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FalconSpork
05-26-2009, 02:35 PM
Hi I'm new here, and just recently bought my second ukulele. My first was a no name tourist trap cheapo. I wanted to try out a new ukulele before buying one, meaning I wasn't to keen on purchasing one from the internet, more so after a mishap with a bass guitar. Anyway my local music shop only had two kinds of ukuleles, both Hilo brand, which I haven't heard much about, but they sounded fairly decent in the store. Both Hilo Ukulele's were sopranos, one had a center sound hole, like most ukuleles seem to have, and the other had three epaulette sound holes. I opted for the three hole, simply because it looked different.

So my question is, does this make a big difference in playability? I've noticed my palm muting doesn't sound the same as some of the videos online. Maybe, I'm just used to the sound of slap bass since that's what I played (and still play) before. What do you guys think?

seeso
05-26-2009, 02:46 PM
So my question is, does this make a big difference in playability? I've noticed my palm muting doesn't sound the same as some of the videos online. Maybe, I'm just used to the sound of slap bass since that's what I played (and still play) before. What do you guys think?

It shouldn't affect playability at all.

specialmike
05-26-2009, 03:39 PM
It might be a design thing or it might be an aesthetic thing. Like seeso said, it shouldn't affect the playability. But I would imagine it would affect the amount of sound the ukulele produces.

seeso
05-26-2009, 03:42 PM
It might be a design thing or it might be an aesthetic thing. Like seeso said, it shouldn't affect the playability. But I would imagine it would affect the amount of sound the ukulele produces.

Not too much, though. Most of the sound emanates from the surface area of the top.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-26-2009, 04:17 PM
Yes, soundhole placement, number, size, etc will certainly have an effect on the tone. You played them both at the store and I assumed you were happy with the one you bought, right? After all that's why you didn't want to buy over the Internet.
If you're not 100% happy with it don't worry about it. If you're like most folks here you'll soon own a dozen ukes. Each will have it's own personality and no single one will do everything you want it to.

seeso
05-26-2009, 05:04 PM
Perhaps I spoke too soon! :o

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-26-2009, 05:27 PM
Not too much, though. Most of the sound emanates from the surface area of the top.
If that were the case there'd be no need for sound holes. The sound from the heavier strings is generated within the sound box while the sound from the treble strings tend to "bounce" more off the top as you suggested.

seeso
05-26-2009, 06:18 PM
I thought the sound hole lets the top vibrate more freely and allows the sound that bounces off the back and sides to escape.

I was under the impression that most of the sound is generated by the top.

Thanks for setting me straight.

ichadwick
05-27-2009, 02:02 AM
Most of the sound emanates from the surface area of the top.
Well, Seeso, you forget the Helmholtz resonance effect the hole provides... in fact, a uke without a sound hole creates a very different sound. Listen to an archtop compared with a traditional uke. Much more muted, with a narrower tonal range. No bad or worse - but very different, and almost muted in comparison.

The size, number and placement of the sound hole plays a huge part in the resulting sound. When you play a note, several things happen in a very short time. First, the energy of the string is transmitted through the saddle to the bridge, then the bridge spreads that around to make the top vibrate. That's the primary sound wave that rushes out to the listener.

There are two sound waves that come from the top - the primary wave that emanates outward from the top to the listener. The second is internal. It bounces around, hitting the back and sides, shakes up the air inside the body, then bounces back. Some of that hits the top and gets it moving, some of it comes out the sound hole. Some of the energy makes the sides and maybe the back vibrate (depends on how you hold your uke) which also send out a reduced-energy wave (heading at 90 degrees to the top, so listeners seldom hear it, but we players do and it colours how we hear the uke versus what a listener in front hears*).

Meanwhile the air in the body has been disturbed, and it creates its own sound, usually a lower pitch than the note played. That's the Helmholtz thing. That sound comes out the sound hole. No hole: no Helmholtz resonance. The pitch of that resonance can be tuned somewhat by the shape and size of the hole.

That second sound wave comes out of the hole a microsecond after the top's wave is released. So you really get a 3D sound effect; the two waves create a complex sound with oodles of overtones and harmonics.

Simple experiment: have someone strum your uke in front of you. Then place a piece of cardboard over the hole and have them do it again. You should hear a difference.

The optimum placement and size of the sound hole is debated on many sites about acoustics or luthiery, but basically it's wherever the reflected waves gather most after the fewest number of bounces. Each bounce inside loses energy, which translates into frequency loss.

It's not an exact science; more an art. But you should note that a few centuries of luthiery has not developed many radical designs that deviate significantly from the traditional shape and hole placement. It's not just hidebound tradition that does that. It's experience.

So, yes: one hole, three hole, epaulet holes, side holes - they all make a difference. Whether the resulting sound is good or bad is subjective.

Then to make it more complicated, throw in tonewoods, bracing, string types, body size, bridge and saddle materials, finishes.... all of which affect the sound.
~~~~~
* This is why, when you're testing ukes in a store, you should have another person along to play it while you stand in front and listen. You can't possibly hear the full output of a uke by playing it yourself.

seeso
05-27-2009, 08:07 AM
Thanks for the detailed explanation, Ian. I think I'm straight now. :shaka:

pithaya9
05-27-2009, 02:06 PM
Wow very educational, thanks Ian.

haolejohn
05-29-2009, 03:58 AM
Responses like Ian's is one of the reasons that I love UU so much. I just ordered a double puka ukulele and it should be waiting for me when I get home today. I was told that it will have a little more volume than the traditional single hole set-up. I bought it b/c I love the double puka look.