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Thread: Talk to Me about Dead Notes

  1. #11
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    I have had this happen on one of my tenors. I tried different strings. I tried the putty on the sound board. I never could get it right. Some people can live with it. I could not. It just bothered me. Playing along and then THUD! I believe all the comments above are correct. I moved on from that particular Uke. This would be my advise if it bothers you. A good dealer will always help you out when something like this comes up!

  2. #12
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    From what I understand, a "Wolf tone" might actually be more like the opposite of a "dead note", i.e. one that "howls" with sustaining overtones because it matches the exact resonating frequency of the body. A "dead note", on the other hand, would be one that is inhibited from ringing out fully. It is possible that both phenomena are produced by the same cause, namely matching frequency. This sort of problem is discussed by players and builders of all types of stringed instruments, not just ukes, although it's possible that the small body and short scale are more prone to produce them.

    Here are the two previous threads that discuss this topic at length, one about the Opio, the other one about tenors in general:

    http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/...ic-goes-to-die

    http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/...ve-listened-to

    Here is what Andrew from HMS replied in the first thread:

    I just tried a handful of Opio tenors to confirm and it’s that way on them. For almost all of our customers, they love the tone and it’s not an issue. On some level, you build either for volume or sustain. The D# area that is not sustaining is also more punchy so the resonant frequency or overall pitch of the body is causing that to come through stronger for a shorter duration. I know this because if I tune it differently the issue moves to the same frequencies. Tuning down reduces it, and a lighter gauge for that string will reduce it slightly. It happens on some level with pretty much every acoustic instrument but some are more noticeable (usually more projecting/ punchy ones).

    You can play with different things inside the body or at the headstock but usually you’ll just move the resonant frequency. It usually ends up somewhere unless you make significant structure changes which will also change the overall tone that you enjoy. One of my personal ukes, an expensive custom built one, is super loud and punchy, but has a few frequencies that just don’t sustain. I love the sound and it doesn’t cause problems for me. I never notice it when just playing and enjoying it, only when checking the notes individually. Most players pick up an Opio and just love the tone and feel and never even hear a problem because it’s not affecting what they are doing. Lots of customers have bought and loved this instrument from us and it sounds just like yours. In fact I can only recall two other people noticing this since we’ve been selling them for the last few years (same thing on the sapele) and many people finding just what they were looking for. So it just depends on the player and generally people don’t have the same criteria. We QC them and set them up to play great but each brand has people that will love them and others that will have issues inherent to their design and sound. We want all our customers to be happy, and have no problem getting it back. If this is an issue for you then I understand and we’ll do whatever you want and work with you to make it a good experience. So just let us know what you’d like to do. I don't normally have time to check in here so please contact me directly.
    After this somewhat alarming thread, I checked all of my ukes, including a Sapele Opio tenor, and could not find the problem on any of them. Nothing I couldn't adjust with just a little more or less pressure to the string. I have been playing different instruments for all of my life, so I would have thought that I my ears are trained well. Maybe I just work my way around the issue. Anyway, after a short period of insecurity, I moved back to enjoying my instruments without checking for "dead notes".

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rakelele View Post
    From what I understand, a "Wolf tone" might actually be more like the opposite of a "dead note", i.e. one that "howls" with sustaining overtones because it matches the exact resonating frequency of the body.
    Yes. That is the issue I had with one of my ukes. It happens on high G. I have managed to virtually eliminate the problem with different strings, though. I currently have it strung with Aquila Carbonblacks and a Freemont Soloist low G.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by DownUpDave View Post
    Dead notes........a real can of worms. Just as reference I have had a large sampling of high end ukes, so has a number of friends that I play with. We also talked to Doc J about this who has owned mores high end custom build ukes then anyone we know. Bottom line it can happen whether it is a $40 Dolphin a $4000 Ko'olau or anything in between. Ukulele strings can be finicky on certain instruments, regardless of string brand or type. Changeing strings to another brand or type sometimes helps.

    Example, a dead note on the 3rd string 2nd fret. We have changed the florocarbon for a wound. Sometimes have to change brands of wound string from South Coast to Thomastik to D'Addario. The different materials they use have different tension, mass or frequencies which might do the trick. Ask Andrew from HMS about intonation on a uke, even a bigger can of worm. They can have it perfect with the strings delivered on the uke, we change them and get mad because the intonation "sucks" on this insrrument. I think it all comes down to the short scale length and relatively high tension of GCEA compared to guitars.

    There is a whole art/science behind a luthier fixing this. Basically they are changing the frequency of the top by adding a small blob of silly putty to the top, changing spots until the dead note is eliminated. They mark the spot then glue a piece of ebony the same weight as the putty on the inside of the top
    Very interesting! Thanks for the info.

    Quote Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
    It happens with guitars. There are plenty of threads out there that talk about it. A universal fix attempt is to attach weight to the headstock, although that may or may not help. There is an old post by Rick Turner on AGF that talks about bracing and or adding neck reinforcement, but that is fine for a $10K guitar.

    I have had some thud notes that I have had to work around, usually on the C string at the 3rd/4th fret. I have tried going with a lighter C string that seemed to help some. The A at the 12th is a real killer. People will laugh when I say I had a problem with the C at the 15th fret being dead, but if you play up the neck and occasionally what that note as a transitional ring, it can be frustrating. I swapped out the A string to a thinner one, which helped marginally but then all the A string notes sounding too thin/bright.

    After 2 years I finally eliminated the 15th fret issue it by tuning down a half a step, which you did without success, and trying to balance out the string tension overall. There is something to the effect that string tension has on other strings. Southcoast may be able to help in that respect.

