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h-drix
05-05-2008, 02:10 PM
its not allowed in the uke-glossery because it is more objective, so i decided to tart a new thread. im hoping to buy a new uke towards the end of the year, and would like to know the different sound characteristics of woods.

more specifically, i would like something that is warm and has a good sustain for both chords and finger picking.

cheers

drubin
05-05-2008, 05:33 PM
IMHO, it has as much--if not more--to do with the builder of the uke as with the woods. Much depends upon the following:

a) solid wood vs. laminate
b) mass-produced, production model, or single luither custom job
c) setup (nut, saddle, string width, height, and action, et cetera)

Most seem to agree that the soundboard (top) has the greatest effect on sound. Not just what type of wood, but how it is braced as well.

That said, general opinion holds that a solid spruce top will generally bring out the brightness of the soundbox. A cedar or redwood top, by contrast, tends to be warmer and bring out more midrange and lower frequencies.

For back and sides, mahogany and koa are traditional woods for ukulele luithery. I've heard great ukes made with both. Depending upon the luither, they can both make great soundboards too. Maple tends to be a brighter sounding wood. Then there's walnut, sycamore, rosewood, myrtle, acacia, mango, and a host of others I've read good things about. All different, but all capable (in the right hands) of making a great uke. Most can be "googled." Might be a good idea to do a few searches on woods on FMM and you'll find much. Try "tone woods," "spruce," "koa," and "mahogany" for starters.

As always, YMMV. ;)

My best advice would be, if you're thinking about a custom, 'tis best to talk with the luither and get her or his perspective on the sound qualities of various woods.

Phil Major
05-06-2008, 06:47 PM
IMHO, it has as much--if not more--to do with the builder of the uke as with the woods. Much depends upon the following:

a) solid wood vs. laminate
b) mass-produced, production model, or single luither custom job
c) setup (nut, saddle, string width, height, and action, et cetera)

Most seem to agree that the soundboard (top) has the greatest effect on sound. Not just what type of wood, but how it is braced as well.

That said, general opinion holds that a solid spruce top will generally bring out the brightness of the soundbox. A cedar or redwood top, by contrast, tends to be warmer and bring out more midrange and lower frequencies.

For back and sides, mahogany and koa are traditional woods for ukulele luithery. I've heard great ukes made with both. Depending upon the luither, they can both make great soundboards too. Maple tends to be a brighter sounding wood. Then there's walnut, sycamore, rosewood, myrtle, acacia, mango, and a host of others I've read good things about. All different, but all capable (in the right hands) of making a great uke. Most can be "googled." Might be a good idea to do a few searches on woods on FMM and you'll find much. Try "tone woods," "spruce," "koa," and "mahogany" for starters.

As always, YMMV. ;)

My best advice would be, if you're thinking about a custom, 'tis best to talk with the luither and get her or his perspective on the sound qualities of various woods.

Call me an internet amateur, but what does "YMMV" Mean? I see it and I wonder... and then I wonder if others wonder, and so on...

Thanks

Keonikapila
05-06-2008, 06:51 PM
Call me an internet amateur, but what does "YMMV" Mean? I see it and I wonder... and then I wonder if others wonder, and so on...

Thanks

YMMV = Your mileage may vary

seeso
05-06-2008, 08:04 PM
This is edited information from Ed Roman Guitars.

http://www.edroman.com/customshop/wood/main.htm


Birch

Laminated Birch consists of 1/32" layers of Birch wood which is bonded with epoxy under high pressure into a composite material. This material is remarkably tough and strong for its weight. It is denser than Birch, but not excessively heavy. It is extremely stiff, and it's composite nature tends to even out its frequency response, alleviating "dead spots" inherent in single-piece necks. It is dark gray and in color, with alternating dark and light layers.


Blackwood; African (Grenadillo)

This is the most common wood for the orchestral woodwinds. The tonal quality is bright and stays clear and direct over the flute's full range. Black with a marble like figure of dark purple and charcoal gray.


Bubinga

A very stiff strong wood with a rusty brown color. Bright midrange and bass tones. Color is medium red-brown, with lighter red to purple veins. The grain is typically straight. Fine pores are diffused throughout the wood, which often contain a reddish gum. Turns well. Salmon pink with streaks of brown.


Cedar; Alaskan (Cedar; Yellow)

An even sulfur color with no distinctive pattern. For a soft wood, Yellow Cedar is quite heavy with a density about the same as Cherry. A very stable wood and it holds it shape with no shrinkage. A durable wood resistant to decay.

