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View Full Version : No spruce for me...



BigD
03-09-2014, 04:13 PM
I guess its just personal preference but ive yet to find or play any stringed instrument with a spruce top that ive enjoyed. While that doesnt mean some amazing instruments dont have spruce tops its just something about them doesnt feel, idk right. Whats everyones personal preference in woods? And im coming to realize that its not that my new uke isnt nice i just dont like the spruce top!! lol it seems like such a general statement to say i dont like it but ive yet to play one id spend money on, i MUCH prefer the warmth of mahogany and cedar..

Ukejenny
03-09-2014, 04:18 PM
Perhaps I am of the same mind, because I have passed over spruce tops in my last two purchases. One was for a cedar top and the other was for mahogany.

janeray1940
03-09-2014, 04:23 PM
Interesting that you bring this up, I've recently been in the position of deciding between a certain koa top uke that I can try before I buy, and a spruce top one that I would be buying sight unseen, and... I'm sticking with the koa because I know I love the sound. While I suspect that the spruce top uke in question would sound just wonderful, most of the spruce top ukes I've encountered haven't had exactly the sound I like - although I can't quite put into words what it is. Haven't tried a cedar top but after reading your post, maybe it's warmth that I'm missing when I hear a spruce top.

OldePhart
03-09-2014, 04:27 PM
I think a lot of it is in the build, too. I've had guitars of cedar and spruce and both were lovely, though very different. Sometimes I still regret giving my cedar guitar away several years ago but we had some friends who had a lot of kids and not a lot of money so when she broke the neck on her guitar I gave her the cedar because I had my Taylor and was playing it most of the time. Still, that cedar was very nice.

I haven't found a cedar uke that I really like, though. Some of them sound great and pretty much all of them are quite loud but I guess they just sound a little too guitarish to me, even when strung reentrant. I have heard a few spruce ukes that I like, though...and in fact I ordered a spruce top on the Boat Paddle I'm having built.

For me, spruce in a uke is a very fine line. It's nice and loud and punchy but can easily go a little too piercing. This uke I have on order is a five string (octave G strings) so I think it will be okay, and if all else fails I can throw some warmer strings on it in place of the Worth clears.

It's fairly easy to mellow out a bright uke with strings but it's awfully hard to put the uke "punch" into one that is too mellow out of the gate. I think maybe that's what I don't care for in the cedar ukes - lots of loud, very mellow and warm, but I've not found one with the "uke sparkle."


John

Wagster
03-09-2014, 05:22 PM
64704

I bought this Kala 4 or 5 years ago and it has two things going for it:

1 - Like most ukes, over time it just opened up and I love the tones I get from it. Worth CL's really compliment the spruce. Best $200 I've ever spent.

2 - I bought it from MGM. That truly makes it a treasure I will never forsake.

actadh
03-09-2014, 05:33 PM
I have the solid spruce top Luna concert with Aquila Nylgut. HMS set it up. I play with the pads of my fingers, not nails, and it has the sound I wanted.

UkerDanno
03-09-2014, 05:41 PM
64704

I bought this Kala 4 or 5 years ago and it has two things going for it:

1 - Like most ukes, over time it just opened up and I love the tones I get from it. Worth CL's really compliment the spruce. Best $200 I've ever spent.

2 - I bought it from MGM. That truly makes it a treasure I will never forsake.

:shaka::shaka:

UkerDanno
03-09-2014, 05:43 PM
spruce is big and loud, I prefer koa #1 and next mahogany, but I'm a traditionalist.

iDavid
03-09-2014, 05:43 PM
My favorite guitar is an all Mahogany LS-03 from Larrivee. It is a forum 3 guitar. My ukes are all koa, but I am having a Kinnard with Cedar top being built at the moment. I listened to TONS of the Kinnard's and I like the cedar top and all mahogany the best. Didn't care for the spruce as much, but they could open up, so it might not have been a "fair" comparison.

Ukulele Eddie
03-09-2014, 05:43 PM
I've heard some fantastic Spruce-topped ukes and some not so great ones. Like pretty much any wood. I do hear you on having a preference. For me personally, while I really love the look of Koa, I've heard many more Koa ukes that I didn't care for than those that I loved. But I've heard some really, really spectacular ones, too. I just bought one of my favorite sounding ones even though it is unfortunately quite plain Jane in looks.

