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View Full Version : The Tone from the Wood - Is it Real or hype?



SuzukHammer
07-06-2010, 03:28 AM
I read on sites that certain wood provides a tone to it and some woods have different or better tone than others.

Is that real?

Has there been studies on it?

I would think its basically the acoustics involved with the body cavity that is more important. If that's so, I would be interested to see if BOSE can design a Uke.



I'm a nooby if that matters. Maybe you can say I don't have any experience with different setups but I play the harmonica and I have read many people who say its wood comb or nothing else and yet there are expert harmonica musicians who say it makes no difference be it plastic/metal/composite/wood and studies show no difference in music tone shape. This is my basis for proposing this topic.

fumanshu
07-06-2010, 03:47 AM
From my experience, I have several custom ukes from the same builder and I can say tonewoods definitely sound different. I think it's not only about what wood is the top or the body, but it's really about the combo of woods that you use that give you a particular signature sound.

Also, how well the uke is build will give you the particular sound from the woods. A uke made of a certain wood can sound amazing in one's luthier hand and sound poor build by another one using the same woods.

arashi_nero
07-06-2010, 03:58 AM
there are many things that can affect the sound of an instrument. acoustics is definitely one thing. the wood is another. if you want to see what the tone of many different woods is like go to Mya Moe's website (http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/) and check out their instruments. they give you a run-down on how each wood sounds tonally. strings also affect the sound of a stringed instrument.

yes, there have been many studies on how different woods sound. it's like bassoon: traditionally bassoons are made from maple. it gives the best "bassoony" sound, but even different types of maple sound different and it's all personal preference for what people buy. however, there are plastic bassoons and they sound awful and is why those are uber beginner models and super cheap (same as ukes, i guess). the way you make your reeds can affect the sound as well by making it brighter or darker or fuller and is why i have 3-5 reeds in my bassoon case all the time--it's like strings on the uke.

i know my uke sounds good and it's cheap, but i can tell a definite difference between my uke and a good solid one made with good wood.

as for harmonicas, i'm not versed enough to say what is better, but if people play, i can tell a difference tonally between the different materials. it just depends what the person playing wants people to hear.

kissing
07-06-2010, 04:32 AM
It's definitely not a myth.
The sound of a uke (or guitar) is affected greatly by how the wood vibrates, especially the soundboard (top).
Different woods vibrate differently. Over the years, people have found some trends for certain woods (eg: Mahogany is supposed to sound a bit mellow and deep.. Spruce is supposed to sound bright and open... etc).

But it is more complex than the simple choice of wood. As others have mentioned, there are many factors at play.

Tudorp
07-06-2010, 04:43 AM
Its what they said. Sound is nothing more than "vibration" or frequincy. Sound travels through different mediums at different rates, and freqs. Sound travels farther in water than it does air. Sound waves travels at different rates, and freqs though wood than it does concrete. Different woods, and densities have huge effects on that wave of sound vibrations. If a tree in a forest falls, and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound? Yes it does, because the vibrations are present, if there is an eardrum to be vibrated and processes or not.

70sSanO
07-06-2010, 05:49 AM
I am no luthier, but I have been around guitars and ukuleles, especially guitars, for a long time.

Personally, I think differences in tone woods are somewhat over-rated and those differences diminish with the size of the instrument. The tonal impact on a dreadnaught guitar will be much greater than a soprano ukulele. There is just so much more area in a guitar for the sound to reflect and build up to be able to develop the harmonics and overtones of different types of wood.

I imagine going from soprano to baritone, there are distinguishable differences in two identical built ukuleles, but the construction, may have more of an impact.

I have 2 koa tenor ukuleles made by the same person. Their designs are completely different and even though they have a similar sound, one is brighter and the other is warmer. I have messed around with different saddle and nut combinations and have been able to make subtle changes, but one will always be brighter than the other.

If you check out ichadwick's web page, there is some really good info on this.

John

LoMa
07-06-2010, 06:42 AM
Well. yes and no because, as many have already said, there's lots of other factors here too.

