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View Full Version : What does it mean when a ukulele "opens up"?



Chopped Liver
11-11-2018, 02:20 PM
I am looking at the possibility of getting a solid mahogany pineapple ukulele. The description says it will "open up with time". What exactly does that mean? I know it is referring to the sound, but will it get louder or richer or what?

Thanks in advance! :confused:

Gmontema
11-11-2018, 02:35 PM
My understanding Is that there are glues that hold the instrument together. Also, wood is a solid but flexible material. With play over time, the glue and wood “loosen” to some extent. Sound comes from the instrument’s ability to vibrate. Theoretically, an opened instrument is one that has microscopicly “looser” building materials.

Ukecaster
11-11-2018, 02:48 PM
There have been many debates over whether this "opening up" is real. Bottom line, some believe that acoustic instruments will change for the better tonally after a few months/years time, sounding better. Some believe that if the instrument is then not played for a while, the instrument will go "back to sleep". I believe that new instruments will sound better once broken in and played a lot.

kohanmike
11-11-2018, 06:46 PM
Over four years ago I had a custom gypsy jazz wide mouth uke made with solid flame maple top and solid Indian Rosewood body. I played guitar for almost fifty years, and uke about a year, going through 16 ukes in that time, so I feel I know sound. When the custom arrived and I played it, it did not have the projection and sustain I was expecting, but it did have a very nice tone.

I brought it to rehearsal a couple days later and one of my friends said it has a "soft voice" and agreed the tone was very nice. I like good projection and sustain so I didn't play that uke very often, hung it in my humid controlled display cabinet. About a year later I decided to replace the stock Aquila Nylgut strings with fluorocarbons, but it didn't seem to help much. I also started playing bass uke with my group, so I didn't play my ukes as often.

A few months ago I started playing my uke on Sundays with an acoustic group. I rotated between my 8 ukes and when I got to the gypsy jazz, I found that the projection and sustain was much better than before. So I'm a believer.

http://www.kohanmike.com/uploads/Gypsy full 800.jpg

8 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 10 solid body bass ukes, 7 mini electric bass guitars

Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children's hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
Member The CC Strummers www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video

Camsuke
11-11-2018, 06:56 PM
I got a Banjo Uke a few years ago & it opened up straight away :D boom boom :cool:

Chopped Liver
11-11-2018, 09:17 PM
I am looking at ordering an Ohana solid mahogany pineapple from Mim, so I know it will be set up perfectly. I just don't want it to get louder as I have a hearing sensitivity.

Sounds like this "opening up" make not be overly noticeable but maybe will just become more relaxed - like breaking in a new pair of shoes!

Thanks, all!

Chopped Liver
11-11-2018, 09:18 PM
I got a Banjo Uke a few years ago & it opened up straight away :D boom boom :cool:

Um, yeah. I'm hoping that is NOT what the description means!! ;)

Jerryc41
11-11-2018, 11:42 PM
The key to "opening up" when buying an instrument is that you don't buy the instrument in the hope that it will "open up". You buy the instrument based on how it sounds on the day you buy it.

Yes - definitely.

Jerryc41
11-11-2018, 11:45 PM
I got a Banjo Uke a few years ago & it opened up straight away :D boom boom :cool:

That's a clever idea for a back.

Jerryc41
11-11-2018, 11:50 PM
I am looking at ordering an Ohana solid mahogany pineapple from Mim, so I know it will be set up perfectly.

I got one of these from Mim a couple of months ago. It's a very nice uke. It looks good, and it sounds good.
https://www.mimsukes.com/listing/mims-ukes-ohana-soprano-pineapple-pk-70g-all-solid-spruce-mahogany-setup-ukulele-uke-353/10100066

I'd like to hear a sound comparison of closed up and opened up ukes. I'm skeptical.

DownUpDave
11-12-2018, 12:32 AM
I am looking at ordering an Ohana solid mahogany pineapple from Mim, so I know it will be set up perfectly. I just don't want it to get louder as I have a hearing sensitivity.

Sounds like this "opening up" make not be overly noticeable but maybe will just become more relaxed - like breaking in a new pair of shoes!

