Saturday, 9 August 2014

Republic Concert Resonator Ukulele Strip Down/Re-Build/Re-String.

There comes a time when every stringed instrument player 'knows' it's time for new strings. Some change strings on a regular basis, others choose to ignore the necessity and solider on.

I tend to be in the later category.

When I played the guitar I ended up on the expensive new string treadmill round about every six weeks. I favoured Elixir strings with Nanoweb coating at £10 a pop. Boy, am I glad those days are over.

The stings on my resonator uke are the same ones it came with when I took possession of it... I'm tempted to change that line to 'when it took possession of me'.

The stings on this uke are anchored in slots on the body and, on close inspection, to my horror were beginning to stretch-out to thin strands. Considering how hard I thrash this instrument it's a wonder I've managed to get away no broken strings.

N.B. string breakages happen at the most inconvenient moment, usually mid-performance, usually in public, usually when you don't have spares, and will usually have a detrimental effect on the tuning of the remaining strings.

It's time for change.

On removing the old stings it proved to much of a temptation not to open the uke up...

12 small screws later... Inside we see the aluminium cone c/w 'biscuit' bridge assembly. I found the 'biscuit' was bolted to the cone. I'd assumed this would be a 'floating' assembly which would allow some intonation adjustment. On further inspection I discovered the cone has a good bit of 'elbow room' in it's housing, so I suppose that's the intonation adjustment...

On removing the cone...

A disappointing stick self-tapped in place with two struts linking it to plywood discs placed against the back of the chamber. Crude, but effective?

Then there's all the dust a fluff. I found a spherical 'pill' of fluff had formed inside the body..

Cleaned up, reassembled, and re-strung..

Now the annoying bit starts...

New strings need stretching till they stay in tune. I use the ubiquitous Aquila Nylgut strings. I stopped experimenting with uke strings the moment I first threaded a set of Aquilas on to my baritone uke. They have the astonishing capacity of improving the sound of any ukulele they're fitted to. Most new Ukes seem to come fitted with them as standard nowadays.

The initial tuning I make is 3 semitones above the normal tuning of G C E A. So, that's Bb Eb G C. I 'hammer' away at a few chords, adjusting the tuning as necessary until the strings stablise and hold tune, then tune to the G key.

3hours on from the change over things seem to have settled down nicely.

To be honest this instrument's intonation isn't entirely correct, just that little bit 'off' that makes it sound interesting. (it's not a good idea to drift above the 5th fret BTW) All my favourite instruments have an endearing 'quirk' like this, the slightly 'broken' sound appeals to me.... that and it's 'BARK!'

So now I don't have to worry about changing strings for another 5 years, or so.


What would this ukulele sound like with steel strings?

It certainly seems built to take 'em.