However the build style must have something to do with it too. Every Larrivee soprano I've played, regardless of whether it's spruce and mahogany, all mahongay, or all koa (all solid wood ukes) have a certain characteristic sound that I really like. I think the signature tone lives in the third string... That signature is there regardless of whether the uke is strung re-entrant or with a low G. They have a kind of darkness lurking there that I love. I use Aquilla strings.

Every Ohana soprano I've played - whether they have solid woods or laminate, or a solid spruce top with laminate back and sides - sounds very much the same. Extremeley responsive, super LOUD, and very very resonant and bright toned! And I am wuite sure the Makai ukes are made in the same factory with the same sort of build because they sound just like Ohana's in my experience. However, there seem to be more tonal difference in the concert Ohana's with different materials.

The ukes where I've noticed the greatest tonal differences due to wood, I think, are LoPrinzi's. In my expereince, an all hog gloss concert sounds different than a srpcue and maple concert, and different from a spruce and hog concert. Same with the soprano ukes of those same configurations, but a little less difference than in the concerts.

So yes, I tkink wood does make a difference. But I think the builder and design probably make a bigger difference.

As to harps, I don;t think wood or plastic or metal or hybrid combs make that much of a difference - they either make for a more efficient or less efficicent isntrument in terms of breath. It's the reeds - they're what make the big difference. I've played around with replacing a harp's reed plate of different thincknesses or materials and that has made significant differences to the tone. The comb material didn;t seem to make that much difference. I was doing a physics experiment with my nephew and we used an oscilliscope as well as our ears and recording equipment to analyze different sound signatures. Of course there's a chance we were playing them a little differently, especailly on the draw. So we repeated the experiment using a mecahnical harp blower that our neightborhood music store let us use. Similar results both ways! That was a lot of years ago we tried that.

I've also wondered how much the material and design of the cover plates make a tonal difference in terms of phatness and so on. Blah, blah, blah...

PoisonDart
07-06-2010, 08:26 AM
Different ukuleles of the same build and same wood type sound different. Until people can recognize the wood from the sound they hear..... I will assume that it is a bit of an overstated religious debate.

It is always better to buy a specific instrument, rather than one of a type.

jehicks87
07-06-2010, 08:55 AM
I agree that instruments made from the same wood will invariably sound slightly different... however, instruments made from different woods (say spruce vs cedar) will ALWAYS sound VERY different.

Yes, wood makes a difference. And yes, wood makes a big difference. Is it as big a difference as some people say it is? Eh, idk about that one. The shape, construction methods, hell even the finish all make a difference. I'd say Construction is First, Wood is a close Second.

KevinV
07-06-2010, 12:54 PM
As stated by others, there are many variables. I'm of the camp that the wood makes a big difference in tone. Different types resonate and decay differently. I also believe in the idea that wood instruments break in over time in relation to the amount of vibration they receive from play and the atmospherics they're subjected to.

SuzukHammer
07-06-2010, 01:51 PM
THanks all for your input. I thought I was going to be burned at the stake; but, I am of the opinion that art is art; but, when that art has a story behind it, then it has more value.

And I see that in how ukuleles are marketed as well as harmonicas. You go to any site and they state how the wood makes it unique.

I did not factor in any resonating or vibrating wood, nor the frequencies that could be absorbed or "passed through".

THere is no doubt to me that the reflections inside the cavity will dictate the tone.

The Harmonica is a straight passage and the wood may not have enough resident time to affect the tone of the harmonica. But some of the oldtime harmonica guys swear that they need wood. I was able to change my oldtimer friend to switch from Hohners which he swore by for 30 years. Once I gave him a Suzuki, he said he'd never buy another Hohner.

I see some guitars holes are placed in some rather odd areas. I ask myself why a violin has no holes.

THe use of laminates, any finish on the woods, any moisture on the wood. THese are interesting; but something tells me it is cavity design foremost.

So, here's another question and I hope somebody has some experience for input. Has any company or person used inserts inside the soundhole to change the tonal quality?

Lori
07-06-2010, 02:17 PM
THanks all for your input. I thought I was going to be burned at the stake; but, I am of the opinion that art is art; but, when that art has a story behind it, then it has more value.

And I see that in how ukuleles are marketed as well as harmonicas. You go to any site and they state how the wood makes it unique.

