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View Full Version : A question of quality.?.?



bobj
11-28-2010, 03:44 PM
Greetings y'all. I have a question.

My first, and only, uke is a Kala flame mahogany (laminate) concert size. It is great for me. Of course I don't know any better, cause I am an isolated newby.

When I listen to other uke videos (for instruction or listening pleasure) I notice that my uke sounds really similar when I am playing the basic notes or chords near the tuner. But as soon as I start moving up the fretboard, with bar chords or notes, my uke doesn't sound anything like the beautiful notes from some other players. Other ukes have these pure, clean, pretty notes and sounds. Mine sounds tinny, and small as I move up the fretboard.
I know a big part of it is my finger placement; I understand that part. I know how to get a "clean" note.

But my question is: is that what makes the difference between a great uke, and my uke? Is it common for my level of uke to sound "poor" compared to other better ukes, especially up the fretboard?
Does that make sense? any advice.
Thanks

mm stan
11-28-2010, 03:52 PM
Aloha Bobj,
I guess a $500.00 ukulele would be considered mid range....solid wood, good craftsmanship, asthetically pleasing, quality product pieces, comfort,playability,and of course sound....deep and rich!! MM Stan

cb56
11-28-2010, 04:03 PM
So My less than $500 Kala is not considered good quality?
I'm not saying it's comparable to hand made boutique instrument, but I consider it to be a good playable instrument.

mm stan
11-28-2010, 04:14 PM
So My less than $500 Kala is not considered good quality?
I'm not saying it's comparable to hand made boutique instrument, but I consider it to be a good playable instrument.

Aloha CB,
When you mention Quality, do you mean Quality craftsmanship or Sound Quality.....Sound Quality is personal preference and can come in any ukulele reguardless of cost.
Some of my lower end ukes have the best sound quality to me...to me when you pay more you get the added bell and whistles...and more consistancy on the sound Quality but not always..MM Stan...
Every ukulele is as individual as you and me ...in sound..that said, even the same brand and the same model and the same maker of two ukes will sound different...due to so many variables...try before you buy...if possible..

Hippie Dribble
11-28-2010, 04:22 PM
hi Bob

could also be your action is a little high? How is the intonation as you play up on the higher frets?

I also agree with Stan, in that I have a $240 Royal concert uke that sounds better than my $1000+ ukes when recorded. Sound preference is a highly subjective thing.

808boy
11-28-2010, 04:24 PM
aloha Bobj, From what I've learned HERE, it all has to do with the type of wood used and if it's solid or of laminate construction. Of course, the better the wood and construction of the instrument, the higher the price is. Someday a lot of us WILL get a better quality ukulele..............BO...........

bobj
11-28-2010, 04:42 PM
Sorry that I'm not making myself understood well. Its totally my fault.

I am talking about sound quality... and specifically up the fretboard.
My Kala sounds awesome at the end (near the tuners), but it doesn't sound anything like other's ukes when I play bar chords and notes up the fretboard.
I don't know enough about it to say that it is an intonation deal, or a case of "ya get what you pay for."
I think the action is fine. It came all set up my MGM with the Aquila strings. No worries on that part.
But I love my Kala, I am just learning how to make her sing a little :-)

mm stan
11-28-2010, 04:57 PM
Sorry that I'm not making myself understood well. Its totally my fault.

I am talking about sound quality... and specifically up the fretboard.
My Kala sounds awesome at the end (near the tuners), but it doesn't sound anything like other's ukes when I play bar chords and notes up the fretboard.
I don't know enough about it to say that it is an intonation deal, or a case of "ya get what you pay for."
I think the action is fine. It came all set up my MGM with the Aquila strings. No worries on that part.
But I love my Kala, I am just learning how to make her sing a little :-)

Aloha Bobj,
Sorry Bob, intonation issues up the fretboard, I'd call MGM back and let him know that
you have intonation issues and your ukulele may need a set-up...and see what he has
to say...he has a good service reputation for helping. since you bought it from him...
Good Luck!!! MM Stan.. hopefully a bridge compensation will do it..

marymac
11-28-2010, 05:01 PM
I think that part of it is technique Bob. I started playing a couple months ago and for a long time I felt like I couldn't get those lovely high ringing tones like MGM does on his uke demos (he plays each of the four strings at the 12th fret). Just today I was experimenting though and found that I was able to get some nice ringing from those frets when I fret each string with a separate finger instead of a barre.

Another thing that really affects this is string type. I have a wide variety of strings on my various ukes (Worth Clears, Aquilas, Fremont Blackline, Orcas) and all seem to get nice tones from the 12th fret but it can be harder to get a nice tone high on the neck from the low G on the fluorocarbon/nylgut strings. Not so much on the high G and on wound low G.

It might be that your uke doesn't have the frets in the right places higher up on the neck but you didn't mention that it sounded flat/sharp, just that it didn't ring and that wouldn't be caused by the frets being off (anyone more experienced can correct me if I'm wrong on that!)

