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View Full Version : In Defense Of "Sounds Too Guitar Like"



Magoosan
10-03-2011, 09:28 AM
I must admit I get tired of hearing the phrase "sounds too guitar like" as if its a bad thing. I, for one, prefer that sound and I'm not afraid to say it. Being a long time guitar player and using the uke strictly as an accompaniment for my vocals, that is the sound I look for. My primary instrument is a Pono MPT-E (spruce over maple) with Southcoast G-650 strings (flat wound G & C). It has a very full organic sound with great sustain. The uke allows me to do a lot of things with with jazz phrasing and more sophisticated chords that I could never do on guitar. Four strings with good action just makes it physically easier.

While we're at it, I say a uke set up this way sounds almost more piano like to me than guitar like.

What do you think??

23skidoo
10-03-2011, 09:47 AM
While I've got to admit the traditional uke sound is growing on me - especially in an old-school jazz context - that is not what I'm looking for out of my tenor, either. I experimented with re-entrant tuning, but I prefer using a low G string. As a guitarist, I also play the uke like a 'little guitar', but, like Magoosan, love what it offers that the guitar doesn't - access to the 'top' 4 strings, without the bass, for interesting melodically voiced chords. I miss the extra strings when I'm trying to get a fuller sound, as with a solo Travis picking sort of thing, but usually end up trying to play the uke more like a mandolin. I usually play bluegrass, country, gospel, rock.... not the traditional uke repertoire... I think it's cool that this great instrument is being picked up and used by different people for whatever they want to play and hopefully it doesn't aggravate the purists too much....

fabioponta
10-03-2011, 09:51 AM
I don't have a 6 string uke, but I've played with my Kamaka HF-3 tenor with MI-Si pickup (worth clear strings) plugged into a great sound system at a Music Festival in my city, and in the end of the test I decided to use an external microphone to prevent the sound stay like an acoustic or eletric guitar. I personally do not like the ukulele with any guitar sound. This week I bought a Fishman Aura pedal Spectrum VI, which comes with a new patch of six different sounds of ukulele to emulate. All sounds are based on a Mele tenor 4-string with spruce top and koa back and sides. What changes a sound image to another is the type of microphone that emulates the patch. I will test the Fishman aura sounds later this week (I think it's the first pedal of this type that works specifically with ukulele), then I say if I still think the natural sound of the ukulele is better than the sound guitar style in an amplify system.

Knotical
10-03-2011, 09:53 AM
I know, right? I'm having no luck finding an effects pedal to make it sound like an accordion.

zac987
10-03-2011, 10:02 AM
An instrument should never be contained in one little genre. If you disagree, tell that to Ukelele Ike or Beirut. :)

Tudorp
10-03-2011, 10:12 AM
I like em all for different reasons. I like the "traditional" sound of a uke, that's why I have a soprano. I like the fuller tones too, that's why I have them all (except a bari) from Mini-sopranino-soprano-concert-tenor-banjole-steel string soid body electric-nylon string acustic/electric-amp and effects.. ;) I got most of it covered, (however yet to get one to sound like an acordian, or a bag pipe for that matter.. hehhe

p.s. Also from the long time roots of a Rickenbacker 4001, and Gibson Les Paul guitarist.. ;)

CTurner
10-03-2011, 10:17 AM
Magoosan,
You're right, there is nothing "wrong" with "guitar like", especially with those Southcoast G-650 flatwounds, eh? They are a superb low g set.

Allen
10-03-2011, 10:21 AM
When people come to me for a commission, I get varied responses to what they are looking for in tone. All the way from the traditional Hawaiian sound, or banjo/mandolin like to the latest where they want to play Baroque. There isn't any correct sound as far as I'm concerned. If they all sounded the same it would be a pretty boring instrument to play or build.

Tudorp
10-03-2011, 10:38 AM
You all are right. it's all in the tone and sounds you are going for. Music can come from a washtub, 2x4 and a cotton chord if that's the sound you are going for. When I played guitar and bass, I choose what I choose for it's tone. I always loved the rich mellow tone of a Rickenbacker bass, but never liked the Rickenbacker guitars at all. For guitar my choice has always been the Gibson Les Paul, but even that varies depending on gear & setup. I've always loved the rich mellow bluesy growls a specifically set up Les Paul offers, but again, that all depends on how it is rigged and set up. I played with many Fenders, and never ragged on those, because they filled a tonal range that is needed as well that the Les Paul doesn't offer. Music in my opinion is like art, it's all subjective and what is pleasing to an individual. There is no right or wrong answer. (and by the way, I love the old blue grass tones that come from a washtub and 2x4 too ;))

mds725
10-03-2011, 11:09 AM
I often hear "it sounds too much like a guitar" from people who play the guitar as well as the ukulele. (Just yesterday, an ukulele player I know who is also a guitar player said he had been interested in getting a baritone ukulele but didn't see the point of doing so if it was going to sound like a guitar.) For many of these people, I believe the thinking is, "If I want an instrument that sounds like a guitar, I'll just play my guitar." For people like me, though, who didn't play the guitar before picking up the ukulele, being able to find an ukulele that sounds like a guitar is something of a blessing, because it permits me to get a guitar sound when I want it without having to learn another instrument.

I also agree with the comments people have made about having instruments with different voices for different purposes. If an instrument gives you the sound you want, you shouldn't care that it's "supposed to" sound like something else. I, for one, think Johann Sebastian Back would be impressed, not offended, by all the non-"traditional" music people have made using harsichords since Bach was writing music for harpsichord.

OldePhart
10-03-2011, 11:36 AM
...For many of these people, I believe the thinking is, "If I want an instrument that sounds like a guitar, I'll just play my guitar." ...
Yep, for me that pretty much nails it. I don't have anything against others playing "guitar like" ukes - but for me it would be kind of silly when I have a whole stable full of guitars that need to be played more often than they are, anyway!

John

jackwhale
10-03-2011, 11:38 AM
My ukuleles are all baritones and none of them sound like a guitar. All three of my baritones sound different from one another.
As Magoosan mentioned, I sing better with my ukuleles than my guitars. wish I knew why. lol

Jake Wildwood
10-03-2011, 12:32 PM
I'm always finding it curious that people can get hung up over how someone else's instrument sounds. If the player likes it, then more power to the player -- an instrument that aids the player no matter what it is... is a heck of a lot more useful than an instrument that doesn't aid the player but is held in high esteem by mysterious temple guardians.

Knotical
10-03-2011, 12:33 PM
Yep, for me that pretty much nails it. I don't have anything against others playing "guitar like" ukes - but for me it would be kind of silly when I have a whole stable full of guitars that need to be played more often than they are, anyway!

John

You play a ukulele and wear a funny hat but that's the thing that would be silly? Oh-kay. :D

coriandre
10-03-2011, 04:48 PM
To me, the ukulele and the guitar are two different animals. People use the term guitarish because it is the well known instrument, the point of reference. The point of reference for a ukulele is the traditional soprano sound. Anything that differs from this will be guitarish for many.

uke4ia
10-03-2011, 05:43 PM
I often hear "it sounds too much like a guitar" from people who play the guitar as well as the ukulele. For many of these people, I believe the thinking is, "If I want an instrument that sounds like a guitar, I'll just play my guitar." For people like me, though, who didn't play the guitar before picking up the ukulele, being able to find an ukulele that sounds like a guitar is something of a blessing, because it permits me to get a guitar sound when I want it without having to learn another instrument.

I've gotten the "it sounds too much like a guitar" attitude mostly from ukulele players.

I'm another who learned the uke without knowing guitar. When I was 15 and first picked up the uke, my goal was to play songs I liked, not the hits of the 1920s. The plink of my Martin soprano was not the sound I was looking for. I later tried learning guitar, but was too used to the small size of the uke -- I couldn't stretch my hands enough to make the guitar chords. It was like a revelation when I first heard someone play a Kawika tenor that had a guitar-like sound and was strung with classical guitar strings. I couldn't get one fast enough. Now the songs come out sounding to others a lot more like the way I hear them in my head.

Paul December
10-03-2011, 05:44 PM
When people come to me for a commission, I get varied responses to what they are looking for in tone. All the way from the traditional Hawaiian sound, or banjo/mandolin like to the latest where they want to play Baroque. There isn't any correct sound as far as I'm concerned. If they all sounded the same it would be a pretty boring instrument to play or build.

I've really been getting into play Baroque music lately...
...generally speaking, what size/wood/string combo lends to a more fitting sound for this kind of music?

Dan Uke
10-03-2011, 07:05 PM
To me, the ukulele and the guitar are two different animals. People use the term guitarish because it is the well known instrument, the point of reference. The point of reference for a ukulele is the traditional soprano sound. Anything that differs from this will be guitarish for many.

Very well stated

nickie_66
10-04-2011, 03:11 AM
i like the hawaiian typical sound for hawaiian-ish tunes wich are funny to me :)


.... but the ukes i play the most are tuned in low-G and i use them as tiny guitars, cuz i like it that way :D


and i do not believe that playing the ukulele in front as an audience is a "lazy choice" or "easy way" it's just arranging the song for a different instrument,

the ukule isn't trapped into the "hawaiian traditional songs" category to me, and it's not a toy to just entertain yourself at home, it's a music instrument and it plays music, any music you can make it do if you have the talent to, ghettos are bad !

joeybug
10-04-2011, 03:34 AM
Having never played a guitar seriously (the only time I've played is in music class back in school and we never did much) I don't think it "sounds like a guitar" as least to me they don't, they sound like Ukuleles! That's my reference point, I've heard Baritones and don't think they sound like guitars either, they don't sound like my sopranos, but they're not meant to. It's all personal preference, personal choice, what kind of music you want to make etc.

:music:

poppy
10-04-2011, 07:45 AM
Well does a tenor guitar sound to much like a uke? or a soprano sax to much like a clarinet? each has its own personality though some are more closely related than others. I think we all adjust what we play to a sound that suits our palet and desires. I know when I played bass I loved my acoustic 360 but I have friends that would never play any but a standup, hated amp't basses. To each his own sounds, I play what I enjoy and try to make it sound what fits my taste.

GX9901
10-04-2011, 10:50 AM
I've found that even the most "guitar-ish" sounding ukulele, including baritones, really doesn't sound close to a guitar at all when played next to a guitar. I think a uke gets labeled "guitar-ish" when it deviates from the traditional ukulele (i.e. soprano) sound too much. It doesn't matter to me anyway. A good sounding uke is a good sounding uke, whether it sound kind of like a guitar or not.

OldePhart
10-04-2011, 10:53 AM
You play a ukulele and wear a funny hat but that's the thing that would be silly? Oh-kay. :D
BWAAA-HAAAA - good one. Now, hand me a paper towel so I can clean the coffe off these monitors... LOL

uke4ia
10-04-2011, 10:57 AM
However, if you have an audience, they will pick up that you are being lazy or taking the easy way out by trying to play a guitar arrangement on only four strings. Then they will complain.

This has never once happened to me. In fact, playing the uke normally gets you out of this nonsense. There are a lot of guitarists who've taken years of lessons, and had to learn difficult popular songs as part of their lessons. For example, I know one guy who learned to play Yes' "Mood for a Day" for his guitar lessons. Those guys then have to deal with the occasional extreme acoustic guitar geek who might quibble that Steve Howe played that bit differently. If you're a uke player, all you have to do is say "I'm not trying to be Steve Howe, I'm trying to be me playing a cover of a Yes song".

It's only musicians who get pretentious about crap like that, and only a few of them. The rest of the audience doesn't care. They just want you to entertain them.

OldePhart
10-04-2011, 11:12 AM
However, if you have an audience, they will pick up that you are being lazy or taking the easy way out by trying to play a guitar arrangement on only four strings. Then they will complain. If you don't like the complaints, don't take the easy way out. Do the work to learn a guitar arrangement and use a guitar or a ukulele arrangement and use a ukulele. Its not a hard concept to grasp.

I think that's probably a little bit harsh...okay, really harsh! It's also completely out of line with my experience in front of audiences. Maybe that's an issue if your performance is a juried audition but a "typical" audience is far more interested in whether you are entertaining them. In fact, most people in most audiences couldn't tell a "guitar arrangement" from a "ukulele arrangement" if their lives depended on it (half of them probably think your ukulele is a small guitar!). What they can tell and will react to is A) are you enjoyable to hear and B) do you seem to enjoy what you're doing (and the importance of the latter should never be overlooked)

Shoot, watch how the audience reacts to Seasick Steve some time - think they give a darn what he's playing on?

Okay, I'll clamber down off my soapbox now... :)

John

localmana
10-04-2011, 11:20 AM
I like my "sounds like a guitar" sound and I play the music for me, not to please someone else. Lazy has nothing to do with it.

drbekken
10-04-2011, 11:27 AM
Personally, I like the traditional, soprano ukulele sound, but that's because I play those old songs. If somebody else wants to sound like Jimi Hendrix, I don't mind. The most important thing is to let players do what they want and respect their choice. Throughout my life as a musician, I have often experienced that music and sounds has grown on me. Stuff I hated earlier has become increasingly interesting - and of course, some stuff has also faded from my realm of interest. There are uke players who mean nothing to me, and there are uke players whom I admire and even envy for their skill and talent. There are probably also many people who have mixed thoughts about my efforts as a ukulele/piano player/singer....and that's only fair.

Hippie Dribble
10-04-2011, 11:46 AM
LAZY? I think you've missed the point here sorry.

The phrase itself...'too guitar like'...seems utterly nondescript to me. It's just a deviation from the traditional ukulele soprano voice. There are plenty of seats at the musical table. How boring it'd all be if we played and liked the same sounds and songs!

mds725
10-04-2011, 12:51 PM
Last night my ukulele instructor said, "Jake Shimabukuro plays beautifully, although you can't hula to his music." My takeaway from that comment is to be good at what it is you want to do and it's okay if your goals aren't someone else's, because there are plenty of great ukulele players whose music you CAN hula to, and there's no reason for Jake to have to be one of them. So if someone wants his or her ukulele to "sound like a guitar," that only in creases the variety of music out there. That's gotta be a good thing.