Thanks, all!

The short answer, because this debate can get very long and heated is that opening up usually means the tone will sweeten or improve. It can become more complex and expressive, not necessarily louder. If it happens or not depends on the individual pieces of wood and the construction. Some do "open up" some don't, most a little bit in the first month of playing

Croaky Keith
11-12-2018, 12:38 AM
What is actually happening, is that the materials that the uke is made of are settling in to each other, & the uke is adjusting to your environment. :)

It may improve in tone, but seldom does one really get much louder, & you can change strings to adjust the tone to your own personal liking.

Enjoy your new uke. :)

hendulele
11-12-2018, 01:06 AM
Following on DownUpDave, instruments made of solid wood have pores that literally open due to age, vibration from play, etc. They can add a depth and richness to the sound not present when first built. Laminates and ukes made of synthetic materials (plastic, resins, etc.) aren't capable of that and will sound pretty much the same no matter how long you own them. Unless you change strings!

Bill Sheehan
11-12-2018, 02:42 AM
I got a Banjo Uke a few years ago & it opened up straight away :D boom boom :cool:

Hahahahahahaha Campbell !! That is very cool !!

Rllink
11-12-2018, 03:04 AM
I believe that over time an instrument will change, but I'm not convinced it is always for the better. I mean, changes are pretty random, and I would think that it could go either way just as easily. Anyway, in the case of my three, I think that the more I play them the better they sound. I'm not sure if that is because they are opening up, of that I'm opening up. I'm hoping the latter. But if I had a ukulele that didn't sound good, I would not bank on the belief that if I play it enough that the ukulele itself it will magically sound better at some point.

Martinlover
11-12-2018, 03:50 AM
I think of an instrument opening up a bit like people aging — they just get more so. So in my mind ukuleles will not change character like Jekyll and Hyde unless they are abused or altered somehow.

Sharpshin
11-12-2018, 04:00 AM
That made me laugh as intended, Campbell!

Papa Tom
11-12-2018, 04:18 AM
I think you are all wrong. When a uke "opens up," it means it becomes more comfortable sharing its inner feelings with you.

(C'mon...Campbell got away with being cheeky!)

Bill Sheehan
11-12-2018, 04:45 AM
I think you are all wrong. When a uke "opens up," it means it becomes more comfortable sharing its inner feelings with you.

(C'mon...Campbell got away with being cheeky!)

Good one, Papa Tom!! ;)

besley
11-12-2018, 05:13 AM
As a chemist I've always been fascinated with the concept of a wood instrument "opening up" over time. The one explanation that I find reasonable has to do with the resins and lignins in the wood crystallizing after many years, or perhaps breaking down a bit. It's also been said that when old logs are recovered from the bottom of lakes and bogs and made into instruments, the sound is already "opened up" due to the age of the wood. There's enough out there to convince me that the effect is probably real, but I've listened to old and new Martin guitars side by side and not been able to hear the difference. And of course I'm not expecting my Farallon to open up any time soon.

mm stan
11-12-2018, 05:55 AM
I am looking at the possibility of getting a solid mahogany pineapple ukulele. The description says it will "open up with time". What exactly does that mean? I know it is referring to the sound, but will it get louder or richer or what?

Thanks in advance! :confused:

Don't believe that, no one can predict that, it's a marketing ploy to attract buyers.. shame on them
It means to pass on that company and ukulele.
In terms of the term opening up, it means that the ukulele build has settled in and by vibrations and age seasoning, maturing the wood.

Chopped Liver
11-12-2018, 06:15 AM
So, then, this "opening up" (except for the possibility of it sharing its feelings :p ) is more or less wood settling in to and adapting to its new environment. So, the sound could improve or not.

I would not buy an instrument in hopes it will improve. If it doesn't sound good now, it prob won't change enough to sound good later. And even if it did, I'd have to play a crappy sounding instrument until some miracle happened (which woudn't happen because I would lose interest in it).

My main concern is that I would not want it to get louder.

