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fizgig
02-02-2010, 04:12 PM
I've heard a little about the break-in period for new ukes. I just purchased a new Kala Acacia Tenor and have greatly enjoyed owning it thus far. However, in the last day or so I've noticed it delivering less sustain than usual. I just received it last week and it had excellent sustain right out of the box. The strings are new Aquila high-G tenors. I'm 85% sure it isn't all in my head. Could this be due to a break-in period that I should patiently wait out or should I be concerned?

Paul December
02-02-2010, 05:20 PM
That doesn't make any sense.... I'm guessing it must be something else.
I own (and love) the same uke. This uke is very particular on were your pick/strum it. It doesn't sound nearly as loud and lacks sustain if you strum/pick right over the sound hole, but sounds fantastic when you play in front of the sound hole (toward the neck).
Could you be just playing it differently?

fizgig
02-02-2010, 05:40 PM
I just went back to check my technique and it appears the sustain has gone back to normal. I was noticing a lack of sustain above fret 5 before. I just filed down my nails somewhat (for classical guitar) so perhaps that made a difference. Or perhaps it's time to check myself in. Either way I'm happy. Thanks for responding at any rate.

Moondoggie
02-03-2010, 06:45 AM
How about temperature changes where you're playing? Maybe temps were just different enough to where things were tighter/looser than you were used to and your ears picked up the change?

The Lanikai was the only string instrument I had played before getting my Kala and was all I had when I saw Jake S. in concert. I was amazed at all of the noise he could still make without strumming or plucking. Once I got my Kala, I finally figured out how he did it. Okay, not necessarily how he did it, but how he could do it. :) One of my favorite "idly messing around with the uke" things is hammering the bottom three strings at the third fret over and over in this pattern:

4-off-4-off-3-off-3-off-2-off-2-off-off-2-off-off

Makes more sense when you just do it :) One of these days I'll figure out how to write a song around that.

Ukuleleblues
02-04-2010, 12:52 AM
I've heard a little about the break-in period for new ukes. I just purchased a new Kala Acacia Tenor and have greatly enjoyed owning it thus far. However, in the last day or so I've noticed it delivering less sustain than usual. I just received it last week and it had excellent sustain right out of the box. The strings are new Aquila high-G tenors. I'm 85% sure it isn't all in my head. Could this be due to a break-in period that I should patiently wait out or should I be concerned? If the temperature has gotten lower it will sustain less. If it is solid wood as it breaks in the wood will loosen up and you should get more sustain. But the temperature and to a lesser extent humidity will affect the sustain. I've played outside when it is cold (<45) and there is a pronounced drop off in sustain.

buddhuu
02-04-2010, 01:35 AM
This is a personal opinion only, but it is based on 35+ years of string abuse. YMMV.

If you are talking about the strings breaking in, then I can believe that the sound of a set of strings could change pretty quickly.

With an 'ukulele I do not believe that the process of breaking in (known to mandolin, fiddle and guitar players as "opening up") of the actual instrument is likely to happen within a short period of time. Ukes operate under relatively light string tension and, I believe, are often played a little more gently than mandos and guitars. Even amongst builders of mandolins there is controversy about whether or not a wooden instrument actually "opens up" or if this is just a perception caused by variations in the player's technique developing over time. If the phenomenon existed it would surely manifest in a bluegrass mandolin - an instrument with high string tension, often subjected to strong vibration from vigorous playing.

Personally, I do believe that string instruments open up. With an 'ukulele I would expect this gradual process to take a year or more of frequent playing at the very least before making a noticeable difference. Probably longer. I certainly would have problems believing it could happen suddenly, with a new instrument.

On the other hand, there is a related phenomenon known as "waking up". In this case, an instrument (especially one that has opened up) that has not been played for some time (perhaps a few weeks) can seem to sound a little dead when first played again. Half an hour or so of play can produce an apparent awakening of the instrument's normal tone.

I have experienced both phenomena. Whether or not they exist objectively I am not sure. What I experienced could conceivably be down to playing technique, but I don't believe so.

Any UUers who are also active Mandolin Cafe members will be very familiar with the theories and arguments about opening up/ breaking in.

Excuse the long post. Just thought it might be interesting and maybe relevant to the original question.

In the OP's case, my money would be on variation in the player's technique.

fizgig
02-04-2010, 03:32 AM
Thanks for your replies everyone.

I believe temperature may have something to do with it as the heating in my building is somewhat erratic and it was slightly cooler than usual yesterday. I've been placing my attention on the A string, 6th fret as a reference. The sustain on this note has again died down, ringing out for less than 2 seconds depending on how it's plucked. It sounds rather dull in fact. I don't think my technique is the issue as I've tested various free and rest stroke positions and have played from the fretboard to near the bridge with varying results, but none of the results achieve the sustain I know I've heard previously.

