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View Full Version : Bamboo Ukes - Hero or Zero?



Paul December
11-29-2011, 07:48 PM
Recently I've seen people letting go of their bamboo ukes...
...what's the verdict, is bamboo a good building material?

Ken Middleton
11-29-2011, 09:31 PM
It is not a good building material, it is a really great building material. It has a fantastic weight to strength ratio. it is fabulous for building houses, flooring, fences, chopsticks ... In my opinion it is not great for ukuleles though. Ukuleles made from wood have a fuller, richer sound. Bamboo is a grass.

Pippin
11-29-2011, 11:29 PM
It is not a good building material, it is a really great building material. It has a fantastic weight to strength ratio. it is fabulous for building houses, flooring, fences, chopsticks ... In my opinion it is not great for ukuleles though. Ukuleles made from wood have a fuller, richer sound. Bamboo is a grass.

Ken, thank you for your insight into this. I have wondered about it for a while, but I never considered the "grass" aspect of it. I wondered whether the fibres running end-to-end transmitted vibration like they do in a flyrod and whether that would make a difference as well. Perhaps vibration dies at the seams.

Ken Middleton
11-29-2011, 11:36 PM
Ken, thank you for your insight into this. I have wondered about it for a while, but I never considered the "grass" aspect of it. I wondered whether the fibres running end-to-end transmitted vibration like they do in a flyrod and whether that would make a difference as well. Perhaps vibration dies at the seams.

Bamboo is strong and sustainable and that is wonderful. But as a tone wood (or tone gross as I call it) it leaves a lot to be desired. It is so hard and the structure is so different from true wood that the sound doesn't have a chance. To say that it lacks bottom end is an understatement. From my (non-scientific) recollection, the sustain is pretty poor too. At one of the trade shows i was asked by the owner of a company that makes bamboo ukes what I thought, and, when I told him, I could tell from his response that he agreed with me.

Hippie Dribble
11-29-2011, 11:45 PM
my old school teacher used to discipline me by whacking me over the backside with a great big bamboo cane...yikes...at least it has some other more productive uses. Apparently, corporal punishment works best when there is a definite end in view. he he

Seriously though, I've noticed on some yt clips I've seen that the sound of bamboo made ukes tends to be very bright and thin.

wolfybau
11-29-2011, 11:56 PM
perhaps my comment is mor suited to the luthier section but here are some of my thoughts on the subject....

hmm Ive wondered about this too , the acoustic properties, bamboo on its own when it its natural whole cylindrical form is very resonant and used for all sorts of musical instruments -flutes, xlephones, didgeridoos etc. I am wonderign if it is more a factor of construction than material?

for instance , all the bamboo ukes Ive seen seem to be made like cutting boards ,many layers laminated together across to get a flat surface. that type of end result does seem more akin to plywood than tonewood. Ive read many peoples comments of solid tops vs laminante and the differences.

Ive worked a lot with bamboo over the years, different projects, seen videos of how it can be bent with heat, evern extremely so -what if the bamboo that as used for the top was instead taken from one very large thin culm and flattened with heat so it is all one piece? (or at least only 2 pieces bookmatched etc) I know when bamboo is thin it is easily bent and shaped. one just has to be careful of splitage in the process. I wonder if this would alow its nature resonant qualities to shine instead of all that glue and different culms (which are goign to have varying densities etc) to fight against each of sonicly?

or another alternative is to have the instrument contructed out of bamboo lamenant with the exception of the soundboard.

what do you think?

Pippin
11-30-2011, 12:02 AM
One of the comparisons I made was with a flyrod. There are reason flyrods were made with "split" cane, rather than using the old "cane poll" type of construction, namely splitting and compression breakage. Bamboo is prone to splitting. If using a solid piece were practical, furniture makers would most likely have been doing it for centuries. Most bamboo furniture is made by lashing cylindrical pieces together.

kissing
11-30-2011, 01:20 AM
Ukuleles made from wood have a fuller, richer sound. Bamboo is a grass.

I disagree...