I did not factor in any resonating or vibrating wood, nor the frequencies that could be absorbed or "passed through".

THere is no doubt to me that the reflections inside the cavity will dictate the tone.

The Harmonica is a straight passage and the wood may not have enough resident time to affect the tone of the harmonica. But some of the oldtime harmonica guys swear that they need wood. I was able to change my oldtimer friend to switch from Hohners which he swore by for 30 years. Once I gave him a Suzuki, he said he'd never buy another Hohner.

I see some guitars holes are placed in some rather odd areas. I ask myself why a violin has no holes.

THe use of laminates, any finish on the woods, any moisture on the wood. THese are interesting; but something tells me it is cavity design foremost.

So, here's another question and I hope somebody has some experience for input. Has any company or person used inserts inside the soundhole to change the tonal quality?

Is this what you are thinking of?
http://www.lutehole.com/lutehole.php
I don't know if they have them in ukulele sizes. I hear that you can use these to reduce feedback when performing on stage.
–Lori

SuzukHammer
07-06-2010, 02:34 PM
Arashi,

THanks for the Mya Moe site.

They state they do tests to prove wood has different tone. I gotta believe them. They don't publish any test data but qualitatively describe it has warm vs. bright and discuss methods to design to get the best response for the intended purpose of the wood.

Interesting they state the top wood may be different than the back wood. I assumed they were the same wood.

I don't know how they get the top wood to vibrate or "beathe" because I can see they have a heavy shellacing coating process. Or does the shellacking help?

Do they do the tests on the top wood before shellacking or after shellacking?



ANd nooby me reinventing the resonator cone. I told you I'm a nooby!!!:cool:

SuzukHammer
07-06-2010, 02:36 PM
Interesting. I am learning alot by asking what likely is simple questions.

THanks for your input.

BashfulPuppet
07-06-2010, 03:45 PM
So, here's another question and I hope somebody has some experience for input. Has any company or person used inserts inside the soundhole to change the tonal quality?

I think what your talking about is similar to what a Virzi does with mandolins. I haven't heard of anyone doing anything like that to a Uke but its an interesting idea.

SuzukHammer
07-06-2010, 04:32 PM
I think what your talking about is similar to what a Virzi does with mandolins. I haven't heard of anyone doing anything like that to a Uke but its an interesting idea.

THe resonators I see are all metal design. If wood makes such a big difference, I think I would have read up on koa inserts or resonators. Of course, I 'm sure its been done.

If you wanted to "flare out" the tone into uke's body, it'd have a soft outside wood and maybe a dense cone in the middle for amplification.

Just kicking about ideas.

It could be fun to buy a couple of cheap sopranos and mess around a bit.

THe cones I'm thinking about are like the ceiling cones you stand under where it amplifies and delays your voice with some slight echo. YOu can find these ceiling cones in department stores. ok, not all department stores. I know of 2

pulelehua
07-06-2010, 10:34 PM
I see some guitars holes are placed in some rather odd areas. I ask myself why a violin has no holes.

Violins have holes. Shaped like Fs. F-holes. Very important. I'm wracking my brain for a string instrument with a hollow body without holes. Can't think of one.

SuzukHammer
07-07-2010, 02:27 AM
Violins have holes. Shaped like Fs. F-holes. Very important. I'm wracking my brain for a string instrument with a hollow body without holes. Can't think of one.

Another oversight on my part. I did see those F holes but they don't use round holes.

How can a F hole provide a better tone than a round hole? WHy not the round hole for violins? WHy not the f holes for ukes?

Exciting questions. I wanted to go buy some cheap ukes and start cutting into them or adding things to the cavities.

Its a good thing I had other things to do and I got sidetracked.

arashi_nero
07-07-2010, 05:33 AM
Another oversight on my part. I did see those F holes but they don't use round holes.

How can a F hole provide a better tone than a round hole? WHy not the round hole for violins? WHy not the f holes for ukes?

Exciting questions. I wanted to go buy some cheap ukes and start cutting into them or adding things to the cavities.

