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LynnF
01-17-2011, 06:56 PM
Hi all,

I hope this hasn't been discussed to death, and that this is place to ask (I'm new). I know that solid wood ukes are supposed to have better sound than those with laminate parts, which certainly makes sense, but what about the wood type itself? I see beautiful instruments made from spalted mango, mahogany, koa, acacia, zebrawood, lacewood, etc, but wonder how the sound differs with the different materials, and if that should influence my purchases. I just bought an Ohana TK-50 WG with a solid cedar top and laminate willow back and sides. The sound is bright and bold, which I like, but I also liked the sweeter, more mellow sound of the TK-25 G, which is solid mahogany.

Guess that's a long question. :confused:

Cheers,
Lynn

didgeridoo2
01-17-2011, 07:23 PM
Seems as though you've answered your own question. Do you prefer bright and bold? Or sweeter? Variety is the spice of life. Play as many types of wood as you can. Also, pick up the string sampler from mgm if he still offers one. Check out the mya moa website. There's a page which suggests the tonal differences of numerous wood species. But one koa uke will likely sound different than another, even if crafted by the same luthier. It's all really a journey. Enjoy it.

Liam Ryan
01-17-2011, 09:33 PM
The general rule (with lots of exceptions) is that a light weight top eg. spruce, cedar, redwood etc will have a faster attack with less sustain and a greater biased bass sound. Heavier top eg. koa, mahogany etc with less attack, greater sustain and a biased treble response. This is because it takes greater energy to get a heavier top moving but once it's moving it takes a while to stop. A flywheel type effect. The same is happening when you can (by yourself) roll start a car by pushing it, then jumping in and dumping the clutch. The car keeps moving even though you've jumped in.

hmgberg
01-17-2011, 10:58 PM
liam_fnq gives a good description above. Check out this links for more details:

http://www.theguitarsherpa.com/categories/tonewood-sound-characteristics.html

mm stan
01-18-2011, 12:04 AM
Aloha Lynn,
Which would you rather have a richer tone or a brighter one...other criteria may also be factors too ....saddle, nut , and strings... Your Ohana with the cedar top will always be on the bright side....
You can try to change the strings to thicker guages and you might a little richer tone but not always...I'd PM Ken Middleton here, he works for and plays an Ohana ukes...I'm not too familiar with them...
Good Luck, MM Stan

hmgberg
01-18-2011, 02:35 AM
What MM Stan says is true, cedar is going to be on the bright side - and sound a little guitar-like as well. You need another ukulele to complement the one you have and get that mellow sound you like as well. A solid mahogany, like the Ohana 35 series with Worth Brown strings should do it.

LynnF
01-18-2011, 04:59 AM
Thanks everyone! That's all really helpful. The bottom line seems to be to own as many different ukes as I can. :-)

Cheers

Lynn

Kekani
01-18-2011, 06:02 AM
The general rule (with lots of exceptions) is that a light weight top eg. spruce, cedar, redwood etc will have a faster attack with less sustain and a greater biased bass sound. Heavier top eg. koa, mahogany etc with less attack, greater sustain and a biased treble response. This is because it takes greater energy to get a heavier top moving but once it's moving it takes a while to stop. A flywheel type effect. The same is happening when you can (by yourself) roll start a car by pushing it, then jumping in and dumping the clutch. The car keeps moving even though you've jumped in.

Exceptions: All of my Spruce tops have much greater sustain than ANY hardwood top I've built. They also play up higher nicely. The Hardwood tops tend to be "sweeter" and more "mellow" all around - this is not to say they're muddy though.

Thing about my Spruce tops is they have the ability to play soft and loud (as Bryan Tolentino taught me). I feel you can do more with a correctly build Spruce top, from aggressive picking to kanikapila strumming with a few pa`ani thrown in.

Bass response, for me, lends itself to the body woods moreso than the top, given the same top. But, my Tenors tend to be resonant anyway.

Bradford
01-18-2011, 08:45 AM
In my humble opinion loudness and sustain are more effected by how an instrument is constructed, rather than the woods used. In general, softwoods tend to produce a purer fundamental tone, and hardwoods tend to be richer in overtones. Different species of woods have different frequency spectrums that they favor. That said, construction techniques play a larger role in how an instrument sounds. If someone wants to weigh in and explain why the Fun Build, with its six different body woods, sounds like it does, I would love to hear it.

