View Full Version : Ideas for a Jazz tenor uke please.

06-28-2010, 04:14 AM
The problem to me is not to create a tenor guitar, you know steel strings and whatever.
What will keep it a uke but give me a better beat with a finger strum and louder output and allow decent solo work (whoops, I will be the chord guy not the solo guy!) "Nylon" strings and no amplification.

I come from a lifetime hobby instrument building, mostly according to the strict lore of Early Music/ classical building, I have got over all that now and am willing to go wild.

I like the idea of a tail stock and non fixed bridge. I am almost sold on no sound hole on the top of the sound board but in the side of the body. Quality strings are a must (?Aquila)

What are your ideas, how will you advise me?


Ahnko Honu
06-28-2010, 07:40 AM

06-28-2010, 08:54 AM
How about a resonator? I bet a 9" cone would make it loud

06-28-2010, 09:18 AM
If you want to 'build' a uke that looks like a jazz uke, check out Bradfords post on building an archtop. It's still an active thread with current builds in process.

06-28-2010, 10:14 AM
What Fred (fahrner) said - the closest you can get to a jazz uke would be an archtop with f-holes and a sunburst finish.

But honestly... if you really need to play jazz on the ukulele, you don't need any particular special uke to do it? Perhaps a Martin soprano.... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISj9LVIZbEY)

My niece has a uke with pictures of sponge bob on it - that would make a perfekt jazz ukulele. Then call it the Sponge Bob Ukulele Jazz Ensemble :rofl:

Matt Clara
06-28-2010, 10:22 AM
From what I've read, jazz instruments (guitars/ukes) tend to favor woods with less sustain than one would get from more traditional wood. This isn't to say woods with no sustain (if there are any). Maple is the example I was given when I was told this, as opposed to, say, spruce and rosewood.

Ahnko Honu
06-28-2010, 10:33 AM
Or even laminates. ;)

06-28-2010, 10:45 AM
From what I've read, jazz instruments (guitars/ukes) tend to favor woods with less sustain than one would get from more traditional wood. This isn't to say woods with no sustain (if there are any). Maple is the example I was given when I was told this, as opposed to, say, spruce and rosewood.

Matt, you're right... but that's about guitars, not ukes. "Traditional woods" for ukes would be mahogany and koa, not spruce and rosewood.

And yes, there might be situations where even a mahogany uke has "too much sustain" for certain jazz progressions - although I haven't experienced any yet. But I have played an all-maple ukulele and IMHO it was not even close to being a serious jazz instrument - sounded more like a Franconian Folk Ensemble. I think a good Martin style mahogany is where you want to go.

Garry Petrisic
06-28-2010, 12:18 PM
Dear Brido.
I am in Toronto NSW Australia and am building a tenor archtop. All the things that you mention, Iam already doing. No sound hole, no fixed bridge, Tail peice.
Bradford has a great thread going on this subject. Maybe we can meet to discuss what we are both looking for in a Jazz Uke.
Regards Garry Petrisic.

06-28-2010, 02:58 PM
As far as sustain goes, or the lack thereof; I think it has far more to do with the design of the instrument, than the woods used. I can show you lots of flattop guitars and ukes with spruce tops and maple sides and backs that have tons of sustain. A true archtop instrument works quite a bit differently, with the back being just as important as the top in producing sound. Almost always, the first words out of anyone's mouth when they hear my arch top uke for the first time are "it's loud". It only stands to reason because there is only so much energy produced by a plucked string, if it is loud initially, the sound will dissipate faster. There is a ton of work left to do in refining the design, I have only so far demonstrated that nylon strings can indeed drive an arch top design effectively, as have Bob Benedetto and Steve Grimes with their arch top guitars.


Garry Petrisic
06-28-2010, 04:47 PM
You are right again. The back has a lot to do with the sound production. When I put my hand on the back of my Uke it damps the sound considerably. I hope I can resolve the tuner problem.
I am just not happy with any I have seen so far. I hope Brido gets in touch with you to get some really good advice, as I have. You have helped me a lot.
Garry Petrisic.

06-28-2010, 05:22 PM
Waoo... a great response everyone... a big Thank you.

Not only that, but a builder ( Garry) that lives about 30 kms from me .... how lucky can I be? :)

I have built a number of instruments, but never a uke, so I am wide open to help on this design project.

I am actually a handicapped player!!!!! (No big deal compared to Django Reinhardt) but I cant use my middle finger left hand so I often have to use my thumb (and inversions to avoid using my thumb).... Do you think a thinner neck might help me? I do not want the strings closer, possibly a bit wider, (?) but the thickness of the neck seems to be a factor that might help?

What do you think?

06-28-2010, 06:28 PM
Thanks Garry, Brido has joined the group and I've sent him the plans. It is great that you two live so close to each other, there is nothing better than sharing experiences. My go to tuners are the open geared Grover uke tuners from Stew-Mac. They are not expensive, but they work well and are lighter than guitar tuners. Brido, if I were you, I would certainly want to experiment with different sizes and shapes of necks, that can make a huge difference. With carbon fiber rods, the neck dimensions can go down pretty small.


Garry Petrisic
06-28-2010, 07:19 PM
Dear Brido.
Please let me know a time and place where we can meet so we can share information. Brad is a marvel and devotes a lot of time helping others.
Maybe I can assist you in some small way to make your task a little easier.
Regards Garry Petrisic.

06-28-2010, 10:03 PM
Garry, I have sent you a private email via this thread with all my details on it.

Looking forward to meeting. Are you a working man? I ask this as i am in Toronto tomorrow (wed) at about 10 am. and will be free.

07-02-2010, 04:41 PM
Just to let you know i am beginning to firm up on my ideas with thanks to you all.

No "final" direction as yet. :)