Maybe a laminate would be a better choice because it would prob be quieter . . .

mm stan
11-12-2018, 06:33 AM
So, then, this "opening up" (except for the possibility of it sharing its feelings :p ) is more or less wood settling in to and adapting to its new environment. So, the sound could improve or not.

I would not buy an instrument in hopes it will improve. If it doesn't sound good now, it prob won't change enough to sound good later. And even if it did, I'd have to play a crappy sounding instrument until some miracle happened (which woudn't happen because I would lose interest in it).

My main concern is that I would not want it to get louder.

Maybe a laminate would be a better choice because it would prob be quieter . . .

Yes some think the vibrations mature the wood too, yes you're right, if it don't sound good now, it probably won't be as good as buy a great sounding ukulele maturing. Some laminates sound pretty nice, it's finding that needle in the haystack and trying as much of ukes as possible try before you buy.. I don't knock laminates, only the uke snobs do lol ��

Rllink
11-12-2018, 06:51 AM
So, then, this "opening up" (except for the possibility of it sharing its feelings :p ) is more or less wood settling in to and adapting to its new environment. So, the sound could improve or not.

I would not buy an instrument in hopes it will improve. If it doesn't sound good now, it prob won't change enough to sound good later. And even if it did, I'd have to play a crappy sounding instrument until some miracle happened (which woudn't happen because I would lose interest in it).

My main concern is that I would not want it to get louder.

Maybe a laminate would be a better choice because it would prob be quieter . . .

What happens if you throw a sock inside a uke? I would think that there would be a way to make a ukulele quieter. I'm sorry that your ears are sensitive to sound and that you have to deal with it. My circumstances are a little different and I am always trying to find something louder. It is not my experience that opening up means that a ukulele gets louder as time goes on. It is more about tone I think.

Chopped Liver
11-12-2018, 06:58 AM
What happens if you throw a sock inside a uke? I would think that there would be a way to make a ukulele quieter. I'm sorry that your ears are sensitive to sound and that you have to deal with it. My circumstances are a little different and I am always trying to find something louder. It is not my experience that opening up means that a ukulele gets louder as time goes on. It is more about tone I think.

It's really weird. I have a 50% hearing loss and yet loud sounds bother me! I once bought a spruce top ukulele that I had to return because I could not handle the volume.

Hm . . . wonder if the spruce was more resonate than usual and that was the problem? I need to talk to my audiologist about that. Lucky for me, he is a big music fan and plays guitar so he understands the issue.

I've never stuck a sock in my ukulele before. Might have to try it! Should I take it off my foot first? :biglaugh:

mm stan
11-12-2018, 07:09 AM
Yes I don't prefer a bright tone at my age as its too much discomfort, and some loud bright ukes are too
Irratating, brask for my ears, get a warmer tone from certain types of solid woods ukes, you can also use softer compound thicker lower tension strings to get a warmer tone. Stay away from spruce and cedar if this is your issue and go with woods like mahogany for a warmer tone and change the strings. Good luck, happy strummings

Chopped Liver
11-12-2018, 09:22 AM
Maybe a Risa Stick could be an option, you would be able to control the volume & tone at the amp or even use headphones :D

I have a Eleuke Peanut for that!:cool:

Chopped Liver
11-12-2018, 09:26 AM
Yes I don't prefer a bright tone at my age as its too much discomfort, and some loud bright ukes are too
Irratating, brask for my ears, get a warmer tone from certain types of solid woods ukes, you can also use softer compound thicker lower tension strings to get a warmer tone. Stay away from spruce and cedar if this is your issue and go with woods like mahogany for a warmer tone and change the strings. Good luck, happy strummings

Thanks! I could not do cedar anyway, because I am allergic to it! I am looking at either the mahogany laminate or solid.

I appreciate the info on the strings. Got any recommendations? I have Worth Browns on my Mango Pono soprano (that I will prob sell because I can't stand those dang friction tuners)!