Many companies use Cedar or some type of redwood specifically for finger style instruments as it responds quickly and with good volume to a light attack. It is also very well suited to open or lowered tension tunings as they require the same qualities for good separation and definition. Cedar does lose tonal integrity when over driven, making it a poor choice for versatility but an excellent top wood for showcasing finger styles.


Cedar; Aromatic

Guitar tops of Red Cedar are the Best Buy today. Material is very fine with good prices in the market. The color is light reddish brown, purplish or rose-red, usually with streaks of lighter colored sapwood. Grain is fine and even and texture is usually fine and takes a high polish.


Cedar; Spanish

Spanish Cedar is the Cedrela species from the Family Meliaceae (same family as Honduran Mahogany). Heartwood pinkish- to reddish brown when freshly cut, becoming red or dark reddish brown, sometimes with a purplish tinge. It is used in musical instruments for nylon string classical and flamenco guitars, because while similar in appearance, strength and workability to Mahogany, it is considerably lighter.


Kingwood

There are roughly a dozen species of true rose woods in the world. (Yes, they smell like roses when cut with a saw.) A partial list would include Tulip wood, King wood, Cocobolo, East Indian Rose wood, and Brazilian Rose wood. With the exception of the latter, these are oily to the point of being dead in the tone department. So what is the point in coveting these materials when there are sonic superiors available? The problem is that in the public mind, rose wood is cool, so it has long been over harvested. Because of this Brazilian Rose wood has been banned from importation to the United States for over twenty five years.


Koa

Koa is a gorgeous wood with well defined curly and flamed grain patterns as found in instrument quality Maple. The good Curly Koa is very hard to get. This very beautiful wood comes exclusively from Hawaii and has been in short supply. Weight varies somewhat from medium to heavy, a good wood for basses. Koa has a warm sound similar to mahogany, but with a little more brightness. It falls in the middle of the tonal spectrum, giving the instrument a brightness of tone without sacrificing warmth.


Mahogany

Mahogany is a moderately dense and very durable wood. It is commonly used for the backs, sides and necks of acoustic guitars. Because it is very sonorous and durable, mahogany is also used in banjos, resonators, ukuleles and acoustic guitar soundboards. It is lighter than maple and specifically provides acoustic guitars with great sustain. Mahogany also provides great weight balance between the neck and the body of an acoustic. It is reddish-brown in color and is incredibly strong and resonant, giving the guitar big, beautiful tones. African and Spanish mahoganies are often used as a replacement for Honduran Mahogany.


Mahogany; Honduran

Fender uses the Honduran variety on their set-neck series. It provides a moderate to heavy weight (body weight at least 5 lb.) with a warm, full sound and good sustain; used in conjunction with a maple top to add brightness. Honduran Mahogany is a favorite choice of instrument builders, but is very hard to find.


Maple

Maple is a strong and extremely dense, heavy wood. It is excellent for guitar necks and bodies because it can handle an inordinate amount of string tension. Maple has a bright and crisp tone and is used on flamenco guitars as well as some electrics. It has a wide variety of exotic grains that show up quite well when finished. Flamed maple is a very popular and brilliant looking exotic type of maple. "Flamed" refers to the rippling, or curls of the grain of wood that run across the body. Flamed maple in generally "book matched," which means that the body is made of two half pieces of a single cut piece of maple. This gives the guitar even weight, look and tone throughout the body.


Nato

Nato wood, also known as Eastern Mahogany, is a reliable, strong wood used on low cost guitar necks. It is a value-priced wood used more for beginner instruments. However, it still embodies some of the properties of more commonly used mahogany.


Paduak

Orange to brown color, smooth feeling when played raw. Tone similar to mahogany.


Pau Ferro

South American Hardwood, combines rosewoods warm tone with Ebony's smooth feel. Primarily available as fingerboards. Medium brown color, very smooth fine grain, warmer tone than ebony.


Maple neck with Pau Ferro fingerboard

Quarter sawn Pau Ferro has the good properties of ebony but seems to be more reliable and stable. Pau Ferro is a tight grained hard wood with excellent clarity on the "chunk" tones when using gain, especially when teamed up with an alder body. In overdrive mode it has a fatter low end and more pronounced sparkle when compared to maple. It adds excellent definition to the notes especially when using overdriven tones. Strong in the lower mids and bass, scooped mids.


Rosewood; Brazilian

Highly sought after by generations of luthiers and players for its unmatched beauty. Brazilian helps to impart warmth and darkness to the tone of the guitar. Tonal differences between Brazilian and Indian Rosewoods are subtle and consideration should be based on aesthetics, rarity, future value, and collectibility.


