I sold a Ukulele around Christmas and recently got the following message. 

I love it, it sounds great. My only problem is that it doesn't seem to be able to tune to a standard ukulele... the highest I can get is a half step down. I wouldn't mind much if I played by myself, but I got it because I'm in in a band. I don't tune it higher because the strings get really tight and it sounds like it will either snap the strings or break the ukulele.

I'm a bit stumped.  I don't built a lot of ukuleles (don't particularly like nylon strings) but I've never had this problem before and don't recall it being a problem when I tuned it up.  Why would it have tight strings? It's a concert scale uke with Martin concert uke strings.  Any ideas?

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I would guess that it is the extra length of string between the bridge and tailpiece that is causing the inability to reach pitch. I only say this because on a typical ukulele the strings are stretched from the bridge to the tuning pegs (regardless of size, i.e. concert, standard, tenor, baritone) . But since this build has about 2+ inches of extra string to reach the tailpiece, it likely means that the strings have to be tightened more than they are designed for and will never reach their pitch before breaking the string(s), thus the situation facing your customer.


I may be wrong, but it seems possible.

I think I would ask them what exact notes they are trying to tune to.

Are they trying to get GCEA? Maybe they are bypassing the G and trying to go one octave too high? Just guessing here...

If its only a half step and he hasn't actually broken a string yet then tell him to just go for it. Nylon strings have a lot of stretching to do. The extra couple inches to tailpiece shouldn't make sod all difference, it's the scale length that is the critical dimension that these string are manufactured to tune to pitch at...

how high is the action? if it's high the strings will feel 'tight' near the nut.

On the ukes I build, I run the strings through the tailpiece and they tune up just fine. Aquila Nylgut strings...

Thanks for the tips.  I'm sending off an email to see if we can't figure this thing out.

just my tuppence worth but I always find Martin Co strings are less pliable than Aquila strings and do feel tighter when tunes the same. I have an 8 string which I used both on next to each other and the difference is very noticable. Maybe this is contributing to it? 

Farmer Ted is 100% right. The strings are not designed for that. That being said, it is a cigar box uke, just roll with it.Capo mabey?

try some metal mandolin strings............Ron

If you had it tuned up to correct pitch, I see no reason they would not be able to do the same. There is nothing on that gonna break before a string does, I'd tell em to just tune it, BUT be careful like Dan said and make sure they are not trying to take it an octave higher than it should be!

The guy says he is only a semitone short, so I'd say its impossible hes aiming an octave too high at that scale length, can't even be done on a guitar

I would suggest trying a different brand of strings. It is simply a string tension issue. The extra length of string after the bridge has no effect on tuning the scale to proper pitch, as long as the scale length is in the range that the strings are designed for.(just physics, I think there is even a law). It could be that he is used to playing other ukuleles have a different brand/ tension.

Is he using the proper scale length strings? If he's trying to put 15 inch scale strings on a 17 inch scale then there might be a tension problem. The above poster was correct about strings on a uke stretching so he may just need to just tighten more. If the strings are on upside down (4th string in first position in a low g tuning, for example) then this problem might occur.


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