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View Full Version : calling all Black Bear soprano owners!



janeray1940
04-25-2012, 05:24 PM
A very helpful fellow UUer just pointed me toward Black Bear ukes in my ongoing quest for a 17-fret (AKA "manyfret"!) soprano. I saw this uke (http://www.blackbearukuleles.net/detail.html?itemid=412) and instantly fell in love, based on looks and specs. If it is indeed playable to the 17th fret, this could be the uke of my dreams. Maybe.

If one of you is the lucky owner of this uke, please speak up and tell me all about it. As for anybody else who owns a Black Bear soprano - do you have a sound sample? There are lots of lovely pics on the BB site but I couldn't find any sound files.

I'm contacting the builder as well, but would really like to hear from owners of these ukes. And if you're in Southern California and would let me meet your Black Bear face to face - even better!

Mahalo!

Hippie Dribble
04-25-2012, 05:29 PM
Hi Jane,

incredible sounding ukes at very affordable prices if you're just after one of Duane's baseline models. Big, rich and mellow tones out of his ukes...doesn't seem to matter what wood he uses to build em, they all sound wonderful. Great projection too...The BB koa soprano I owned was perhaps the nicest sounding koa soprano I'd played except for my kamaka pineapple and MM koa sop. Certainly a considerably cheaper option than your MM chase anyway mate...

janeray1940
04-25-2012, 05:35 PM
Aloha Jon! I *just* checked YouTube and found that you own (owned?) a Black Bear. Or two? Or more? :) And they sound great!

Funny thing is I was thinking MM was a bargain, considering the price increases that the K brands have had recently. Then I saw the price of that Black Bear and my jaw dropped - I think if it was still for sale I would have taken a chance and bought it sight unseen.

GinnyT11
04-26-2012, 06:28 AM
I'll ask the capable Mr.T to make a recording tonight. His playing is far better than mine will demonstrate the Black Bear sound very well.

janeray1940
04-26-2012, 06:29 AM
Thanks GT!

CTurner
04-26-2012, 06:45 AM
Well, it looks like I know what I'm doing this evening. :D

janeray1940
04-26-2012, 06:51 AM
Well, it looks like I know what I'm doing this evening. :D

Are you taking song requests?

Kidding :) Thanks for taking the time to do this!

connor013
04-26-2012, 08:22 AM
Jane,

I have one of the pineapples from the previous batch. I think the differences are that it's 40 year old Koa and the mango neck has worm holes in it (which look ridiculously cool).

I also ended up with Jon's old soprano -- cheers, Roxanne.

I haven't gotten my hands on a Mya-Moe yet, so I'm no help in terms of a comparison, but I think you'd be hard pressed to beat Duane's work. There are ukes with more bling, to be sure, but in terms of craftsmanship there's nothing I can think of left to ask for. It's balanced and light and responsive -- to put it another way: they each make me a better player.

Good luck.

janeray1940
04-26-2012, 08:25 AM
Jane,

I have one of the pineapples from the previous batch. I think the differences are that it's 40 year old Koa and the mango neck has worm holes in it (which look ridiculously cool).

I also ended up with Jon's old soprano -- cheers, Roxanne.

I haven't gotten my hands on a Mya-Moe yet, so I'm no help in terms of a comparison, but I think you'd be hard pressed to beat Duane's work. There are ukes with more bling, to be sure, but in terms of craftsmanship there's nothing I can think of left to ask for. It's balanced and light and responsive -- to put it another way: they each make me a better player.

Good luck.

Thanks for the input. Are your sopranos the 17-fret ones? If so I'd be curious to know what you think of the intonation and playability at the higher frets.

connor013
04-26-2012, 08:27 AM
Intonation is good if I remember -- I don't hang out above the 12th all that often.

I'll do a proper test and let you know.

EDIT: So the pineapple is actually with Duane having the nut adjusted (I had hoped for its return this evening, but no such luck).

My other BB koa soprano has fifteen frets (joined at the twelfth). I just re-strung it, so that may account for something.

At the 12th fret:
A, E, and C are perfect. G is 5 cents sharp

At the 15th, the C is 5 cents sharp and the G is 5-10 cents sharp. I also have fat little fingers, so the imperfections could be no fault of the uke's.

Hope this helps.

Cheers.

BlackBearUkes
04-26-2012, 03:15 PM
I might as well chime in here. Janeray 1940, PM send to you.