Rosewood; Indian

Like Brazilian, Indian Rosewood keeps the guitar at the warm dark end of the tonal spectrum. While not as visually striking as Brazilian, Indian Rosewood has an elegant appearance and should not be considered inferior to Brazilian on any account.


Spruce

Spruce is the most commonly used wood on acoustic guitar soundboards. The soundboards on acoustics are generally made of tightly grained spruce. Naturally yellow in color, spruce is a lightwood that has a very high degree of resonance, so it is a perfect match for acoustic guitars.


Solid Spruce

Solid spruce refers less to a difference in the wood than to how it is actually cut for the guitar. Laminate spruce soundboards are built as layers of cross-grained wood glued to each other. Solid spruce soundboards consist of one piece of wood running all the way through. This gives the guitar a richer sound because the solid wood soundboard can vibrate more freely and thoroughly.


Canadian Sitka Spruce

Canadian Sitka Spruce is a harder to find, more expensive variety of spruce. It has a light yellow color and is also used for acoustic guitar soundboards. It gives guitars a bigger more resonant sound, flush with crisp highs. It also improves with age more than other types of spruce.


German Spruce

This increasingly rare wood has a higher weight to strength ratio than Sitka and correspondingly complements the brightness and clarity of the guitars.


Wenge

A black hard wood with chocolate brown stripes. Very hard, coarser textured wood with open grain. Good midrange tone with warm lows. Recommended for Bass Guitars.

Kekani
05-06-2008, 10:21 PM
its not allowed in the uke-glossery because it is more objective, so i decided to tart a new thread. im hoping to buy a new uke towards the end of the year, and would like to know the different sound characteristics of woods.

more specifically, i would like something that is warm and has a good sustain for both chords and finger picking.

cheers

If you're looking to get something off the rack, that's one thing.

I would take a guess that since you're asking about woods, and are specific about the sound you're looking for, you're going with a custom.

If you're looking to get a custom, personally, you already have the best advice - talk to the builder.
He (or she) should be able to match woods to what you are looking for. While educating yourself on different combinations of woods can be good (and cut down on the consultation time), in some cases too much info can be dangerous, especially if swayed easily by opinions of others. Meaning, if you have a preconceived notion of what certain woods sound like, and order it based on that (without hearing what it'll sound like), you may get lucky, or you may be disappointed. What one builder will say matches your needs, another may disagree. Hard part is, they both may be right, depending on what the builder is doing with the build, the two may take different paths to the same end.

And, if you plan on getting a custom by the end of the year, depending on the builder - I would put the order in now. Most guys I know won't do it by year's end (okay, maybe next year's end).

That being said, you can also check out LMI or John Kitakis' site (to be more `uke specific).

-Aaron

h-drix
05-07-2008, 12:09 AM
unfortunately i dont have the money for a custom. i am buying off the shelf, know what types of wood makes what sound is helpful, at least in drums you buy by the type of wood used on the drum. it might be completely diffrent with uke.

just for the hell of it Ill look in to a custom, just see what the prices are. i live next to two cities so there should be a few luthiers, this weekend ill email around.

tad
05-07-2008, 01:15 AM
unfortunately i dont have the money for a custom. i am buying off the shelf, know what types of wood makes what sound is helpful, at least in drums you buy by the type of wood used on the drum. it might be completely diffrent with uke.

just for the hell of it Ill look in to a custom, just see what the prices are. i live next to two cities so there should be a few luthiers, this weekend ill email around.

Well, there's Glyph in Anapolis (http://www.glyphukulele.com/)...

Out of my price range, but not a horrible deal, from some of the prices I've heard quoted around here...

Kekani
05-07-2008, 06:06 AM
If B-more means Baltimore, tad is right - Dave Means is in your area. He taken's pot shots from other builders on another forum (respectful shots, by the way) because his prices are way to low for what he does. Doesn't make sense how he stays in business, but he does.

If you're looking for a "deal" in a custom (if there is such a thing), Dave is a good place to start. In fact, his prices (last I saw) is just slightly over a factory instrument, and, in many cases, way cheaper than the factories' special models (Kamaka Ohta San & Jake, GString James Hill, KoAloha Daniel Ho, Herb Jr., Pineapple Sunday, Artist's Sceptre, etc).

While the lower end instruments will give you tonal qualities associated with the woods, the custom builders and local factories will usually be able to stretch it and bring out qualities and complexities that would otherwise be non-existent.

