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View Full Version : Lack of voice in my Myrtlewood Concert



UkulelesRcooL
06-10-2016, 09:21 AM
I strung up the uke with Aquila high Gs...
Got it tuned.. and it really sounded muted.. compared to other ukes I have...
I have a soprano mahogany that my father and I built that had tremendous projection right from the get go..
I used a 3 brace fan pattern on the concert and the sop has just cross braces above and below the sound hole and a bridge patch.
Im thinking I over braced the myrtlewood.
At first I thought it was a matter of a couple of fixes I had to make such as leveling the frets... and repairing a crack on the bridge patch..All of which I did.. and it still sounds muted..
Almost tinny... I didnt shave the braces down enough... left them to square on the tops.. I dont think I can fix this but just chock it up to experience and never do it again.
the braces are mahogany, the bridge patch is spruce.. the bridge is bloodwood with a ebony saddle. Bone nut.. bloodwood fretboard.
Mahogany neck with a myrtlewood body.
Im slightly disappointed:(.. to say the least.. again.. live and learn...
Still have some finishing to do.. had a couple of hick ups and the weather isnt cooperating... Another reason for me to learn how to FPolish...
9177691777

Sven
06-10-2016, 09:53 AM
Sorry to hear that. Have you tried other tensions? Easiest way is to tune up a half step, then a whole step and see if it comes to life. If not, go a half then a whole step down from standard tuning. If any of these tunings work you can look for strings with higher or lower tensions.

kohanmike
06-10-2016, 09:59 AM
I know how you feel. I had a gypsy jazz style uke made by a builder in Vietnam and asked for a solid flame maple top with solid Indian rosewood body. When it arrived, it had the same problem, very little projection and sustain, but it has good tone. Later in a discussion with Pepe Romero, Jr., he said that flame maple is too stiff to be a good top wood, and I think the builder over built it as well. It's really pretty and is a keeper, but live and learn. (This is the second time in as many days I posted this uke.)

http://www.kohanmike.com/uploads/Gypsy me.jpg

mainger
06-10-2016, 01:30 PM
What a pity :( It looks lovely!

PhilUSAFRet
06-10-2016, 03:07 PM
amp it!.............

greenscoe
06-11-2016, 12:52 AM
Your uke looks good so I'm sorry to hear that it doesn't sound as good as you had expected.

I suspect that, as you suggest, you have overbuilt this soundboard. It should be as light as possible whilst remaining structurally able to withstand string tension.

As the maker of about 20 instruments, I have but limited experience from which to offer some advice. If you could see the work of others or have someone see you work in progress, that would help more.

2 mm is the rough figure for the soundboard thickness. You will learn to deviate from this depending on the wood. I've found that an instrument with a soundboard which is too thick tends to lack volume.

I've checked your previous posts for info on your build, and can see that you used a bridge patch and 3 fans.

The upper cross brace needs to be substantial as it is structurally important in working with the neck block to prevent the neck being swallowed by the hole. The lower cross brace needs to be much lighter: it has an effect on the sound the instrument produces.

Makers will tend to build with or without a bridge patch-I generally don't as I always use a tie on bridge. I've learned what size fan bracing works for me without a patch: if I add a bridge patch it makes a huge difference to the stiffness of the soundboard and the feel and sound of the instrument. You need to work out what combination works best for you.

If I were making a concert uke, I would use 2 fans and no patch. If I used a patch, I reckon 1 fan would suffice. The fan dimensions are also a matter for discussion. Look at photos here and by Googling to see the finished fans (after paring rather than whats glued to the soundboard).

I prefer a mellower sounding instrument and try to use the minimum of bracing. If I overbuild I find the instrument has too much treble (is this what you mean by sounding tinny?).

Makers use deflection and tap testing to determine whether they've got the soundboard right. It's also possible to adjust this further after the soundboard is added to the box by further sanding the soundboard if it seems to be too stiff.

It may just be the photo, but your bridge looks very thick: if so this will also overstiffen the soundboard.

In summary try to build as light as possible: some signs of bowing behind the bridge or the fans showing through the soundboard are acceptable.

