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View Full Version : Is curlier koa better?



TheJuice
06-12-2013, 03:35 PM
I know that high quality or "deluxe" ukes with highly curly koa can cost more in general than less curly versions of the high quality ukes but I'm wondering what your opinions are if there is a difference in sound? What about strait vs. figured grain in the wood?

BlackBearUkes
06-12-2013, 04:55 PM
For sound I would prefer straight grained (no curl), well seasoned, light, stiff, perfectly quarter-sawn wood every time. For getting the big bucks, highly figured wood wins, but it is not better, only prettier.

thomas
06-12-2013, 05:01 PM
I tend to believe that straight grained, non-figured wood usually sounds better, but all that figure sure is pretty.

wayfarer75
06-13-2013, 02:50 AM
There was a thread started a while ago about pics of curly koa ukes. http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?79221-Curly-Koa-pics

It evolved into a discussion of the relative benefits of curly vs straight koa. Seemed the consensus was that though curly looks better, it doesn't sound better and can sometimes be worse--a lot depends on who built the instrument. My Kelii concert has curly koa (I posted a pic of it in the thread). It sounds and looks great. I have no other solid koa ukes to compare it to; I bought it online and the seller picked me out the best sounding one. (I'm in an ukulele wasteland.) Still, I have a reasonably good ear and I like what I hear and that's what's important. I would like to get a koa soprano, but curl isn't on my list of wants.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
06-13-2013, 04:41 AM
Better looking? That depends on who's doing the looking.

Better sounding? Depends on who the built the uke.

More expensive? Yep.

strumsilly
06-13-2013, 04:51 AM
Better looking? That depends on who's doing the looking.

Better sounding? Depends on who the built the uke.

More expensive? Yep.

better looking- of course. take one look at that curly mahogany that Regal and harmony used to use and compare it to plain. the figured woods are rarer = more expensive.
better sounding- nope

wickedwahine11
06-13-2013, 12:18 PM
I definitely prefer curly koa for eye candy. As to the sound, I think Chuck Moore once said (and I could be wrong as this is off memory) that it is harder to make it sound good. But he certainly does. Also, I notice Kamaka (Jake, Brittni), KoAloha (Daniel Ho, Herb Ohta, Brittni's old ukes) and Kanilea (Aldrine) all have very curly koa wood that sounds fantastic. So I would argue it does not mean that it will sound bad.

And my skills as a player will probably never be good enough to make a difference between a "good" sounding straight grain and a "lesser" sounding curly one, so I prefer the curly. I actually just special ordered a curly koa uke this past week. And I know the maker creates amazing sounding instruments. I'm not too concerned since the curly koa we chose was from their custom order and high end (not standard production) stash.

It may not be worth the extra $$ but it is personal preference. I have never heard a bad Moore Bettah and they are almost always super curly. I also think Aldrine, Jake, Brittni and Daniel's ukes sound pretty good...all curly.

It definitely doesn't mean it will sound better (might sound worse than straight grain depending on who makes it) but I think it also definitely does not mean it will sound worse or else why would all those pros play curly ukes?

PhilUSAFRet
06-13-2013, 12:31 PM
The plainer, "entry level" Ko'aloha and Kanilea koa concerts and tenors have frequently been called "the tone monsters." nuff said

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
06-13-2013, 12:33 PM
WW, the performers you mentioned are amped most of the time. I still think if you are an acoustic player you are better off with less than super curly wood.
Duane's (Black Bear) comment above expresses my feelings exactly.

wickedwahine11
06-13-2013, 12:39 PM
WW, the performers you mentioned are amped most of the time. I still think if you are an acoustic player you are better off with less than super curly wood.
Duane's (Black Bear) comment above expresses my feelings exactly.

Ahh, okay then. I stand corrected. Oh well, I'm still not good enough for it to make a difference for me, so I like the curly stuff.

Rick Turner
06-13-2013, 03:09 PM
Bill, could you explain why figured wood takes more man hours to prepare? I didn't know that...

Hippie Dribble
06-13-2013, 03:16 PM
Curly wood is easier on the eyes and harder on the wallet.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
06-13-2013, 04:07 PM
Bill, could you explain why figured wood takes more man hours to prepare? I didn't know that...

I don't know how you do it Rick but it takes time for me to run it through the curling machine. Several times for the 5A stuff. ;)

BTW, it seems that some people don't recognize art as serving any function. Personally, the art I surround my life with fills my soul at least as much as the music I play and listen to. I like art. And I also eat quiche.

caukulele
06-13-2013, 04:26 PM
"BTW, it seems that some people don't recognize art as serving any function. Personally, the art I surround my life with fills my soul at least as much as the music I play and listen to. I like art...."
Bravo Chuck!!!! I couldn't have said it better!!!!