If you really want a good price, I know Joe Souza at Kanile`a does a really good job with his builds, and his prices are really low for what he does.

deach
05-07-2008, 06:17 AM
Glyphs start at $785. I think he's looking at the $200-$350 range.

h-drix
05-07-2008, 08:59 AM
Ill look in to customs, but i highy doubt ill find a builder in the 300$ range.

also how much would a +13 fret uke be? since the average uke only has 12 frets.

tad
05-07-2008, 11:48 AM
Glyphs start at $785. I think he's looking at the $200-$350 range.

Sorry, that wasn't really made clear anywhere in the thread...

deach
05-07-2008, 11:59 AM
Sorry, that wasn't really made clear anywhere in the thread...

He mentioned it in a different thread. Everything is a big blur right now. Sorry. :o

seeso
05-07-2008, 12:07 PM
Ill look in to customs, but i highy doubt ill find a builder in the 300$ range.

also how much would a +13 fret uke be? since the average uke only has 12 frets.

Ukuleles aren't priced by the fret. The way you pose this question makes it seem like you expect all +13 fret ukuleles to cost the same.

wearymicrobe
05-07-2008, 12:57 PM
Glyphs start at $785. I think he's looking at the $200-$350 range.

+ a three year wait at this point.

To add even more confusion, there are laminate carbon tops as well, spruce/carbon/cedar that they do in the classical guitar world. These to me are the best of almost all worlds, you can build extra thin tops with the strength of a thicker top.

I completely intend to find a builder who will make such a ukulele if I provide the sandwich material. I have been playing with the autoclave and vacuum systems at work.

deach
05-07-2008, 01:01 PM
....
To add even more confusion, there are laminate carbon tops as well, spruce/carbon/cedar that they do in the classical guitar world. These to me are the best of almost all worlds, you can build extra thin tops with the strength of a thicker top.
...

Are there ukuleles made like the Rainsong guitars? I think they have all carbon bodies.

h-drix
05-07-2008, 03:48 PM
Ukuleles aren't priced by the fret. The way you pose this question makes it seem like you expect all +13 fret ukuleles to cost the same.

sorry, i meant...(let me word this with an example) if a Lanikai was 12 frets and cost 200 and the exact same model had 18 frets would the 18 fret uke cost anymore?

with a bass (guitar) if one gets a three octave bass it costs more then your "normal" two octave bass.

edit: sorry for all the confusion, i didnt realize i would end up making two threads so close to each other.

deach
05-07-2008, 04:32 PM
sorry, i meant...(let me word this with an example) if a Lanikai was 12 frets and cost 200 and the exact same model had 18 frets would the 18 fret uke cost anymore?
....

Yes, A soprano will cost less than a concert, or even a soprano with a concert neck. If you look at Bushman's the cost varies from $20-$40 for each step in size.

seeso
05-07-2008, 04:47 PM
In your price range, these are the brands you're looking at:

Bushman
Fluke/Flea
Koa Pili Koko
Kala
Lanikai
Oscar Schmidt

With these mass-produced ukulele companies, you don't have the option of swapping out the normal neck for a longer one with more frets. They make what they make. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Take a look at those brands, and then decide what size you want. The number of frets on each size will differ from company to company.

You want a warmer sound, so look at Mahogany models, Cedar tops, or Koa models. You won't find any solid Koa models in your price range. They will all be laminates. Stay away from spruce, as spruce gives a bright tone.

I haven't played any Koa Pili Kokos, but from what I've heard, they're a good brand. They are made from the same family of tree as Koa. The wood is solid - no laminates.

deach
05-07-2008, 05:02 PM
Add

Ohana
Hamano
Pono
Kiwaya (I think)
Cordoba
Applause

Probably some others. This is why UAS is maddening.

drubin
05-07-2008, 05:18 PM
Actually, there are some handmade ukes out there that go for less than one might think.

Check out the following:

http://www.sprucehouseukuleles.com/

http://picasaweb.google.com/obmissy

Both luithers sometimes sell on ebay.

For instance,

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&item=220231923831

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&item=220231948593

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&item=250245437728

I've never played their ukes myself, but would like to try one out to see how they fare.

h-drix
05-08-2008, 12:21 AM
thanks to both seeso and deach, and everyone else who has put up with this confuzzled sea lion.

to seeso: must spread rep =(

ichadwick
05-31-2008, 12:43 PM
I am again feeling the effects of UAS and this time considering a couple of tenors on MGM's site. Some advice on sounds would be appreciated.

One is mango wood, the other maple. They're both beautiful (the maple especially). Has anyone had any experience with either wood - what sort of sound does it make compared to, say, mahogany or spruce? I would think the harder woods would tend towards a brighter, crisper sound.