PiterCh
06-11-2016, 01:59 AM
..it is still beautiful ukulele and maybe one day it will open?
I made 7 sopranos and each one sounds different in sense of tone and projection. Do not worry - I am sure that it has its own specific character and you will find lots of fun with it:)

UkulelesRcooL
06-11-2016, 01:34 PM
Sorry to hear that. Have you tried other tensions? Easiest way is to tune up a half step, then a whole step and see if it comes to life. If not, go a half then a whole step down from standard tuning. If any of these tunings work you can look for strings with higher or lower tensions.
Thanks for the advice Sven... Ill check into getting some higher tension strings..

UkulelesRcooL
06-11-2016, 01:35 PM
I know how you feel. I had a gypsy jazz style uke made by a builder in Vietnam and asked for a solid flame maple top with solid Indian rosewood body. When it arrived, it had the same problem, very little projection and sustain, but it has good tone. Later in a discussion with Pepe Romero, Jr., he said that flame maple is too stiff to be a good top wood, and I think the builder over built it as well. It's really pretty and is a keeper, but live and learn. (This is the second time in as many days I posted this uke.)

http://www.kohanmike.com/uploads/Gypsy me.jpg

That is a gorgeous instrument............... Sorry to hear you have to same deal going there.. but it IS BEAUTIFUL!!

UkulelesRcooL
06-11-2016, 01:41 PM
..it is still beautiful ukulele and maybe one day it will open?
I made 7 sopranos and each one sounds different in sense of tone and projection. Do not worry - I am sure that it has its own specific character and you will find lots of fun with it:)

Thank you for the encouragement.. I hope that it turns out that way.. I built it for my Father... um. in memory of him.. was hoping for a better result.. but as Im seeing here with members input.. it happens and its something Im definitely going to learn from..... It sounds fine.. just doesnt have the volume.. and may have more treble like greenscoe mentioned... I think thats what I was hearing when I referred to it being tinny...

UkulelesRcooL
06-11-2016, 01:49 PM
Your uke looks good so I'm sorry to hear that it doesn't sound as good as you had expected.

I suspect that, as you suggest, you have overbuilt this soundboard. It should be as light as possible whilst remaining structurally able to withstand string tension.

As the maker of about 20 instruments, I have but limited experience from which to offer some advice. If you could see the work of others or have someone see you work in progress, that would help more.

2 mm is the rough figure for the soundboard thickness. You will learn to deviate from this depending on the wood. I've found that an instrument with a soundboard which is too thick tends to lack volume.

I've checked your previous posts for info on your build, and can see that you used a bridge patch and 3 fans.

The upper cross brace needs to be substantial as it is structurally important in working with the neck block to prevent the neck being swallowed by the hole. The lower cross brace needs to be much lighter: it has an effect on the sound the instrument produces.

Makers will tend to build with or without a bridge patch-I generally don't as I always use a tie on bridge. I've learned what size fan bracing works for me without a patch: if I add a bridge patch it makes a huge difference to the stiffness of the soundboard and the feel and sound of the instrument. You need to work out what combination works best for you.

If I were making a concert uke, I would use 2 fans and no patch. If I used a patch, I reckon 1 fan would suffice. The fan dimensions are also a matter for discussion. Look at photos here and by Googling to see the finished fans (after paring rather than whats glued to the soundboard).

I prefer a mellower sounding instrument and try to use the minimum of bracing. If I overbuild I find the instrument has too much treble (is this what you mean by sounding tinny?).

Makers use deflection and tap testing to determine whether they've got the soundboard right. It's also possible to adjust this further after the soundboard is added to the box by further sanding the soundboard if it seems to be too stiff.

It may just be the photo, but your bridge looks very thick: if so this will also overstiffen the soundboard.

In summary try to build as light as possible: some signs of bowing behind the bridge or the fans showing through the soundboard are acceptable.


Definitely over built.. I also have a sound hole patch I forgot to reference... :uhoh:... The plans I built from gave an option of 2 or 3 fan braces.. I should have done the 2.. and then thicknessed them down as well as you have mentioned in making the lower horizontal brace lighter.... I used the bridge patch due to the pin bridge but you are right it is thick.. I will have to play around with lightening things up all around if I do another concert...