FrankB
03-09-2014, 05:45 PM
I've always found spruce gave a better tonal variety with my classical guitars, and I'm currently playing a Kala solid spruce top/solid ovangkol B&S tenor. I can put duller strings on if I want a soft tone, or try to use flesh (I have nails for guitar...and uke). When I need sizzle, spruce delivers. My wife has a nice cedar top Kala, and its tone is very nice.

John's right about build and design. Even flamenco guitarists can be found playing cedar, and they still produce a great flamenco tone.

P.S. I've been looking at the Kanilea spruce top tenors for a few days, and might have to part with some cash.....

Dan Uke
03-09-2014, 05:55 PM
Definitely depends on the build. I've played a Moore Bettah Spruce that was warmer than most koa, mahogany ukes I've played.

However, I think most cheaper spruce ukes sound brash

itsme
03-09-2014, 06:12 PM
I've always found spruce gave a better tonal variety with my classical guitars... When I need sizzle, spruce delivers. My wife has a nice cedar top Kala, and its tone is very nice.

John's right about build and design. Even flamenco guitarists can be found playing cedar, and they still produce a great flamenco tone.
Coming from a CG background where spruce or cedar tops are the norm, perhaps there's a prejudice in my liking them on uke as well.

I have more than one each of spruce, cedar and mahogany and I love them all for what they are and the unique sounds they make. :)

Kekani
03-09-2014, 06:15 PM
I guess its just personal preference but ive yet to find or play any stringed instrument with a spruce top that ive enjoyed. While that doesnt mean some amazing instruments dont have spruce tops its just something about them doesnt feel, idk right. Whats everyones personal preference in woods? And im coming to realize that its not that my new uke isnt nice i just dont like the spruce top!! lol it seems like such a general statement to say i dont like it but ive yet to play one id spend money on, i MUCH prefer the warmth of mahogany and cedar..

What would you consider a Maple back sides with a Sitka Spruce top? Self serving, but what the hell, this one doesn't scream what you think it would:
http://ukulelefriend.com/ukes/custom-aaron-oya-tenor-ukulele/

chuck in ny
03-09-2014, 07:16 PM
spruce is going to be good, or terrible, all depending on how an instrument is built. you have to remember instruments started with basic stuff like maple and spruce so there is some tradition going on.
if a wood does not attract you at all, that's enough, leave it alone. there's plenty of good other species out there.

SailQwest
03-09-2014, 07:46 PM
My spruce/rosewood concert has long been my favorite uke, and new additions have failed to supplant it. It has a sweet, bright sound that blends nicely with my voice.

My main music playmate (my husband) plays a mahogany tenor tuned dGBE. Our ukes blend well together, with my sweet, bright highs nicely complementing his deep, warm, voicings.

Steveperrywriter
03-09-2014, 07:58 PM
I have two spruce topped ukes, one Engelmann, the other Adirondack, and they are terrific. Classical guitar makers have been using spruce for a long time, and they manage to make guitars sound good. I know that uke luthiers can produce instruments that utilize spruce, cedar, or redwood that delight the ear as much as traditional koa or mahogany. At least based on my personal experience.

clayton56
03-09-2014, 07:58 PM
I'm with the OP; I like mahogany and toon, not a fan of spruce or koa

tangimango
03-09-2014, 10:22 PM
Sitka spruce I like, very bright and clear, but first choice would awalys be hawaiian koa, mango, then spruce

della-belle
03-10-2014, 01:06 AM
My first 'real' (read: not bright purple laminate) uke was a stagg spruce topped thing that now rides in the back of the car with sharpie graffiti all over it, and I really love it. I now have a Kala with acacia back and sides & a spruce top and it sounds just beautiful :D I think it's probably just a case of personal aural preference, and you should always go for the sound you like best.

guitharsis
03-10-2014, 01:51 AM
In classical guitars, I loved the sound of spruce/Brazilian rosewood. Have an Ohta San cedar top that sounds fantastic but love the looks and sound of koa. That has been my preference for the rest of my ukes.

sam13
03-10-2014, 03:09 AM
I am looking at a new Uke for travelling and practising around the house ... have a new ETSH5 (Pono Tenor Cedar/Macassar Ebony) which I love and want to keep as ding free as possible. I hae a Mahogany Pono Baritone

Am considering a Gretsch Mahogany Tenor 9120 SM or a Kala KA STG Spruce Top Gloss finish Tenor. I prefer warm tones and perhaps this thread is what I have been looking for ... as I am not a fan of overly bright, sharp sounds ... love the Koa K Brands as well.

