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View Full Version : Solid Spruce tops?



billcarr
04-30-2013, 08:26 AM
Bought a very nice tenor that I want to give to my better half on her birthday. It has a solid spruce top and rosewood sides and back. I have only had it for a day so the strings are still settling.

I compare every uke I buy to my Curly Koa and I must say this is a nice sounding instrument. However I canít seem to put my 'finger' on the sound characteristics or timbre of the spruce top . I guess I need more time with it.

It sounds very clean and with a sustain that goes on forever, but maybe lacking some of the complex harmonics that my Koa has.
The sound appears to be 'tight'. That is the only way I can describe it really. Like it needs to open up somehow. Strings are Aquila nylgut.

Anyone with spruce tops like to comment?

Photos attached

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Bill

strumsilly
04-30-2013, 09:20 AM
I have a Lanikai baritone with a spruce top that I like very much. I have found that strings have a lot to do with the sound. I like Aquila strings, but they may not be the best match for the spruce. what strings do you have on your koa?. you might change them on the spruce for a fairer comparison. I have southcoast on mine and I like them a lot.

billcarr
04-30-2013, 09:52 AM
I have Aquila strings on the Koa. Changed back and forth with Clear Waters. I like both but wanted to have the Aquilas on for doing sound comparisons with the ukes I have been buying lately. Most new ukes come standard with Aquilas.

Bill

coolkayaker1
04-30-2013, 10:19 AM
It must be the build. My spruce top is as loose as the wingnuts in Washington, DC.

Bao
04-30-2013, 10:17 PM
As strumsilly said, I would say that it's the strings. When I had aquilas on my monkey pod ukulele, it sounded totally dead! But when I replaced it with fremonts, it started singing.

fumanshu
05-01-2013, 12:18 AM
Most of the the time spruce top needs time to really open up to be stable and by time it can be quite long!!! So you really need time to really enjoy its potential....I'm talking here about spruce top ukes that are handbuilt and customs by luthier. Now I just don't know what you have.

Other consideration is strings like other says, you have to find the right combo for your uke. I tend to dislike Aquila just because it has to be hits characteristic sound tha make lots of ukes sound the same thing...so I tend to prefer strings like Oasis or D'Addario T2, etc.... ou really have to try to see what works best....


https://soundcloud.com/baouke/star-filante-by-caro-bao

anthonyg
05-01-2013, 01:05 AM
Its a new instrument. It needs to mature and open up. I recognise that bruceweiart ukulele. I have numerous brucewei's. Every single one of them has taken time to open up and mature into what they will become. They all start off tight.

It should be a fine instrument but wait at least 6 months or even more to know what it will become. I was starting to give up on a few of them but then they suddenly came good.

Anthony

mm stan
05-01-2013, 01:22 AM
Aloha Bill,
I know exactly what you mean....3 years ago I bought a rosewood back and sides and spruce top....It has a unigue sound...bright and brashy...you need to change the strings
to mellow it out...Aquila are too harsh for this wood combo....I threw on some Ko'olau alohi non wounds from elderly music...it sweetened it out very much.....Good Luck

billcarr
05-01-2013, 01:32 AM
I recognise that bruceweiart ukulele. Anthony

Correct :-) Its one of his better ones and higher priced as well. I honestly cannot fault this uke at all. Comparing it to my big island made Koa it is almost on par as far as attention to detail goes. I don't like the big chrome tuners but apart from that its a stunning looking uke. How the wood will hold up, only time will tell. Intonation is actually better than any other uke I have.

Bill

caukulele
05-01-2013, 02:43 AM
I would say try Worth Browns, perhaps with a low G (or Fremonts too).... I find that the Worths are great with Spruce because they warm and mellow it out, but you still keep the full range.

gsnelson
05-01-2013, 04:12 AM
I had two tenor ukes, both built by the Luthier Roger Skipper (see below for link), both with master grade koa back and sides, one with matching koa top, and one with one-hundred-year-old red spruce top. Both wore low G Aquilla strings. The difference in sound was apparent only with eyes open. I thought the spruce top was a little warmer and resonant, but Andrew, who plays in the video cited below, preferred the koa topped uke. I rank them, overall, equal in sound. But raise the size of the instrument to, say OO or OM size guitar, and the red spruce would most likely carry the day with all but diehard koa folks.

Dan Uke
05-01-2013, 04:21 AM
I have heard that the best sitka spruce tops are tight even grain. I personally think spruce has more overtones than koa.

Tootler
05-01-2013, 05:40 AM
I have a solid spruce top concert of far Eastern manufacture. As new with the original Aquila strings it was very bright. I tuned it down to F Bb D G but the Aquila strings were not very happy at the lower pitch so I replaced them with Living Waters and it now has a mellow, rounded tone which I really like. At £100GB it has proved extremely good value.

fabioponta
05-01-2013, 06:18 AM
I do not like spruce on ukes. To me, is the spruce for guitars. I've tried several ukes with spruce tops (factorys and from luthiers), but the sound is very similar to the acoustic guitar. Spruce (abeto) is a very popular acoustic classic guitar top here in Brazil.

Kmetzger
05-01-2013, 08:54 AM
Bill - Another issue I don't think anyone else has mentioned, is not only that your new Uke has not fully opened up, and not only does it have a different top then your other (Curly Koa) uke, but that you are comparing it to a uke that is much older. So even if you bought another Koa uke from the same manufacturer, it would not sound as good/open as the older one you have because of the age difference.

Also...my understanding is that there are so many things that influence the sound that comes out of a uke, with the tone wood being only one of many. So certainly two ukes from the same Luthier - one in Spruce and one in Koa - may sound different. But to say (as some have in this thread) that one doesn't like Spruce tops, tells an incomplete story. For example, whether you say you like Spruce or not, my guess is that many would think my Spruce top Moore Bettah sounds better or even warmer than many Koa ukes from other manufacturers/Luthiers.

My two cents.

Keith

Captain America
05-01-2013, 12:09 PM
This is what I did with mine and it made a substantive change in sound: made it fuller and sweeter in tone, reducing the spruce-harsh.


Say, nice Merton quote: I'm a bit into the Dominican mystics.

hmgberg
05-01-2013, 03:07 PM
As others have said spruce needs to open up. It takes a while.

Tootler
05-01-2013, 09:26 PM
I do not like spruce on ukes. To me, is the spruce for guitars. I've tried several ukes with spruce tops (factorys and from luthiers), but the sound is very similar to the acoustic guitar. Spruce (abeto) is a very popular acoustic classic guitar top here in Brazil.

That's a matter of personal taste. I like my spruce top uke and don't see spruce specifically as being for guitars.