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fernandogardinali
12-02-2011, 07:21 AM
Hey,

A local luthier is building one concert uke for me. We are using brazilian rosewood on back and sides and imbuia (Brazilian walnut) for the neck, AND imperial rosewood for the top, but I'm not sure if it will sound great for the top. Has anyone ever tried an rosewood top uke? I understand it will not be LOUD, but I don't know if it will sound good.

I'm in doubt between rosewood, cedar and spruce. What do you folks think?

Thanks!

mr moonlight
12-02-2011, 07:59 AM
Is there a specific reason you want a rosewood top? Ko'olau made a rosewood topped uke. They have a sound sample on the Hawaii Music Supply site. Is the luthier experienced with building ukes/guitars with rosewood tops? If not, then I would say go for something that the luthier is more experienced with. Plus when getting a custom uke, I'd rather play it on the conservative side and get something I know I will like vs. something that I have no reference to. I have both Cedar and Spruce topped ukes and both sound great. Very loud and great tone. The Spruce is has more clarity and definition than the Cedar that has a warmer sound. Of course this will vary between instruments. My Kala Cedar top has a very different sound than my Ko'olau cedar top.

Every builder will make their ukes different so there's no 100% way to guarantee a particular sound based on wood choices, but generally cedar tops are warmer sounding than spruce tops that have more clarity. I've never played a rosewood topped instrument so I couldn't say.

mds725
12-02-2011, 08:18 AM
Ko'olau made a rosewood topped uke. They have a sound sample on the Hawaii Music Supply site.

In case you want to hear the sound sample: http://www.theukulelesite.com/shopbyprice/customshop/koolau-t100-all-rosewood

hoosierhiver
12-02-2011, 08:22 AM
I'd go for a cedar top on it.

DaveVisi
12-02-2011, 08:56 AM
I'd go for cedar too. Rosewood is used for backs and sides for it's sound reflective quality, not for vibrations. You don't want a resonant wood for back and side absorbing the sound, you want it directed toward the top and the soundhole. By the same token, you don't want a non-resonant wood for the top as it will resist vibrations.

Ukuleles aren't as critical as acoustic guitars simply because there's less wood to vibrate. That's why you can get a cigar box to sound good. It really doesn't matter as much. Rather than shopping "blind" (deaf?) I'd see if there was a rosewood topped model of his you can hear before deciding.

Teek
12-02-2011, 09:42 AM
I would venture that a cedar top on a rosewood body is traditional for classical guitars for a good reason.

xjumper
12-02-2011, 10:21 AM
I just bought a Pono rosewood/cedar and I believe it one of the nicest sounding instruments that I have. Every instrument that I have in that combination sounds exceptional.

PhilUSAFRet
12-02-2011, 10:42 AM
Redwood top!

southcoastukes
12-02-2011, 01:23 PM
Sounds like your luthier isn't giving you much guidance. This was good:


mr moonlight
Is there a specific reason you want a rosewood top? Ko'olau made a rosewood topped uke. They have a sound sample on the Hawaii Music Supply site. Is the luthier experienced with building ukes/guitars with rosewood tops? If not, then I would say go for something that the luthier is more experienced with. Plus when getting a custom uke, I'd rather play it on the conservative side and get something I know I will like vs. something that I have no reference to.

Unless you already have a lot of custom instruments, I wouldn't want to experiment too much.


Dave Visi
Ukuleles aren't as critical as acoustic guitars simply because there's less wood to vibrate. That's why you can get a cigar box to sound good.

BTW, Dave - another reason cigar boxes sound as good as they do, is that they're almost all made of Spanish Cedar (that smell). It's not just a great material for necks, but a fabulous tonewood. Used for Cuatros all over, including soundboard. Kenny Hill made some fabulous guitars using it for backs & sides.

We've used it to raves as a soundboard paired with Mahogany, and I think with Rosewood it would likely be even better. If you're looking for more of a hardwood top sound, this is one of the best. A little warmer than Mahogany, but with more range - it's less dense. Maybe a bit like a cross between Mahogany and Phil's suggestion - Redwood.

