View Full Version : Gloss vs. Flat Finish

08-15-2009, 03:19 AM
Is there necessarily a difference between ukes with glossy or flat finishes as it pertains to sound?

As I understand it, solid tops are most ideal since it "loosens up" (for lack of a better phrase) as you play the instrument allowing the uke to actually sound better over time. Would a gloss finish inhibit this?

Would the gloss effect anything else like structural integrity?

08-15-2009, 03:37 AM
IMO it depends on who is doing the finish. If it is a production model the gloss can be kind of thick and might have an effect on the soundboards ability to vibrate freely.

If a luither or one of the higher end ukulele makes are doing the finish it might not make as much difference. I know from my experince, I was having Chuck Moore build me a uke and sound was my main concern. I originally was going to get his satin finish because it had less lacquer then the gloss. He informed me that he had "perfected" (lack of a better term) his gloss and it used the same amount of lacquer just a different process. So the sound would be the same either way, just the look would be different. I went with the gloss.

Chuck if I am misrepresenting something please correct me.

08-15-2009, 03:44 AM
Thanks, dnewton.

I was recently looking at ukes and was on the fence between the Kala spruce top tenor "travel" uke and the Lanikai spruce top tenor. The Kala was a flat finish and the Lanikai had a lacquered finish. I always prefer the flat finish in terms of looks but the super thin Kala just didn't feel right and I preferred the tenor sound coming out of the Lanikai. So I was wondering what effect the gloss had.

08-15-2009, 04:03 AM
i own a lanikai spruce top tenor, and i think its wonderful. the model that i own is the s-teq which is the acoustic/electric version. they have a model without the pickup, the s-t. check out my video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TeWR3fjl7U&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eyoutube%2Ecom%2Fuser%2Ffat fingers75&feature=player_profilepage

its a sample of hotel california un plugged, and plugged in to an amp.

i hope you find the right uke for you.

08-25-2009, 03:02 AM
To those of you who have played both gloss and satin/matte finished ukes, I was wondering: Is a gloss uke any less comfortable to play?

Given the amount of body contact involved in playing a uke (I don't use a strap), I wondered if the gloss ukes ever felt sticky or slippery after extended contact with your skin? I play outside a lot, and wondered if working up a mild sweat while playing would make it difficult or uncomfortable to play a glossy finished uke.

Thanks in advance...

08-25-2009, 10:05 AM
I have both and prefer glossy. Simply because it is easier to keep clean. A quick wipe down of a microfiber cloth does the trick. Getting the wear marks out of a satin finish is a little more involved.

Also, I've had no problem holding a glossy uke during extended play (sitting down or standing up). Just don't wear a fuzzy sweater. I also have a big ole gut to contend with. You should not have any problems.

08-26-2009, 06:53 AM
To those of you who have played both gloss and satin/matte finished ukes, I was wondering: Is a gloss uke any less comfortable to play?
Not really. At least not if you're talking about polyurethane finishes. They are similar in terms of physical properties, just one is shiny. If you play naked, the gloss may exhibit a bit more friction against your bare skin, but not much more. Both pretty much uniformly cover the wood.

If you mean by satin or matte an oil-based finish, then yes, there is a difference. Not so much in comfort, but oil-based finishes are less restrictive on the soundboard, allowing somewhat greater movement thus a wider tonal or volume range. Given the size of the instrument, this may be a minimal effect.

In my experience, the type of wood, whether it is solid or laminate, and the build quality have a greater effect on the sound than the finish. Some woods show off better with satin, others with gloss. It's personal - I prefer a matte cedar but a gloss mango wood.

08-29-2009, 04:02 AM
I only own a cheapo Uke, it is Green and very glossy. Obviously I cannot comment on sound but I do find it can get slippery on the back of the neck after a long session. For me as a learner this does make it harder, perhaps a gloss finish but not on the neck may be a good compromise?

08-29-2009, 11:39 AM
Isn't there a third "type" of finish?

I have a very shiny slick finish on my concert that does get slippery in my hands out in the humidity. Some finishes are so shiny they almost look like they were dipped or coated.

Then there's the raw wood look/feel of the Kala mahagony that I played the other day. You can actually feel the roughness of the grain.

However in photos I see finishes that almost look like a nice piece of quality furniture. Smooth, shiny but not coated looking which I find extremely attractive!