PDA

View Full Version : Soprano tips?



JackLuis
01-10-2016, 06:30 PM
I've been playing tenor and concert for about 9 months. I thought the tenor might be easier to play and bought one. Then I thought a concert might be better as the tenor fret spacing was a tough stretch. So I got a concert and really liked it, though I use Low G as the reentrant tuning doesn't flip my pancake.

Now, nine months later, UAS, a love of Zebra wood, and cheap Caramel Ukes has made me the owner of a Zebra wood Soprano with Aq Super Nygut strings. I just got it in the mail a few days ago and the strings are settling but the sound of it is... icky. I don't really know how to describe it.

I also just got a new Zebra wood Tenor that had Super Nygut strings on it and I was less than impressed with the sound. But I put some Phd Low G's on it and wow! Now it has shifted from a "Frank Sinatra" to "Povorati" the voice changed significantly.

While I was at my local Uke Shop to get the PHDs I played a few high end soprano's, mostly with Aquilas and thought that they sounded different. It was hard to tell as the River City Uke Orchestra had just finished their meetup and there were a lot of people in the store jabbering about ukes and such.

Now I don't expect that my $45 Caramel will sound a lot like a $2,500 Emerald Bay or a $1,200 K model but I had hoped that it would sound a bit more musical.

I realize that the smaller body will have a different quality than the concert or tenors but shouldn't it ring, a little. I've read that the Super Nyguts are supposed to be good strings but after hearing the difference the Phds made on my tenor I'm not so sure.

So I was wondering what you guys/gals think about Soprano vs Concert vs Tenor voice wise?

Louis0815
01-11-2016, 12:00 AM
In a nutshell: it all depends. :)

On personal preference, individual uke, strings - just to name the biggest factors in the game.
As you can read in many threads, there is nothing like "the best" strings. The same set of strings can produce different results on different ukuleles - finding the right combination can become quite tedious....
From a technical point of view bigger bodies resonate better, so the bigger the body the fuller sound you will get (to put it a bit b/w). Lower frequencies need bigger bodies (again physics).

I would swap strings on the soprano, e.g. to a set of Martin M600 for a start. You will be surprised about the difference....

JackLuis
01-11-2016, 07:34 AM
In a nutshell: it all depends. :)

On personal preference, individual uke, strings - just to name the biggest factors in the game.
As you can read in many threads, there is nothing like "the best" strings. The same set of strings can produce different results on different ukuleles - finding the right combination can become quite tedious....
From a technical point of view bigger bodies resonate better, so the bigger the body the fuller sound you will get (to put it a bit b/w). Lower frequencies need bigger bodies (again physics).

I would swap strings on the soprano, e.g. to a set of Martin M600 for a start. You will be surprised about the difference....

Yes I agree that strings can change the personality of a Uke. I've found that with my concerts and tenors. However my question was really about the character of Sopranos in general. I see more that a few UU'ers who prefer sopranos, or at least like them enough to comment on them.

I was trying to get an idea of what to expect from a soprano in terms of 'voice' compared to other sizes.

Coming from a background in Radio and Frequency Selective Multiplex technology, I have been amazed that no one has applied Spectrum Analysis to instruments. I would think with the availability of FFT suitable for computers to cheaply analyze the spectrum to evaluate the sound of in terms of odd and even harmonic levels and and characterize string response and the like, Ukers all seem to use ambiguous terms to characterize sound, like 'warm', 'bright' and other less than precise terms to discuss the differences in audio response of Ukes and strings.

I also realize that people have differences in perception of sounds due to lots of things, their ear response probably more than anything. I know in my case an early exposure to gunfire and loud aircraft have made a large difference in my ears spectral responses.

I may not play, or hear, very well but I find Ukes to be interesting and fun on many levels. Now that I've got Zebras in five different sizes, from sopranio to tenor, I guess I'm now in the String Acquisition Syndrome phase of my Ukeing experience. ;)

Vintageukes
01-11-2016, 09:04 AM
Jack, I think there is a lot at play as you suggest. One thing I think about is what we have become accustomed to. What I mean is that with guitar dominated music coming about in the late 50's and on, we are used to hearing guitar based music and thus, that is the range which we are attracted to. In addition, I think that with modern speakers and stereo equipment, we are also used to a fuller sound and when you put a solo soprano ukulele in your hands, it is not what we are used to. Heck, few people play the "small" parlor size guitars which were the norm before Martin offered the dreadnought shape.

