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View Full Version : Best wood for a "bell like" tone



KnowsPickin
11-23-2013, 10:12 AM
With a case of UAS nipping at my heels I've been contemplating a new tenor uke. I've finally decided that my favorite ukulele tone is a "bell like" tone, that is, free from that percussive "ting" you get from an overly bright or cheap uke. And I want to avoid ting-free, but dull tones. As I'm likely to be getting a Mainland uke via mailorder I want to be sure I order what will most likely give me what I need.

What wood should I choose to get that pure "bell like" tone I want. It is incredibly difficult to compare tone from YouTube videos. There are so many variables: the microphone, fingerstyle with or without fingernails, pick or no, agressive vs. light touch. Heck, one guy went through a five uke comparison and I could tell virtually no difference in tone. But my best guess is that I should choose mahogany. They seems to come closest in my comparisons of videos with various brands.

I LOVE the LOOK of the red cedar. But based on a couple of videos, the cedar can easily sound a bit harsh. Is this a fair statement?

Any other suggestions? I probably should just ask Mike at Mainland and go with his opinion.

I'm in no hurry. I'm trying to stave this purchase off till my income tax refund early next year.

Opinions appreciated.

1300cc
11-23-2013, 10:36 AM
My opinion, tone wood combination.

kissing
11-23-2013, 02:08 PM
Solid spruce top will most definitely give that bell like tiiing :)

haolejohn
11-23-2013, 02:37 PM
Not sure. I've read and heard redwood gives a bell like tone. I own a redwood topped uke and not sure if I'd classify it as bell like. But for sure I'd classify it as best sounding top ever.

Paul December
11-23-2013, 02:45 PM
I think it may have to do with the combination of: Scale + Wood + Strings + Construction
...for me, I have only one with a bell-like tone: Koaloha (very light consturction) Concert scale, Koa wood, with Worth strings.
I've never really heard larger-scaled ukes sound bell-like.

PhilUSAFRet
11-23-2013, 03:03 PM
I"ve heard it from several different "high quality" ukes using different woods. As Paul December pointed out, several factors beside wood choice contributes to that magic tone.

Hippie Dribble
11-23-2013, 03:42 PM
All else being equal, it'd be mango or sycamore for me.

Teek
11-23-2013, 05:17 PM
My Kanile'a koa tenor, my Martin mahogany baritone, my Martin mahogany tenor copy by Yasuma, my myrtle and spruce custom by Brad Donaldson, and my Pono Pro Classic tenor which is rosewood with a cedar top all ring. I would say it is build quality top most. The Pono has the deepest ring and longest sustain.

Bao
11-23-2013, 06:25 PM
Strings make a HUGE difference in all ukes. I found that fluorocarbons like fremont strings really created a bell like tone for my lanikai monkey pod.

The Orange Mage
11-24-2013, 12:17 AM
Flourocarbons on spruce top would be my guess.

tangimango
11-24-2013, 12:22 AM
I own two bell like tone ukuleles. sounds more like a harp to me.

if your looking for just advice on which tonewoods and not consider the builder or construction method, then the best ive heard was Mango or Curly mango, very hardwood, and another option is quilted maple, or anyone of those two with a Sitka Spruce top.

Oh and you have to use Fluorocarbons like worths.

consitter
11-24-2013, 12:25 AM
I would think you wouldn't want wood for a bell like tone.

Try brass. :D

drmosser
11-24-2013, 04:52 AM
I'm not convinced that the wood makes a huge difference in tone below a certain price point or for anything that is not solid wood. With the less expensive ukes, it is possible for the strings to turn a dud into something that can be tolerated or actually enjoyed. Example - I have a Makala Dolphin that sounded plunky and horrible with the stock strings. With Aquillas it sounds as good as or better than a $200.00 soprano uke that I have.

A few months ago, I would have said I wanted the same "bell" tone in a ukulele. I got a Ko'Aloha concert thinking that was my dream ukulele and it was for a while. Then I took a chance on two ukes from relatively new luthiers. One was a soprano with redwood top and the other was a tenor with douglas fir top. The douglas fir tenor sounds exceptional, maybe a little more like a guitar (great depth of tone). It is now my favorite uke. Here is my first recorded sound sample of my douglas fir tenor https://soundcloud.com/donald-mosser/sample-1-11-23-2013 . I need a better microphone.

