PDA

View Full Version : a bit of uke history?



lonsilog
01-12-2010, 07:59 PM
Does anyone know (or know of a link) a bit of history regarding the uke design? Specifically, was there a point when wood was used for the nut and saddle? I ask because I am wondering why some makers (Kelii, KPK) still use rosewood for the nut and saddle, and not tusq or ivory or even ebony if they want to stay with wood. Is it to stick with tradition? or budget?

I've been searching everywhere online and cannot find anything.

I apologize ahead if it is a naive question. I pose the query for a bit of personal enrichment.

koalohapaul
01-12-2010, 09:04 PM
I believe it's personal preference, due to acoustics and/or aesthetics. We used ebony for a long time, until finally switching over to a modern man made material, Tusq. I do still use ebony and bone, when the build calls for them. It might be a small visual aesthetic or nuance of tone I'm trying to achieve, but different materials do have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Visually, wood nuts and saddles have a very earthy look. Tone can vary, depending on what's being used.

Modern materials such as Tusq or Corian tend to look clean, but lack some of the warmth of wood. Again, tone will vary, depending on what's used.

Bone and ivory are somewhere in between the two. While not as earthy as wood, you can still tell that it's a natural material and there is a certain amount of visual softness that's achieved.

While there may be more to the answer, I believe the other builders like Ken and Keli'i stick to wood, simply because they like using them.

lonsilog
01-13-2010, 02:12 AM
I believe it's personal preference, due to acoustics and/or aesthetics. We used ebony for a long time, until finally switching over to a modern man made material, Tusq. I do still use ebony and bone, when the build calls for them. It might be a small visual aesthetic or nuance of tone I'm trying to achieve, but different materials do have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Visually, wood nuts and saddles have a very earthy look. Tone can vary, depending on what's being used.

Modern materials such as Tusq or Corian tend to look clean, but lack some of the warmth of wood. Again, tone will vary, depending on what's used.

Bone and ivory are somewhere in between the two. While not as earthy as wood, you can still tell that it's a natural material and there is a certain amount of visual softness that's achieved.

While there may be more to the answer, I believe the other builders like Ken and Keli'i stick to wood, simply because they like using them.

Thank you koalohapaul. That is very informative.

I like the look of wood nut and saddle, and I find the sound warm and appealing more often than not. With my budget, I ended up getting a Kelii tenor as my first "real" uke investment, and its sound is what lured me. However, I also find that my tenor is a tad more muted than my Kala KA-S, but only when I play it... others say the tenor is louder when I play it, and it is likely due to the soundhole projecting out rather than up (to me). I find I can hear myself better if I play into a wall or a small room. It may also be the strings (I haven't changed them yet), and I will be changing them with Worth CTs so maybe that will help.

I like the look of ebony, and I agree that the sound is warmer than tusq but sharper than rosewood. I've also heard great things about ivory, but mostly from guitar players.

These are things I will be taking into consideration for my next ukulele purchase.

Michael_
01-14-2010, 12:50 AM
Related to the topic: Does anybody know why the original ukuleles were built in guitar shape and not, let's say pineapple? I don't see the reason to do the extra bend in the body. For guitars it's obvious, you want to put them on your knee. But for ukuleles?

paraclete
01-14-2010, 05:37 AM
The original ukuleles were built by Portugese luthiers, if I remember my history correctly. My guess would be the shape was to look like a miniature guitar... the first travel guitar maybe?

I was intrigued by your question about wood nuts and saddles. Rosewood is one of those amazing tone woods. I make guitar picks from wood, and there is a marked difference in sound among various woods.... ebony is warm and round, rosewood bright and loud, purpleheart fairly ordinary, laurelwood similar to rosewood but not as bright. Cherry and oak are really unimpressive.

Ahnko Honu
01-14-2010, 07:49 AM
Related to the topic: Does anybody know why the original ukuleles were built in guitar shape and not, let's say pineapple? I don't see the reason to do the extra bend in the body. For guitars it's obvious, you want to put them on your knee. But for ukuleles?

Tradition based on old world roots. Sam Kamaka broke with tradition, and the rest is history. To me the pineapple shape is pure Hawaiian first designed and built by a Hawaiian in Hawai'i from endemic hardwood.