That being said, I have many soprano ukuleles and it is my favorite size uke to play because I like the thinner, punchy sound of a soprano, and indeed, the sound, volume, and richness of each different soprano I have makes a big difference in the sound. However, when people who are not used to ukulele music hear me play different sopranos, they usually can't tell much difference.

Louis0815
01-11-2016, 11:13 AM
I was trying to get an idea of what to expect from a soprano in terms of 'voice' compared to other sizes.
I am not a frequency expert so I habe to stick to laymen terminology. Due to the small body and scale sopranos generally have less sustain and less "low end", they are simply lacking material where these frequencies can properly resonate. And they can be not as loud as the bigger ones. But as usual, exceptions exist in all possible directions. And there's a different uke for every mood....

You might be interested in reading the "Southcoast guide to tunings and strings (http://www.southcoastukes.com/stringuide.htm)" for some more explanations...

Inksplosive AL
01-11-2016, 01:07 PM
I have reentrant Aquila reds on my sopranos. Some have said they have a metallic sound, to me they are brighter and feel much nicer than the white Aquila strings.

You seem to be speaking of loss of sustain between the larger ukuleles and the smaller soprano size. I prefer the lower tension strings of a soprano over the higher tension strings of a tenor.

I wouldn't expect much from a new $45 soprano myself. I think I payed $35-$40 for my smiley uke and it sounds like a box compared to my Kala KA-SEM (laminate) I bought for $85 in the marketplace. If it were all I had it would sound just fine with nothing to compare it to.

Good luck hopefully strings will make a world of difference.

PhilUSAFRet
01-11-2016, 02:15 PM
Aquilas are like any other strings. They are great on some ukes, not so much on others. I couldn't get them off my old Cordoba tenor quick enough. I have Aquilas on a long neck soprano, and on my Martin O and they are great, on my Kamaka soprano, I love the Oasis lights I have on it. I had a solid mahogany soprano I got rid of once that didn't sound like I thought it should regardless of the strings I put on it.

Freeda
01-11-2016, 02:41 PM
Stop shopping, start practicing. ;)

JackLuis
01-11-2016, 05:08 PM
My Zebra Herd
http://i1028.photobucket.com/albums/y345/JackLuis/DSCN2415_zpscvurhxuj.jpg (http://s1028.photobucket.com/user/JackLuis/media/DSCN2415_zpscvurhxuj.jpg.html)

I took the soprano into the shop to have the action lowered and D'Addario carbons put on it. I have a set of PhD Low G that I took off a concert to try also.
With these I'm pretty sure I've got enough to try most things and now I just need to work on my method book. I wanted the soprano High g to use where the book explores the high g String. The pocket uke is too small but I think the soprano is more appropriate. All my other Ukes have Low G so I hope the D'Addarios sound better than the Aquilas.

bradben
01-11-2016, 05:12 PM
I'm in the same boat. I came from the guitar and went straight to a tenor for several years. I just recently got a Martin soprano and am adjusting to it - definitely less sustain, less resonance than a tenor, but still a nice sound. Sounds really tight when strumming. As for fingerpicking, it's okay, but I'm thinking I need a different touch than with the tenor. Not to mention that it's REALLY tiny to hold :-)

JackLuis
01-11-2016, 06:19 PM
I'm in the same boat. I came from the guitar and went straight to a tenor for several years. I just recently got a Martin soprano and am adjusting to it - definitely less sustain, less resonance than a tenor, but still a nice sound. Sounds really tight when strumming. As for fingerpicking, it's okay, but I'm thinking I need a different touch than with the tenor. Not to mention that it's REALLY tiny to hold :-)

I know what you mean. I went Low G real quickly when I got my first tenor, because of my guitar ear conditioning. I don't expect that I will give up my tenors or concerts for the soprano but I want to be able to play it well. It is a lot bigger than my pocket uke though. I only got that because it was unlikely I'd ever see a zebra wood one again since Rubin quit making them.

tbeltrans
01-12-2016, 03:14 AM
When I decided to add a soprano ukulele to my large collection of two ukuleles, I tried quite a few, and the only one whose sound I really liked was a mid 1920's Martin 2K. I am not a vintage collector, but I did buy the one soprano that sounded "right" to me, and that just happened to be a vintage Martin. There is a reason that people seek these out, and not just collectors either. I have one each of soprano, concert, and tenor, with the only Martin and vintage being the soprano. I have not had the desire to add another ukulele to my collection. To me, it seems much easier to find "good" sounding concert and tenor ukuleles.