The redwood soprano has good intonation and tone, but I am beginning to think a soprano sized uke is not capable of the depth of tone that is my dream uke sound. However, that little soprano has got me wanting a redwood topped tenor. Lichty Guitars has some sound samples (ear candy) of redwood topped tenors on their website, but they are out of my price range at the moment. Here is one of theirs that I particularly like for the tone : http://lichtyguitars.com/2013/08/22/cocobolo-long-neck-tenor-ukulele-u53/

I just wish I would have saved my money in the beginning and not purchased some of the low to mid-level ukes I own. Now, that I've had a taste of a custom grade ukulele in my douglas fir tenor, I must sell some of my lesser ukes if I want to fund another dream uke.

Good luck in your quest for your dream uke!

GASguy
11-24-2013, 04:55 AM
Spruce top, or for an all hardwood ukulele my quilted maple tenor rings with a bell like tone, and fluorocarbon strings on either.

Teek
11-24-2013, 09:01 AM
Agree that best strings for ring are Worth Clears or Southcoasts.

oudin
11-24-2013, 01:06 PM
I do not prefer fluoros, but I do think they are your best bet for a really clean tone with little overtone. I find all mahogany ukes have the most potential to be balanced and even tonally, so I'd go with any well-build mahogany with fluoros.

Doc_J
11-24-2013, 01:18 PM
I think the builder and the construction methods make the most difference in achieving a sound quality you desire.

You might want to listen to ukes from different builders with varying tonewoods.

https://vimeo.com/theukulelesite/videos

hmgberg
11-24-2013, 01:56 PM
I agree with Doc. You might pose this question in the luthier's lounge.

mm stan
11-24-2013, 03:16 PM
Remember it's the luthier that makes a big difference too...believe me :)

Nickie
11-24-2013, 03:41 PM
Stan is right, well everyone here is right....the luthier, the wood, and the strings all matter....brass would give the most bell like sound, I've heard a brass uke, and it sounded like a whole bucket full of bells!

BlackBearUkes
11-24-2013, 08:17 PM
After building hundreds of ukes in all different sizes and shapes, I have never one with a bell like tone, I don't even know what that means. The term is too vague. If you have heard a uke with the sound qualities you want, you could post that information and others might be able to lead you in the right direction.

consitter
11-24-2013, 08:23 PM
After building hundreds of ukes in all different sizes and shapes, I have never one with a bell like tone, I don't even know what that means. The term is too vague. If you have heard a uke with the sound qualities you want, you could post that information and others might be able to lead you in the right direction.

Just guessing---

When I think of a bell, I think of the aftertone. Which to me would translate as sustain, and a lot of it. Not really sounding like a bell, but having a quality that a bell has.

I thought the same thing as you when I read the title of the thread, hence my smart allecky answer (tempered with emoticon). But I think maybe I may know where the OP is coming from.

Your thoughts?

hammer40
11-24-2013, 10:09 PM
Agree that best strings for ring are Worth Clears or Southcoasts.

I would say Fremont Black lines should be on that list as well.

Hippie Dribble
11-24-2013, 11:29 PM
After building hundreds of ukes in all different sizes and shapes, I have never one with a bell like tone, I don't even know what that means. The term is too vague. If you have heard a uke with the sound qualities you want, you could post that information and others might be able to lead you in the right direction.

Bright, clean and sweet is how I decipher that term. Sure, vague, but language never really does much of a job describing music does it.

consitter
11-24-2013, 11:42 PM
Bright, clean and sweet is how I decipher that term. Sure, vague, but language never really does much of a job describing music does it.

Or love, for that matter.

When it happens, you just know it.

hmgberg
11-25-2013, 01:02 AM
Clear (as a bell) and ringing.

BlackBearUkes
11-25-2013, 04:00 AM
Well, reading the above comments on "bell like tone", I would have to say it isn't the wood so much as to how the uke is built and who builds it. Any wood can give a clear, ringing sound with good sustain. My advice to the OP is to sound start playing lots and lots of ukes until one rings your bell, forget about what the wood is.

peaceweaver3
11-25-2013, 09:14 AM
Strings make a HUGE difference in all ukes. I found that fluorocarbons like fremont strings really created a bell like tone for my lanikai monkey pod.

Agree. I got what I consider bell-like tone from a Flea with a Freemont low G set.

As to tone wood I'd have said western red cedar, but have no personal experience, just going on what I've heard others play.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-26-2013, 05:28 AM
Honduran rosewood back n sides with redwood top.

At about $50 a uke set, HRW has a marvellous tap tone, but then again many do.