a low G or linear tuning – a low G string is usually a bit thicker than the high G string, so if the groove in the nut isn’t the right size, you may not have an optimal playing experience.
A basic setup on any ukulele should include all of these things, to make sure that your instrument is comfortable to play and stays in tune as you play up the neck of the ukulele.
Other Services for Ukulele Setups
Above and beyond the basic setup for your ukulele, you may want to have the factory strings swapped out for your favorite brand. You can also request a ukulele repair service to install a strap button if your ukulele doesn’t have one installed at the factory. You may also want to have a pickup installed if you plan on using your ukulele as an electro-acoustic instrument or plug it in to an amplifier, and if you’re a left-handed player, then you might want to have your strings swapped out so that you can fret with your right hand and strum and fingerpick with your left.
Read more: Best Ukuleles Under $150
All of these things can be done by a good, qualified ukulele repair shop to make your new instrument even better, or to give new life to an older instrument.
Is There a Ukulele Repair Shop Near Me?
If you’re like me and you live in a rural area, there might not be any kind of ukulele repair shop or service within a couple hours’ drive. Sure, there are some kinds of ukulele repair and maintenance you can learn how to do by yourself, but for some things, you really need a good ukulele repair service to take care of your precious instruments.
When Do I Need a Ukulele Repair Shop?
Growing up as a violin player, my teachers always showed me how to do basic maintenance on my instruments, so I’ve always felt very comfortable doing things like string changes and even maintaining the fingerboard and adjusting the fine tuners on my violin. Those have translated well to my skills in doing routine and basic maintenance on my ukulele. I can change the strings, file down sharp fret ends if necessary, and have even learned how to install strap buttons on my ukes that don’t come with theirs factory installed.
But there are times when I need a good ukulele repair shop. Accidents happen, and sometimes you find yourself with a favorite ukulele that has sustained a crack, or a tussle with the floor that has resulted in some scratches and a dent or two. In that case, you definitely need to find a ukulele repair shop that can give you an honest appraisal of your problem and do quality work to restore your ukulele.
Why Use the Terry Carter Music Repair Shop?
If you’re in or near the San Diego, California area, the Terry Carter Music repair shop can help with anything from basic repairs up to restorations of your beloved ukuleles, guitars, mandolins, and other instruments. With a team of dedicated instrument repair and restoration technicians, they will give you a recommendation and estimate and get right to work.
Let them work their magic on your instruments! Send them a quick message and find out how they can help you!