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View Full Version : Uke tips to improve sound and playability



mikeeG7th
07-29-2009, 07:00 AM
I have a new kanilea tenor. I'm not sure if it's just because it's brand new and needs to break-in but I find it a little dull with not much sustain. For a tenor, I expect it to have more loudness down to the frets and good sustain -- but it doesn't. My flea soprano is even louder and bends better with good sustain...
Anything I can do to get more out of it? I am trying to play the heck out of it but I just don't get much sustain (almost none). I notice also that everything I put it away and had to start playing again, I feel like I have to struggle to get a better tone. It just seems to improve (a little) the longer I play it. I think it came with nubone and aquila strings. To be fair with this uke, I just had it for a short time. It's just that I had another uke before and it sounded right off the case when I got it.

Thanks.. or should I just take it to Mandolin bros and get it set-up. Will getting a nice set-up do the job and keep playing the heck out of it?

Sorry for all these questions.. I'm a guitar guy and new to a uke -- still getting the hang of it.

ukulelearp
07-29-2009, 07:07 AM
Well some ukuleles do need to be broken in, but it sounds like your best best would be some new strings, in addition to a good set up. I'm not really an expert on them but I've heard that Worths and Aquilas have some of the best sustain. Maybe someone else can clarify that?

jontom
07-29-2009, 08:03 AM
Aquila can really improve the sound...

1014
07-29-2009, 08:07 AM
Aquila can really improve the sound...

aquilas already come stock with Kanile`a.

mealfrog41
07-29-2009, 08:10 AM
Aquila can really improve the sound...

From what I understand, Aquilas can really improve the sound of inexpensive ukes... I personally wouldn't put them on a Kanilea, I really dislike them on my uke. I know a lot of people swear by them, but just thought I'd offer another opinion. It's probably best to just keep trying different things out to see what fits your taste and instrument the best.

flyingace
07-29-2009, 08:33 AM
I've enjoyed the Worth BMs with a low wound Aquila G on my Oscar Schmidt. The Tusq saddle and nut really helped the sound too on my solid mahogany concert. I can only imagine what those tweaks would do to a better made uke!

Citrus
07-29-2009, 08:37 AM
One thing that's important is that I'm guessing switching to a tenor from a soprano is a big leap in size difference, if you find yourself holding on to the tenor with too much pressure it can easily dampen the sound, try barely holding it and playing a couple chords to see if there's a big difference. Other than that there's a lot of things in the build of a ukulele that can affect sustain, what kind of soprano do you have?

haolejohn
07-29-2009, 08:45 AM
Who did you get the kanilea from? While in hawaii the few kanile'as that I played had similar problems.

mikeeG7th
07-29-2009, 11:08 AM
I bought this from kanilea (called and they shipped it). Btw, customer service was awesome. I just wish I'm in Hawaii because I'm sure they can help me directly with this issue I'm having with. The problem is, I don't have access to stores where I can try these nice ukes before buying so I just have to rely on the person I'm buying it from.

I just got home now and got my uke first thing. I have been doing this everyday and strumming the heck out of it for a week now for about an hour. :eek: For those who asked, this tenor has aquila strings.

I wasn't really expecting much like the past few days but :eek: OMG, for the first time, it sounded louder when I tried it. Easier to press to for strumming and picking especially on the first couple of frets except for the lower frets. I'm beginning to see some light here :bowdown: I hope that this is the only thing that needs to happen with this uke -- to break-in. Maybe because it's koa? I hope I'm not hallucinating. :eek:

I'll keep everyone updated with this and hopefully it gets better for the next couple of days or I'll really have to go to repair guy and see if a set-up will help.

Still I welcome any insights on this and hoping for ways to make it sound and play better. I really want to like this uke (it's not cheap!!!) It's my first tenor so maybe there are better ways to play it so it will sound better? Thanks for any input!

GX9901
07-29-2009, 11:21 AM
I didn't really like the Aquilas that came with either one of my Kanile'as (super soprano & super tenor) and ended up with Worth clears on both. I didn't think it sounded dead with the Aquilas or anything, but it seemed like something was missing (although the super tenor still sounded pretty good with Aquilas). For me, the Worth strings turned the super tenor into a monster that's on the same level with a couple of much more expensive customs as far as sound is concerned. I guess I would suggest trying some Worth CT's and keep playing and see what happens.

Brewerpaul
07-29-2009, 02:51 PM
I discovered one trick with my mandolin which made it sound a lot more resonant, and it works great with my tenor Uke too. Don't hold it tightly against your body. Move your left hand forward and away from your body, opening up some space between the back of the uke and your belly. The amount required may vary depending on the size of your belly:p. This allows the back of the instrument to vibrate more freely and really improves the sound, at least to my ear.

