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View Full Version : Anyone want to try a scientific approach?



Noobie
07-31-2011, 06:44 AM
I love reading all of the discussions about how one instrument sounds so much different than another, and what woods sounds like, or strings, etc. But my personal experience with these things is that perception matters more than anything else in subjective things like this. My father used to work in high-end audio, and there were constant debates about whether something "sounded better," even if it couldn't be tested.

I thought it might be fun to take a scientific approach to garner some discussion. All we'd need would be a gathering of ukers and a variety of ukes. Here's how it might work:

* Pick a simple short song or chord progression to play.
* Pick a player who believes they can play fairly consistently.
* Give the player a variety of ukuleles, including high-end and low-end. Give all of the listeners a sheet of paper with the various ukes written down.
* Have the player play the same song on each ukulele, and have the listeners write down a score from 1-5 on how "good" the ukulele sounds to them, and any observations about the sound such as "bright," or "loud."
* Have the player go behind a screen of some type so no one can see what he's playing, and have him play the ukes in a random (but noted) order, and have the listeners rate each one again, and write notes.
* See how they compare.

I have some suspicions as to how the results will turn out, but I'll save them for now.

Are there any uke get togethers out there that might be interested in trying something like this "in the name of science?" It should be a lot of fun, too.

hapuna
07-31-2011, 07:01 AM
Basically a blind wine tasting approach!!:D

zac987
07-31-2011, 07:16 AM
In order for this to be good science at all, you'd need it to be a double blind study and to have a single player at a single skill level. Your approach leaves far too many variables.

hoosierhiver
07-31-2011, 07:22 AM
Not to diss the idea, but I don't think this would produce anything worthwhile. You can have 20 ukuleles of the same wood, same brand, played by the same person and some will sound better, some worse because each uke is different. Each ukulele is a different piece of wood with different grains, pieced together with slightly more or slightly less glue in different places. There are variables that make it impossible to study this with any sort of precision.

Noobie
07-31-2011, 08:15 AM
There are certainly variables you can't control for, but there should be enough consistency within a group to giveneaningful results. Otherwise, it would be foolish to spend more than $50 or so on a ukulele. One Kamaka may sound different than another of the sane model, but how often will a Kamaka sound "better" than a Lanikai laminate, for example?

You should be able to get enough information to determine how much is perception.

Dan Uke
07-31-2011, 08:20 AM
[QUOTE=Noobie;737674]There are certainly variables you can't control for, but there should be enough consistency within a group to giveneaningful results. Otherwise, it would be foolish to spend more than $50 or so on a ukulele. One Kamaka may sound different than another of the sane model, but how often will a Kamaka sound "better" than a Lanikai laminate, for example?

You should be able to get enough information to determine how much is perception.[/QUOTE


I guess this is possible at the next gathering as I doubt too many people having enough ukes to do the test...Anyone? Stan???

didgeridoo2
07-31-2011, 08:23 AM
Other variables would be string selection and quite frankly, given the amount of string threads here, I doubt you could choose one set that would work for all the ukes used in your test. Interesting to think about and since we really can't test it here, why don't you share your suspicions with us.

didgeridoo2
07-31-2011, 08:26 AM
You should be able to get enough information to determine how much is perception.
I'm guessing you believe that many "quality" ukes are only perceived to have a better sound than some lower priced options?

blulegend
07-31-2011, 08:28 AM
The only way would be to send in your uke to someone who uses standard testing and recording tools. Like a machine that will pluck the strings and records tension, sound, vibration, resonance, air movement, etc etc etc. It would require so much sophistication that it would take the fun and uniqueness out of it.

Noobie
07-31-2011, 09:39 AM
You're talking about taking the test to a very high degree of certainty. You'd have to account for humidity, temperature, the agree of the instruments, etc. But all you'd determine form that is that the instruments have different tonal qualities, which will be certain. A waveform doesn't necessarily indicate what sounds "good" to someone (and what sounds good to one person may sound bad to another, since it's all subjective).

I'm just curious if people can really hear as much difference as they think they can if they don't know what's being played. Tis is similar to Music Guy Mike's test as to whether people can tell the difference between laminate solid ukes (most people couldn't tell at all, but a few could).

