View Full Version : Ukulele Volume

06-07-2012, 06:59 PM
There have been much talk about this and that uke is muted or lacks volume. What is your deciding factor for a ukes volume. I mean, do you want to be heard in a room full of people talking, at sporting events, at a subway station or what?
Please explain the importance of a uke's volume.
I have collected 28? ukes in 18 months of various makes, models, woods, and a few laminates. All of them sounds okay for me, some don't project as well as others but for my use, volume is okay even for my most quiet one.
I sing better than I play so I don't need the uke to drown out my voice. I even strum with my thumb to quiet it down.
So fellow ukesters, what's your take on volume?
Mahalo..........................BO................ .....

06-07-2012, 07:07 PM
I think the volume is directly proportionate to THE PLAYER. Some of it has to do with the uke of course...but I cannot play my uke nearly as loud as a friend of mine can. He's just more used to hitting the strings than I am, I guess.

06-07-2012, 07:26 PM
Aloha Bruddah Scott,
I understand the attack on strings effects volume, but what I'm asking is, what's your criteria for determining if the volume is okay for you. What do you use to gauge it..........................BO.................

06-07-2012, 07:28 PM
Tone, balance, resonance, clarity and definition are all more important than pure volume. It's nice to have volume as well, and it most often goes along with the rest, but still, the quality of volume is behind the others, unless you specifically need something to "shout out" in a group setting.

A beautifull sounding uke with moderate volume beats a loud uke with an ugly voice.

06-07-2012, 07:40 PM
Hey Bo...I think I can answer it better now after clarification. If my daughter can hear it, it's good enough for me. :)

mm stan
06-07-2012, 07:42 PM
Yes I believe enough volume is needed to project the other qualities to be heard as Dirk stated...with substain and enough to hear clear note separation..
I too would choose a quieter more tonal balanced sweet sounding ukulele over a louder one any day.....

06-07-2012, 07:47 PM
Okay gang, let me CLARIFY it.
@Scott, great answer Brah........................BO.................... .

06-07-2012, 11:09 PM
Okay gang, let me CLARIFY it.
@Scott, great answer Brah........................BO.................... .

I can look at sound waves as I render videos. I have done over 500 videos of various ukulele models and often right next to each other with the same variables and recorded with a mic that is not compressed. Camera mics are not good for an accurate reading. Certain frequencies cut through to our ear better. The high mid range can really through, but is often less sweet sounding or pleasing to our ear.Then some are deeper which some look at as "warmer" but to others are unbalanced with certain notes droning over others. Mess with an eq for a while and see how volume is not really a determining factor. It has to be there for the frequencies you love to hear to come through in full. But often the loudest is not the sweetest. Think about people's talking voice and who you like to hear, from a sonic standpoint. You never hear this- "oh man, I met this girl, and she was so loud, I think I'm in love!"

06-07-2012, 11:31 PM
Aloha Andrew,
Mahalo for your scientific approach to this , very informative. For the average Joe Uker, how do you judge if the volume is satisfactory to you. So far, Scott's answer is to the point and the best answer yet.
Come on people, let's hear your method of judging volume..........................BO................ ......

06-07-2012, 11:33 PM
I sometimes fingerpick while 3-4 friends strum. My Ohana can be heard when I do that. My cedar-top cigar box uke has a beautiful sweet sound but if I fingerpick it while others are playing it gets drowned out. The Ohana is definitely louder. I love the sound of the cigar box uke but it has a limitation. So in some circumstances volume is useful.

06-07-2012, 11:39 PM
Mahalo Pondoro,
That's the kind of answer I'm looking for. But what if you're in a store road testing ukes. How would you decide if this uke has enough, not enough, or too much volume, for your taste?.......................BO.................

06-07-2012, 11:52 PM
I think maybe you're not liking some of the answers, because the real answer for almost anyone is going to be "it depends".

What else is going on? Once you get another sound involved, then you get into frequency separation and reasonably complicated things. If I'm playing with a lot of other ukuleles, like at a club, I'll often use a more percussive strum, which creates a lot of "noise" frequencies (3-6khz-ish) because that usually cuts through. If I'm playing with a guitar or bass or other low instrument, I'll probably use my thumb more, which gets a fair bit of fundamental (300-1000hz-ish), which is still going to be higher than the other sounds, and so will cut through.

If I'm playing solo, then volume is much more at my discretion, and I'll play whatever suits the music. You actually need a good ukulele to have much control at extremely low volumes, because you don't want to have to overcome too much inertia in the wood. A really cheap ukulele needs to be attacked a bit just to get the thing vibrating. Cheap ukuleles tend to also lose a LOT of volume as you go up the neck. That's an important consideration. Evenness of response.

A good ukulele should have the widest possible dynamic range in all registers with a frequency response which makes the player happy (which is totally subjective, of course). Just loud or not loud is only a small part of the equation.

06-08-2012, 01:22 AM
Most ukes I play pass the volume test. The only one that I've played that was absolutely ridiculous was this overbuilt soprano with a really heavy neck that was for sale at a local music store. Tuned it up, my husband fired up House of the Rising Sun on an organ, and you couldn't hear it. At.All. We were just cracking up that no matter how hard I played, it was completely silent. Now that is ridiculous, but I agree that most the ukes that don't suck are going to have enough of just volume, if that's the only criteria... which it isn't.

06-08-2012, 01:36 AM
I like the responses you've gotten. Like you, I've never owned an ukulele that didn't have enough volume. Some I have wished had less volume simply because they sounded so awful. But, enough volume has never been a problem. You can always beat a lot of sound out of the ukuleles I've tried, but in some cases you might not like what you get.

06-08-2012, 01:55 AM
I do not know how you predict the volume in a music store. My Ohana has gotten louder over the years. Fleas and Flukes seem loud from the get go. I think the answer is to buy a couple of good ukes and play them. As you get to know them you will see that one is better for some purposes, another is better for different purposes. If you must have a lot of volume (like to play with a band) you need to consider amplification. That is a whole different story and gets into different types of pickups, different types of preamp, etc. For playing and singing solo most ukes are OK. I had one that was very quiet, I loved it for early AM playing when the family was sleeping. As I said my Cigar Box uke is a bit quiet (I should have made the top thinner but it was my first build). Still I can play the CBU with others, I simply can't finger pick it loud enough. Strumming is OK.

06-08-2012, 02:24 AM
Volume is one of those subjective things I've learned not to worry about- though if a uke sounds muted with Aquila strings it's best to avoid it.

When I play at home, the uke is plenty loud. Especially with fluoro strings. However, at my meet-up I can barely hear my uke because of others talking, or having generally louder ukes. But I don't care. I still have fun when I play with others. And at home, my ukes are plenty loud (because it's usually very quiet)

I haven't had much opportunity to play one-on-one with another uke, so I can't judge that.

One thing, though, is that I found Aquila strings to be loud, and Martin strings to be less loud, but the sustain lasts forever.

06-08-2012, 06:09 AM
For me it's all about tone over volume - though, typically, better quality ukes will have plenty of both and a very quiet uke is probably not going to have great tone, either.

Personally, though, I'd much rather have a uke that is quiet but has great tone than one which is loud but obnoxious... :)


06-08-2012, 12:09 PM
If volume is desired then get wired up. Komoa has a nice little electric ukulele that I have seen at Larry's here on Kauai. Volume is much less important to me than tone on an acoustic uke.

06-08-2012, 12:24 PM
Aloha fro Maui kauaijim,
Exactly my feelings about ukes. If you MUST be heard, amp it!
Hope to visit Kauai one day, have relatives there, never been there........................BO................... ......