Basically I wouldn't worry about this right now if I were you unless you're looking for a reason to buy more ukes which I completely understand. The tone you get from the uke will likely improve as your skills improve. If you ARE ready to buy a new uke, you will likely get a better tone overall from a more expensive uke but the truth is there is always something that you would like to be different about the uke(s) you have, often leading to purchasing yet another. Practice playing and you can make nice music from 'most any uke you pick up.

roxhum
11-28-2010, 05:14 PM
I don't know much but what I do know is, my entry level laminate, versus my flea, versus my solid wood koa. The solde wood koa is a whole lot easier to make beautiful music. I don't have to be nearly as precise on the fingering and it rings, vibrates richer. The flea and the entry level laminate are pretty good but they do not sing as easily or as prettily as the solid wood. Is there any place you can go with a selection of ukuleles. It could be fun to play with a variety of ukuleles.

Roxhum

Doc_J
11-28-2010, 05:25 PM
How long has that particular uke been played? I'm not sure about laminated wood, but solid wood tends to sound better with age and playing.
I assume the same is true for your uke. Also, experiment with other strings. Worth Clears are generally my favorite.

BTW if you have a chromatic tuner, you can check your intonation up the fretboard to rule out or identify intonation problems.

Dane
11-28-2010, 05:45 PM
It could be your action needs to be adjusted, or maybe you should try a different set of strings. A few things that help with good tone at higher frets: Fingernails, like a pick they give crisper tone; putting your finger as close to the fret as possible when fretting, the tone will sound sweeter; try playing around with where you strum/pick, example: closer or further away from the bridge, you will find a "sweet" spot somewhere; and check your environment, I've found some environments I play in I can't hear my higher notes as well.

Dane
11-28-2010, 05:47 PM
How long has that particular uke been played? I'm not sure about laminated wood, but solid wood tends to sound better with age and playing.
I assume the same is true for your uke. Also, experiment with other strings. Worth Clears are generally my favorite.

BTW if you have a chromatic tuner, you can check your intonation up the fretboard to rule out or identify intonation problems.

Well, you could be set up with a higher-than normal action, with intonation correct, but your tone sounds different than it would if your action was low and intonation correct. I think Ken Middleton has adressed this in some of his uke reviews.

Kekani
11-28-2010, 08:04 PM
Bob,

First of all, you have a Kala. Great beginner instrument. MGM strings Aquila's because they tend to bring out volume in lower end instruments (although more than a few high end instruments have them as well - midrange Factory instruments like KoAloha and Kamaka tend to not sound so good to my ears with Aquila's, again, just me). I've seen some of their better models, and they're pretty good for their price range of less than $500.

As for intonation, Aquila's have been horrendous in my past, which is why I don't use them anymore (I used to string exclusively with them). Again, Aquila's on your instrument is fine, although if it intonating incorrectly to the point you can hear it, try changing your strings, or getting it set up properly. MGM does set up his instruments way better than stock, but that's about it. A good setup will cost you, depending on the shop, $50+. Probably not worth it for your Kala.

If its clean quality chords that you're looking for, then the quality of build can make a difference, not just the quality of wood. You can have the best wood in the world, and have the worst playing instrument in the world at the same time. This is where Customs can, and should, make a difference.

If you can ring harmonics at the 12th, that's pretty good (believe it or not, some instruments can't). When you can do it at the 7th and 5th, now you're talking.

Personally, I'd change your strings to better strings, then I'd change the instrument. Seems your ear has outdone the Kala. MGM should be able to set you up with a better match.

Aaron

StevieC
11-28-2010, 10:52 PM
Hi bobj, I have recently experienced a problem similar to the one you describe. I changed my usual Savarez Fluorocarbon strings for Aquilas (on a Mele mahogany tenor) and noticed immediately that the notes were not ringing as clearly as I was used to higher up the neck.

I would suggest a new set of strings, maybe Worth clears.

bobj
11-29-2010, 12:35 AM
Thanks for all the input.
I think I mostly just need to get a lot better.
I wish I could actually see and hear other ukes, but I haven't had the opportunity yet. It'll happen, though, and then I will have a lot better idea of whats what.

I know one thing for sure; my Kala and its strings are still waaaaaay better than my playing.

I am content with that.... for now :-)

JamieFromOntario
11-29-2010, 01:24 AM
I've been fooling with different strings lately and have found that there can be wide variation in sound up above the 12th fret.

I find that aquilas (as mentioned above) are not that good when played up high - many of the harmonics seem to be missing even when I take the time and get my finger in exactly the right spot.

I have recently been trying out some Fremont Black Flurocarbons on my BlueGrassUkes tenor. These are wonderful, warm strings, particularly in the first 8 or so frets. However, once I move up higher (10th + fret), I begin to lose that pure ringing, filled-with-overtones sound that I really enjoy.

So, to get better sound up there, I just put on some SouthCoast Medium gage strings which are brighter down low than the Fremonts but not quite to garish as the aquilas, plus they sound amazing all the way up and off the fret board.



I would consider trying out some quality nylon strings (that's what the southcoasts are).