Bradford
07-31-2011, 09:39 AM
In a number of blind listening tests, the audience was unable to tell the difference between relatively cheap violins and $30,000 ones. The player, however, could tell immediately. Although that is somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison, playability and general feel are issues that distinguish ukuleles in terms of quality. The bottom line, buy what pleases you, sound quality is subjective.

Brad

PhilUSAFRet
07-31-2011, 09:41 AM
Basically a blind wine tasting approach!!:D

I'm with hapuna, let's do wine instead! :)

Noobie
07-31-2011, 10:41 AM
That's fine and all, but this sounded fun to me. :)

hoosierhiver
07-31-2011, 04:53 PM
That's fine and all, but this sounded fun to me. :)

It is a fun idea, and again I don't mean to be a buzz kill, but the more I think about it the more things you'd have to consider, such as the age of the instrument. Most people agree solid wood opens up over time, so you'd have to compare solids that were the same age as well as similar in other regards. It's fun to consider the variables anyway despite the inpracticality of a study.

webby
07-31-2011, 06:28 PM
I would also like to point out that the same uke can be played in many different ways.

Since I bought my Eleuke, (which is set up brilliantly, the action is perfect, the intonation is very good, it has aquillas on it which feel perfect to play on that instrument), but I have never been happy with it plugged in, So last weekend i had the house to myself for a couple of days and decided to plug it into the Roland and play with the settings on the uke and the amp and try to work out what was going on with the sound.

What I discovered was that some settings were awfull sounding on some tunes but perfect on others, so a harsh treble top end sound was hopeless for finger picking or jazz strumming, but perfect for some toots and the maytals SKA skanking stuff.

And a boomy midrange setting sounded just too over bearing untill I backed the reverb off, then at some point there was a magic level where everything fits naturally into a nice blend of tones, suggesting that the accoustics in different venues and performance spaces lend themselves to particulat styles of playing, tones of strings and every variable you can imagine.

So I got fascinated with this for a few hours, after the Eleuke had redeemed itself somewhat by me showing it has hidden qualities that just needed teasing out, I started experimenting with the non electric ukes, the dolphins, the tanglewood concert, the indonesean rosewood no name cutaway, and they all had the same thing happening, if I adjusted my playing to what the uke was doing, there was always a good combo of tune, style of playing and uke noise to be found.

So I think it would be very hard to make a comparison between ukes even with the same player, perhaps it would be far more usefull to have a very talanted player take any uke and demonstrate how they approach playing that kind of instrument with that kind of sound.

IE, this is a cheap laminate from china but it does this style very well if you strumm it like this, most laminates will offer this ability,,blah blah blah.....

Food for thought anyway.

webby

hapuna
07-31-2011, 08:13 PM
OK I think we can do this pretty simply. Have someone(not me) go to Uke Hunt and make sound files out of his YouTube reviews of ukuleles. don't include any words just the sound file of the ukulele. Get 6 bottles of wine to blind taste while playing the files in some random order and rank them. I think he might be a member here if I'm not mistaken. Voila.

Pippin
07-31-2011, 09:31 PM
Blind testing of this sort was done already-- thanks to MusicGuyMic. People all "guessed" which uke was which based on the blind sound tests. The idea was that the better sounding ukes would be stand-outs. Does anyone else remember Mike doing that?

Noobie
08-01-2011, 02:50 AM
I referenced that earlier. It was actually a test to see whether people could tell the difference between laminate and solid ukes. The answer turned out to be "not so much" when listening to a recording.

OldePhart
08-01-2011, 11:58 AM
In a number of blind listening tests, the audience was unable to tell the difference between relatively cheap violins and $30,000 ones. The player, however, could tell immediately. Although that is somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison, playability and general feel are issues that distinguish ukuleles in terms of quality. The bottom line, buy what pleases you, sound quality is subjective.

Brad

+1 on this

There is a simlar situation with tube amps vs. modelling amps in the guitar world. Some of the best modelling amps or processors are getting very good at duplicating "cranked tube tone" but the feel is still all wrong for the player.

John