I would say as you have suggested that it has alot of treble rather than tinny as I said...

UkulelesRcooL
06-11-2016, 01:53 PM
amp it!.............

Phil...... LOL... that would fix that would'nt it... ??? heh...

UkulelesRcooL
06-11-2016, 01:54 PM
What a pity :( It looks lovely!

Thanks mainger... I like that way it looks...

Alain Lambert
06-11-2016, 04:01 PM
You can easily reduce the mass of the bridge. Remove material by sloping the back and make the wings thinners. That should help. Protect the top and work with chisel, rasp, sand paper.

Worst case, you can route the binding from the back, remove it and rework the top braces. If your neck is bolted you can do that on the top instead.
This is a fair amount of work, but it can save the instrument.

BlackBearUkes
06-11-2016, 04:27 PM
Mahogany for bracing? Braces need to be light, stiff and made of Sitka or Adirondack spruce.

BlackBearUkes
06-11-2016, 04:45 PM
For some unknown reason, I am not able to add to the answer I gave above, so I'll add new info hear.

Also, since this looks like a pin bridge design, the bridge patch is a good idea but it should be made of a hardwood like Mahogany, not spruce because spruce will wear quickly and soon the end of the string knot or string bead will wear through to the top wood plate, which is not what you want.

UkulelesRcooL
06-12-2016, 07:54 AM
You can easily reduce the mass of the bridge. Remove material by sloping the back and make the wings thinners. That should help. Protect the top and work with chisel, rasp, sand paper.

Worst case, you can route the binding from the back, remove it and rework the top braces. If your neck is bolted you can do that on the top instead.
This is a fair amount of work, but it can save the instrument.
The bridge adjustment you recommend is definitely doable... probably the easiest to do...
I dovetailed and glued the neck.. so... routing the back would be the option there.. but I think would be my last resort...
That would definitely fix the problem.. as I would be able to shave down everything I left too thick..
I thought about this first.. but.. Im cautiously wary of mucking it up... so Ill try everything else I can before resorting to that.

UkulelesRcooL
06-12-2016, 08:03 AM
Thanks for the tip BlackBearUkes... I used what I had.. thinking the mahogany would be stronger... as you stated in the comment about the bridge patch..
In the future Ill use the spruce... I see that alot of ppl are using mahogany kerfing now instead of the bass wood or whatever they use so I thought since that was the case, that going to mahogany braces would be in improvement too. Wouldnt mahogany be ok if you used a thin enough piece? I would think so but Im no expert.. In this case I should have shaved them down alot more than I did..
I have purchased some mahogany just for using it on the bridge patches in the future... I agree with your suggestion... I didnt have the material to use at the moment of the build and went with what I had..

Kekani
06-12-2016, 08:12 AM
You put Aquila High g on an overbraced instrument and stated that it sounds tinny like that shouldn't have been the expectation.

+1 to what Duane said, both times.

If I were to suggest the one thing you should address, right now, is the bridge patch. Of course, in changing out the bridge patch, you'll take care of all your other issues. Problem right now is, that's your weak link, regardless of how the instrument sounds.

On a side note, I don't get how learning to FP would solve issues as opposed to introducing new one, specifically long term ones.

On another side note to Kohanmike, you have a tailpiece on a nylon strung instrument. That is the beginning of your volume issues. Since you know it could be improved, try some steels. Most tailpiece ukulele I've heard have low volume, by design. Raven from Maui does a pretty good job. 3rd side note: you either have twin, or you play bass too?

Timbuck
06-12-2016, 09:13 AM
I've got one hanging on the wall like that (no volume due to being overbuilt) it was my first one ...I just forgot about it and put it down as a learning curve..and built another and then another and still learning 6 years later...I find it's quicker and less stressful to start again making another..instead of trying to fix a bad one.

sequoia
06-12-2016, 06:13 PM
I'm with Tim on this one. We are talking about replacing bridge patches, removing and replacing bracing and removing bridges? Major surgery here. Lot of work and potential disaster lurks. Sounds like a potential "gumption trap", ie, steals your gumption (as well as time). Maybe just hang it up and start a new one. Live and learn. Good luck. I think it is called engineering by failure.... As far as the mahogany bracing. Great stuff, but maybe best matched to mahogany tops. "Like-to-like" is a great maxim. Can't beat spruce to spruce.

