View Full Version : Uke that sounds like a classical guitar?

12-24-2009, 10:58 AM
Now before anyone misunderstands my question and says "just buy a classical guitar then", let me clear that up a bit. What I mean is that nylon string sound, that punchy, smooth, somewhat dead sound, but resonant (if that even correlates), tone which is also great for single string fingerpicking... well kinda like flamenco sound I guess.

With that said, I have listened to many of MGM's videos and the ones that appeal to me the most are the Compass Rose ukes! Am I in the right ballpark in thinking that those have the sound I'm after?

12-24-2009, 11:29 AM
I think they have a deeper mellower tone than most ukuleles giving it that guitarish sound. I think it has more to do with the tone woods that Rick Turner (http://www.renaissanceguitars.com/tenor-ukulele.php) uses. Just maybe he'll also see this thread and provide a better answer than I can.

12-24-2009, 11:39 AM
I'm a little confused as to what sound you're going for. Your adjectives seem to contradict each other - punchy/smooth, dead/resonant, classical/flamenco. These pairs of adjectives contradict each other.

If you're going for the warm, resonant, classical guitar sound, choose a cedar top with rosewood back and sides, or an all mahogany ukulele.

If you're going for the punchy, bright, flamenco guitar sound, use spruce for the top, and maple, myrtle, lacewood, or cypress for the back and sides. Rosewood back and sides would work too.

Interestingly, koa works for both sounds. It depends on the builder and strings you use.

For a moderately priced ukulele with a classical guitar sound, I'd get a cedar/rosewood Mainland and string it with either Worth browns or D'addario Pro Artes.

For a moderately priced ukulele with a flamenco sound, I'd get a spruce/lacewood Kala and string it with Aquilas.

12-24-2009, 12:17 PM
The D'Addario Pro Arte strings UU sells are really just classical guitar strings repackaged for uke, I would try giving those a shot if you haven't. A $5 set of strings might provide the sound you're looking for without having to get a new uke... not to discourage buying one though.

12-24-2009, 01:01 PM
Hi, fscott, and welcome to UU. You should stop by and introduce yourself here (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=38) and tell us a little more about your musical background.

Why don't you just get a guitar, then. J/K. :D

There's such a thing as a guitalele, which is a small 6-string guitar about the size of a tenor uke. I believe it's tuned a fifth higher than regular guitar.

If you want a bigger sound that's closer to guitar, definitely go with a tenor (over concert or soprano), and you might go with low-G tuning for a less "ukey" sound.

Then there's the baritone uke, which is played with the same tuning as the top four guitar strings.

The Compass Rose is a gorgeous uke and it sounds great. But at over $1K, it's not exactly an entry-level instrument. Unless you're filthy rich or just won the lottery, I'd advise you to start a little lower on the totem pole.

Personally, I think flourocarbon strings (like Worths) sound more guitar-like than the Aquila nylguts. I have carbon trebles on both my guitars and prefer them over nylon, but as mentioned, the D'Addario uke strings are really just re-branded nylon guitar strings and some prefer nylon. Nylon strings tend to be thicker than carbons.

12-24-2009, 01:14 PM
a tenor with classical guitar strings, and spruce or cedar top, will have the same scale length, string gauge, tension, as a classical guitar, and should sound darn close.

Also, consider Loprinzi, they mostly make guitars. I have one of their sopranos. It has a woody, Renaissance sound as opposed to an Oriental or Hawaiian sound. They make tenors too.

12-24-2009, 02:02 PM
Yes compass roses are full deep guitarish ukuleles...Its in the design and his necks are more like guitar players are used to also .....

12-24-2009, 02:26 PM
a tenor with classical guitar strings, and spruce or cedar top, will have the same scale length, string gauge, tension, as a classical guitar, and should sound darn close.
No, not really.

Here's my tenor next to a standard sized classical guitar.


12-24-2009, 04:04 PM
No, not really.

Here's my tenor next to a standard sized classical guitar.


If you measure the guitar from the bridge to the 5th fret, where notes are the same, you should get 19" or so, which is close to the tenor's 17".

I even have my guitars tuned to D which means the notes are the same at the 7th fret, which for me is 17" and exactly the same as a tenor uke.

You didn't take into account that the longer neck of the guitar is for playing lower notes, but the scale lengths are roughly the same for the same notes on both instruments.

12-24-2009, 04:20 PM
Oceana makes some ukes in classical guitar style and sound. I have a baritone that is very much like a classical guitar. Mine came from Crossroads Music in Port Townsend WA. Here is the web link to the luthier:



Rick Turner
12-24-2009, 06:34 PM
I very deliberately designed the Compass Rose tenor ukes to appeal to guitar players, and the bracing pattern was highly influenced by classical guitars. Our design is fairly consistent, and the different woods do tilt the sound one way or another. For instance, I think our koa, mahogany, or California sycamore topped ukes are more suited to a high "G" tuning, whereas spruce, cedar or some of the other hardwoods like cherry, walnut, or maple are better with the low "G" tuning. And in this general direction, I have to say that ukes just do not go by the same rules as guitars. Woods I'd never consider for a decent acoustic guitar work great on ukes if thinned and graduated correctly and strung correctly.

Re. our necks. Yes...absolutely...I'm trying to make ukes that will not feel too unfamiliar to guitar players; there's more meat behind the fingerboard than you get with many more traditional ukes. My own playing is leaning towards chord/melody jazz, and I think our ukes are good for that.

My goal is not to compete with the many Island-style uke builders whose work I greatly admire, but rather to bring more guitar players over to the joys of our four stringed, flea-bitten uke. My design for the current Compass Rose tenor is no accident, nor was it without a lot of consideration. I think I know the clients for whom I designed this particular uke. There will be others...uke designs and clients...

I'm basically a designer, and as such I take on a challenge here, a challenge there, and I try to look under the surface of any project I take on...and I try to be mindful of just whom I'm attempting to appeal to. The Compass Rose tenor uke was and is a guitar player's uke. No apologies, no regrets, no problem!

12-25-2009, 01:48 AM
Thanks for all the replies folks! I guess my post might have had some contradicting adjectives like dead/resonant... but that's the only way I know to describe what I like to hear. And another reason I mentioned the Compass Rose ukes as appealing to my ear.

And thanks for the nice reply Rick. So my ears are still good even when listening to videos.

I am an acoustic guitar fingerstyle picker, a classical guitarist second, and a mandolin picker too. Not afraid to jump in an purchase an excellent uke because I know what I like to hear and I know I'll enjoy playing it. Will be fun to take some of my new acoustic jazz music over to the uke!

12-25-2009, 03:00 AM
I forgot to mention. What I notice in acoustic instruments is how much tone is lost up the neck. That's true for mandolin and guitar too. For a uke I think it's more pronounced due to the smaller body so it seems to me that some tend to fizzle out on the top register, especially noticeable with the 3rd and 4th strings (on a low G tuning), but I hear this too with the 1st and 2nd strings. Ukes in general sound fantastic in the lower positions. So I think my ears tend to like the Ukes that are resonant and toneful all the way up the neck.

I don't think price is necessarily the dividing line though since a couple of the Pono's seemed to sound pretty good up to the 12 fret. What I like to hear is an evenness of tone all the way up the neck.