Its a good thing I had other things to do and I got sidetracked.

i'm pretty sure the placement of the f-holes on a violin are for the timbre (color of the sound). it's like the sound difference between strumming your uke over the sound hold and over the fretboard. totally different timbre.

mailman
07-07-2010, 05:50 AM
I used to work in a violin shop, building violins. The size, shape and positioning of the F holes in the top are absolutely critical to the sound the instrument produces. Keep in mind that the violin top is not uniform in thickness; it is arched and carved in contour internally to make parts of the top thicker, some thinner. This makes the location of the F holes and the bridge very important. A round hole in a traditional violin top just wouldn't work....

jehicks87
07-07-2010, 08:01 AM
I gotta ask this, so if it comes across in a snooty way, (sincerely) please forgive me... but...

are you pulling our legs? Like, is this a legitimate line of questioning, or are you just messing around? I simply cannot imagine someone actually believing that the materials an instrument is made with has no effect on the sound said instrument produces. Even harmonicas.

Take the Hohner BluesBand, for example. It has a different sound than a Lee Oskar. Period. A Honer BB and a LO tuned to the same key will sound totally different. The same goes for guitars, ukes, any plucked-stringed instrument, any woodwind, any violin-type instrument, any instrument period. Yes, the construction on two otherwise identical instruments will have an impact, but it would seem obvious to me that the materials an instrument is made out of would, likewise, have an (excuse the repetition) equally obvious impact.

So, with all that being said... again, are you just joking around?

pulelehua
07-07-2010, 09:49 AM
I think what he's trying to do is discover the "real" secret to tone. I suspect if this thread was on the luthiers page, it would be torn to pieces by Chuck and Pete, who are fairly direct with their opinions, and tend to not like left field ideas. Mya Moe makes Resonators. They have a big thing on the inside. Can't think of anything else. It's all incredibly complicated of course. The simple presence or absence of parallel surfaces has a huge effect on the sound. Putting objects on the inside creates much more complicated reflections. I expect that that most objects would result in waves bouncing of shorter length, i.e. higher frequency, and so would tend to produce brighter tone, with less depth. Except, of course, that attaching objects to the inside will in some way reduce the vibrations in the soundboard, and possibly muffle the sound. Attach rigid obects and they had better not be attached to the soundboard. Attach flexible objects to the soundboard and that creates interference vibrations from one surfance to another.

Dunno. They've been building hollow-bodied string instruments for a VERY long time. There must have been lots of alternate ideas in that time. Sometimes things are the way they are because the other options were eliminated at some point in the past.

Teek
07-07-2010, 10:29 AM
All I know about violins is that my Mom played them for 60 years and has two left, and the tone and volume of each is different, one is a full size and has a bit more projection for orchestra and one is a 7/8 and is more for solo or with piano etc. and is mellower. The sound that comes out of those things is HUGE! Two little f holes, featherweight bodies, all the delicate arching front and back, wow. Add metal strings and a bow, what an incredible instrument!

I agree some things are the way they are because other stuff has been tried and this is what works. There's a reason Strads have been studied so extensively.

SuzukHammer
07-07-2010, 11:55 AM
First off, I want to answer directly that no, I am not pulling anybody's legs. I am new to uke, new to playing music. I only started learning music by way of harmonica about 20 months ago. For whatever reason, I pursue the whole story, meaning I love to learn theory and I like to know the history. Why? Because I want to be able to talk to persons about what I am doing.

I completely understand anybody's concern with my post. I thought I'd be branded a ukeheretic for posting this blasphemy. Yet even on Mya Moe's website, they say that most of their customers ask whether the wood makes a difference in tone. I am sure Mya Moe's customers are seasoned uke players and not noobies. Mya Moe says emphatically that they have the data to prove it so I must believe them.

Harmonicas: I will agree 100% that a Hohner Marine Band sounds alot different than a Lee Oskar. I have over 70 harmonicas that I have bought; so, I have sampled many. Pat Missin's site on tuning the harmonica convinced me that for harmonicas, it is not the comb material; but, more the reed construction, the reed modifications, and the airtightness of the chambers that will dictate the sound. Marine Bands (with wood combs) are sluggish really and lots of harp players throw that instrument in water (or beer or gin) to tighten it up. WHich means they make the wood comb expand to get better chamber seals to get their reeds to sound better. Would any ukulele or violin player deliberately put their instrument in water to make their intrument sound better? To me, that tells me its not the wood; but its the airtightness of the chamber design.