Bill Sheehan
11-12-2018, 09:41 AM
Interesting idea about putting a couple of socks inside the uke. I once bought a uke from a private seller, and when I unboxed it, I discovered that it was stuffed full of socks; I always felt like I got... hosed... on that deal...

merlin666
11-12-2018, 10:38 AM
It's a term from the guitar world that is used when people buy a dud that sounds terrible but decide to stick with it and eventually figure out to play it in a way that makes it sound better.

kerneltime
11-12-2018, 11:03 AM
Like most mechanical machines, wood based stringed instruments change. It is a combination of the properties of wood coupled with the the mechanical structure.
Some people think a ukulele sounds the same plugged in vs using a mic.. some people can tell the room is dry/hot/cold based on the sound of the instrument.. recorder players will warm up their instruments before playing..
Vintage instruments do sound different and have unique sound that is claimed to not be there when they were brand new..
Someone in this thread said it best, it is better to start with an instrument that sounds good and see how it changes vs owning one in the hope it will improve..

Bill Sheehan
11-12-2018, 12:28 PM
Put a sock in it Bill :smileybounce: Thankfully it wasn't Jocks! :D

Hahahahahahaha! Good point, Campbell! I appreciate the... support! :o

Bill Sheehan
11-12-2018, 12:41 PM
That is way too funny Bill, it's just nuts :D

Hahahahaha!! Okay, I give up, you win !!!! :)

mm stan
11-12-2018, 01:01 PM
Thanks! I could not do cedar anyway, because I am allergic to it! I am looking at either the mahogany laminate or solid.

I appreciate the info on the strings. Got any recommendations? I have Worth Browns on my Mango Pono soprano (that I will prob sell because I can't stand those dang friction tuners)!

Strings are personal preference like tone. Some don't like the thicker strings like the koolau alohi I, but if you can manage the thickness they have a warmer tone due the soft compound and thickness. Worth brown are nice strings too, much thinner imo

Chopped Liver
11-12-2018, 01:17 PM
Strings are personal preference like tone. Some don't like the thicker strings lime the koolau alot I, but if you can manage the thickness they have a warmer tone due the soft compound and thickness. Worth brown are nice strings too, much thinner imo

So, if I hear you correctly, I need thicker, lower tension strings for a softer sound.

I have been playing my enya soprano and my Pono tonight. That enya has terrible strings on it. I need to change them. Playing the Pono has made my right ear hurt. It has Worth Browns on it and is also solid, not laminate. The Pono sure does sound better, though . . .

I may need to focus on getting a laminate pineapple uke - less resonance.

Sure is frustrating trying to figure this out . . .

Peace Train
11-16-2018, 06:40 AM
Concert ear plugs that reduce decibels, but leave clarity of sound intact, would be an inexpensive option for you that might solve all your concerns. There are several options available, but these might do the trick: https://www.amazon.com/Vibes-High-Fidelity-Concert-Earplugs/dp/B018WPOQSG

Chopped Liver
11-16-2018, 12:13 PM
Concert ear plugs that reduce decibels, but leave clarity of sound intact, would be an inexpensive option for you that might solve all your concerns. There are several options available, but these might do the trick: https://www.amazon.com/Vibes-High-Fidelity-Concert-Earplugs/dp/B018WPOQSG

I did not even know something like this existed. Thanks so much! I will check them out.

Kenn2018
11-16-2018, 08:39 PM
I believe I read in a thread on the Forum and a couple of other places that torrefied wood mimics aged opened-up wood. Spruce is the wood that I have seen as being torrefied.

An excerpt from an article on Reverb by Dana Bourgeois
reverb.com/news/are-torrefied-tops-the-new-industry-standard-dana-bourgeois-weighs-in
Published Sep 23, 2016 by Peter Schu

"...torrefied wood - is sometimes also referred to as roasted or tempered.

"In a nutshell, torrefaction involves heating wood in the absence of oxygen to remove water and volatiles. Electric guitar necks have been getting this treatment from certain builders for some time, making them lighter, stiffer and more resistant to temperature and humidity changes.

"When applied to new acoustic guitar tops, torrefaction gives them a similar molecular composition - and therefore tonal response - to vintage guitars tops after decades of aging."