I found another thread on this board where the subject was the stiffness of koa and how it responds to temperature and humidity changes. Someone mentioned that their koa uke sounded "better" with less humidity. I originally played this uke right out of the box after it sat in the UPS facility under very dry and cold conditions and it sounded fantastic. I realize it's not koa, but I believe acacia is supposed to have many of the same properties. It's just a wild hypothesis right now of course. I'm trying to be patient and observant at this stage since it's essentially brand new. I may try different strings just for kicks.

johncaudrey
02-04-2010, 04:19 AM
Is it possible your bridge is slightly loose as this would cause less sustain and maybe day to day differences, there was a thread about this on the same uke a while back!
Oh here you go I've just found it:
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?24439-Anyone-own-a-Kala-Acacia-Tenor-help&highlight=kala+acacia+tenor

buddhuu
02-04-2010, 05:24 AM
Is it possible your bridge is slightly loose as this would cause less sustain and maybe day to day differences, there was a thread about this on the same uke a while back!
Oh here you go I've just found it:
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?24439-Anyone-own-a-Kala-Acacia-Tenor-help&highlight=kala+acacia+tenor
Excellent point. That saddle thing is definitely not ideal. I wonder if they've got that sorted at the production stage yet...

Franco
02-04-2010, 06:30 AM
slightly off subject, but regarding breaking in... 3 months ago i picked up a cedar top ebony back and sides uke. if the instrument isn't fully opened up will i mostly be hearing the tonal qualities of the soundboard top (cedar). and does anyone have any advice on breaking it in quicker?

fizgig
02-04-2010, 09:19 AM
Excellent point. That saddle thing is definitely not ideal. I wonder if they've got that sorted at the production stage yet...

I'll have to check that when I get home. The sustain really did change quite dramatically so this could certainly be the case.

AzMichael
02-04-2010, 09:25 AM
I've been placing my attention on the A string, 6th fret as a reference. The sustain on this note has again died down, ringing out for less than 2 seconds depending on how it's plucked. It sounds rather dull in fact.

I just spent a few minutes w/ my Acacia tenor, and found something similar. I wouldn't call it dull, but it definately had less sustain than other frets, or other strings at that fret. I'm not an expert at anything, but I wonder if it has to do with tonal/harmonic qualities of that specific note within a given scale length/string tension...length of the soundwave type thing.

There's has to be some Smarter-Than-God geniuses around here that can explain soundwave theory to us...:anyone:

~Michael

GrumpyCoyote
02-04-2010, 10:03 AM
slightly off subject, but regarding breaking in... 3 months ago i picked up a cedar top ebony back and sides uke. if the instrument isn't fully opened up will i mostly be hearing the tonal qualities of the soundboard top (cedar). and does anyone have any advice on breaking it in quicker?

Those who believe in the above "opening up" process also tend to believe that playing more will speed the process up.

I personally say “shenanigans”. Wood instruments DO change in tone ever so slightly over time as the wood ages. But that is nothing more than moisture content and glue/component shrinkage over time. Short of humidity control, there is nothing you can do to alter it one way or another. Once the glue and finish are fully cured – that’s it for the short-term. The rest is in your head, unless you are talking about changes over decades or more in the actual cellular structure of the wood. Trust me, you are not hearing that.

After the wood is sealed and seasoned, and the glues and finishes are fully cured - there is no real change – there is no such thing as a “break-in” period. That curing as close to “opening-up” as really exists.

The “wake up” phenomenon detailed above on the other hand is quite real. But this is a temporary situation caused by temperature and mostly strings. Playing for a while returns the instrument to its “warmed-up” state.

If you heard a lively uke go dead in the sustain department – change your strings. My guess is (particularly if they came with it) the strings are shot. Changing strings is far more likely to affect sound than any perceived “opening-up”.

fizgig
02-04-2010, 11:17 AM
If you heard a lively uke go dead in the sustain department – change your strings. My guess is (particularly if they came with it) the strings are shot. Changing strings is far more likely to affect sound than any perceived “opening-up”.[/SIZE]
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The strings are brand new. New Aquilas were placed on the uke before it was shipped.

It's not just the 6th fret on the A that's dead sounding. There are other frets, I am just using this one as a reference to compare against.

I just checked the saddle and it is very loose. Is there a simple solution? I was thinking of replacing the saddle anyway so perhaps I'll do that in the very near future.

buddhuu
02-04-2010, 11:46 AM
I personally say “shenanigans”. Wood instruments DO change in tone ever so slightly over time as the wood ages. But that is nothing more than moisture content and glue/component shrinkage over time. Short of humidity control, there is nothing you can do to alter it one way or another. Once the glue and finish are fully cured – that’s it for the short-term. The rest is in your head, unless you are talking about changes over decades or more in the actual cellular structure of the wood. Trust me, you are not hearing that.


Ooh, GC! :D

Seriously, I know a lot of people don't believe in the opening up thing, but I think "shenanigans" and "The rest is in your head" are a bit strong, mate.

At MandolinCafe, uke builder Rick Turner recently said
"I don't know a single luthier who does not believe in the opening up phenomenon. It's players with cheap instruments who don't want to know about it."
(http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?t=57460&highlight=opening)

Well, I don't know about the cheap instruments thing, but a procession of other excellent luthiers chimed in to agree with Rick. Hans Bretrup, Dale Ludwig, John Hamlett all agree about "opening up"

That said, opinions differ on the form the changes take. A lot of people have found what I have, namely that the sound of an instrument after a couple of years is significantly different to when it is new, and that the amount of play has a bearing.

