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twokatmew
05-12-2018, 05:08 AM
A while after buying my Kala concert, I noticed a dead note on the C string. If I tune up a step, it moves to the 5th fret, and when I tune down a step, it moves to the 9th. I didn't know what this phenomenon is until I read about dead notes. Why do they occur, and are they not considered a flaw? I ask, because even though I rarely notice the dead note when playing unless I hold that note, I'm less likely to pick up that uke because of it.

I recently played an Opio acacia tenor, and it has several dead notes: D# on the C string, and the deadest dead note of all, A at the 12th fret on the A string plus a couple frets above and below it. I play mostly fingerstyle, and I play all the way up the neck, so this is unacceptable to me. Why isn't this instrument considered a second?

I've played guitar most of my life and don't recall ever encountering dead notes, but the guitar is a longer scale instrument. Am I expecting too much of ukuleles? :confused:

Edit: I'm not knocking Opio instruments. I've been meaning to post this question for a while, but I just happened to notice dead notes on the one Opio I played, and that sparked my interest. :)

Jarmo_S
05-12-2018, 05:30 AM
Dead notes? You maybe mean notes that a clip-on turner interprets as other notes than they should be. And perhaps they are also weak to your ear.

I have also a Kala concert scale ukulele and with the nylgut strings it came with from a local store and who knows how long it had been there, the C string especially sounded somewhat a dissapointment. I changed new aquila nylgut strings to it and was so happy. Maybe what you say of a shorter scale has some truth also?

I think even baritone uke has a shorter scale than classical guitar. And any acoustic instrument have some fundamental frequences and their overtones, which might explain that the "bad " note shifts when you change tension in strings. Because it will also make those those shift somewhat.

Choirguy
05-12-2018, 05:43 AM
There is a pretty long thread about “dead” notes (also called “wolf” notes, I believe) on KoAloha tenors (Opio, too).

The thread is interesting and almost ruined my love of my Opio. The instrument was the same instrument that I had loved and played...but suddenly it had this “flaw.”

I decided to move on and I never even think about it while playing.

On my Opio, like the other tenors, there is a note (usually D# or E-flat if memory serves) on the C string which just doesn’t ring like the other notes on the instrument. It sounds, but sustain is greatly and noticeably reduced.

Andrew at HMS/The Ukulele Site checked his inventory and all of the KoAloha tenors exhibited this note.

Upon further research, a number of my tenors from other manufacturers had similar issues at that spot, leaving me to theorize that the tenor body of a ukulele has a less resonant frequency at that frequency range—highlighted by the otherwise booming nature of a KoAloha.

People have tried other strings and other tunings to defeat the issue—and some brands will have no issue whatsoever due to their construction.

I decided to just keep playing my Opio and to stop worrying about it...after all, no instrument is fully in tune all the time—either considering equal or just temperament. I still hear the note, it just sustains less—and I can deal with that.

twokatmew
05-12-2018, 05:45 AM
Dead notes? You maybe mean notes that a clip-on turner interprets as other notes than they should be. And perhaps they are also weak to your ear.

I have also a Kala concert scale ukulele and with the nylgut strings it came with from a local store and who knows how long it had been there, the C string especially sounded somewhat a dissapointment. I changed new aquila nylgut strings to it and was so happy. Maybe what you say of a shorter scale has some truth also?

I think even baritone uke has a shorter scale than classical guitar. And any acoustic instrument have some fundamental frequences and their overtones, which might explain that the "bad " note shifts when you change tension in strings. Because it will also make those those shift somewhat.

No. I mean notes that sound (barely) with an instant decay while playing.

I've restrung the Kala several times with different types/brands of strings, and it doesn't change the issue. I just work around it, as I typically don't hold that note too much.

Yes, a classical guitar typically has a scale of 650mm (~25.5"), though there are instruments with longer and shorter scales. My baritone Kala has a scale length of 20.25" if I remember correctly.