    John
    Thanks! I guess I just got lucky with my guitars. I didn't notice the dead note on my Kala concert when it was strung with Aquila super nylguts, but they weren't on long. The dead note seems a bit less thuddy with Worth Browns though, as the C string is only 0.291" whereas both D'Addario carbons and Fremont Black Lines use a 0.319" C string. One reason I don't particularly like Aquila super nylguts is that the C string is particularly thick, so there's not much sustain on any note on that string. Perhaps the super nylgut C string balanced it out.
    Margaret, classical guitarist gone uke crazy

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by M3Ukulele View Post
    I have had this happen on one of my tenors. I tried different strings. I tried the putty on the sound board. I never could get it right. Some people can live with it. I could not. It just bothered me. Playing along and then THUD! I believe all the comments above are correct. I moved on from that particular Uke. This would be my advise if it bothers you. A good dealer will always help you out when something like this comes up!
    Thanks! I will probably move the concert along at some point, but I play tenor most often, and I can work around the dead note on the concert when I do play it. The intonation is particularly good, and it sounds nice, so it's a minor annoyance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rakelele View Post
    From what I understand, a "Wolf tone" might actually be more like the opposite of a "dead note", i.e. one that "howls" with sustaining overtones because it matches the exact resonating frequency of the body. A "dead note", on the other hand, would be one that is inhibited from ringing out fully. It is possible that both phenomena are produced by the same cause, namely matching frequency. This sort of problem is discussed by players and builders of all types of stringed instruments, not just ukes, although it's possible that the small body and short scale are more prone to produce them.

    <snip>

    After this somewhat alarming thread, I checked all of my ukes, including a Sapele Opio tenor, and could not find the problem on any of them. Nothing I couldn't adjust with just a little more or less pressure to the string. I have been playing different instruments for all of my life, so I would have thought that I my ears are trained well. Maybe I just work my way around the issue. Anyway, after a short period of insecurity, I moved back to enjoying my instruments without checking for "dead notes".
    Yes, the term "wolf" note makes me think of howling wolves. This note is definitely dead and not howling.

    I only go looking for dead notes when I'm playing a uke I'm considering for purchase. Once I own a uke, I don't look for them. But in the case of my concert, I found it while playing. If I never held that note, I probably would never have noticed it.
    Margaret, classical guitarist gone uke crazy

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinboyd View Post
    Yes. That is the issue I had with one of my ukes. It happens on high G. I have managed to virtually eliminate the problem with different strings, though. I currently have it strung with Aquila Carbonblacks and a Freemont Soloist low G.
    I've been thinking of trying a set of carbon blacks on a Mainland red cedar tenor I picked up yesterday at Mighty Uke Day in Lansing. But I happened to have a set of Worth Browns, so I popped them on. The uke sounds even better with the browns (than the super nylguts that came on it), so they'll stay on for a while. But for future reference, how thick are the carbon blacks compared to super nylgut (or any other common string you've used for that matter). I'm told the sustain is excellent, hence my interest in trying these strings. Thanks!
    Margaret, classical guitarist gone uke crazy

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by twokatmew View Post
    I've been thinking of trying a set of carbon blacks on a Mainland red cedar tenor I picked up yesterday at Mighty Uke Day in Lansing. But I happened to have a set of Worth Browns, so I popped them on. The uke sounds even better with the browns (than the super nylguts that came on it), so they'll stay on for a while. But for future reference, how thick are the carbon blacks compared to super nylgut (or any other common string you've used for that matter). I'm told the sustain is excellent, hence my interest in trying these strings. Thanks!
    I don't really notice any difference between them and the Aquila Reds other than cosmetic ones. They are thinner than any of my fluorocarbon strings (or Nylguts, etc.) and they are quite a bit slacker, too. I just tried comparing sustain between my two concert ukes, one of which is strung with Carbonblacks, and the other is strung with Oasis Warms, and I honestly couldn't notice a difference. The difference is in tone, which is hard to describe, and you'll just have to try for yourself. Anyway, I like them, but if you like having super tight strings, they might not be for you.

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinboyd View Post
    I don't really notice any difference between them and the Aquila Reds other than cosmetic ones. They are thinner than any of my fluorocarbon strings (or Nylguts, etc.) and they are quite a bit slacker, too. I just tried comparing sustain between my two concert ukes, one of which is strung with Carbonblacks, and the other is strung with Oasis Warms, and I honestly couldn't notice a difference. The difference is in tone, which is hard to describe, and you'll just have to try for yourself. Anyway, I like them, but if you like having super tight strings, they might not be for you.
    Thx! Sounds good. I will give them a try. I don't like tight strings, and so far my search for not-so-tight strings has led me to Worth Browns.
    Margaret, classical guitarist gone uke crazy

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by twokatmew View Post
    Thx! Sounds good. I will give them a try. I don't like tight strings, and so far my search for not-so-tight strings has led me to Worth Browns.
    I haven't tried Worth Browns, so I can't give you a direct comparison. What I will say is that I know Aquila has discontinued Carbonblacks because they are supplying something similar (but not quite the same) to another company. If you are buying new strings, the closest you are likely to get is Reds.

  10. #20
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    Default Ah, that explains it...

    That explains why when tightening the head of the banjo, thumping it should produce something like an A sharp. Since most banjos are played in G, that reduces the 'resonant frequencies'. Makes complete sense to me.


    Quote Originally Posted by BuzzBD View Post
    As a builder, one of the things I strive to avoid is having the resonant frequency of the body matching that of a note. The frequency of my sopranos tend to be close to middle C, but I make sure when all is assembled, and I tap the body, the note produced is at least 10 cents sharp or flat from C. Rarely an instrument will be within a few cents; enlarging the sound hole, thinning the top or back, or shaving the braces will adjust things.
    Bradford

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