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View Full Version : The cachet of Hawaiian ukes



brokenwing
06-29-2008, 06:48 AM
There are certainly many good uke builders throughout the world, yet many times I see that people aspire to own a Hawaiian-made uke above all else. Is that because there is a signature "Hawaiian" sound that island builders nail better than their counterparts, or is it the cachet of owning an island instrument and all the tradition that goes along with it? Is there some sonic similarity among the Koalohas, Kanileas, Ko'olaus, Kamakas, etc.? It can't just be all in the koa...

h-drix
06-29-2008, 07:14 AM
If it comes from hawaii there is a larger chance of using Koa. From looking at builders from other areas they seem to use more "guitar" type of woods (ie:mahogony). So the wood use will change the sound, but another thing (from what i understand) is that the build technique changes the sound. i can't get in to detail here because i dont build ukes.


Is there some sonic similarity among the Koalohas, Kanileas, Ko'olaus, Kamakas, etc.? It can't just be all in the koa...

If it was all koa most of these companies would be out of business. lol. If you get the chance line up the different companies ukes and play all of them in a row. You'll truly see how much of a diffrence there is.

But you are right, i am sure there is a mental aspect of knowing your uke was built where there is history behind it.

brokenwing
06-29-2008, 09:12 AM
So the wood use will change the sound, but another thing (from what i understand) is that the build technique changes the sound.
for sure, h-drix, most of the sound is in the build, especially in those areas related to the soundboard which is responsible for most of the character of the uke.

In guitar building the bracing pattern and type of bracing has a huge impact as does the "thicknessing" of the soundboard (the top is actually thinner near the outside edges allowing it to vibrate more freely). Many builders also radius the tops, which allow for a thinner top that still has enough integrity to withstand the stress of the strings).

But I get your point, that even among the high-end Hawaiian builders there are differences in how they sound. But I guess what my question is, do they share a specific island tone or is that something that even exists?

Plainsong
06-29-2008, 11:27 AM
Why do people buy watches with Swiss-made movements, when Japanese movements especially or at least as good if not better? I think it's part of the cool factor of getting something from the place where it all started. But that cool factor wouldn't exist if the sound wasn't there. It just so happens that with the companies building out of Hawaii, they'll deliver you an instrument that sounds great and is Hawaiian made.

But I don't think a uke has to be Hawaiian to be a proper uke. Not all of the top luthiers are even in Hawaii.

UkuleleBlake
06-29-2008, 11:59 AM
Yeah. One of those things were you just know you got it where it originated. Even if you had say a Les Paul prototype, I bet you'd play that a lot even though a finished product might sound better. It's a mindset thing. But I like the sound of all ukes. Wouldn't mind having a Hawiian-made one.