On harmonica technique, I've learned more about toungue blocking and larger mouth embouchure for a fuller harmonica sound. It is strikingly different and richer tone than using a pucker technique. THis also seems to favor the cavity construction theory versus comb material construction for harmonicas.

So back to the uke and violin. Thanks for the information on those f holes. Honestly, as I don't play violin, I thought those holes were more decorative. So interesting. I will read up more on that after I improve my uke skills. I am curious if they ever made violins with round soundholes.

Let's say I buy a cheap uke and I want to play with modifications just to see if I can get a better or more unique sound that I like. Would I put a naked wood insert on the back or a naked wood insert behind the top board? or would I install a shaped system or diffuser to make the sound waves reflect more into the ukelele body? Would added holes make a difference ? Would it be fun to experiment with an F hole cut above or below the strings?

I'm having fun. I am happy to hear that wood does make a difference and I can feel better about spending more money on better wood and not feel like I'm buying into somebody's beliefs or story instead of the reality.

mailman
07-07-2010, 03:22 PM
Regarding experimentation with holes in the top of the uke....

These experiments have all been done. There is a well known and set formula for determining the total sound hole area (single or multiple holes) depending on body cavity's internal size (volume). Too much sound hole area ruins the sound....too little ruins it also. I'm sure the folks on the luthier's forum could supply you with the formula.

As has been alluded to already, there are good reasons not to re-invent the wheel....

Bradford
07-07-2010, 05:47 PM
Hey SuzukHammer, it is great that you are asking questions, and I for one, certainly encourage you to continue. When it comes to Lutherie however, do be prepared to deal with a lot of contradictory information. As Teek mentioned, the Strad violins have been extensively studied for centuries. Guess what, they still do not know what makes them special. There are a lot of theories, but they have not been duplicated yet, although I suspect some builders come pretty close. As for wood, yes it does make a difference. Is it a good idea to buy the best wood you can afford? Not really, unless you are an experienced builder. An experienced luthier knows how to get the best sound from quality wood, a beginner does not, and probably would be wasting his money. You want more contradition, Bob Benedetto and Taylor have made wonderful sounding guitars out construction grade lumber. Try and find a consensus among luthiers on how much the sides and backs of an instrument contribute to the sound; do side soundports work?; why do solid wood instruments improve with age? Good luck with your research. In my experience, lutherie is as much art as science, and is very intuitive for me. Other builders have different approaches.

Brad

SuzukHammer
07-07-2010, 05:53 PM
THanks Bradford and Mailman.

I am not a luthier, nor do I plan to be. Famous last words.

ok, I will accept that wood type makes a difference and that was the topic of this thread.

I then went off and delved into quantum acoustics based on body cavity variations - Not the topic. My apologies.

I have been reeled out into Youtube Luthier videos just because....... its interesting.

pulelehua
07-07-2010, 10:13 PM
Can I just add, in case my former post didn't express my thoughts correctly,

Many luthiers work in a given way. We'll call that way X. They have worked that way and had success and tend not to question things TOO much. X+1? Sure. X-2? Maybe. But not Y. Y is just crazy. I often go on the luthier's forum and think, "Come on, how about more experimentation? How about more open-mindedness?" I know that in many cases luthiers are trying to prevent the Re-invent the Wheel Syndrome, and trying to save new luthiers a lot of wasted time and frustration, and they also have their hard won reputations to defend. But history has proven an infinite number of times, change involves someone coming in with a fresh perspective.

Ian Chadwick has this theory about glass saddles. I disagree with Ian about some of what he says (fingernails, for instance), but I think the idea of a glass saddle is really interesting, and can't wait to hear what he comes up with.

The vast majority of us on this forum don't have any sense of ukulele "heresy", so don't worry about that. We're not going to get out the torches and pitchforks.

The hardest thing is to ask the most basic questions. "Why does stuff fall?" Look where that got Newton...

ichadwick
07-08-2010, 01:46 AM
I read on sites that certain wood provides a tone to it and some woods have different or better tone than others.

Is that real?