UkulelesRcooL
06-13-2016, 02:16 PM
You put Aquila High g on an overbraced instrument and stated that it sounds tinny like that shouldn't have been the expectation.

+1 to what Duane said, both times.



Im referencing how the uke sounds compared to others I have with the same strings... I have a soprano that has a louder voice and does not sound as tinny. it has Aquilas.. i have 2 tenors that are louder and have Aquilas and are not anywhere as tinny as the concert. acutally all the ukes I have that have Aquila's on them are louder and do not have as much treble..
So why ask a question like this? Im reading it like.. "what did you expect moron?"
I appreciate the input...
As far as using mahogany... Its a harder wood...Its more dense....
I was just reading about hide glue and they say that the glue is good for instrument building due to its hardness when drying..
The harder it is the more sound it passes on.. Softer drying glues Absorb the sound.. I know for a fact that the harder woods do the same thing..
If Spruce is soft and mahogany is hard I would think the same rule follows.
I do wonder why Stew-Mac and LMII sell bridge patches for guitars that are spruce though..I havent quite figured that one out if mahogany is the kine wood to use for that application.
as far as the french polish goes I was addressing the fact that I cant spray lacquer due to the weather at this time as I spray it outside and I should learn to do Fpolish as this would make that aspect of stopping my finishing the instrument a mute point. Not to mention being able to apply the Fpolish in the winter indoors here as I dont have a place to spray lacquer inside. I dont have a spray booth in my small shop. Not to mention Im not a professional builder as many here are.

UkulelesRcooL
06-13-2016, 02:18 PM
I'm with Tim on this one. We are talking about replacing bridge patches, removing and replacing bracing and removing bridges? Major surgery here. Lot of work and potential disaster lurks. Sounds like a potential "gumption trap", ie, steals your gumption (as well as time). Maybe just hang it up and start a new one. Live and learn. Good luck. I think it is called engineering by failure.... As far as the mahogany bracing. Great stuff, but maybe best matched to mahogany tops. "Like-to-like" is a great maxim. Can't beat spruce to spruce.

Thanks for the input Sequoia... I agree with you... Im going to let it be a learning experience.. I may try higher tension strings and call it good...

BlackBearUkes
06-13-2016, 03:52 PM
Mahogany or maple or whatever hardwood you can come up with are not good choices for bracing wood. Again, brace wood should be light in weight, stiff, well quartered. and seasoned. Never in all the instruments I have repaired over the years have I seen hardwood braces on the top plate of any instrument. 'The harder a wood the more sound passes through' - is not true, that is not how the system works. I would highly suggest doing some research and reading on the subject, there are many good books out there. Good luck in the future.


Im referencing how the uke sounds compared to others I have with the same strings... I have a soprano that has a louder voice and does not sound as tinny. it has Aquilas.. i have 2 tenors that are louder and have Aquilas and are not anywhere as tinny as the concert. acutally all the ukes I have that have Aquila's on them are louder and do not have as much treble..
So why ask a question like this? Im reading it like.. "what did you expect moron?"
I appreciate the input...
As far as using mahogany... Its a harder wood...Its more dense....
I was just reading about hide glue and they say that the glue is good for instrument building due to its hardness when drying..
The harder it is the more sound it passes on.. Softer drying glues Absorb the sound.. I know for a fact that the harder woods do the same thing..
If Spruce is soft and mahogany is hard I would think the same rule follows.
I do wonder why Stew-Mac and LMII sell bridge patches for guitars that are spruce though..I havent quite figured that one out if mahogany is the kine wood to use for that application.
as far as the french polish goes I was addressing the fact that I cant spray lacquer due to the weather at this time as I spray it outside and I should learn to do Fpolish as this would make that aspect of stopping my finishing the instrument a mute point. Not to mention being able to apply the Fpolish in the winter indoors here as I dont have a place to spray lacquer inside. I dont have a spray booth in my small shop. Not to mention Im not a professional builder as many here are.