Chopped Liver
11-17-2018, 02:17 AM
So, are you saying I should get a new uke and then roast it in the oven to speed up the aging process?
:rotfl:

Bill Sheehan
11-17-2018, 04:27 AM
Hahahahaha Jan, you're starting to sound like me... !! :rolleyes:

Chopped Liver
11-17-2018, 04:42 AM
Hahahahaha Jan, you're starting to sound like me... !! :rolleyes:

:p Ukies roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose . . . ;)

bratsche
11-17-2018, 06:26 AM
I don't understand how a uke being "too loud" is a problem. Just play it more softly. There is no rule that says you always have to play any instrument at its maximum volume. I often practice quietly, so as not to disturb my husband in the next room. Or outside on the patio late at night, when neighbors are sleeping. It is easy to do, and no socks are required, just a light touch. I'd much rather have an instrument that's capable of playing out when the need arises, even though it doesn't always need the extra volume, than to have one that is limited right from the get-go. I also like having a full expressive dynamic range for the music I play. What am I missing here?

bratsche

Chopped Liver
11-17-2018, 07:17 AM
I don't understand how a uke being "too loud" is a problem. Just play it more softly. There is no rule that says you always have to play any instrument at its maximum volume. I often practice quietly, so as not to disturb my husband in the next room. Or outside on the patio late at night, when neighbors are sleeping. It is easy to do, and no socks are required, just a light touch. I'd much rather have an instrument that's capable of playing out when the need arises, even though it doesn't always need the extra volume, than to have one that is limited right from the get-go. I also like having a full expressive dynamic range for the music I play. What am I missing here?

bratsche

I play as softly as possible but it can still be painful after a few minutes. I believe it's the vibrations pounding on my eardrum. So, even if it doesn't sound too loud, I can feel it loud. If I take my hearing aids out and turn the volume up on my computer so I can hear it, it doesn't sound too loud, but, boy, can my ears feel it!

I need to talk to my audiologist about this and see what he says.

Gmontema
11-18-2018, 03:30 AM
I play as softly as possible but it can still be painful after a few minutes. I believe it's the vibrations pounding on my eardrum. So, even if it doesn't sound too loud, I can feel it loud. If I take my hearing aids out and turn the volume up on my computer so I can hear it, it doesn't sound too loud, but, boy, can my ears feel it!

I need to talk to my audiologist about this and see what he says.

Here is one perspective on treatment options for hyperacusis. Not sure if you have that or not, but if you do. Perhaps retraining with uke could help?

https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/hyperacusis/treatment.html

Chopped Liver
11-18-2018, 11:45 AM
Here is one perspective on treatment options for hyperacusis. Not sure if you have that or not, but if you do. Perhaps retraining with uke could help?

https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/hyperacusis/treatment.html

Thanks for the info!

Bill Sheehan
11-18-2018, 04:01 PM
So, are you saying I should get a new uke and then roast it in the oven to speed up the aging process?
:rotfl:

I knew a guy who tried that oven trick; he said it didn't make much difference, although after that the uke seemed to sound a little warmer...

PereBourik
11-18-2018, 04:33 PM
Heeyukyukyuk

Chopped Liver
11-18-2018, 04:46 PM
I knew a guy who tried that oven trick; he said it didn't make much difference, although after that the uke seemed to sound a little warmer...

:biglaugh:

Chopped Liver
11-18-2018, 04:48 PM
Heeyukyukyuk

Hey you!

I'm guessing you don't need the oven trick in your new neck of the woods!:p

kissing
11-18-2018, 11:55 PM
Im a bit late to this topic, but the issue is nothing new.

I tend to be a skeptic towards guitars and ukes "opening up" - well at least on modern ukes and guitars anyway.

I think an ukulele won't change how it sounds simply due to "ageing", nor do I believe that the tiny vibrations of being played changes the wood structure and makes it "open up"

I attribute these perceived changes to:
-placebo effect. The myth of instruments opening up is so ingrained in guitar culture that we believe its there simply because we believe it does

-getting more familiar and adjusted to the nuances of the instrument. You have improved at playing this instrument, not the wood

-strings change tone with age and condition

-time may alter the setup of the instrument, such as neck relief, or any personal setup that the owner has done.