Has there been studies on it?

I would think its basically the acoustics involved with the body cavity that is more important. If that's so, I would be interested to see if BOSE can design a Uke.


Yes, the top wood has a significant effect, and yes there are many studies on it and you find several interesting reports of acoustic research online. But it's more complicated than just saying "the wood." The thickness, the grain, the density, humidity and stiffness of a particular slice all play a role as well. Since no two slices of wood are identical in physical properties - even from the same part of the tree - you can only generalize. That's why two ukes of the same wood, from the same manufacturer, set up identically with the same strings can sound very different.

In general, though, wood with a reasonably good stiffness and flexibility is preferred for a top wood since it both generates the sound well and braces the top without having to be too thick or need a lot of interior bracing. Some varieties of spruce are considered the best for sound reproduction because they are both springy and strong. They also reproduce a good range of tones.

Every wood will act as a filter for some frequencies, letting some pass through (energy turned into sound waves), and rejecting others. Spruce has a good range for sound, with an edge towards the higher frequencies which can create a 'bright' sound. Mango - a lovely wood, has a more restricted range at both ends of the scale so is very 'mellow'. Koa and mahogany are appreciated for their wide middle range, with less upper-end than spruce (hence they sound a little more 'mellow' than spruce but brighter than mango).

In general dense woods like rosewood or ebony require more energy in order to absorb it and pass it along - they work best on the bridge or saddle where the string's energy is highest (where they act as intermediary filters), but inside the instrument the energy is now much reduced (as a sound wave), and hasn't the strength to get absorbed, so it gets reflected. These woods are best used on back and sides. On the top, since these woods are not very flexible, they don't vibrate as much, so they don't create a loud sound, nor do they have the same frequency response as a more flexible wood like spruce.

So there are two types of wood used. First for the top, which is the sound producer. Second for the back and sides, which reflects the sound inside the body (and aborbs a little, too).

Yes - you are right: the body shape and size plays an important role. As does the location and size of the sound hole(s). So you actually have two types of acoustic activity going on, and it's the combination of both that creates the sound listeners hear. They are actually separated by a tiny fraction of a second, too, but listeners hear them as one combined sound.

Let me add another bit of complexity: the saddle. This is the first filter which transmits the energy of the strings to the bridge, which in turn passes it along to the top. The material of the saddle plays a very important role because it can pass or block certain frequencies (the saddle is the first filter in the process). In general, material like bone or a very dense wood like ebony is preferred because they let a lot of the energy pass without too much restriction. Other materials like glass and brass are also good for that, as are some synthetic materials. Some of the energy of the string is rejected by the saddle and stays in the string (this is the sustain).

And finally, the strings play an important role because they generate the mechanical energy that becomes the sound. A string's material has to be able to transmit a lot of energy without losing it too quickly (to retain the wave on the string). Change strings and the sound can be vastly different because of the way the different materials hold or transmit the wave.

So all of these factors go into the sound an instrument makes. It's as much an art as a science to mix these elements into a combination that makes a nice sounding instrument.

SuzukHammer
07-08-2010, 02:12 AM
That's a kick ass post Ian.

And Pulelehua, that's a good post as well. Its good to have some knowledge but I have learned that some of the knowledge supplied to me before turned out to be just some guy's staunch opinions.

Ian, that information on the woods and how they do have certain filter characteristics makes a lot of sense and its a good story to relate to others. LIke my wife.

You know. When the wife asks you why you paid $XXX for something that only costs $X at the flea market. :)

Seriously, I will have fun asking people now about the wood of their ukes and I will see if it matches Mya Moe's and Ian's data.

I'd prefer talking Uke wood construction over talking about a fine wine presentation. Or is that the same thing?

ichadwick
07-08-2010, 02:16 AM
Regarding experimentation with holes in the top of the uke....

These experiments have all been done. There is a well known and set formula for determining the total sound hole area (single or multiple holes) depending on body cavity's internal size (volume). Too much sound hole area ruins the sound....too little ruins it also. I'm sure the folks on the luthier's forum could supply you with the formula.