(In comparison, I have a tenor Kala with solid spruce top, a couple of Flukes and a mahognay laminate soprano. Any reference points with these? I really like my Kala spruce top's sound - bright and resonant. Would mango or maple sound similar? )


On the other side, I am looking at a spruce top baritone, but I'm a bit iffy on baritones because I already have an acoustic guitar and am not sure if a baritone is really what I want.

Rubbertoe
05-31-2008, 01:46 PM
This is edited information from Ed Roman Guitars.

http://www.edroman.com/customshop/wood/main.htm


Birch

Laminated Birch consists of 1/32" layers of Birch wood which is bonded with epoxy...

...and clarity of the guitars.


Wenge

A black hard wood with chocolate brown stripes. Very hard, coarser textured wood with open grain. Good midrange tone with warm lows. Recommended for Bass Guitars.


note: I didn't want to re-post all the info but just so you know that it's from the Almighty Seeso!


Wow! Seeso! Thanks for posting this! There's so much info here. Now I just have to save up some cash to have ukes made from each type of wood. As always, you da Man!

wearymicrobe
05-31-2008, 06:36 PM
Are there ukuleles made like the Rainsong guitars? I think they have all carbon bodies.

This is not quite like that, these are true modern classical in the 20-40K range that use this tech.

It really is a sandwich of material glued up and stuck in a vacuum for a while. I use something similar to make composite parts for my job so I figure once I get a thickness sander and I can go down to 1/32-64 and still have something left that looks like a top then I will try it.

I want a top that I don't have to brace when I build and then use a standard bowled back.

ichadwick
06-02-2008, 12:55 AM
What I'd really like to see is some empirical data - put some ukes with various materials on a bench and crank out some oscilloscope charts. I want to know more about the acoustic properties of wood from a scientific perspective. Anyone know of any research done into this?

dave g
06-02-2008, 06:14 AM
I'm using mainly fir for tops, and sycamore, oak, ash, and walnut for the rest, with very good results.

ichadwick
06-02-2008, 10:27 AM
I'm using mainly fir for tops, and sycamore, oak, ash, and walnut for the rest, with very good results.

Good woods, I agree. I am interested in comparing them with hardwoods. With new woods and exotic coming into the market these days, it would be a nice study to do. And then there is the question of how well laminates do. We've all argued this - purists argue for whole woods (a position I appreciate: I argue for 100% agave tequilas all the time..). But are they really better based on data or just urban myth?

Howlin Hobbit
06-02-2008, 04:18 PM
What I'd really like to see is some empirical data - put some ukes with various materials on a bench and crank out some oscilloscope charts.

That would be kind of pointless. There are way too many variables besides just type of wood when making a ukulele (or other instrument).

Plus there will be variations between the same kind of wood from two different trees of the species and even between two different parts of the same tree.

It's a living organism (before we ruthlessly hew it down for our strumming pleasure) and is thus subject to all sorts of chaos theory.

Then there's the luthier's skills, talents and mindset. Say you have luthier W, X, Y and Z. You tell luthier W and X to build a spruce top soprano with say, a mahogany body and rosewood fretboard. Y and Z are to build cedar topped sopranos with koa bodies and ebony fretboards. Not only would you get variances between the spruce and cedar topped models, you'd get variances between the two by W and X and differences between the two by Y and Z.


And then there is the question of how well laminates do . . . purists argue for whole woods . . . are they really better based on data or just urban myth?

Laminates don't "open up" like solids. They are layers of wood with their grain facing differently and layers of glue between them.

There are certainly some more than acceptable laminate ukes out there. But with the "all other things being equal" theorem applied, a decent or better quality solid wood (or at least, solid top) uke will beat out a decent or better quality laminate in volume and tone probably nine times out of ten.

It's not a "purist" thing nor an "urban legend." It's countless ears over a long space of time coming to that conclusion.

Now, in all fairness, it also depends on what kind of sound you're looking for. The inimitable Hot Time Harv (http://www.myspace.com/hottimeharv) has a "no uke should cost more than $30" rule. And for the type of music he does, the plinky sound of those kind of ukes is absolutely perfect. No sarcasm there. His stuff is fab, but it's within it's own genre. And the ukes sound fine.

It just goes back to my basic rule: If it's making the sounds you want, you're doing it right.

deach
06-02-2008, 04:35 PM
...
Laminates don't "open up" like solids. They are layers of wood with their grain facing differently and layers of glue between them.
....

I've heard and even used this term. But what does it really mean? :confused:

Howlin Hobbit
06-02-2008, 05:06 PM
Laminates don't "open up" like solids. They are layers of wood with their grain facing differently and layers of glue between them.