Tony

bird's eye view of my ukelele
01-12-2016, 05:24 AM
wow the zebra wood is lovely!

i would defo put living water strings or some other fluorocarbons on the soprano

i way prefer living waters on my smaller ukes - sopranos and concerts

i personally find it gives them a louder, clearer, purer tone that i really love


(i do like aquilas on my tenor and baritone)

JackLuis
01-12-2016, 03:01 PM
That is why I decided to put the Carbons on the soprano, to see if I could get a pure bell like ring out of it, like they give on my travel Tenor. Being a thin body it isn't real loud but the carbons make it sweet. Zebra wood has a more mellow sound than Spruce which I find kind of harsh on a Uke, though my spruce topped Ohana with PhDs can be played very softly or very loud.

I found the Aquila Super Nyguts to be too brassy and I think they are way over rated. I've tried to find Living Waters but can't locally. Perhaps I'll order some after I wear out the carbons. I'd like to try Oasis and South Coasts as well, but I need to practice some more to teach my ears more discrimination.

JackLuis
01-16-2016, 08:06 AM
I just got my soprano back from the shop and I think the string change was worth it. The action is lowered and easier to play, though it feels weird as the strings are so slack, compared to the Tenors. The intonation is a bit better, as only a few of the notes are sharp by a couple of cents on the Snark. The 12th fret is right on however and I expect that it will improve as the D'Addarios settle. They sound a lot better than the Aq Super Nylguts did.

I can reach the 4442 E chord now! A little more practice will be required of course.

It's little pipsqueak voice is kinda cute.;) Not too loud but it rings a bit more now.

It does have that mellow Zebra sound too. Not near as 'plunky' as I thought it would be. ;)

JackLuis
01-17-2016, 12:28 PM
After about 12-16 hours the soprano with the D'Addarios has changed it's voice. Now it is chiming and has gained a lot of volume as the strings shifted from floppy to a more normal tension. I've been alternating from soprano to concert to tenor and listening to their differing voices. The soprano is kind of plunky, the concert has a bit of boom from the Low G and C strings, and the tenor's voice now is very powerful but it has a initial thump, when strummed. It is really interesting and makes me laugh.

My wife said that you have to play and love your instrument before it will reward you with it's best singing. I thought that was a little weird, but maybe she's right. I've had the CC-100 concert a few months and played it for many hours now and it sings very nicely. The soprano is playing better and better as time goes on and I'm liking it more and more.

I saw a youtube about a Uke Luther who has a machine that strums his new instruments a million times before he releases them, as he thinks they improve as they are played.

I had initially bought the soprano just to fill in my herd but now after playing it find the fret board is not as cramped as I had expected. This little filly may not be a powerful as her sisters but she's gaining confidence and really trying to belt out House of the Rising Sun.

Ukulele's are so much fun!

natchez
01-17-2016, 02:18 PM
Ukulele's are so much fun!

This to me is the charm of a soprano. It is like a new born baby, simply a little bundle of joy.

coolkayaker1
01-17-2016, 06:52 PM
Sopranos are the raspy, percussive, high-pitched punks of the ukulele brood. They prefer extensive barre chording and plucky highlights within triplet strums. Keep them happy by playing to their strengths, like UUer George Elmes in this feisty example.

http://youtu.be/_jxZNxJIdP4

JackLuis
01-17-2016, 09:24 PM
Sopranos are the raspy, percussive, high-pitched punks of the ukulele brood. They prefer extensive barre chording and plucky highlights within triplet strums. Keep them happy by playing to their strengths, like UUer George Elmes in this feisty example.

http://youtu.be/_jxZNxJIdP4

Well see me in about five years, maybe.;)

JackLuis
01-21-2016, 09:02 AM
The Little Filly with the D'Addario strings is really starting to chime now, after a few days of tuning her up. She may not have the power of a Concert or a tenor but she doesn't let that stop her.

I'm liking the sound now, the re entrant g is just right for a soprano. I'm learning to finger pick now and the Filly's little voice makes her perfect for practicing in front of the TV without bothering the wife.