Thx!

twokatmew
05-12-2018, 05:50 AM
There is a pretty long thread about “dead” notes (also called “wolf” notes, I believe) on KoAloha tenors (Opio, too).

The thread is interesting and almost ruined my love of my Opio. The instrument was the same instrument that I had loved and played...but suddenly it had this “flaw.”

I decided to move on and I never even think about it while playing.

On my Opio, like the other tenors, there is a note (usually D# or E-flat if memory serves) on the C string which just doesn’t ring like the other notes on the instrument. It sounds, but sustain is greatly and noticeably reduced.

Andrew at HMS/The Ukulele Site checked his inventory and all of the KoAloha tenors exhibited this note.

Upon further research, a number of my tenors from other manufacturers had similar issues at that spot, leaving me to theorize that the tenor body of a ukulele has a less resonant frequency at that frequency range—highlighted by the otherwise booming nature of a KoAloha.

People have tried other strings and other tunings to defeat the issue—and some brands will have no issue whatsoever due to their construction.

I decided to just keep playing my Opio and to stop worrying about it...after all, no instrument is fully in tune all the time—either considering equal or just temperament. I still hear the note, it just sustains less—and I can deal with that.

Thanks, I'll look for that thread.

The D# on the C string I could live with. But the A at the 12th fret is the absolute worst. It barely sounds at all, while the other 12th fret notes sound and sustain. Two frets directly above and below that A are also dead though not quite as bad. That's five frets in a row, and as I play up there and hold those notes at times, I couldn't use that uke for certain pieces I play. I was just wondering how much of an issue this is with ukes in general.

Thanks. :)

DownUpDave
05-12-2018, 06:34 AM
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

70sSanO
05-12-2018, 06:58 AM
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

70sSanO
05-12-2018, 07:29 AM
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

I had never heard of that. That is a great approach to resolving the issue. Probably would result in slightly less sustain overall, same as adding bracing, but it would balance things out. Excellent!

John

bearbike137
05-12-2018, 09:39 AM
Wolf notes - resonant frequency - welcome to wood and strings....

BuzzBD
05-12-2018, 05:17 PM
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

M3Ukulele
05-12-2018, 07:29 PM
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!

Rakelele
05-12-2018, 09:24 PM
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/showthread.php?123071-Brand-new-Opio-3rd-string-is-where-music-goes-to-die

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?123309-C-string-sounds-dead-on-many-of-the-tenor-ukes-I-have-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".

robinboyd
05-12-2018, 09:45 PM
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.

twokatmew
05-13-2018, 09:30 AM
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. :)


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.

twokatmew
05-13-2018, 09:41 AM
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. :)


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. :)

twokatmew
05-13-2018, 09:45 AM
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! :)

robinboyd
05-13-2018, 02:42 PM
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.

twokatmew
05-13-2018, 02:52 PM
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. :)

robinboyd
05-13-2018, 04:49 PM
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.

countryken
05-21-2018, 10:10 AM
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.



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

Mivo
06-20-2018, 04:53 PM
I've had this issue with a tenor, also the #D note on the C string. What helped was using a wound C string, but the quicker decay didn't entirely go away. It was part of the reason why I eventually sold the instrument. I just could not "not" hear it and it spoiled the experience for me. While it may be a controversial view, I do consider it a flaw if it's clearly audible.

twokatmew
06-21-2018, 07:39 AM
I've had this issue with a tenor, also the #D note on the C string. What helped was using a wound C string, but the quicker decay didn't entirely go away. It was part of the reason why I eventually sold the instrument. I just could not "not" hear it and it spoiled the experience for me. While it may be a controversial view, I do consider it a flaw if it's clearly audible.

Thanks! I agree. :)

etudes
09-03-2018, 07:27 AM
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

Interesting. I'm curious if you're building a uke and aiming for a high level of performance/ resonance, does it invariably become a compromise trying to eliminate wolf/dead notes at perhaps the cost of a less satisfying overall sound?