I've heard and even used this term. But what does it really mean? :confused:

OK. This is a strictly non-technical explanation. Over the course of time the fibers in the wood align themselves, as a result of the vibrations from the strings, into a configuration that "syncs up" with said vibrations better. The tone and volume each shows improvement (the former generally more than the latter).

An instrument that gets put away and not played for a long time can sort of "close up" as well, at least to a certain extent. That's why you can sometimes buy a vintage instrument and still experience the opening up phenomenon.

deach
06-02-2008, 05:07 PM
HH - Thanks!

drubin
06-02-2008, 05:17 PM
Laminates don't "open up" like solids. They are layers of wood with their grain facing differently and layers of glue between them.

There are certainly some more than acceptable laminate ukes out there. But with the "all other things being equal" theorem applied, a decent or better quality solid wood (or at least, solid top) uke will beat out a decent or better quality laminate in volume and tone probably nine times out of ten.

It's not a "purist" thing nor an "urban legend." It's countless ears over a long space of time coming to that conclusion.

I'm not sure about this, Howlin' Hobbit...:confused: Maybe things are different in the uke world (which I'm still relatively new to), and I admit that I haven't tried very many laminate ukes (especially high quality ones), but I've played plenty of laminate guitars and dobros over the years. Trust me, they do "open up" over time; with consistent playing and care, the wood does "settle" into place in a manner similar to what happens on a solid wood instrument. I think that one of the many "myths" in the "laminates vs. solid" debate is that "solid" is invariably superior. I'm not yet convinced. Just like with solid woods, the quality of the laminate wood plays a huge role. Quality finish birch is quite expensive and most definitely opens up, at least in my experience. Of course, much of this is subjective and YMMV. But I just wanted to throw a different perspective into the mix. ;)

dave g
06-02-2008, 05:25 PM
I've heard and even used this term. But what does it really mean? :confused:

"Laminate" = Plywood

deach
06-02-2008, 05:30 PM
"Laminate" = Plywood

LOL, I meant "opening up".

I would love to hear the difference between an un-opened and an opened ukulele or guitar.

cMejilla
06-02-2008, 06:18 PM
i'm so glad h-drix started this thread and the other UAS-fueling one because I just can't decide on what soprano uke to get.

cMejilla
06-02-2008, 07:00 PM
hey h-drix

if you're looking for a soprano with some extra frets, kala makes a long neck soprano.

http://www.besthawaiianukulele.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=241

there are other places that sold it for cheaper but i lost the links for them. i'm gunna find them again and i'll post them back up here for everyone else to price shop.

Edit: I think I'll post this in the other thread that talked about purchasing a uke since it'll be more appropriate for the thread topic. (found here: http://ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?p=35064#post35064)

ichadwick
06-03-2008, 03:05 AM
That would be kind of pointless. There are way too many variables besides just type of wood when making a ukulele (or other instrument).
I disagree (respectfully, but adamantly). Each wood produces an acoustic signature that indicates its ability to transmit various frequencies that can be measured and a reasonable range of results produced. Regardless of how an instrument is built, that wood will influence the sound within that known range. For example, spruce will sound different from ebony because it is, on average, less dense.


Plus there will be variations between the same kind of wood from two different trees of the species and even between two different parts of the same tree.
True, but an average/media picture can be obtained to determine which woods transmit which frequencies best, and which have greater sustain, resonance, etc.


It's a living organism (before we ruthlessly hew it down for our strumming pleasure) and is thus subject to all sorts of chaos theory.

Then there's the luthier's skills, talents and mindset. Say you have luthier W, X, Y and Z. You tell luthier W and X to build a spruce top soprano with say, a mahogany body and rosewood fretboard. Y and Z are to build cedar topped sopranos with koa bodies and ebony fretboards. Not only would you get variances between the spruce and cedar topped models, you'd get variances between the two by W and X and differences between the two by Y and Z.
However: take any two finished ukes with different woods and put them on a bench with a 'scope and you will see the difference immediately in how they transmit sound in a way your ear can't tell (and as I get older, my ability to hear some higher ranges is getting worse, so I like the objective method more and more).

In general, with the larger companies, each model will be made in pretty much the same manner as all others in that line. I doubt that, for example, Kala's spruce-topped cutaways are made differently than their mahogany-topped cutaways. So it would be - for me - interesting to measure the results in a scientific manner.


Laminates don't "open up" like solids. They are layers of wood with their grain facing differently and layers of glue between them.

There are certainly some more than acceptable laminate ukes out there. But with the "all other things being equal" theorem applied, a decent or better quality solid wood (or at least, solid top) uke will beat out a decent or better quality laminate in volume and tone probably nine times out of ten.