UkulelesRcooL
06-13-2016, 05:55 PM
Mahogany or maple or whatever hardwood you can come up with are not good choices for bracing wood. Again, brace wood should be light in weight, stiff, well quartered. and seasoned. Never in all the instruments I have repaired over the years have I seen hardwood braces on the top plate of any instrument. 'The harder a wood the more sound passes through' - is not true, that is not how the system works. I would highly suggest doing some research and reading on the subject, there are many good books out there. Good luck in the future.


BlackBearUkes....
Thanks for the honest info..
I have been reading... but apparently not enough..
I will continue to do so and hopefully it will lead to better results..
I have questions and I appreciate cordial and kind answers.. and I thank you for taking the time to offer your advice. Do you know of any of the good books you mentioned off the top of your head?
There isnt alot of readily available info on what I was trying to do with the concert. I couldnt find plans very easily but finally came across some at LMII. but the build was almost done..and I had gone by some drawings my Father-in-Law had partially transposed from some soprano plans.
I didnt realize I overbuilt the ukes bracing until I strung it up.. If I had known that using the mahogany would do that especially the way i left it, I wouldnt have gone that route and would have looked for the spruce. Not to mention that my Father-in-Law isnt around anymore to ask... I know that its difficult to fully communicate via this medium as there is no way to get every detail down.
Ive built 2 ukes with people and this one was by myself..So thats 3 kind of.
So I am a white belt so to speak when it comes to this experience..
I appreciate the well wishes...

resoman
06-14-2016, 04:43 AM
So sorry you are unhappy with the sound of your uke, it's certainly beautiful. Keep trying!!
Maybe you already know about these websites but have you checked out David Hurd's ukuleles.com or Frank Ford's frets.com? Lots of great information in these. In Hurd's website he describes compliance testing which really helped me be consistent and develop my "sound". Helps give you a place to start too.

ProfChris
06-14-2016, 05:17 AM
For the future, it's often really helpful to understand how the instrument works, which can help in making and designing it.

Thus in your case, once you know the top is the main producer of sound, you know that this requires the most thought.

The top works by taking the energy in the strings and turning it into vibrations in the top, which move the air to make sound. So, fairly obviously, this tells you three things:

1. If the top is too stiff it won't move much, so it won't make much volume. If it's floppy it is unlikely to make a nice sound (think cardboard).

2. If the top is too heavy, you get the same result.

3. If the top is too flexible the uke will fold in half when strung up.

So you want a top which is light, stiff but flexible.

Bracing and bridge plate and bridge all add to the mass of the top, so you need to keep these light (OK, bridges can be too light but that's the advanced course, and for a uke it's hard to make a bridge too light!). So you want the lightest possible wood which is stiff enough to work as a brace - as many have said, spruce fits the bill well. Mahogany is heavier for the same stiffness.

The bridge plate is a brace, but also stops the strings from pulling through. Spruce dents easily, mahogany less so. So this suggests mahogany (or similar), but very thin. If you don't use a pinned bridge then you don't have to worry about the strings pulling through, so spruce again.

Top thickness needs to give you stiff but flexible after you've added the bracing and patch, so you thickness it accordingly. Any numbers you read are just rough starting places, because each piece of wood differs even from consecutive cuts from the same plank. So flex your top when thinning it to decide where to stop. If you are more scientific/engineering minded, measure its deflection under a known load to decide when it's the right thickness.

Good luck with future builds!

UkulelesRcooL
06-14-2016, 01:38 PM
You misunderstand. I didn't ask a question alluding to mental degradation; merely stating a variable that would lead to an expected result, which is known. Aquila's are great for bring out some volume in instruments that lack it, but realistically, they're not known to produce tone in better instruments. That you have it on more than 1 instrument in your quiver, you should already know where it benefits, and where improvements can be made. A string change, as already stated by others (and is what I alluded to as well), may be a good start.