I realized yesterday that each size takes a bit different playing technique to adapt to their strengths. My Ukes are teaching me a lot.

bradben
01-22-2016, 06:39 AM
I'm still trying out strings on my little Martin soprano. I tried some La Bella clear nylons on it, and didn't like them at all (I use La Bella's on my electric bass, though, and love them - go figure...). Right now it has Aquila Reds with a Low G, which I'm on the fence about. I have some D'Addario Titanium's waiting to go on next... As someone else mentioned, I might have to get in my million strums before the instrument starts to settle down and show it's true sound. It's still tiny, though - chords above the 7th fret are really squished!

JackLuis
01-22-2016, 07:06 AM
I'm liking the D'Addario Carbons on the Filly. I'm a long way form a million strums but she's getting to the point where the strings don't need much of a touchup from day to day. I don't play much above the first position but was watching Ukulele Mike's tutorial on barre chords and building hand strength. I'll try this out on the Filly and work it up to the concert and tenors. I thik using the soprano to learn things is a bit easier that on the larger instruments.

Besides the Filly's small voice let me practice without disturbing the neighbors.

Barrytone
01-22-2016, 08:27 AM
I dunno about low G on a soprano, to my ears it would shut down the re-entrant trill, 'specially on 7ths which for me is the joy of the soprano sound.
Horses for courses. I have a couple or three concerts with different string combos and tunings.

JackLuis
01-22-2016, 09:06 AM
I dunno about low G on a soprano, to my ears it would shut down the re-entrant trill, 'specially on 7ths which for me is the joy of the soprano sound.
Horses for courses. I have a couple or three concerts with different string combos and tunings.

I agree high g is for the soprano. I took a low G tenor and the soprano to Uke practice yesterday and noticed the tenor wasn't really sounding the C7th in "Franky and Johnny." The soprano was though. However that may just mean I need more practice to make the A# sound out in C7. F7 worked real well with the D# on the C string. I'm finding that each size takes a bit different technique to sound their best.

mm stan
01-23-2016, 01:40 AM
A good luthier can make a concert sound punchier than a tenor.. and a soprano sweet as hell... but you have
To drop the big money for that...

JackLuis
01-23-2016, 04:58 AM
My Little Filly was only $45 and sounds pretty sweet with the Carbons on it. The Aquilias were plunky and brassy. I'm real glad I changed the strings.

Mivo
01-27-2016, 11:49 PM
Jack, I think there is a lot at play as you suggest. One thing I think about is what we have become accustomed to. What I mean is that with guitar dominated music coming about in the late 50's and on, we are used to hearing guitar based music and thus, that is the range which we are attracted to. In addition, I think that with modern speakers and stereo equipment, we are also used to a fuller sound and when you put a solo soprano ukulele in your hands, it is not what we are used to. Heck, few people play the "small" parlor size guitars which were the norm before Martin offered the dreadnought shape.

I subscribe to the same view. Most of us are habituated by contemporary music and, really, sound in general. Whether it's the soft, melodic mall music, the ballads on the radio, or the orchestral soundtracks in movies, it's all very full sounding with an emphasis on mid and low frequencies. A lot of the consumer speakers (as opposed to the professional sound monitors used for audio production) color the sound in favor of the bass-y tones as well, as for some reason a lot of folks experience that as pleasant (especially if it's also loud). Treble just doesn't seem to be as "in" currently.

I notice that with myself, too. I had not spent time with my ukuleles in the past few months (combination of being sidetracked and frustrated, though Rakalele nudged me, which snapped me out of the inactivity), and so recently I tuned them all and played them a bit. The Barron River tenor is the one that has the fullest, most melodic voice of my ukuleles, and I immediately felt it's also the most beautiful, most familiar sounding instrument. In fact, my LN pineapple and the KPK-ish soprano sounded shrill to me, too percussive. Which struck me as curious, because before the break, the pineapple had sounded most sweet and bell-like to me, not brassy at all, yet now it did. Then, a few days later, my ears adjusted again and now I find them all pleasant sounding, just in different ways.

I definitely prefer the cute, original size of sopranos. To me, those are still the most authentic ukuleles (I'm aware of the slipperiness of that view!), but I also enjoy the mellow sound of tenors and how easy they are to hold when seated (sopranos are more slippery for me). It's very general, though, since even my three sopranos don't really sound alike. They sound differently from the two tenors, but that's similar to how black teas taste differently from green teas, but there are nonetheless big differences between individual green teas.