View Full Version : Difference in Woods?

07-26-2010, 05:16 PM
So i've been hearing a lot about different woods and what not and just wondering which kind of wood would be considered like the most premium, and what kind of like list goign from best to worst anyone could provide.

07-26-2010, 05:50 PM
The type of woods used in building an instrument is only one of the many variables that determine how an instrument will ultimately sound. And just like with strings, the sound that most appeals to you is subjective. All of which is just a long winded way of saying it is difficult to answer your question. If you like the traditional look and sound, koa is hard to beat. Ukulele purists think that the uke should be made from all hardwoods, others like the sound of a spruce or cedar top. Basically, it is a matter of your looking at and trying a number of instruments to see what most appeals to you.


07-26-2010, 05:52 PM
Ah, yeah i was just curious, im not trying to find out if like a koa instrument is infinitely superior to a mahogany one, but i was just curious because i see a lot more pricey instruments with woods like koa and mango etc. I'm guessing its just a more exotic costly wood?

07-26-2010, 06:10 PM
No great mystery there, the price of lutherie grade wood is based on its scarcity. Plain koa is cheaper than figured koa, which in turn is cheaper than highly figured koa. Now that Honduran mahogany is getting hard to find, watch what happens to the price and availability of it.


07-27-2010, 04:27 AM
I don't think you can say any particular wood is absolutely "the best". Certain woods are definitely better than others, alot depends upon the particular piece of wood and the luthier that makes it into a ukulele.
Koa is well known,but I don't think it's superior to good mahogany or even some other tonewoods. Mango makes great ukes and is a plentiful tree, I think it's not as popular because it's a realatively new wood for ukuleles. Spruces and cedar tops have a certain character that differs from other woods mentioned. Saying there is one superior wood for ukuleles is like saying their is one superior fruit that you should eat.

07-27-2010, 04:55 AM
Here are some wood descriptions from Mya-Moe Ukuleles . . . Standard Woods (http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/standard%20wood.html) & Upgraded Woods (http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/upgraded%20wood.html). These are soilds, not laminates. As far as which is "best" or "superior" it really comes down to individual preference and there are too many factors to be considered.

07-27-2010, 05:21 AM
Here's a quick run-through of how different tone woods could change the sound of an instrument. It shouldn't be taken as definitive, though, because many other factors are at play.
Koa and mango make for a bright, clean, 'traditional' ukulele tone. Mahogany yields a very even tone, as does rosewood, although the latter is much more uncommon a build material for a whole ukulele (as opposed to just a fretboard) and will likely run for a much higher price. Rosewood gives off a pantheon of overtones as well, also adding it its allure and value. Maple gives a very jangle-y tone (softer maples and walnuts are extraordinarily top-tone heavy and cancel out overtones), and cedar is dark-toned and diminished (think classical guitar). The link below will talk you through just about every tonewood you'll run across, and explain to you the characteristics.

07-27-2010, 05:58 AM
I think the maker or design of the uke has more influence on the tone in a uke than the wood does.

For example, LoPrinzi sopranos tend to sound like LoPrinzi's regardless of the wood used - though the wood will make sublte differences. I haven't had enough experience with the other sizes of LoPrinzi's to say that about the larger sizes.

Larrivees also tend to sound like Larrivees, although the woods used seem to make a fairly large difference in the ukes' tone - or maybe there's just less consistency among Larrivees. My spruce & mahogany sounds very different from my all mahogany that sounds very different from my all koa. But they still sound similar underneath it all - a kind of darkness in the third string that I love... yes, I think that's where the signature tone lives.

KoAloha's are always made of koa and they have a unique tone to them. Other koa ukes I've played didn;t sound like KoAloha's except for Kelii koa, which have a similar tone, though a bit more traditional than KoAloha's.

I've played 3 different vintage Martin's from the 20's and they sounded similar, though only one of them knocked my socks off. I played another one from the 50's and it sounded rather different - don;t know if it was the age, a slightly different kind of mahogany, or just that particalar Martin though.

And Ohana's, Makai's, and Mainland's tend to sound similar (they're all made in the same factory) regardless of the materials, though solid woods used do influence the sound and I do believe that spruce tops (and probably cedar) contribute to longer sustain, while hardwood tops tend to contribute to a punchy tone with more rapid decay in all ukes - but I've played many many exceptions to that rule too!

I've read that Mahogany is slightly warmer than koa, etc. etc. etc., but if I were to hear several ukes blindfolded, there's no way I could identify the wood used. I might be able to identify a LoPrinzi, a KoAloha, or an Ohana/Makai/Mainland... but then again, maybe not!!!! I find that certain ukes, regardless of price or make or woods used, really really appeal to me and are accessible even with my rather loudy playing technique...

Also, not even the best ukemaker or uke factory in the world can always make instruments sound great - consistency must be a hard thing to attain when you're dealing with organic materials. I've played a couple of very expensive and also inexpensive stinkers from makers that I normally like a lot. There was one very beautiful uke I remember in particular, handbuilt of all solid incredibly flamed loa, really tastefully done bling, just beautiful to look at... but the pits in tone. Wolf notes, many dead spots up the fretboard, oh it was a travesty of sound... It should have been hung up on the wall and never sold to a player... Never ever bought or played another uke from that maker again... But even my beloved LoPrinzi occasionally puts out a uke that isn;t stellar sounding, and LoPrinzi tends to be very consistent in my experience.

07-27-2010, 06:51 AM
I realize that woods may all have different characteristics, I agree with those who say there is NO perfect wood.
This is a good thing too, if we all wanted the same they would become scarce. There would also be no subtle diiferences in ukuleles when we play together.
Can you imagine if we all had the same voice, it could be very boring.
To me the perfect wood is two components. 1.) the sound, is pleasing to you? and 2.) do you like the look?
How we feel about our ukulele appearence plays a part in our overall satisfaction of the instrument.