Bamboo vs Solid wood (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=LNvdSbMW_F8#t=197s)

Ken Middleton
11-30-2011, 01:28 AM
I disagree...

Bamboo vs Solid wood (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=LNvdSbMW_F8#t=197s)

The world would certainly be a dull place if everyone agreed with me.

Mouthy1
11-30-2011, 04:52 AM
I think Bamboo has the potential to have great sound. I have heard of many folks how love their bamboo ukes. I think the builder determines if it is a great uke in Bamboo's case.

mascompro
11-30-2011, 04:59 AM
All I know is that I love my Paulele. Does it sound like my KoAloha, nope, and I am glad, because I wouldn't need both if it did.

Uke Republic
11-30-2011, 05:10 AM
The builder has a lot to do with it of course. I played some bamboo ukuleles at summer NAMM I didn't care for and others I really enjoyed. Paulele does a fine job with theirs. I really like the arched back.

Skottoman
11-30-2011, 05:13 AM
About 8 months ago I walked into a uke store and played a cutaway soprano Paulele among others.

The volume and tone of the bamboo Paulele surprised me for sure! In fact so much that it was the only one that made it onto my xmas list!

I agree that I don't want it to sound like my KoAloha, or G-String, I want it to sound like a BAMBOO Ukulele! Just like some people like to listen to plastic ukes...

Prices are good too, and I plan on adding one to my collection. Only then will I see if I play it or let it sit.

Cheers,
Skottoman

PoiDog
11-30-2011, 05:20 AM
I bought one of the Tall Grass blowout ukes on a whim, & because it was an insanely low price. I honestly wasn't expecting much out of it, but was really blown away when I finally saw it. Not only does it look remarkable, it sounds very nice as well. Not as full-bodied as my solid koa ukes, perhaps, but not lifeless or dull.

The only negative I noticed was that the body seemed thicker than the koa. I am not able to measure, but just by pinching between thumb & forefinger it seemed like the bamboo soundboard was close to twice as thick as the koa one. That's likely because the bamboo just isn't as strong as wood, and so needs to be thicker to handle the tension from the strings. My guess is that the less full & rich sound from bamboo is because of the thicker top. It is also not as loud as the solid wood.

But that isn't to say it is a second-rate uke, because it absolutely is not.

Just my two pennies ...

hoosierhiver
11-30-2011, 05:20 AM
I agree with Ken, alot of bamboo's I've played are Ok, but just don't have alot of depth or sustain. Unless I'm mistaken they are all essentially laminates and thus don't sound the same as solids.
I do like them cosmetically and I like the fact they are a sustainable material, probably good for a starter uke or a camping uke, but so far I've never been overly impressed by their sound.

ukulelearp
11-30-2011, 05:27 AM
I really liked my all bamboo Paulele, I just prefer a tenor scale. If they ever release a tenor model there's a good chance I'd buy one. It was very loud, resonany, and fantastically sturdy.

Dan Uke
11-30-2011, 05:36 AM
I wouldn't buy one unless the price was significantly lower. The Paulele I saw was arond $200. At that price, there are many alternatives.

Nickie
11-30-2011, 05:52 AM
I don't yet own a bambukulele. But, knowing the freindliness of using bamboo to our planet, plus the severity of my UAS, I know I will someday. I think it definately has advantages as far as a solid wood uke, like the Eleuke... it could save a lot of trees!

ukeeku
11-30-2011, 06:17 AM
earlier this year I thought Bamboo ukes would be the new material that makers would flock to, and some did. I know of 4 makers (Tall Grass, Cordoba, Paulele, and Pono) that make Ukes out of bamboo. Of the ones I think are good...Paulele is the only one I have liked. I assume the Pono would be nice, but they did not send me one to review :)
I think a cool Uke would be bamboo body and neck with a dark stained top. that would be a cool contrast. Also the bamboo would be stuper strong where it is needed, with out having too much effect on tone.

Sorry had to do it....
Here are my reviews of the Bamboo ukes I played
http://ukeeku.com/2011/05/21/tall-grass-tg-c-and-tg-cs-full-review/
http://ukeeku.com/2011/03/26/cordoba-25cb-paulele-kbus-side-by-side-full-review/
http://ukeeku.com/2011/01/04/bamboo-paulele-kbus-full-review/

stanpeter
11-30-2011, 09:33 AM
I read somewhere that Pono is teaming up with Kiwaya on these?

I found a sample of the Pono Tenor by HMS on the 'tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyf9jR_vlqc

It comes in at about 1'45". Doesn't sound too shabby to me.

I like the all-bamboo look of the Paulele, if I would spot one I would definitely give it a try.

I guess there can be done some more engineering on the laminating part of bamboo. If you see where they started with carbon-fiber some years ago and where they are now, you know there is still some growth left in the bamboo - sustainable pun intended. There are bikes built from carbon, but also from flax-fibres and bamboo, allbeit that most of the bamboo-ones I've seen used the solid stem as a tube.
The carbon is used for ukes too, why not the flax as a more sustainable material?

And why not get into the engineering-part. I guess you can play with direction of the fiber and thickness of layers to get a nice tone from bamboo. It just needs to be calculated.
I consider it a plus that the mechanical properties of bamboo are quiet universal, so using it as a fiber or as a laminate could make it possible to get even quality. And that would make a plus together with sustainability. Because even a solid wood can be a dead-sounding dud.

Talking about the flax, I would like to challenge luthiers (big and small) to get into that. I see some opportunity there, seriously...

edit: try to have a look here: http://www.crpcq.com/imports/pdf/NaturalFibreResearchAtMcGillSept7,2011forwebsite.p df and have a close look on page 15. If there would be a nice way to look into things different, I guess you have a first and important one right there.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
11-30-2011, 11:11 AM
Hero. I have a Paulele; it sounds sweet and has great sustain.

Its tone depends (much more than my other ukuleles) on how much its pretty arched back gets to vibrate. More air (so less of my body) against the back of the uke lets that bamboo bounce out a deeper tone.

Hobo
11-30-2011, 11:24 AM
I have some experience with bamboo and the construction of split bamboo fly rods (www.caneflyrods.us). Bamboo is a wonderful material for its strength-to-weight ratio and flexibility. Yes, it is a grass... but a marvelous grass. As far as its use in ukulele building, my only experience was with a Cordoba Bamboo Soprano that had marvelous tone and sustain. The problem was with the one I played, it had a split in its side... yes, bamboo has a tendency to split. That's why it makes great split bamboo fly rods. Fly rod builders use a variety of bamboo called 'tonkin' cane.

Pippin
11-30-2011, 09:25 PM
I have some experience with bamboo and the construction of split bamboo fly rods (www.caneflyrods.us). Bamboo is a wonderful material for its strength-to-weight ratio and flexibility. Yes, it is a grass... but a marvelous grass. As far as its use in ukulele building, my only experience was with a Cordoba Bamboo Soprano that had marvelous tone and sustain. The problem was with the one I played, it had a split in its side... yes, bamboo has a tendency to split. That's why it makes great split bamboo fly rods. Fly rod builders use a variety of bamboo called 'tonkin' cane.

Pre-embargo, I hope.

I used to be big in the fly fishing business. I taught in a world-famous fly fishing school and managed a well-known fly fishing resort in the Catskills. I also wrote a book on fly tying. A friend of mine has a stache of pre-embargo cane once owned by Pinky Gillum. Can't reveal the name of my friend, though, without his permission.

I'll check out your link.

Hobo
12-01-2011, 11:31 AM
Pre-embargo, I hope.

I used to be big in the fly fishing business. I taught in a world-famous fly fishing school and managed a well-known fly fishing resort in the Catskills. I also wrote a book on fly tying. A friend of mine has a stache of pre-embargo cane once owned by Pinky Gillum. Can't reveal the name of my friend, though, without his permission.

I'll check out your link.

Hello Pippin: Yes, I still have a few culms of pre-embargo bamboo culms in my stockpile. Nice to meet a fellow fly fishing enthusiast.