Big Bob
07-29-2009, 03:15 PM
I have a Kanilea tenor for the past 2 years.It came with aquilla strings low G. I change my strings about every 4 months. I find that the relative humidity does have an effect on the sound projection.It sounds much better when the humidity is around 55% .Just my 2 cents worth.

mikeeG7th
07-29-2009, 03:25 PM
GX9901... Tried your advice -- just ordered me some worth strings CT. Wish me luck :D

built
07-29-2009, 05:13 PM
I discovered one trick with my mandolin which made it sound a lot more resonant, and it works great with my tenor Uke too. Don't hold it tightly against your body. Move your left hand forward and away from your body, opening up some space between the back of the uke and your belly. The amount required may vary depending on the size of your belly:p. This allows the back of the instrument to vibrate more freely and really improves the sound, at least to my ear.
hmmm... think i should get one of brad's "for amy" ukes? :shaka:

UkEdman90
07-29-2009, 08:10 PM
practice always wins!

Kekani
07-29-2009, 09:50 PM
Joe builds a good instrument. I disagree with his choice of strings, but everyone else seems to like them, and most seem to agree that they are considered an upgraded string.

With the quality of his builds, I've always premised that his instruments would take well to composite strings such as Savarez Alliance, or D'Addario T's. An easier find however, would be D'Addario J46's. Be careful with those, especially if you play with fingernails - the one that I heard sounds very, how to put this, Standardish. Of course, that one data point had to do with the style of the player, rather than the instrument itself, so you may be okay.

And definitely keep playing it. When you're not, leave it out of its case next to the CD player with Hawaiian music going. There is a break-in period, which it seems you're finding out.

Just my $.02. -Aaron

clayton56
07-29-2009, 10:44 PM
how's the action? I've gotten big improvement in playability and sustain by lowering the action. I know that in general uke players like high actions, but I get more pop and less sustain that way. The tone of mine have improved by taking it down.

Also I think flourocarbon strings like Worth or Fremont give more sustain, possibly because they are lighter gauge.

kim jorgensen
07-29-2009, 11:10 PM
Sorry to hear that you're having problems with your Kanilea. I bought a satin finish t-1 at a shop in Honolulu, played it for a few days and it developed a severe buzz on several strings. I noticed that the neck was coming loose from the body. I brought it back and got all my money back. At another shop I bought a gloss finish Kanilea T-1 and have been very happy ever since, loving the jazzy tones up and down the neck. Ohta-san and Lyle Ritz are my heroes, not to mention Ledward. Later I will try Worths to see whether there's a difference.

The Japanese say that even monkeys fall from trees. Everyone makes mistakes. Many sellers here prefer Kanilea over Kamaka but obviously even Kanilea is owned and operated by humans. A great player can make a cheap uke sound great and an average player can sound average on a great uke.

I think it is a good idea to let a uke breathe and setting it next to a speaker sending out beautiful Hawaiian music or Handel or Mozart or the Tallis Scholars with let the wood vibrate to godly tones.

Let Kanilea know if you're still having problems. They don't have a great reputation for nothing and shouldn't.

ukulelearp
07-30-2009, 05:50 AM
how's the action? I've gotten big improvement in playability and sustain by lowering the action. I know that in general uke players like high actions, but I get more pop and less sustain that way. The tone of mine have improved by taking it down.

Also I think flourocarbon strings like Worth or Fremont give more sustain, possibly because they are lighter gauge.


I just strung mine with Fremonts, the sustain is MUCH better than the D'addarios I had been using before.

thomas
07-30-2009, 06:01 AM
is the saddle loose?

Teek
07-30-2009, 06:51 AM
I'd say dump the Aquilas as well, I had them on my Pono solid koa tenor when I got it second hand and it sounded strangled. I finally put on Worths (brown medium, trying clears next) and the sound was great, a very big difference. I also notice a difference in sound quality and volume when the humidity is higher, the uke is louder and sweeter, because it's happier. ;)

jkevinwolfe
07-31-2009, 01:05 AM
The Aquilas sound "chorusy" while the Worths sound earthy. Both great strings, just a matter of preference.

uluapoundr
07-31-2009, 08:31 AM
The thing with wood instruments, especially koa, is that there is variation in the woods. This is why you can play 12 instruments from the same maker, same model, and hear variations. Some koa will be a bit more rigid and take some time to "loosen" up. The Kanilea ukes that I have played, right off the shelf, have sounded pretty good, volume and sustain.

Like some of the others, I do not care for the aquila strings and feel a fluorocarbon string like the Savarez Alliance would really add sustain but at the same time, may be a bit too bright for an instrument that is still waking up so to speak.

Keep playing your uke, an hour a day sounds good. Guitar guys say 100 hrs should do the trick, I've heard changes in less than 100 hrs. Play the heck out of it. Do chords, strums, chunks, picking, whatever you can to get the wood familiar with being an ukulele. I too notice the changes in the sound of the uke after playing for a few minutes, it's like the wood loosens up. I'm guessing you'll start to hear your uke blossom really soon.

mikeeG7th
08-04-2009, 06:57 AM
Just an update. I've been playing the uke a lot for over a week now at least 1 hour per day. It sounds great now! I didn't have to bring it to a repair guy for set-up. I'm expecting the new Worth strings to arrive and try them as well to see if I can get more out of it. Thanks for everyone's help! This uke (kanilea k-1 tenor) really sounds awesome! For those new with a koa uke tenor like this, try playing it more before you decide that this is not the uke for you. I'm glad I kept it and for sure it will get better the more it is played. :cheers: