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View Full Version : Please can you tell me of your experiences with Spruce ukes, do they hmmmm your soul?



Leodhas
09-26-2011, 11:21 AM
I'm getting N.U.F (new uke fever) again, especially as it's coming upto Chrimbo and want to treat myself and I was thinking about going spruce!

However, I am slightly concerned that they may sound a wee bit too acoustic guitarish (don't know if that's a technical term). Nevertheless, I was really hoping for some feedback off folks who have experience with them. I'm either going to get the basic Kala model or maybe try a riptide, other suggestions would go down well. Getting a concert or tenor.

Bloody ukuleles are taking over my life, I haven't bought a guitar in nearly 2 years now, Mad!

Anyway, spruce, good or bad?

ItsMrPitchy
09-26-2011, 11:23 AM
Sound is all subjective. I love my spruce top and think that with aquilas it really makes a nice bright sound. Try one at the shop first.

fabioponta
09-26-2011, 11:25 AM
For me, spruce top = bright sound and good sustain. I like for picking.
Best in concert or tenor (so much "punkly" in a soprano that I have played last year)


For me, Spruce = good. :D

Leodhas
09-26-2011, 11:27 AM
Sound is all subjective. I love my spruce top and think that with aquilas it really makes a nice bright sound. Try one at the shop first.

No go on the trying in the shop, music shops in Scotland tend not to have a good selection of ukes.

maclay
09-26-2011, 11:57 AM
Spruce top ukes are great. My favorite being adirondack spruce. Spruce is very responsive, and has a very high velocity of sound (The speed at which the wood transmits energy.). It also has a very high volume ceiling (it's loud)

Mim
09-26-2011, 03:58 PM
I love Spruce, I also love Cedar! Check out both!

itsme
09-26-2011, 04:28 PM
I love Spruce, I also love Cedar! Check out both!
Same here.

Spruce and cedar are actually the most popular tops for classical guitars for a reason. They are excellent tonewoods.

I have two spruce and two cedar topped tenors. I wouldn't compare them to guitars.

If anything, and these are very subjective terms, I would say cedar sounds bolder/warmer, and spruce sounds brighter/crisper. Both seem louder in comparison to, say, mahogany, which is known for sounding mellow.

YMMV

jackwhale
09-26-2011, 05:33 PM
I have a really good spruce top baritone, and the sound is nothing like a guitar. If I haven't played guitar in a while, I'm always surprised how loud and how much sustain a guitar has. The dynamic range is also much greater in a guitar.

TCK
09-26-2011, 06:26 PM
All my acoustic Ukes are spruce topped, except one. I own a Martin Style 3M which is Mahogany, and it has this amazing bass response that I absolutely love, it is a fantastic blend of all the notes I play with a perfect Ukulele thunk at the end of their lives... but it cannot do what spruce does. In my collection, the Mahog is for tunes that I want to sound old, the spruce for ones I want to sound great. The spruce top has a ring to it that I have not heard elsewhere-something about the sustain...
Imagine of you will all the notes in a chord lining up and shouting out one at a time- that is what Spruce sounds like to me. And that is why there are six within my reach right now.
I have played cedar as well- it is amazing too, but I have yet to buy the one- probably going to say Mya Moe on it when I do.

marymac
09-26-2011, 08:08 PM
Four of my favorite ukes have spruce tops and I have a spruce top/sycamore body on order at Mya Moe right now. Love the sprucies!

Teek
09-26-2011, 08:14 PM
Another vote for spruce, I have two spruce topped ukes (one a phenomenal custom plus an awesomely loud old soprano), a guitalele with a lam (I believe) spruce top, a cedar topped soprano uke and two cedar topped guitars; one a short scale classical and the other a short scale steel string. Everybody should have at least one spruce top.

erivel
09-26-2011, 08:34 PM
My Pohaku tenor's top is Sitka Spruce and I love it! Very different from the Koa and Mahogany tops that I've owned in the past. It is definately brighter, but it's also coupled with Maple back and sides which adds to the brightness.

freackykit
09-27-2011, 01:58 AM
I love spruce too and would say that of the ukes I own (including a koa) spruce is my main player.

Of course it is subjective and depends on what you play, but as I attempt fingerpicking a lot it is my favourite...The koa and mahog being good but I have to be in the mood!

Chris

bigdog
09-27-2011, 02:25 AM
Also love the spruce tops. The tonal balance is more evident and resonant than any other tone wood I have played or owned.

kissing
09-27-2011, 04:42 AM
However, I am slightly concerned that they may sound a wee bit too acoustic guitarish

They make guitars out of pretty much any wood that is used to make ukes.
You don't hear guitarists saying "Jeez that Koa guitar might sound like a uke"

I don't really see how it applies the other way round whatsoever

Leodhas
09-27-2011, 05:24 AM
They make guitars out of pretty much any wood that is used to make ukes.
You don't hear guitarists saying "Jeez that Koa guitar might sound like a uke"

I don't really see how it applies the other way round whatsoever

Jesus ! I don't know if you meant to come across as conceited with that statement, but you did pal. Get out the wrong side of the bed this morning?

Most guitarists In my part of the world (that primarily being Scotland and Ireland) do not have guitars made out of Koa. Most players guitars are made from spruce, some cedar but mainly spruce. In the sentence you highlight I was attempting to address my concerns that a spruce uke may lose some of it's authentic sound (for want of a better expression) and possibly have a tonal quality more akin to a travel guitar (for example) than a uke. I stupidly assumed most folks would derive that information for themselves.