TheJuice
06-13-2013, 07:44 PM
I've really enjoyed reading all the comments. Thanks! Uu is a great resource and is like junk food for the ukulele obsessed (ahem). like WW said, I too am nowhere near good enough (yet) to really make a difference between curly or strait grained. I love the look of the curly and have desired to get something that looks "one of a kind". I suppose they all are really.

aqualung23
06-15-2013, 08:07 AM
Not to be argumentative, but I doubt there is a person in the world who could tell curly from straight if they listened to two identical model Ukes blind. Plus the installation of ANY pickup system is going to have far more impact on tone than the difference in the figuring of the wood top.

BlackBearUkes
06-15-2013, 08:25 AM
Not to be argumentative, but I doubt there is a person in the world who could tell curly from straight if they listened to two identical model Ukes blind. Plus the installation of ANY pickup system is going to have far more impact on tone than the difference in the figuring of the wood top.

You may be right about people not being able to tell the difference between straight grain verses curly (or any other wood for that matter), but don't try telling that to a luthier. Most luthiers don't put all that time and energy into their ukes trying to get that great acoustic sound only to be negated by a not so great pickup and amp system. I for one don't care for any pickup system and I don't build with them in mind. If you want a sound system in your uke and plan to use it on a regular basis, I wouldn't pay a lot for a high end uke, IMO.

Sparkle
06-15-2013, 07:38 PM
BTW, it seems that some people don't recognize art as serving any function. Personally, the art I surround my life with fills my soul at least as much as the music I play and listen to. I like art. And I also eat quiche.

I love this statement. It's spot on.

Hippie Dribble
06-15-2013, 07:41 PM
You may be right about people not being able to tell the difference between straight grain verses curly (or any other wood for that matter), but don't try telling that to a luthier. Most luthiers don't put all that time and energy into their ukes trying to get that great acoustic sound only to be negated by a not so great pickup and amp system. I for one don't care for any pickup system and I don't build with them in mind. If you want a sound system in your uke and plan to use it on a regular basis, I wouldn't pay a lot for a high end uke, IMO.

Totally agree with this.

Rick Turner
06-16-2013, 06:02 AM
Funny, but I've never heard an issue with my ukes or guitars sounding significantly worse acoustically after I installed a pickup. I think that's another myth or else it's an installer problem. When my friends Henry Kaiser and Paul Hostetter did a pretty careful test of exactly that (new strings before, new strings after, etc.) with an acoustic guitar, they thought the difference was maybe not quite as much as the difference between brand new strings and strings that were a day old.

BlackBearUkes
06-16-2013, 08:38 AM
Funny, but I've never heard an issue with my ukes or guitars sounding significantly worse acoustically after I installed a pickup. I think that's another myth or else it's an installer problem. When my friends Henry Kaiser and Paul Hostetter did a pretty careful test of exactly that (new strings before, new strings after, etc.) with an acoustic guitar, they thought the difference was maybe not quite as much as the difference between brand new strings and strings that were a day old.

I am only talking about the sound of the uke plugged in and run through the amp. They always sound different then the true acoustic unplugged sound.

Rick Turner
06-16-2013, 06:50 PM
Maybe you haven't heard a good one. Can they be exactly the same? No, probably not...yet. Can they be totally musically satisfying? Yes, definitely. And I'll take even a moderately good amplified uke over the sad attempts at miking that I hear at uke clubs. Maybe 5% of the folks who use mics know what they're doing...maybe... If you're going to play out, you're going to plug in if you want to be heard and hear yourself. It's that simple. Most uke builders do not play out live on stages...more's the pity... If you do, you learn another side of what's important.

BlackBearUkes
06-16-2013, 07:04 PM
Maybe you haven't heard a good one. Can they be exactly the same? No, probably not...yet. Can they be totally musically satisfying? Yes, definitely. And I'll take even a moderately good amplified uke over the sad attempts at miking that I hear at uke clubs. Maybe 5% of the folks who use mics know what they're doing...maybe... If you're going to play out, you're going to plug in if you want to be heard and hear yourself. It's that simple. Most uke builders do not play out live on stages...more's the pity... If you do, you learn another side of what's important.

All this is sad but true. I personally hate the sound of plugged in acoustic guitars and ukes, they sound like sh*t to my ear and yes I have heard plenty of them. I understand the reasons for them, but I don't have to like it, they just sound like a cheap imitation of the real thing IMO. Maybe someday someone will come up with something better.

strumsilly
06-17-2013, 02:20 AM
You may be right about people not being able to tell the difference between straight grain verses curly (or any other wood for that matter), but don't try telling that to a luthier. Most luthiers don't put all that time and energy into their ukes trying to get that great acoustic sound only to be negated by a not so great pickup and amp system. I for one don't care for any pickup system and I don't build with them in mind. If you want a sound system in your uke and plan to use it on a regular basis, I wouldn't pay a lot for a high end uke, IMO.
My uke with a Baggs 5.0 pickup played through my Fishman loudbox sounds pretty "natural" . the uke is a K brand, and I don;t know if that qualifies for "high end" , but it is much easier to use on stage , especially when playing with others, than a mic.