PDA

View Full Version : Scale Length



70sSanO
10-05-2015, 10:36 AM
This may be better directed to luthiers.

I'm not talking about the standard ukulele scales of 13-1/2" soprano, 15" concert, and 17" tenor.

But I've wondered if the perfect ukulele design would lead to tweaks of the scales based on different woods and designs/bracing. For instance, instead of a 17" tenor, would 17-1/2" tenor allow design changes for a slightly larger soundboard and possibly improve the sound even more? Maybe it is 17-3/8" for one and 17-5/8" for another.

I've thought about this for a while since both my tenors are 18" scale (9" nut to 12th). There are benefits to the 18" scale, playability is not one of them, but I personally think the best length lies somewhere in between 17" and 18".

Almost posed as... If you could have any scale length...?

Any thoughts?

John

strumsilly
10-05-2015, 10:47 AM
I like both my tenors[17] and my baritones[19] , so 18 might be perfect!

70sSanO
10-05-2015, 11:23 AM
I like both my tenors[17] and my baritones[19] , so 18 might be perfect!

Ahhh, but there is a rub. Baritone strings won't have enough tension on 18" and tenor strings have pretty high tension on 18", which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

John

spookelele
10-05-2015, 11:28 AM
I think the magic isnt in the scale, but in the luthier.
The good ones can make any size sound amazing.

DownUpDave
10-05-2015, 11:54 AM
I think the magic isnt in the scale, but in the luthier.
The good ones can make any size sound amazing.

Agreed but I follow what John is saying. A slightly bigger body with the slightly longer scale length could yeild a bigger sound, at least in the lower registar for a low G.

Jim Hanks
10-05-2015, 02:16 PM
Once you start splitting inches I think you are really into the minutiae in terms on any kind of benefit - feel, tone, anything. There are real feel advantages (and disadvantages) to most of the inch gradations between say 14 and 20" as most of these equate to frets. For example, 16" concert is like capoing a tenor at 1st fret, 15" is like capoing a tenor at 2nd fret, etc. You can readily find examples of each so clearly there is a market for all the options - except 18" - those are extremely rare and probably for good reasons as #3 points out.

k0k0peli
10-05-2015, 02:36 PM
My baritone feel soo much like a little guitar. I have other reasons not to like it but its replacement will be strung with Venezuelan cuatro strings because 1) that's cheaper than buying a cuatro and 2) it'll remind me it's NOT a little guitar.

I've mentioned on mandolin fora that the mando family lacks the intermediates between ~13-14 inches (violin, mandolin, soprano 'uke) and ~19 inches (viola, mandola, baritone 'uke). I would be interested in a super-mandolin of ~15-16 inches (akin to a super-concert 'uke) but still tuned as a mandolin. The larger body would give more volume and enlarging the ff-holes to raise the resonant frequency could keep that in line with a mandolin's brightness. Yeah, a tenor mando, that's for me. ;)

But to get more volume and depth from a tenor 'uke, there's no need to go super-tenor with a longer-scale neck. Merely (hah!) build a larger tenor body -- greater depth, larger soundboards, side sound ports. Or just go with a resonator or banjo pot and steel strings. You want loud? You got it!

chuck in ny
10-05-2015, 04:07 PM
john

thanks for bringing up this topic. i'm a fan of the ancient world and their building techniques and have decided to build my tenor to the old cubit standard. there are actually at least several different measurements for the cubit. one taken off tombs in israel is 17.6" and i'm going with that. it's funny this is your feeling for the right territory.
what i did was pick up my favilla baritone and put the left hand on the neck at the point it naturally fell when holding the body with the right. the hand rested about an inch and a half down from the nut, on the 19" scale that would make it 17.5". this seems to be a good ergonomic point for me.

Jim Hanks
10-05-2015, 06:40 PM
Haha! Good luck with the intonation on your "ancient building techniques cubit standard" uke. :nana:

SteveZ
10-06-2015, 02:36 AM
My baritone feel soo much like a little guitar. I have other reasons not to like it but its replacement will be strung with Venezuelan cuatro strings because 1) that's cheaper than buying a cuatro and 2) it'll remind me it's NOT a little guitar.

I've mentioned on mandolin fora that the mando family lacks the intermediates between ~13-14 inches (violin, mandolin, soprano 'uke) and ~19 inches (viola, mandola, baritone 'uke). I would be interested in a super-mandolin of ~15-16 inches (akin to a super-concert 'ufke) but still tuned as a mandolin. The larger body would give more volume and enlarging the ff-holes to raise the resonant frequency could keep that in line with a mandolin's brightness. Yeah, a tenor mando, that's for me. ;)

But to get more volume and depth from a tenor 'uke, there's no need to go super-tenor with a longer-scale neck. Merely (hah!) build a larger tenor body -- greater depth, larger soundboards, side sound ports. Or just go with a resonator or banjo pot and steel strings. You want loud? You got it!

But if the mandolinist got louder due to a larger body/scale, then the banjo player would just go from an 11-inch drum to a 13 (or larger) inch drum to continue to dominate volume-wise. This could be the start of a musical version of the arms race!

Jon Moody
10-06-2015, 03:06 AM
It's an interesting thought. If you look at ukuleles like the Super Concerts and Super Tenors (that have longer scale necks on the standard body), the sound is a little brighter and punchier. Then, going towards the Hoffman ML series (that have the standard scale necks on larger bodies), you get a rounder, slightly more mellow tone out of them, with some more volume.

