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ukuhippo
12-12-2012, 11:55 PM
Searching this forum and other resources for my ultimate ukulele I've come across words like "mellow" and "warm". English is only my third language, so I might have misinterpreted these terms.
Besides from just wanting the ultimate ukulele and not being able to purchase one due to a low cash-flow I'm curious what these terms actually mean.
Sometimes I read things like "this one is warm while the other is more mellow", and I thought these words practically meant the same.
Me, I like the soprano-size over all other size ukuleles, and the ultimate ukulele is going to be a soprano, that's for sure. I like the way my cheap Dolphin sounds over the brighter sound of my other cheap Makala's, so I'm pretty sure my ultimate uke is going to be a soprano which sounds warm. Or mellow. Or with more bass.
I'm confused. What do these terms mean to you?

roxhum
12-13-2012, 03:25 AM
How do you describe a sound? I think it is next to impossible. English is my first (only) language and I think mellow and warm pretty much means the same thing. Their is mellow, or warm, with a sweet sound, opposed to a Hawaiian sound. Now what in the heck does that mean? Koa mellow and warm, mahogany warm and sweet. I think this is why so many of us buy and sell so many ukes, so we can try them out ourselves. I know for me some ukes have a harsh sound that I don't like. But then again change the strings and the sound changes. To me sometimes bright mean harsh, where as my red cedar/rosewood Mainland is bright yet has a underlying warmth to it. You just can't describe sound.

I will be interested to hear if anyone has a description for the difference between mellow and warm. I don't, but I think warm is a better descriptive.

hoosierhiver
12-13-2012, 03:47 AM
Describing tones is like describing wine, it's almost imaginative sometimes.
My cedar concert is kind of fruity with a hint of gunpowder and pepper.

roxhum
12-13-2012, 03:50 AM
Okay, I just played my Mainlands, soprano and concert, both mahogany. The concert is strung in low g. I would say the soprano is warm, in comparison to a bright sounding spruce top (which actually I have no experience with). Warm but still a bright ukulele sound. As I was playing my mahogany concert in low G I thought that it was very warm and mellow sounding. So "maybe" lower bass tones give a mellower tone. I think the warm versus bright discussion has to be in relation to each other since you want a soprano that is bright, but not harsh i.e. warmer sounding. But then again you have everyone's interpretations of what those sounds sound like to their ear. A workshop would be fun with different ukes and sounds. Kind of like wine tasting, eh?

cahaya
12-13-2012, 03:50 AM
Describing tones is like describing wine, it's almost imaginative sometimes.
My cedar concert is kind of fruity with a hint of gunpowder and pepper.

I chuckled when I read that.

jjjj
12-13-2012, 04:30 AM
Hello ukuhippo,

Actually, it is possible to describe a sound accurately, precisely and objectively. However one cannot do it quickly and simply.

You could view a spectrogram or read the results of a Fourier transform and these will give you detailed scientific information about the sound. They won't tell you how that sound makes you feel, and if that is the feeling you want from that instrument. Words like "warm", "mellow, "bright", "harsh" allow us to talk about sound without writing a doctoral thesis.

That being said, "warm" and "mellow" are similar qualities, usually referring to a pleasant spread of overtones. "muddy" is an unpleasant spread of overtones.

Luckily, we live in the age of youtube, vimeo, and similar services. Get yourself a good set of speakers of headphones and listen to what people call "warm", "bright", "clear", "harsh", "cheerful", "muddy", "peppermint", etc. and you'll start to get an idea.

Here are a couple wikipedia articles if you want to dig into the physics:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overtone
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timbre

Paul December
12-13-2012, 05:37 AM
mellow = euphemism for "quiet"

Youkalaylee
12-13-2012, 06:02 AM
Ive always imagined that mellow is the opposite of bright, more suited to sombre songs. Bright sounds chirpy and quite loud and demanding, mellow not necessarily quieter but less like a laughing baby and more like a chuckling adult.

Warm to me sounds like an acoustic guitar, cold a bit more banjo-like.

ukemunga
12-13-2012, 06:30 AM
mellow = euphemism for "quiet"

mellow = euphemism for "have a nice buzz" and not in a bad way. :shaka:

whepper
12-13-2012, 06:53 AM
My 2 cents (English as 2nd language):

Warm: deep / sweet sound / fluid / relaxed
Bright: spikey / clear / fast
Mellow: warm, but not clear, small & nice sounding fluctuations in sound.. sort of a reverb

ukuhippo
12-13-2012, 07:00 AM
Wow, thanks for all your different replies. Now I'm even more confused.

whepper, what would you call it in your first language (which is mine to)?

itsme
12-13-2012, 07:01 AM
It's all subjective. But my perception from the woods I have experience with:

mahogany = mellow

cedar = warm

spruce = bright

whepper
12-13-2012, 07:29 AM
whepper, what would you call it in your first language (which is mine to)?

Ok, in Dutch then:
Warm: warm, diep geluid, piekt niet erg, beetje houten geluid
Mellow: lijkt op warm, maar wiewig... kleine golvende variaties in dezelfde toon vaak van hoog naar iets lager en dan soms weer terug iets omhoog
Bright: scherp, bijna schel, fel geluid, klinkt heel zuiver en zingt vaak echt, erg aanwezig

ukuhippo
12-13-2012, 07:44 AM
Ok, in Dutch then:
Warm: warm, diep geluid, piekt niet erg, beetje houten geluid
Mellow: lijkt op warm, maar wiewig... kleine golvende variaties in dezelfde toon vaak van hoog naar iets lager en dan soms weer terug iets omhoog
Bright: scherp, bijna schel, fel geluid, klinkt heel zuiver en zingt vaak echt, erg aanwezig

Thanks, that makes sense.

Youkalaylee
12-13-2012, 08:13 AM
Thanks, that makes sense.

It's all Greek to me.

Well, Dutch, lol. Bad joke I know. I feel ashamed already.

ukuhippo
12-13-2012, 08:21 AM
It's all Greek to me.

Well, Dutch, lol. Bad joke I know. I feel ashamed already.

Well, we just bought Greece with zillions of tax money, so you're close.

Barbablanca
12-13-2012, 09:02 AM
"Warm" - as an emotion - puts a smile on your face, makes you feel content and happy. Whereas "mellow" means you feel totally relaxed and chilled out.

As used to describe sounds, I take it that "warm" implies full sounding, resonant and with lots of bass (great for strumming happy tunes), whereas "mellow" seems to imply quieter, more balanced across the whole instrument with less resonant overtones (very suitable for finger picked folk music).

"Bright" can simply mean quite a lot of treble, less bass and loud. What some people perceive as "strident"... and by extension unpleasant. Though if you play a lot with other people (and especially guitarists) a "bright" ukulele is great for "cutting through" and being heard among the wall of sound from other, louder instruments ;)

But again, this is all subjective. "There is no accounting for taste" as the old English phrase goes.

devvyleys
12-13-2012, 10:19 AM
My 2 cents (English as 2nd language):

Warm: deep / sweet sound / fluid / relaxed
Bright: spikey / clear / fast
Mellow: warm, but not clear, small & nice sounding fluctuations in sound.. sort of a reverb

That's exactly how I think of the differences between warm and mellow. And since I've already got a bright & "plucky" spruce top, it's why I'm looking for something warmer probably in mahogany or Blackwood.

And now we'll start talking about "pluckiness." Or maybe not.

roxhum
12-14-2012, 03:57 AM
I have always wondered about pluckiness. I can sort of imagine what that means but....