When it comes to accurate intonation on the high frets of a soprano scale uke, there is only so much the luthier can do. We make sure the measurements are correct, the frets are installed properly and the playing action is good. The type of strings used and the playing technique of the owner are things we can not control. If you have a tendency to press hard or soft on the strings in the upper frets, this can greatly affect the intonation. You as a player have to take some responsibility to learn how the play the instrument so it plays in tune with the strings you like and the playing technique you use. I always make sure the frets are placed correctly accordingly to rules that apply. The smaller the playing scale, the more problematic intonation becomes, especially with nylon or fluorcarbon strings.

janeray1940
04-26-2012, 03:54 PM
I might as well chime in here. Janeray 1940, PM send to you.

When it comes to accurate intonation on the high frets of a soprano scale uke, there is only so much the luthier can do. We make sure the measurements are correct, the frets are installed properly and the playing action is good. The type of strings used and the playing technique of the owner are things we can not control. If you have a tendency to press hard or soft on the strings in the upper frets, this can greatly affect the intonation. You as a player have to take some responsibility to learn how the play the instrument so it plays in tune with the strings you like and the playing technique you use. I always make sure the frets are placed correctly accordingly to rules that apply. The smaller the playing scale, the more problematic intonation becomes, especially with nylon or fluorcarbon strings.

Thanks for weighing in on this - looking forward to your PM.

I'm aware (on a very basic level) that the smaller scale makes intonation problematic. I currently play a 2011 Kamaka pineapple, Martin fluorocarbon strings, with near-perfect intonation and 16 frets - what I am hoping to find is the same in a soprano scale uke with 17 frets and a 14 fret join. Am I dreaming? Be honest with me, I can take it :)

BlackBearUkes
04-26-2012, 05:51 PM
Thanks for weighing in on this - looking forward to your PM.

I'm aware (on a very basic level) that the smaller scale makes intonation problematic. I currently play a 2011 Kamaka pineapple, Martin fluorocarbon strings, with near-perfect intonation and 16 frets - what I am hoping to find is the same in a soprano scale uke with 17 frets and a 14 fret join. Am I dreaming? Be honest with me, I can take it :)

It is certainly possible to have a soprano scale uke with near perfect intonation, but that requires the builder and the player to be in sync. Where the neck joins the body (12 or 14 fret) has nothing to do with what we are talking about hear. I join my pineapple soprano ukes at the 14th fret because that is how I designed this uke, putting the bridge at the best spot on the sound board.

The best soprano uke player that I have heard was John King. His playing technique was accurate and he knew how to get the best out of the upper frets. Vintage ukes only had 12 frets as a norm and the playing style for the most part was a strum, not so much a finger style. Once the player gets up to the 16, 17 , 18 and 19th frets, the sustain is minimal because of the short string length. The strings these days are fairly big on the C, and a fat string on a short scale length means intonation problems. Most players don't play up on those higher frets so normally there isn't a problem. Where some folks get into thinking there uke doesn't play with accurate intonation, is when they use those damn tuning machines to test the accuracy of the notes on the high frets. The human ear doesn't hear to that degree of accuracy. I can get a sharp or flat note on the higher frets simply by pressing hard or soft. The hand and ear have to work together and that takes practice when your playing on the higher frets. So is it possible to play with accurate intonation on a 19 fret soprano uke? Absolutey.

janeray1940
04-26-2012, 06:53 PM
Got your PM - thanks, will get back to you soon. Meanwhile I figured I'd continue part of the discussion here since others might be interested.



The best soprano uke player that I have heard was John King. His playing technique was accurate and he knew how to get the best out of the upper frets.


Yes, this. And while I don't expect that I have enough years left in this world to ever have even a qu the ability that he had, he's been my main influence since I started playing and I always use him as an example of a serious player who played soprano, whenever anyone tries to steer me toward a larger-scale uke.



Once the player gets up to the 16, 17 , 18 and 19th frets, the sustain is minimal because of the short string length. The strings these days are fairly big on the C, and a fat string on a short scale length means intonation problems.


Thanks for this - this is the clearest explanation of this issue anybody has given me!



Where some folks get into thinking there uke doesn't play with accurate intonation, is when they use those damn tuning machines to test the accuracy of the notes on the high frets. The human ear doesn't hear to that degree of accuracy. I can get a sharp or flat note on the higher frets simply by pressing hard or soft. The hand and ear have to work together and that takes practice when your playing on the higher frets.


Yeah, it's not the tuning machine that's telling me the intonation is off. It's my ear - which I don't think is all that good to begin with, but as I've been trying out off-the-shelf ukes lately I've been accompanied by an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist friend (who plays uke) who will play for me. I'll tell him to stop when I hear something that's off, and it seems I'm always right because he'll start messing around like you're describing - pressing the string in different ways - and agree that there's a problem. Probably things that can be fixed with the right setup, but then that opens up the whole problem of finding the right person to do that job.