Puch ma horne!

kissing
09-27-2011, 06:07 AM
Sorry, I failed to see how a small-bodied, nylon stringed instrument of spruce top would sound anything like a huge instrument tuned EADGBE with steel strings, a scale length several times as long and the top itself being several times thicker.

Sure, it's expected that both may sound a bit 'bright' and 'projected', but a uke sounding like a travel guitar due to the spruce?
I didn't mean to come across as snappy or anything, but I just found it hard to make the association..


Just to illustrate:

Spruce-top uke:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQuLB1czYRI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQuLB1czYRI


Spruce-top guitar:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbHfG-CxFrQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbHfG-CxFrQ


I understand I'm being rather picky... I think it hit some kind of obsessive nerve in my brain, like Austin Powers and the "Mole" guy

Lalz
11-04-2011, 11:25 AM
Hiya! I have a spruce-top soprano and I love it to pieces. Sounds nothing like a guitar IMO.
I noticed you're based in Edinburgh? If you want to try ukuleles in the flesh there are some really nice music shops down in Newcastle, just a train ride away. JG Windows has a quite good selection, there's one at Monument in the city centre and one at Metro Centre in Gateshead. My favourite is Hound Dog Music that specialises in ukuleles. It's in Monkseaton (Whitley Bay) outside of Newcastle but easily reached by metro (well except sometimes during the week-end as they sometimes do work on the metro line). And if you feel like playing your latest purchase at a local uke club, there's quite a lot of them in town. Make it a day-trip! :-)
Good luck!

mm stan
11-04-2011, 12:40 PM
Found it to be a bright experience for me..while I like them on the guitars, for the smaller bodied ukes they seem to not match my personal preference...sorry...

Doc_J
11-04-2011, 01:32 PM
It seems to me the builder and design of the uke have more to do with the resulting sound than from what tonewood the soundboard is made.

Just my causal observation.

ProfChris
11-05-2011, 06:01 AM
I've made a soprano uke with a spruce top, and just completed an identical design with a yew top and a near-identical design in mahogany. All three have mahogany bodies. They sound very different.

The mahogany one sounds like a traditional uke - short sustain, plunky, fairly "round" sound.

The spruce top gives more sustain, more top end resonance, but much less at the bass end (to the extent that a soprano has any bass). Very little "plunk" to it. To my ear, much more like a baby classical guitar than a uke. Playing something jazzy/poppy from the 20s, the chords ring out longer and tend to "bleed" into each other. I don't think it works so well for that style of strumming. But it's very good for songs which are slower, where the extra sustain works well.

The yew top may well be the best of both worlds - a little more sustain than the mahogany, but still a full sound for a uke and plunky, with a sweetness/richness which mahogany doesn't have. It's most similar to my 20s Kumalae koa soprano. Still to be finished, so I only have an approximate idea how it will turn out.

If you fancy the idea of yew, you might want to consider looking up Stuart Longridge, a luthier from Devon who makes some all yew ukes which are very highly spoken of. I think they are priced comparable to a mid-range commercially-manufactured uke. Also look up Darryl Cursley - I played a yew tenor he made which was very nice indeed. See http://www.stuartlongridge.co.uk/Prices.html and http://cursleyukuleles.blogspot.com/.

If spruce still seems to be what you want, I think the sound differences (otherthan sustain) are a little less pronounced as you go up in size. But I seem to be firmly stuck in the soprano groove, so my opinion on this may not be very useful.

Doc_J
11-05-2011, 06:38 AM
Aaron Keim did a great video comparison on the sounds of 5 identically built tenor ukes of his, with different woods. Not a spruce top, but there was a fir top was in the comparison

Woods: Koa, Mahogany, Myrtle, Walnut and Fir top/Walnut body.

http://youtu.be/jEEgdUvzJao

mandrew
11-05-2011, 11:30 AM
I have tried a variety, and find spruce to be nice, but a bit too bright for my taste. I really prefer the sound of mahogany. It is all a personal choice ad preference.

stanpeter
11-05-2011, 12:29 PM
Spruce if you like it 'loud and clear' - my personal preference for picking. It really throws out the sound with a lot of volume, and it likes to be played harder, or at least I think it does.
Mahogany is more 'round and mellow' - my personal preference for strumming. I tend to play it more quiet too, or at least it sounds less loud.

For that reason I also use Aquila's on the spruce and D'Addario's on the mahogany - I find these strings to bring out the specific character of both of them. The Aquila's being snappy, the D'Addario's are just plain soft and sweet.

Spruce sounds like a guitar? I don't really think so, but sound can be personal.

joejeweler
11-05-2011, 01:58 PM
I have tried a variety, and find spruce to be nice, but a bit too bright for my taste. I really prefer the sound of mahogany. It is all a personal choice ad preference.

I have found an ebony saddle cuts down on the brightness of a spruce top,....which is what i did on my Kanile'a soprano with claro walnut B&S. The original bone saddle was definately brighter, but the ebony much richer and fuller in tone. An easy and cheap thing to experiment with if you can make your own saddles.

The Kanile'a soprano has a bit deeper and wider body than usual also, so it is a fine candidate to attempt to extract all it's potential. As far as i know,...the Kanile'a is also the only maker that uses a 1 1/2" nut width and a meatier neck thickness that makes fingerpicking much easier.

oldtimestrings
11-05-2011, 02:07 PM
I like the sound of a spruce top, and agree with others that it makes for a bright, loud, resonant, and punchy instrument. But to me a spruce-topped uke doesn't sound like a ukulele, but a small guitar. That's especially true with tenors. It's a good sound, but not the one I associate with traditional ukulele music. I want ukes with either all-koa or all-mahogany bodies, which is my preference.