It's not a "purist" thing nor an "urban legend." It's countless ears over a long space of time coming to that conclusion.
I agree about laminates based on several deacdes playing guitar and other instruments. But like everyone here, my belief is based on my subjective experience, not any research to proove what I believe is actually correct.

Perhaps the extra density of a laminate is better for transmitting certain higher frequencies. Perhaps the glue contributes to a certain mellowness. An argument can be made that laminating different woods will create a more complex tonal pattern than any single wood can offer. Who can say for sure without proof?

And as for 'opening up' - the material actually adjusting to and changing densities in response to the sound as it is played and ages - again that's my impression. But while it seems common sense, is it true? Has anyone ever measured the long-term effects of sound vibration on solid versus laminate materials? I know there were studies in the 80s about sound effects in solid wood, but were there others done on laminates?

I want to know, not guess.

All this came about because I wanted to know what people thought of mango and other non-traditional woods as a material in ukuleles. I haven't really had a lot of response to that question, but I'm getting serious about a nice Pono mango uke the more I write about this... :rolleyes: - and losing interest in the spalted maple laminate model. So many ukes, so little time (and money).

ichadwick
06-03-2008, 04:01 AM
Which brings me to another question: how would you compare cedar with spruce and mahogany for sound? (yes, subjectively...). Any real or significant difference?

To my tin ear, spruce is brighter than mahogany, but I can't recall how cedar sounds (I had a cedar top Yamaha guitar I loved, but it's long gone...).

dave g
06-03-2008, 04:02 AM
LOL, I meant "opening up".

I would love to hear the difference between an un-opened and an opened ukulele or guitar.

Opps - I knew that was too easy :)

I hear a distinct change in new instruments from the first time I string them up, to a few days later after playing them a while. Hard to describe - they just sort of get worked in and start sounding better... The sound becomes more "full", sustain increases, etc.

GX9901
06-03-2008, 05:47 AM
Which brings me to another question: how would you compare cedar with spruce and mahogany for sound? (yes, subjectively...). Any real or significant difference?

To my tin ear, spruce is brighter than mahogany, but I can't recall how cedar sounds (I had a cedar top Yamaha guitar I loved, but it's long gone...).

I made a quick video playing 3 tenors, one with spruce top (Pono), one with cedar top (Pono), one with koa top (Koa Works):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgmvpZncKn8

From the video the difference isn't that easy to tell, but the cedar top has the puchiest sound with a heavy percussive quality. The spruce top, which hasn't "opened up" yet, has a more focused sound but not as punchy/boomy as the cedar top. The koa top isn't as punchy as the other two, but it has a very sweet and clear rining sound.

The thing is, if you played the 3 ukes in person, there will be no question that the Koa Works is several leagues better, in terms of sound, than the 2 Ponos. I don't believe it's due to the type of wood used, because I've played koa topped Ponos that doesn't come close to the Koa Works in sound. This demonstrates that the luthier building the instruments have a lot more to do with the sound of a particular instrument than the type of wood used, at least in my opinion.

ichadwick
06-03-2008, 07:26 AM
Nice. Thanks. Hard to tell the subtle differences on the Net, but I appreciate your efforts and your comments. I'm afraid that, on my limited budget, a Koa Works is out of the question (not to mention the destruction my wife would do to me should I buy one...). Besides, it would be wasted on my level of talent. I've been considering a couple of models including Kala and Pono cedar tops, koa and mango. Still undecided, though.

I'd love to get the tab for that piece! It's great and you play it very well. Please post a link to the score if you have one.

GX9901
06-03-2008, 08:38 AM
I'd love to get the tab for that piece! It's great and you play it very well. Please post a link to the score if you have one.

Check with our resident tab-master Dominator for the tabs to Let's Dance. It's definitely a fun one to play.

bsting
06-03-2008, 09:23 AM
wow, this is such a great and informative thread...
wood is such an interesting issue. i guess from my experience with guitars it seems you never truly know about an instrument until you play it.

for instance, at least with guitars, i predicted i would like something rich and deep...like mahogany. but my favorite acoustic is my solid spruce top, which i prefer to my brother's solid mahogany guitar, even though it sounds equally beautiful. we each played a lot of guitars (me especially!) before finding our individual preferences.

ukes can't be too different?

and then of course workmanship plays a role...factory vs handmade...but that's a comparison i'm not informed enough to make...

ichadwick
06-03-2008, 09:25 AM
I'm still waffling between cedar and mango... but cedar seems to win the tone zone, but mango wins hands down for looks.

deach
06-03-2008, 09:30 AM
I'm still waffling between cedar and mango... but cedar seems to win the tone zone, but mango wins hands down for looks.