As for French polish, I apologize that I may have misunderstood. Seem you were stating it as a solution in the context of the thread. I've done a couple FP, only to redo it in nitro.

Also, I agree with Ken that I would just build another one rather than repair this one, normally. The statement about building it for your father (sorry) lends a value to the instrument that only you know. This I certainly get, and hope you find resolve in this instrument. Or, build another one, next to it, for him.

Sorry Kekani.... I misunderstood and I appreciate the clarification..
I really do want to get this right and Ive tryed to do my homework on it. It is what it is.. I was hoping I could remedy the situation without too much work but it looks like its not possible.. I agree with the majority of people including you that its a live and learn situation and I need to do just that.. I appreciate the input.. I really do..
Thanks

UkulelesRcooL
06-14-2016, 01:40 PM
So sorry you are unhappy with the sound of your uke, it's certainly beautiful. Keep trying!!
Maybe you already know about these websites but have you checked out David Hurd's ukuleles.com or Frank Ford's frets.com? Lots of great information in these. In Hurd's website he describes compliance testing which really helped me be consistent and develop my "sound". Helps give you a place to start too.

Its ok.. Im going to make more.. hopefully I wont repeat this process again... thanks for the websites.. I know of Fords... I hadnt heard of Davids... Ill check it out...

UkulelesRcooL
06-14-2016, 01:43 PM
For the future, it's often really helpful to understand how the instrument works, which can help in making and designing it.

Thus in your case, once you know the top is the main producer of sound, you know that this requires the most thought.

The top works by taking the energy in the strings and turning it into vibrations in the top, which move the air to make sound. So, fairly obviously, this tells you three things:

1. If the top is too stiff it won't move much, so it won't make much volume. If it's floppy it is unlikely to make a nice sound (think cardboard).

2. If the top is too heavy, you get the same result.

3. If the top is too flexible the uke will fold in half when strung up.

So you want a top which is light, stiff but flexible.

Bracing and bridge plate and bridge all add to the mass of the top, so you need to keep these light (OK, bridges can be too light but that's the advanced course, and for a uke it's hard to make a bridge too light!). So you want the lightest possible wood which is stiff enough to work as a brace - as many have said, spruce fits the bill well. Mahogany is heavier for the same stiffness.

The bridge plate is a brace, but also stops the strings from pulling through. Spruce dents easily, mahogany less so. So this suggests mahogany (or similar), but very thin. If you don't use a pinned bridge then you don't have to worry about the strings pulling through, so spruce again.

Top thickness needs to give you stiff but flexible after you've added the bracing and patch, so you thickness it accordingly. Any numbers you read are just rough starting places, because each piece of wood differs even from consecutive cuts from the same plank. So flex your top when thinning it to decide where to stop. If you are more scientific/engineering minded, measure its deflection under a known load to decide when it's the right thickness.

Good luck with future builds!

Thank You ProfChris.. That really helps!!

Sven
06-14-2016, 08:33 PM
I shaved the braces down in my second tenor. I used a bent rasp of sorts and went at them through the soundhole. It helped because it was overbraced but it wasn't fun.

UkulelesRcooL
06-15-2016, 08:08 PM
I shaved the braces down in my second tenor. I used a bent rasp of sorts and went at them through the soundhole. It helped because it was overbraced but it wasn't fun.

I thought of using a bent wood chisel and going through the sound hole, like you said you did with the rasp... Like you also said... It wouldnt be any fun.. Im glad to hear that you were able to get some results by what you did..

UkulelesRcooL
04-08-2018, 12:24 PM
..it is still beautiful ukulele and maybe one day it will open?
I made 7 sopranos and each one sounds different in sense of tone and projection. Do not worry - I am sure that it has its own specific character and you will find lots of fun with it:)

It has opened up quite a bit...i would play it almost everyday. I noticed it after a few months. i was amazed but had remembered what u had said.
I had also installed high tension strings which helped alot. After about a yr i believe it was about as loud as it was going to get. It still had alot of treble but it projected much more than it did when it was first built. U were right...it has its own character and I cant tell u how much i loved playing that uke..I recently gave it to my brother in hopes he will learn to play.