Ingrate
11-29-2010, 06:01 AM
Bobj, if I understand your problem correctly, you're talking about sustain, not intonation.

Amplified 'ukes have lots of sustain, and that's what you're hearing on many of the utube vids.

I bought my KoAloha largely because it has such great sustain all the way up the neck (it's a soprano!). It came w/worth clears, and those seem to have the most sustain (I've tried aquila and worth browns on it). Even so, it doesn't have the sustain of my $170 Eleuke (aquilas).

Just my thoughts. You can try some worth clears next time you change strings..?

Lori
11-29-2010, 07:29 AM
Sometimes it is just technique... test to see how much finger pressure is needed to make a clean sound. Guitar players usually start off pressing too hard. It actually sounds better if you don't have the "death grip" pressure. I found the $250- $350 Kala level ukes just fine. The middle range might be slightly better, but I didn't buy any of those because they just weren't that much better than what I had. I just saved my money for a high level ukulele. It is best to try out all the different sizes to see what size is your favorite... in case you want a really nice one later on. There can be a significant improvement in sound quality between the $250 level ukes and the $750 +. But there are always a few lower end ukes that sound great. It all depends on what you like, and the individual qualities of each ukulele. Set-up is important. Most of my Kalas were fine out of the box. But there will always be a few that need a better set-up to truly shine. A ukulele with a bad set-up can sound "off", unpleasant and annoying.
–Lori

70sSanO
11-29-2010, 08:24 AM
There are a couple of things both good and bad. I would think, all things being equal, that a laminate concert size ukulele would be tougher to get that nice bell sound, compared to a tenor size, because it has a smaller soundboard, lower string tension, and the laminate may not move the air as well.

However, you may be able to coax more tone out of it. You may want to try different strings and even different tunings.

I used to have one of my ukuleles tuned down to Bb and used Worth Brown Strong strings and it sounded very sweet, more than when tuned to C. On the flip side, when using Aquilas, the same ukulele sounds better tuned to C than Bb.

By trying different strings and tunings, you may be able to find a combination that gives you the best bell sound you are looking for. The next step is for you to be able to develop a technique that maximizes that sweetness… for instance, pulling up with the fingers instead of down with a thumb.

John

pastyman
11-29-2010, 09:18 AM
As a newbie, I have been a little surprised how often people refer to the make of their uke. Never occurred to me before but I suppose there is a wide selection out there . I got mine locally, Its a " Laka". Not seen anything like it on here. Its made by " Vintage" and has a lovely rich tone, very sweet. Oh its a tenor too. and with a very nice understated finish.I wonder how the experts on here would rate it
I also have an old G Haughton and son banjo uke, Cellebration which is a nice little instrument fot that Formby stuff. An interesting one I picked up was what I thought was a banjolele but has in fact turned out to be a Banjolin. it has a very large drum with a short neck and four strings tuned like a mandolin. Unamed and pretty, I dont think I want to start learning another set of chords so I may just stick it up on Fleabay

KamakOzzie
11-29-2010, 10:42 AM
I picked up was what I thought was a banjolele but has in fact turned out to be a Banjolin. it has a very large drum with a short neck and four strings tuned like a mandolin. Unamed and pretty, I dont think I want to start learning another set of chords so I may just stick it up on Fleabay

Not to hijack but, before you sell it, put a set of ukulele strings on it and tune it like a uke. I have one set up that way, and it sounds nice.

Bill

MGM
11-29-2010, 11:38 AM
i agree with Lori Sometimes it is technique My fingers for example are so fat that trying to bar chord on the 7th fret on a concert to ring ad sustain is almost a physical impossibilty as my finger s so wide is sort of dampens as it overlaps the metal fret....

DAPuke
11-29-2010, 11:39 AM
Hi Bobj, You've been given excellent advice from our most knowledgable and helpful UU family. I would offer this suggestion:
If available, hand your uke to someone you know can play and see how it sound in someone elses hands. Then you'll know is it you or the uke. Good luck my friend:)
DAP

kenikas
11-29-2010, 05:14 PM
I agree with DAPuke, have someone else play it. Ukes often sound very different depending on where you are in relation to the soundhole since the sound is projected out from the soundhole and soundboard, some sounds are rather muted from the above and somewhat behind playing position. But as has been said try different strings, they can make a big difference.

Bill Mc
11-29-2010, 05:54 PM
Bobj, one thing is for sure. Don't discount your uke simply because it is a Kala. I remember the 60's and 70's when Japanese imports of electronics and cars hit the American market and the insults heaped upon them. And we all know how that ended up. Maintain your fingernails well as the quality and condition of your nails will make a substantial difference in the sound you are able to bring out.

bobj
11-29-2010, 07:07 PM
No worries. I am not giving up on my Kala. I love it. I still have a lot of growing-into-it.

I think you all are right. If someone with skillz plays my uke, I will learn a lot. And, when I can play other ukes, I will also learn a lot.
I am quite isolated (uke-wise), but it will happen sometime.

Until then, I will just slowly improve.