John Hamlett said:
"It is observably and pretty much undeniable that a brand new mandolin's sound changes significantly in the first hours after it is strung up, but beyond that it gets harder to be sure there is much change going on.
Personally, my observations lead me to believe that a couple of years of playing improves the sound of a mandolin, but beyond that any change is hard to detect."
(http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?t=50069&highlight=opening)

Dr Dave Cohen (scientist and luthier) says:
"I know of only one scientific article on the "opening up" phenomenon. The reference follows:

Hutchins, Carleen M.: "A Measurable Effect of Long-term Playing on Violin Family Instruments", Catgut Acoustical Society Journal, Vol. 3, No. 5 (Series II), pp 38-40 (May, 1998).

"Long-term" in the case of the Hutchins article was 3-6 yrs. In a nutshell, she did find some amplitude differences in the air modes, and paticularly the higher ones. They were not very large differences, though. It may well be that differences in an instrument over time are more felt than heard."
http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?t=50415&highlight=opening

So he doesn't seem to exactly champion the audible changes that I think I have experienced from opening up.

I'm just trying to illustrate that it's not as cut-and-dried on either side as is often claimed.

I hesitated to post all this, but on balance I think we're still on-topic!

buddhuu
02-04-2010, 11:51 AM
The strings are brand new. New Aquilas were placed on the uke before it was shipped.

It's not just the 6th fret on the A that's dead sounding. There are other frets, I am just using this one as a reference to compare against.

I just checked the saddle and it is very loose. Is there a simple solution? I was thinking of replacing the saddle anyway so perhaps I'll do that in the very near future.

It may well be worth just ordering a cheap plastic saddle from ebay or StewMac to see if it eliminates the issue. You can do a fancy ebony or bone one later. A change of strings is always worth a try.

SailingUke
02-04-2010, 11:58 AM
I believe there is an opening period for all wood instruments.
More importantly there is an adjustment period for the player.
Each uke can be slightly different, requiring a differnt touch fretting and strumming.
Some ukes project sound in a different direction. My Da Silva projects and I struggle to hear it.
My KoAloha seems to send sound to me as I play it as well as forward.
So all the factors can change what you are hearing, temp, enviroment, fingers, etc.

didgeridoo2
02-04-2010, 12:12 PM
I too own the Tenor Acacia and I recently switched out strings to realize that my saddle is loose. I restrung it anyway and its fine for me. It's not loose when it's strung and I figured I'd get around to switching the saddle out, eventually. I purchased mine from a local dealer who carries a bunch of Kala and I happened by his shop today. He has a newer Tenor Acacia on display and I looked at the saddle and noticed it to be a better fit than mine. So, hopefully they've fixed the problem. He called Kala for me to have them send out a replacement saddle with his next shipment and he told them I pointed out this to be a consistent problem with the Acacias. The woman he spoke with acted as if it's the first time she's heard it to be a problem, but in the same breath, said she was getting a lot of requests for replacement saddles. (hmmmmm...) So, perhaps you could have whomever sold you the uke do the same for you, or just switch it out for a saddle of your choice. I didn't really like the Aquilas and switched to Pro Arte's which I do like, but need to get used to. I imagine Worth Clear would be nice and I think thejumpingflea recommended Savarez for that uke.

Franco
02-04-2010, 04:01 PM
maybe kala will do a recall of all their tenor acacia's like toyota is doing!
and thanks rick for all the info on "opening up" very intersting stuff.
i guess time will tell. in a couple years i'll let you know if i can hear a difference.

Swampy Steve
02-05-2010, 03:46 AM
I just bought a Fender tenor ,, all laminate, so I guess it wont ever "open up" I has ghs strings which I dont like, I had those Gold , non wound Cstring Kooloo?? I think when I had a tenor before.
But what gets me is that it sounded much better in the store than it does in my house or garage. room dynamics??
It needs a set up. I know it was cheap, but it was obtainable , and Im glad to have a tenor again.

absolutely stupid question,,, but would replacing the plastic nut & saddle give it more volumn , & sustain??
thanks,

GrumpyCoyote
02-05-2010, 08:16 AM
Ooh, GC! :D

Seriously, I know a lot of people don't believe in the opening up thing, but I think "shenanigans" and "The rest is in your head" are a bit strong, mate.



Fair enough, and no offence intended - it's just my opinion of course. I will say that although I've heard many people I respect claim to understand and verify the "opening-up" process, I've never seen any real actual evidence to suggest there is any audible change happening beyond the basic settling in. I've also never seen any evidence to support the claim that you can do anything actively to help your instrument "open-up"…

To me, until verified, it falls into one of the many inexpicable myths of instruments – like pressure changes in aircraft breaking necks, modern satin and gloss finishes making sound differences, and humidifiers being necessary for solid instruments under all circumstances… This list continues to grow. Just call me skeptical unless real evidence turns up beyond the anecdote :cool:

buddhuu
02-07-2010, 09:28 AM
As you say, fair enough. :)