So, there are definitely folk that are doing this already (playing with scale and body size). I'm not sure how much an extra 1/2" would really affect the entire design, since most of these types out there now are differing in 2" increments (and that may be more due to availability and production over anything else). But, it's worth looking into.

spookelele
10-06-2015, 03:20 AM
Koaloha has done alot of mismatch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-ZuVt2X9h0 concert body, soprano scale.
https://vimeo.com/84506189 soprano body, short soprano scale
http://www.theukulelereview.com/2013/03/18/hms-listening-booth-3-koaloha-sopranos-ksm-00-ksm-02-ksm-t2/ soprano body, soprano/concert/tenor necks

70sSanO
10-06-2015, 04:37 AM
Perhaps a tenor example is not the best size to look at.

But if a soprano went from 13-1/2" to 14" (earlier post) that 1/2" might be significant enough to add just a touch of sustain and volume without hindering the playability or nature of a soprano sound. I think the most difficult size to get right is a soprano.

I imagine the same could be said for a concert at 15-1/2". It can still retain what everyone likes about concerts.

With more and more string choices it does open things up to be able to move out of the box just a bit. On the flip side someone would really have to know the pluses and minuses before deviating from a proven formula... but there could be a definite risk-reward.

John

SteveZ
10-06-2015, 04:41 AM
The more non-standard the size, the greater the probable cost to build and buy. If the instrument requires a one-of-a-kind fretboard due to a non-standard scale length, the price will reflect the unique fretboard design, the string
experimentation/selection and the unique fixed bridge/saddle siting to obtain optimal intonation. The question then becomes whether the cost justifies the result.

If the instrument is fret-less and has a floating bridge, then almost any scale length can be created. However, the symbionic "standardized instrument scale lengths" and sized-and-cut-to-length pre-packaged string sets have made the ukulele especially a price darling in the stringed instrument market. As the mandolin, banjo and other stringed instrument players can attest, uniqueness usually comes with a stiff pricetag.

k0k0peli
10-06-2015, 06:46 AM
But if the mandolinist got louder due to a larger body/scale, then the banjo player would just go from an 11-inch drum to a 13 (or larger) inch drum to continue to dominate volume-wise. This could be the start of a musical version of the arms race! Then I'll just whip out a larger banjo-mandolin. With metal fingerpicks. Yes, it would end in Mutual Assured Destruction. But that's only fitting for Bluegrass. Bombs away!

70sSanO
10-06-2015, 07:34 AM
The more non-standard the size, the greater the probable cost to build and buy. If the instrument requires a one-of-a-kind fretboard due to a non-standard scale length, the price will reflect the unique fretboard design, the string experimentation/selection and the unique fixed bridge/saddle siting to obtain optimal intonation. The question then becomes whether the cost justifies the result.

This is not really directed at production manufacturing, but there are a number of smaller guys who make standard, semi-custom, and custom instruments. For someone entering the market, it differentiates that brand from the next. When it is not uncommon to spend $1500-$2500 on a non-production ukulele, I was wondering if there is a better sweet spot than the traditional scale lengths; especially with the move towards more guitar like sounding ukuleles.

John

DownUpDave
10-06-2015, 07:41 AM
Ono ukuleles does a 16" scale length concert with a slightly bigger body, I am on the build list for one. The Kamaka Ohta San is a 16" scale length with a larger than standard concert body as well. So they are out there and being played.

CdnSouthpaw
10-06-2015, 08:27 AM
Standard scales seem to do well for the majority but I also think it's fine to deviate if the player feels a longer or custom scale length would work best for them.

I've considered 15" scales on sopranos but have less interest in super concerts or tenors.

spookelele
10-06-2015, 08:45 AM
So.... would you be able to tell an ohta san from a similarly built concert by sound alone?
Or is it really just for some extra room?

DownUpDave
10-06-2015, 09:21 AM
So.... would you be able to tell an ohta san from a similarly built concert by sound alone?
Or is it really just for some extra room?

That is the $64,000 question, for me it is more fretboard room.

On the HMS site Andrew says they do notice a difference in sound in Koaloha soprano vs super soprano and concert vs super concert. But it might be just the differences between individual instruments. I do tend to think those guys have played enough and recorded enough that they can come to a more accurate conclusion then most.

chuck in ny
10-06-2015, 12:05 PM
i don't see the problem with varied scale lengths as long as the frets are cut according to the calculator. there surely must be flexibility in each string set to use on a slightly longer or shorter scale.
in my case it's a home build with hand cut fret grooves so the time to lay out and cut is the same regardless.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
10-06-2015, 12:42 PM
This may be better directed to luthiers.

I'm not talking about the standard ukulele scales of 13-1/2" soprano, 15" concert, and 17" tenor.

But I've wondered if the perfect ukulele design would lead to tweaks of the scales based on different woods and designs/bracing. For instance, instead of a 17" tenor, would 17-1/2" tenor allow design changes for a slightly larger soundboard and possibly improve the sound even more?


The bigger the body's lower bout, the more potential for better tone/volume/sound etc.
A scale length is restricted to where the bridge falls on the lower bout (said again, the lower bout is restricted to where the scale length falls).

So yes,
1- a longer scale be appropriate for a larger top (bigger lower bout).
2- A longer scale has more tension to drive a bigger top,
3- bigger top has potential for more tone/volume

However,

4- you would need a bigger custom case due to the new body design.
5- why not just buy a baritone and capo at the 1st, 2nd or 3rd fret which would (then) have a similar fret distance as a normal 17" tenor.
6- or a parlour guitar

There are some traditionals i don't fight against, scale length (ie tenor is 17") is one of them