Pros: Consistent Tone, Improved Response, Sustain
Call it a goal or a drop in the bucket list of things we all aspire to; we all probably have a some foolish pleasure that we would like to enjoy at some point in our lives. Among some that I’ve recently heard of: joining a gym, and actually go, finally making an outbuilding a home studio, playing the piano (a popular one) and in my case, buying a ukulele. I recently purchased that ukulele and then another and am going full steam into learning the instrument, which I’m finding is relatively easy as an experienced guitarist.
Having had some question about whether it was going to be a passing fancy, I opted to buy a good starter uke and c Lose the Lanikai tenor and I haven’t regretted it a moment. While I find it an excellent uke I wanted to make it better. I noticed that certain frets on the A string, particularly in the lower register had a deader tone, lacking ring and brilliance. A slight buzz also pointed me to the nylon nut that came with the Lanikai. Having had experience with a great fix for this malady, I opted to change the nut out with a Graph Tech Tusq Nut and haven’t looked back.
The Graph Tech Tusq Nut is a man-made polymer, which has the characteristic of maximum vibration transfer producing crisp, bell like high end with rich sustain. I didn’t take the job on, opting to have a luthier friend of mine perform the one hour change out as I watched. After some measurement and releasing the existing nylon nut, the cavity was cleared of any glue residue with some 400 grit sand paper. The nut was a little taller than the existing nut to which he sanded the bottom a bit to the appropriate height. He then filed the slots and installed the nut loosely and re-attached the strings and tuned it up for fine adjustment. Once he was happy with the playability, he loosened everything and glued it in place tightening the strings and taping everything in place for drying. A little fine tuning, involving filing and side dressing and we were in business!
The transformation yielded a louder, crisper sounding uke that has definition and complexity, responding to subtleties in attack. Tusq nuts are more consistent from nut to nut, unlike ivory or other bone nuts. While many favor the alternatives, the random nature of their integrity is the X factor when choosing bone or ivory, a consideration forgone with Tusq. Over the years, I’ve made similar enhancements with acoustic guitars that I’ve owned and they have gone on to be really good guitars, a reassurance that led me to the upgrade on the Lanikai.
All things considered, for a minimal investment of under $13.00 I made this ukulele sound so much better than it was; had I paid for the installation, it might have cost me another $30.00, not bad for the resulting tone I ended up with and a reason I would recommend it for anyone looking to improve their ukulele’s playability.