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zcregle1
12-11-2016, 02:51 PM
Newer player to the ukulele. Been playing guitar for many years so picking it up pretty easily in terms of chords and scales. It's a rest fun to play and doesn't make my shoulder hurt after playing which is a plus. But to the real reason of this thread. Modern vs vintage in terms of tone. I currently have two vintage Martins. A 2M and a Style 0 that was retopped with a beautiful piece of spruce. I'm looking at getting a new ukulele but was wondering how different makes sound compared to each other. For example, taking my Martins, I know what tone to expect relatively. But if I got a modern build like a Kamoa or new Kamaka, would they have a more "modern" sound? I hope this question makes sense. Thanks!

derbyhat
12-11-2016, 03:14 PM
Full disclaimer- I really have no business answering this thread.

And...

I think that if you're looking for a modern sound and possibly an easier comparison, your best bet would be to check out Koaloha ukes. If you compare an old Martin to a Kamaka, you might not find the comparison you're looking for. Kamaka's brand is that they've been around forever, they are the original, and they're awesome.

Hope that helps a bit.

Hope someone with an experienced answer joins in sooner than later.

70sSanO
12-11-2016, 04:15 PM
A lot depends on what you mean by modern. In my opinion things changed around 2010/12 when builders started using different woods and more guitar elements seemed to be incorporated. A smoother sound with more sustain is more prevalent over the more traditional plucky sound. Cedar, redwood, spruce, mango, etc. have gained more acceptance. This doesn't mean a more traditional mahogany or koa are not great ukuleles.

Hawaiian Music Supply (Ukulele Site) and Ukulele Friend video sound samples will give you a good idea of both modern and traditional ukulele sounds.

John

Ukulele Eddie
12-11-2016, 04:18 PM
Surf The Ukulele Site and listen to the sopranos. There are many, many different ones. Some are "sweet", some bark more, some are made for strumming and some are great fingerstyle. There are newer ukes that emulate fairly well the attributes of a vintage uke (looks, playability and tone though many people will argue the tone is very different). And some purposely depart from the traditions associated with a vintage uke. Case in point would be a Kinnard soprano. Very awesome but very different.

If you're looking for something very different than vintage, what is it? Different aesthetics? Different tone? If you can share more of what you'd like, perhaps we can help with more effective guidance.

Also, are you open to a different scale? Maybe explore concert ?

Brad Bordessa
12-11-2016, 05:22 PM
I'm looking at getting a new ukulele but was wondering how different makes sound compared to each other.

Yes.


...if I got a modern build like a Kamoa or new Kamaka, would they have a more "modern" sound?

Modern now? Or modern in 50 years when they are "vintage"? Not trying to be snotty, but the scope of this question needs a time machine to answer! It's a fascinating thing to think about. I imagine a new Kamaka is going to use more "traditional" build specs than a new KoAloha. Does that make the KoAloha "modern"? The most vintage-built new 'ukulele will sound "modern" compared to a vintage Martin.

The way I look at it, either a uke sounds good now or it doesn't. Every good sounding uke is going to have its own flavor. Trying to categorize them or say "this is better than that" is completely subjective. I guarantee that you put both of us in the same room full of 100 (or even 10) 'ukuleles, we'd both pick something different as "best." In 50 years, if the instrument has opened up - great! But I don't have 50 years to wait around and find out. I'll play what sounds good now.

Curious to see what others have to say about thing perplexing question...

Mivo
12-11-2016, 05:48 PM
It also depends on the strings and the string material. When vintage instruments were new, nobody put fishing line on them, and that alone alters the tone. So does tuning: I have a 1920s Lyon&Healy that only sounds "vintage" when I put it in D tuning and use appropriate strings. With fluorocarbon strings in C tuning, it already sounds more "modern". Size is also a factor. Modern sopranos tend to be bigger than vintage sopranos, and that too affects the sound (one of the reasons why modern sopranos tend to have more sustain).