As has been alluded to already, there are good reasons not to re-invent the wheel....
Actually what you should look up here is the Helmholtz Resonance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmholtz_resonance) which relates to the sound that is produced by the cavity through the hole(s). The size of the hole also determines some of the frequency. I've commented in my review of the Riptide ukes that they have their holes reversed: the larger should be on the front, the smaller on the side, to give listeners the benefit of the lower tones from the larger hole.

ichadwick
07-08-2010, 02:20 AM
I'd prefer talking Uke wood construction over talking about a fine wine presentation. Or is that the same thing?
Yes, both luthiery and oenology are as much arts as sciences.

And I appreciate the wife comment. It's hard to convince her I need another $500-plus instrument when she comments "You can't play all the ones you already have." But she's generally patient with my obsessions. Ukes are, after all, cheaper than motorcyles.

SuzukHammer
07-08-2010, 02:25 AM
Has anybody fermented wine with a fine mellowed koa ukelele wood?

My wife (or should I say soon to be wife) thinks so long as I'm playing music, I'm not out trolling the streets.

I wonder what she will think if I start buying pieces of wood.

buddhuu
07-08-2010, 03:07 AM
If you want to talk about the physics of acoustic instrument sound production then pop over to the luthier section of Mandolin Cafe and look for Dave Cohen!

Here's a sample, LOL: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?12186-helmholtz-Resonance

There is a lot to this stuff: far more than I can get to grips with - and I've tried.

As for the tonewood thing taken in isolation... well, yes, different tonewoods absolutely have a profound effect on the tone of an instrument. A while ago I was lucky enough to try out two Tom Buchanan mandolins. As far as I could tell, the instruments were identical except for the top woods: one was spruce and one was cedar. Both sounded great, but the spruce was brighter and a little louder while the cedar was a tiny bit sweeter and mellower.

buddhuu
07-08-2010, 03:13 AM
I used to work in a violin shop, building violins. The size, shape and positioning of the F holes in the top are absolutely critical to the sound the instrument produces. Keep in mind that the violin top is not uniform in thickness; it is arched and carved in contour internally to make parts of the top thicker, some thinner. This makes the location of the F holes and the bridge very important. A round hole in a traditional violin top just wouldn't work....

Yup.

Similarly, in f-hole archtop mandolins, a slight tweak to the holes, making them larger, for example, with have a definite effect on bass response.

Violins and other bowed instruments are a very different case to strummed/plucked axes though. Sound production is achieved in a very different way. The soundpost is essential in a fiddle/viola/cello etc - while a soundpost in a strummed instrument would kill the sound (trust me, I've tried it! LOL).

SuzukHammer
07-08-2010, 02:29 PM
THanks BuddhUU,

SOme people had posted about THe Helmholtz Resonance.

I didn't know what it meant but reading here link to Helmholtz (http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/Helmholtz.html), I would think this resonance applies more for the tapping rhythm sound.

They discuss the sound GENERATED by the compression of air being low and loud, a function of the volume of air and the tube dimension and length.

This if fun data because it sounds like if you want a good tapping uke, you could add a specific hole/tube and volume of air?

I'm still trying to figure out how they liken the guitar to the HElmboltz. Because now you not only have wood, sound vibration, filtering but now compressed air to think about. The volume basically states, the bigger, the louder.

I'm thinking along the lines of inserts and acoustic:

1) chorus effect
2) tremolos
3) delays

And I go back to that conic effect I was talking about. Let's say you put a focusing cone in there and that allows you to "amplify" your sound to a particular direction - for effect

lambchop
07-08-2010, 04:05 PM
I choose to play a spruce top and whether I am playing a cheap MU-70, my Boulder Creek or my Lanikai, I always find that spruce, even a cheaper spruce, has a brighter, louder sound. I play bass and when you play bass, you know wood has a tone. For upright, wood IS the tone, everything else is second. I think it matters more with bass, but I've found the same with ukuleles.

Reminds me of the last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm: "Do you respect wood?"

Mike

SuzukHammer
07-08-2010, 04:43 PM
THanks Lambchop.