Brad

Allen
01-18-2011, 09:22 AM
All of this choice is great, but string choice is also a huge factor in what you are going to hear. Try that same instrument with 6 different brands and types of strings and you'll have 6 different instruments.

And also in with Brad on how the instrument is built is going to affect the response you are going to get regardless of the choice of wood.

Jaicen
01-18-2011, 10:25 AM
It has been my experience that the wood an instrument is constructed from is not all that important to the total sound of the instrument.
The size and method of construction is far more important to the overall sound.
Also, don't forget, that a lot of the wood available today is either stumpwood (damn you CITES!) or new growth. It's not necessarily the same wood that reputations are built on. For example, Cuban Mahogany is available today, but it's not grown on the same continent or even the same hemisphere. It's all plantation grown in completely different conditions. It is therefore a completely different wood, regardless of the species. Do you see where i'm going with this?

Nuprin
01-18-2011, 01:20 PM
Mya Moe has a sliding scale for each of the woods they use that shows where the wood tone is in terms of brightness. The back/side woods page is here. (http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/custom%20wood.html)

Liam Ryan
01-18-2011, 01:54 PM
Another way to mellow things out is to install an Ebony nut and saddle

ichadwick
01-19-2011, 01:34 AM
..solid wood ukes are supposed to have better sound than those with laminate parts...but what about the wood type itself...spalted mango, mahogany, koa, acacia, zebrawood, lacewood...
Better is strictly subjective. Laminates may sound beautiful to someone's ears. The issues with laminates are more in how they work and age. Laminate materials are designed for strength, with plies laid at 90 degrees to each other, so they collectively resist movement more than solid woods. This in turn restricts the ability of the top to vibrate, which may limit tonal and volume output. And laminates will not change sound like solid wood woods, over time. They do not age or "break in".

Laminate materials may suffer if the glue dissolves or dries out, and the plies separate (de-laminate). Aside from deterioration of the wood, this can create acoustic dead spots on the instrument. And while a laminate may have a particular wood on its external surfaces, you might never know what's inside. It might be a poor quality wood, with knots and holes and poor acoustic properties. But, like I said, some laminate-top ukes will sound beautiful.

You can generalize about woods - mahogany is mellow, spruce is bright, etc. - but each piece of wood is different, sometimes greatly, sometimes subtlely, from each other. The location of the cut, amount of grain, age of the wood, humidity, thickness of the cut, etc. all affect the sound. I have a bright, solid mahogany baritone, a very mellow one, and a third that's in between. I have a mellow mango tenor and a bright, cheerful one.

Other factors affect the sound - the type of strings, string tension, saddle material, bridge material, internal bracing, instrument shape and size, size and location of the sound hole, finish, side and back materials, and even how it is held (against your body or away from it). The top wood is important, but not the only material that has an effect.

Ukes are naturally bright because of their pitch and small body size. That's their signature sound. Some woods, saddles, and designs can mitigate that somewhat by shifting the tonal output a little towards a lower frequency range. But an acoustic uke will never sound like a guitar. It will always sound like a ukulele; some just a little brighter than others.

My recommendation: choose the instruments by how they feel, sound and look to you before you choose one by the types of wood it uses.

ichadwick
01-19-2011, 01:38 AM
Another way to mellow things out is to install an Ebony nut and saddle
Many old ukes I've seen had a one-piece mahogany bridge-saddle. I've often wondered if this was to save money, or to convey a mellowing effect.

Nuts have a minimal effect on the overall tone. They help reflect some of the string's energy back, but only when the string is played open. A fretted string negates any effect the nut material has. It's more effort than it's worth to change the nut.

hmgberg
01-19-2011, 05:52 AM
I'd agree entirely that there are a lot of factors beyond the specific tone wood used that affect the sound. Often these have a greater impact on tone than the tone wood. How an ukulele is built seems to be the most significant factor to me. In my experience, a Martin koa soprano sounds more like a Martin mahogany soprano and less like a Kamaka soprano, for example. Also I have played a number of Martin O's of the same vintage; some sound good, and others sound great. This would lend further credence to what Ian writes about specific pieces of wood. He's right, you can only generalize about tone wood. You can otherwise really drive yourself mad with this stuff. The best advice is to play everything you can get your hands on and buy the one that sounds and feels right to you. Of course, then you will want to find another one that sounds right to you...and another one...