Different builders and manufacturers definitely have a different sound as they use different building approaches (different bracing, etc), though you'll find that even instruments made by the builder with the same materials can sound different from one another. The HMS/TheUkuleleSite videos help a lot because they usually feature the same small cast of players and are typically recorded with the same equipment in the same place, so they are great for comparing. They will sound different in your own home when they are played by you, though, so this is relative. There is no good replacement for actually trying them out in person, which is one of the reasons why so many of us have more than one ukulele. :)

Rakelele
12-11-2016, 09:53 PM
Have you been looking at the different sizes of Ukuleles (Soprano, Concert, Tenor)? I think a lot of what is associated with a more "modern" sound is prevalent in the Tenor size (more sustain, more clarity, more depth, linear tuning, etc.).

Django
12-12-2016, 01:48 AM
I came from a lengthy guitar background too, so I will share some of my thoughts as a guitarist.

If you want a new ukulele that has a truly vintage Martin tone, Tim Laughlin, (sold through Elderly Instruments), probably makes the only ukulele that is "exactly" like a vintage Martin except that I feel that his build quality is better and there are no issues from old repairs or abuse. I have a 3k and a Mahogany 3 from Tim and they are both wonderful in regard to tone, playability and build. They are as close to perfect as you will find.

Kiwaya makes a very nice production Martin style instrument ranging from a close copy of a Martin 0 to a Martin 3K. I own 2 of the KTS-7s, (like a Mahogany Martin style 3), a KMS-K, (like a Martin 3K), and a KMT-K, (like a Martin 3K in a tenor size). These 3 get most of my play time. They play easily and are very expressive, (they look great too).

Some will disagree, but I find the new Martins to be fine instruments. The sound is cleaner and more balanced than a vintage Martin and I think they play more easily and are more forgiving. I have a recent 3K, 3 Cherry and 5K and they each have a different voice and all bring me plenty of enjoyment. I do own a 1920s Martin 2 and a 1950s Martin 1, but I do not play them often. Their tone is a bit more complex and has more sparkle than the newer ones, but I feel that the Kiwayas and Martins are better suited for fingerstyle and solo playing.

We all know that tone is a matter of preference. If they all sounded the same I would only have 1 or 2. When my ear gets a little too accustomed to one, I can play another that has a different voice. Your tonal preference may change as you progress, I know that mine did and still does. The best thing to do is find a place with a good selection of ukuleles and find the one with the tone that you prefer. Enjoy the journey.

zcregle1
12-12-2016, 07:46 AM
Surf The Ukulele Site and listen to the sopranos. There are many, many different ones. Some are "sweet", some bark more, some are made for strumming and some are great fingerstyle. There are newer ukes that emulate fairly well the attributes of a vintage uke (looks, playability and tone though many people will argue the tone is very different). And some purposely depart from the traditions associated with a vintage uke. Case in point would be a Kinnard soprano. Very awesome but very different.

If you're looking for something very different than vintage, what is it? Different aesthetics? Different tone? If you can share more of what you'd like, perhaps we can help with more effective guidance.

Also, are you open to a different scale? Maybe explore concert ?

Mainly a different tone. The aesthetics are something that I don't pay attention to really. Never have. Its all about tone to me. Of course aesthetic has a small influence because that's the first judging point, but you can't make a decision on aesthetic alone. But yes definitely a different tone. I love my two soprano Martin's, but definitely would love something that has more clarity and note definition. Something that is well balanced with a more immediate attack. Vintage instruments to my ears tend to have more complexity in there over/undertones and not as much complexity in there initial tone. That is what I am looking for.

I have not had the chance to play different scale lengths but am not opposed to it. I think having variety in that sense is also a great thing to have as a creative tool.

coolkayaker1
12-12-2016, 10:19 AM
"Modern" sound is dependent on the player more than the ukulele.

e.g. Corey slaying a very modern sound on a traditionally-shaped Pono mahogany tenor...tuned in traditional High G, no less (although it sounds "low" to the ear because of the way he plays it).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHy5RSRDzJo

James playing his recently composed "jig", a sound not typically heard on a uke, on a vintage Martin 5k.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aplpy1t0Dks

And, finally, Brittni playing a very modern song on her classically-styled Kamaka Koa. Note: low G helps modern "flavor", as does tenor sizing, and finger picking rather than strumming (a la Cliff Edwards, George Formby).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUyHGMHBoLI

Enjoy the hunt, OP. It sure is fun!