Get both. Hang the mango in front you while you play the cedar.

h-drix
06-03-2008, 11:44 AM
Besides, it would be wasted on my level of talent.

real bad mind set to get in to. IMO it is the silliest of ideas not to buy an instrument because one isnt "good enough". If i had a pono i would be more inclined to practice EVEN MORE then what i already do with my kay (and i practice my kay a lot).

Not only that but a better instrument will make you feel more confident to play, and its when you have confidence that you can correct your mistakes and become better. my orchestra conductor always tells us "i dont care if you play out of key as long as you play loud and with confidence, that way you can fix any mistake"

no anger directed at you, its just not a good habit to doubt your self (i should really listen to my own advice:D)

seeso
06-03-2008, 01:33 PM
Here are some scientific results I found:

http://www.larrystamm.com/wood_testing.php

http://forums.birdsandmoons.com/forum/showthread.php?p=588138

There's also a book, "Left-Brain Lutherie: Using Physics and Enineering Concepts for Building Guitar Family Instruments : an Introductory Guide to Their Practical Application (http://books.google.com/books?id=l5uInDconwAC&dq=left+brain+lutherie&pg=PP1&ots=Sj5xP6GVJ2&sig=G2XQWVO9nWyECedrkubnVPeMKRY&hl=en&prev=http://www.google.com/search%3Fclient%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den-us%26q%3Dleft%2Bbrain%2Blutherie%26ie%3DUTF-8%26oe%3DUTF-8&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title&cad=one-book-with-thumbnail)"

And finally, there is a Yahoo Group called, "leftbrainluthiers (http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/leftbrainluthiers/)."

ichadwick
06-04-2008, 12:48 AM
real bad mind set to get in to. IMO it is the silliest of ideas not to buy an instrument because one isnt "good enough". If i had a pono i would be more inclined to practice EVEN MORE then what i already do with my kay (and i practice my kay a lot).

Not only that but a better instrument will make you feel more confident to play, and its when you have confidence that you can correct your mistakes and become better. my orchestra conductor always tells us "i dont care if you play out of key as long as you play loud and with confidence, that way you can fix any mistake"

no anger directed at you, its just not a good habit to doubt your self (i should really listen to my own advice:D)

Nah, not self doubt. Simple recognition of my skill level and needs. I've been playing music for >four decades. I know what I can and can't do, and what works best for me. I play for myself these days, for the sheer fun of it. I practice daily, too. I don't give a damn if anyone likes it or not. I'm enjoying what I do with it.

I won't waste my money on a $30 instrument either - I get reasonably good ones because I understand the price-quality relationship. But it would be a waste to buy a Martin guitar when I get as much pleasure and practice from a $400 Takamine. I know: I've owned the Martin in the past and it sounded stunning, but it was my $300 Guild I took to jam sessions and parties. I didn't want my $2,500 guitar to get dinged or scraped, but my Guild was a warrior I could take anywhere.

Ditto with a $1,000+ ukulele. I'm quite comfy with one at the $300 level that I can cart around, not worry about its health as much and still have a blast.

ichadwick
06-06-2008, 06:38 AM
There;s an interesting comment on Panteon Guitars (http://www.pantheonguitars.com/tonewoods.htm) about tonewoods and the differences between spruce and other woods, including cedar, mahogany and koa. And another on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonewood) about various woods.

My current options are: Pono or Kala cedar top. The Pono has dolid rosewood sides and back, the Kala has koa (laminate? seems so...). Not sure how much these will affect the sound, but both have solid cedar tops, are cutaway and have maple binding and pickup.

ichadwick
06-06-2008, 11:32 AM
Well, I'll let you know what I think about cedar - I ordered the Pono.

My wife's going to remove some of my body parts to which I'm rather attached. But maybe it will be fair compensation...

tozan
07-27-2008, 08:23 AM
Just read thru the whole thread.
I'm glad to find out someone is going thru similar agonizing thought processes and tangents.
Great information.
I hope you're enjoying the new ukulele.

freedive135
07-27-2008, 08:58 AM
I just read it also...
Lots to think on...

What do you think of the cedar?

Plainsong
07-27-2008, 09:22 AM
I went from being in uke bliss, to (while still being in uke bliss) adding two ukes to my shopping list in the course of a day. :(

There is no cure for UAS, so please, give generously.

My uklectic has a Spanish Cedar neck and body, and I loves it. Very natural sound, even for a thin body electric instrument.