So, after joining this site one week, I decide to take a close inspection of my Cordoba I bought at Guitar Center in Denver. It became readily apparent that the #1 string was replaced and was different then the 2,3,and 4 not only in appearance but also it seem the string that was put on as #1 appears to be the B string of the DF#BA string pack. ONce I took off that string, the other 3 strings seemed better suited for each other. It was also strung wrong going to the outside of the nut and not the inside.

I did some knocking on the top and found the sweet spots for rhythm thumping - right in the middle behind the string knots. Different positions, different tones. Not a bad sound.

I then found that if I only hold the fret board, the tone is much better than when the uke is up against my body or held by my forearm. Do others feel the same way?

By inspecting the constuction inside the uke, I really don't see how the bracing helps the wood at all. Let's start with the hole. THey have some ornament on it and a square bracing made of 2 different sizings right behind the holes. I may be wrong but I don't know how a bracing and ornament design allow the wood to do its tonal work.

Some edges are rounded. SOme bracing looks more like a baffling and bracing effect on the woods. The paper label glued to the wood is loose and it has air gaps in it.

Again, I am not a luthier but this tells me that the tone from the hole and the wood seem to be compromised by the constuction. Just my opinion; but I'd think this design of uke is only about the strings, the air volume, and the soundhole reflections (which I don't really think was considered).

So, we go into a store and the owners sell us on the wood. SHouldn't we be allowed to see if the construction hinders the performance of the wood? WIth strings on the instrument, you cannot really feel around the inside.

What good does a paper label DIRECTLY over the soundhole do to the tonal quality of the wood?

pulelehua
07-08-2010, 10:16 PM
If I'm reading the link correctly, then the tapping aspect is simply a way of quantifying the "useful" area of the guitar's body cavity as relates to the diameter of the sound hole. That is, too small a hole, or too small a body, and the compressed air at the edges has little effect on the pressure of the air oscillating around the sound hole, and thus less effect on frequency response.

I'm no physicist, but I think that's right.

buddhuu
07-08-2010, 11:10 PM
Tapping is controversial. Some do it on unbraced free plates (instrument tops before they are glued to the body assembly), some do it to tops that have the bracing attached and then fine tune the bracing by shaving and shaping. Once a top is glued to the ribs then it is no longer a free plate and it behaves in a different way. There is wide disagreement amongst luthiers about whether tops should be tuned to resonate at a certain frequency when tapped. Amongst those who do subscribe to that theory there is disagreement about which frequency or note the wood should be tuned to!

I don't personally know anyone who uses tap tones of the top, once fitted, to decide soundhole dimensions - although I'm sure there are many who do that. I do know people who calculate the volume of the air chamber and make a direct correlation with the area of the soundhole.

Bracing on different instruments works very differently. Violins and F style mandolins use "tonebars" and/or "bassbars". These are not for structural strength as the dome of the carved arch tops should have sufficient inherent strength and rigidity to resist downward pressure from string tension without bracing. This is illustrated by the fact that one of the F mandolin models branded "The Loar" (a new brand - nothing to do with Loar of Gibson fame) has no tonebars or other bracing.

Flat top instruments, such as 'ukuleles, are a different matter. Flat top mandolins, because of the tail-piece/bridge arrangement have to resist downward pressure without the inherent strength of an arch shape. This is usually achieved by inducing (bending) a slight arch, and by using braces to reinforce the top. Ukes and flat top guitars have to resist different forces. Bridges on those instruments apply a kind of twisting force to the top, which can result in "bellying". The top wood sinks in front of the bridge and rises behind it. The bracing has to address that.

The best volume and tone are often achieved with thin tops that can vibrate energetically. Construction is a compromise between the thinness of the top and the necessary evil of bracing to keep that thin top from failing under load.

When all those elements are balanced and addressed in a well built instrument, the remaining factors are mostly the woods used, and the player! The use of tonewoods in poorly built, heavy, crude instruments may make less difference: but in a finely crafted instrument, the difference can be very marked.

luvdat
07-09-2010, 12:23 AM
Thanks, Rick. Your last line really says it all.

Along with "poorly built" I think it's fair to say that "overbuilt" is the option for lower priced solid woods?

mailman
07-09-2010, 03:19 AM
Excellent post, buddhuu! I fully agree. I might add that, in addition to the wood and the player, in the end the strings also play a significant role in the sound produced....