It also grows in Brazil, (en Español: Cedro, no se en Portugués), and your luthier is likely to have had some experience with it. If I were going to experiment, I'd think you'd be much happier with this.

fernandogardinali
12-08-2011, 08:11 AM
southcoastukes,

We talked and I decided to go with Cedro for the top.

Everyone,
Thank you for your help!

southcoastukes
12-08-2011, 08:48 AM
...We talked and I decided to go with Cedro for the top....

One more thing you might mention to your luthier. If he isn't familiar with ukuele construction, but knows about Cuatros, tell him to use Cuatro bracing and thickness on the top. Forget about guitar protocols. Cuatro and Ukulele tops are much closer.

I think you'll end up with a very nice instrument. Let us know how it turns out!

DeVineGuitars
12-08-2011, 09:26 AM
Redwood top!

+1
Can't get much better than rosewood with a redwood top!

fernandogardinali
12-08-2011, 04:04 PM
One more thing you might mention to your luthier. If he isn't familiar with ukuele construction, but knows about Cuatros, tell him to use Cuatro bracing and thickness on the top. Forget about guitar protocols. Cuatro and Ukulele tops are much closer.

I think you'll end up with a very nice instrument. Let us know how it turns out!

Actually here in Brazil we don't have cuatros, they are more usual in spanish america. The ukulele-related instrument here in my country is the cavaquinho. Since the strings are steel, the structure is all different.

This luthier have been building some ukes and they are great.

southcoastukes
12-09-2011, 02:56 PM
This luthier have been building some ukes and they are great.

Glad to hear this Fernando - then you should be fine. As Phil & Eric pointed out, Redwood is also a great option, but I'm guessing you'd have to have it shipped in. At least in Central America, where we build, no one uses it (yet).

But for a hardwood top (and an instrument that would use all native woods), Spanish Cedar, or as Fernando and I say, "Cedro" is really hard to beat. To me, it is one of the three fundamental hardwood soundboards, along with koa and mahogany. You have Myrtle (am not familiar with it), and Monkeypod (fabulous stuff!) now making waves, but of the three traditional woods, Cedro has probably been in use the longest - Cuatros go back 400 years or so. I am always amazed this wood isn't better known outside Latin America.

It can come in straight grain, like the aforementioned cigar boxes. I think this might look great paired with the figure of your rosewood body. If you're looking for more beautiful figure, however, one with a different form than rosewood grain, take a look at these old photos I dug up:

3084830849

The first is our longneck Concert, the second is a pair of longneck Sopranos. We built a series of instruments out of this board. This kind of figure in Mahogany is called "plum pudding". Cedro also has a lot of other beautiful figure patterns, often similar to Mahogany.

As far as sound, it is unique. Not overly loud, yet on larger instruments it can be somewhat percussive. The term that has most often been used to describe it, however, is "sweet". The sound is truly lovely.

Let me put it this way. You may have heard of Chuck "Frets" Fayne. He's one of the world's foremost collectors of ukuleles. His collection, as a matter of fact, formed most of the basis for the book: "Pictorial History of the Ukulele". He does a column over at FMM called "Uke Yak", on vintage instrument identification. He's also a sneaky-good player.

He has one of these Sopranos (or another one from the same board - not sure). While sound is always subjective, out of his 500 or so premium ukuleles, this Cedro-topped instrument is his favorite.

pulelehua
12-10-2011, 03:25 AM
I have a hard-topped ukulele: zebrawood. It's a soprano body, so as others have mentioned, you can get away with a lot. And it has a concert neck, so there's a lot of energy going into it. Someday, when I can afford another ukulele, I'm definitely going with cedar or spruce. I love my zebrawood ukulele, but there is some sound missing in the mix. Even after breaking in. What I love most is that it plays like a dream, and the intonation is wonderful. And it is stunning to look at.

But if your goal is sound, I'd recommend a soft wood (including mahogany and koa as "sort of soft", of course).