In theory, some vintage instruments have been said to "open up" due to the breakdown and thinning of nitrocellulose finish and older kinds of glue used in their instruments. If this was true at all, the same logic wont apply to modern instruments that use more modern adhesives and more resilient finishes like polyurethane.

I think any physics presented to support the old tale of guitars and ukes opening up in a way that would validly confirm the phenomena have been dubious and anecdotal at best.

Tonewood doesn't become better at being a tonewood after it is bought and played. It probably sounds its best brand new, and any assumed improvement in its future is 100% subjective.

Bill Sheehan
11-19-2018, 02:20 AM
Interesting perspective, Kissing, and you may be right on that. Oh well, at least I guess there's no harm in thinking that some day up the road, a particular uke may "open up"; it's kind of fun to anticipate it, even if it's more in our subjective perception than in the actual physical properties of the wood.

Rllink
11-19-2018, 03:12 AM
I think that some people like to be ritualistic with their music and they channel their instruments into that ritualism. I like to think that I'm more pragmatic and above it, but I have a corner in the basement where I keep my ukuleles and where I retire to for long periods of time in some sort of musical trance. My wife calls it the shrine. I don't know why she would call it that, it is just the place I got to play my ukulele.;) But anyway, I often wonder what is ritualism and what is real.

Bill Sheehan
11-19-2018, 04:17 AM
I think that some people like to be ritualistic with their music and they channel their instruments into that ritualism. I like to think that I'm more pragmatic and above it, but I have a corner in the basement where I keep my ukuleles and where I retire to for long periods of time in some sort of musical trance. My wife calls it the shrine. I don't know why she would call it that, it is just the place I got to play my ukulele.;) But anyway, I often wonder what is ritualism and what is real.

Hahahaha, Rllink !! I like the "shrine" concept! My brother came over the other night, and referred to my place as a "uke-seum" !! I can't say he's too far off !!

Ukecaster
11-19-2018, 04:31 AM
Some folks chase the "opening up" to extremes, using a ToneRite device which mechanically vibrates the instruments for long periods of time, hoping to speed the "opening up" of the instrument. Never tried it, but some believe it works.

https://www.stewmac.com/Materials_and_Supplies/Accessories/ToneRite

Rllink
11-19-2018, 05:16 AM
Because you're worshiping at the uke altar, instead of hers ;)

Her's has a sewing machine in it and occupies an entire room.


Hahahaha, Rllink !! I like the "shrine" concept! My brother came over the other night, and referred to my place as a "uke-seum" !! I can't say he's too far off !! Yes, I regularly visit the shrine. I mix up a magical and mystical concoction that contains secret ingredients that I will share only with my friends here on UU. Three fingers of rum, some ice, a dash of Coca Cola, and a lime. Then I go into the corner and drink the potion, and as I do so, I begin to open up and my ukulele starts sounding better and better.

Bill Sheehan
11-19-2018, 06:28 AM
Hahahahaha! Kind of a variation on that old saying, "The more you drink, the better we sound"!

Rllink
11-19-2018, 06:46 AM
Hahahahaha! Kind of a variation on that old saying, "The more you drink, the better we sound"!There is a bar downtown that does a lot of live music and it has a night once a month for the local not so talented to get up on stage. Instead of a band they choose three local musicians. Each musician gets a thirty to forty minute set. The trick is to get the second set. The audience has had enough to drink to "appreciate" the music, but not so much that they are getting mean.

mm stan
11-19-2018, 09:33 AM
I don't understand how a uke being "too loud" is a problem. Just play it more softly. There is no rule that says you always have to play any instrument at its maximum volume. I often practice quietly, so as not to disturb my husband in the next room. Or outside on the patio late at night, when neighbors are sleeping. It is easy to do, and no socks are required, just a light touch. I'd much rather have an instrument that's capable of playing out when the need arises, even though it doesn't always need the extra volume, than to have one that is limited right from the get-go. I also like having a full expressive dynamic range for the music I play. What am I missing here?

bratsche

I think by loud they might mean how brash the tone is,