View Full Version : Is it possible for a laminate to "open up" soundwise?

04-03-2010, 11:16 PM
It could be my imagination, but it sounds like that's what's happening with my Luna Honu soprano.
It's more in projection than tone, though I'm noticing that the tone is more distinct. It's got a voice that I'm starting to describe as "sweet". Like if Blossom Dearie was a ukulele. Not a belter, but a charmer.

04-04-2010, 02:56 AM
Laminates don't generally change sound significantly over time because the wood fibres can't alter the same way that solid woods can. However, strings can change a bit, and affect the sound over time. And, of course, your playing can change too.

04-04-2010, 11:38 AM
For the most part, I have to side with Ian. Then again, it's possible that a difference in temperature (warmer) can make even a laminate more responsive. My first guitar was a Yamaha that was made of laminates. If I picked it up after it sat around for a long time, it usually took a little while before the sound would "open up" some. I always referred to that as "crankiness from neglect."

Perhaps you're playing your uke a little more lately? Practice makes perfect when tuning up.

Speaking of, another factor Ian missed was that of strings being in or out of tune. My KoAloha Soprano is very tempermental if the strings are even a little out of tune. Over the first year of my getting serious with playing uke, I discovered that fretting the strings too hard would throw the strings off pitch--enough that I could hear a difference. Also, the action of the strings (string height above the fretboard) affected pitch, further up the neck (towards the sound hole) I went. Somewhere in the middle of this mix of factors, I found that how I tuned my uke would affect the sound when I played it. Prior to my finally getting a good clip-on digital tuner, I really had to dink with things before I found that sweet-spot with the tuning. That's a lot of work--especially if you're fretting the strings and popping harmonics and struggling with friction tuners.

Pretty much nowadays my KoAloha sounds great, now that I can get all the strings properly tuned. The sound does "bloom."

--Dave E.

04-04-2010, 02:26 PM
I guess that you could say that they are 2 kinds of "opening up".

1.) "Settling in" is something that happens in the first few months. The wood is being stretched in some places and compressed in some places mostly due to string tension temperature and humidity changes. This affects sound.
Settling in is known as "opening up" to many people.

2.) Sound related "Opening up" can happen with all kinds of materials including laminates. This seems to be the wood affected by the sound vibrations. This opening up takes a while, usually many months to several years. It is much more noticeable in carved archtop instruments, but it even happens to instruments with laminated soundboards such as harps and pianos and braced flattop instruments.

Opening up has been observed for 100s of years is not well understood or controlled.

Paul December
04-05-2010, 03:59 AM
Some question if even solids "open up"

04-05-2010, 10:56 AM
Some question if even solids "open up"

Without a doubt!!! I knew a guy who had an all solid wood Washburn Prairie Song Custom. No plastic was used in its construction--outside of maybe some plastic/nylon bushings in the tuning machines. That was the most amazing steel string guitar I ever heard. Over its whole life, the sound only improved. It was like a flower that kept blooming forever.

I have this potentially bogus belief that the resins in a solid wood instrument eventually settle, like a memory imprint, into the sound vibration patterns created in the wood from playing. If you don't play the instrument enough, ambient heat will cause these resins to flatten out, creating the sonic crankiness of a neglected instrument when you pick it up after too long of a time.

Someone tell me I'm a romantic.

--Dave E.

04-05-2010, 01:40 PM
Well not to sway away from the topic but another question this brings up for me is, what happens to solid top ukes? Do they receive the same amount of glory as a full solid ukulele, or does its laminate sides and back give it a handicap?

04-05-2010, 01:58 PM
Among guitars, I've encountered laminates that have opened up. Laminates that have opened-up tend to be rather old (about 10 years at least).

I've also encountered solid tops that have NOT opened up. It's not a phenomenon that's limited to low-end guitars. There an expensive luthier-built instrument that went to a prominent and world-known guitarist and he reported that it didn't open up.

I'm sure these all apply to the ukulele as well. The general rule is to buy an instrument that sounds good at the get-go. Opening-up is a bonus that you might get down the road but don't expect it or put extra value in an instrument based on it.

04-06-2010, 07:08 AM
Check out this article, apparently written by one of our own...


Maybe Rick will chime in with his opinion on laminates.

04-06-2010, 07:13 AM
Check out this article, apparently written by one of our own...
That device is ancient. Just get a Tonerite for the ukulele (http://tonerite.com/ukelele/vmchk).


04-06-2010, 11:14 AM
I'm pretty sure that anyone lucky enough to own a vintage Gibson 175 (all laminate jazz guitar, played by Pat Metheny, Joe Pass ect.) would argue that it has improved tonally with age. Personally I think there's a lot of nonsense talked about acoustic instrument materials/construction. I mean, If you've got a vintage Martin made with wood taken from the original tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden, then good for you - I just hope you've got the chops to justify it otherwise someone is going to look a bit silly.:p

Joe Pass 175