Any thoughts on my next purchase?

Thanks.

kohanmike
03-10-2014, 08:04 AM
My ukes are all in the lower-mid range, all tenor cutaways, but I choose to differentiate my choices by the wood, not size. My favorite sound and feel is the Uku solid acacia koa, 2nd is the Oscar Schmidt laminate spalted maple, but the Lanikai solid spruce/mahogany is very close, I really like the brighter sound of it even though it does need a proper setup.

Mim
03-10-2014, 08:07 AM
My first uke was a spruce top, laminate spalted maple back and sides. And I still play him all the time! But he is beat up and can go anywhere and poor guy does not get babied.

Now... favorite "every day" tonewood... Cedar! Is always sounds amazing!

Though... spruce paired up with the right back and sides tonewood can be amazing. You just need something in your back and sides to add some low-end to it.

My favorite uke I have in shop right now is hand made by Ken Breedlove. It is a soprano with a cedar top, Koa back and sides.
Brings tears to my eyes is sounds so good. Cedar really bring a big sound to an ukulele!

The Big Kahuna
03-10-2014, 08:47 AM
Spruce is a Fender Twin Reverb. Cedar is a Marshall Stack turned up to 11

I love my Cedar travel Uke. It barks like a junkyard dog!

KnowsPickin
03-10-2014, 09:00 AM
On OTHER instruments I tend to prefer a very bright sound, vitually a shimmer. I have a Guild jumbo guitar that does just that. I have a Sobell Cittern (big mandolin type instrument for Celtic music) with a cedar top, but it is designed also for a very bright sound.

But on ukes, I REALLY prefer a super smooth, warm sound. I've even found I prefer to play with bare fingers instead of nails, which gives me a warmer tone.

My favorite uke is my Mainland classic mahogany tenor. It has a beautiful warm sound. I also have a Kala spalted maple laminate that is also fairly warm, but not as warm as the mahogany. I really did not care for he spruce tops when I was test-driving ukes, although I had assumed that spruce would be my choice going in. I'm really glad I bypassed the spruce and went with what I got.

FrankB
03-10-2014, 09:02 AM
I just ordered another spruce top concert. You'll have to wait to see which one..... ;)

mm stan
03-10-2014, 09:06 AM
Holy Moly????

Edgeguy
03-10-2014, 10:52 AM
I am looking at a new Uke for travelling and practising around the house ... have a new ETSH5 (Pono Tenor Cedar/Macassar Ebony) which I love and want to keep as ding free as possible. I hae a Mahogany Pono Baritone

I can understand the travelling part, but the house part I don't understand. I am not trying to be mean, but why have a nice uke if you're afraid to play it because it might get a ding in it. I have a KoAloha and it is my main uke. It is the one I play all the time, and if it gets a ding I would not like it but would not get mad over it. Look at a ding as your brand that says "This is mine".

On the topic of spruce. I picture ukes with first with Koa and then with other tropical woods (mango, sycamore), but guitars are another thing. I love spruce as the top sound board. I have a Larrivee with Sitka spruce top and quilted mahogany backs and sides. Larrivee is known for the spruce they have (Jean Larrivee is like the guru of spruce). Mine is around 10 years old and the silking and color change are unbelievable. People are amazed how load a clear it sounds for an OM in a bluegrass jam.

stringy
03-10-2014, 11:20 AM
Personal preference is just that. Personal preference. I try to stay away from threads where folks are raving about their laminated or plastic ukes because if they are happy with them, that is all that matters. No one has to have the same ear or taste. Enjoy what you enjoy. As far as wood type, there are wonderful sounding Spruce ukes and terrible sounding Koa ukes just as there are wonderful sounding Koa ukes and terrible sounding Spruce ukes.
I would never lump an entire wood into one category. It serves no purpose.

FrankB
03-10-2014, 12:41 PM
I was looking at HMS's site just now, and saw this spruce top soprano: http://www.theukulelesite.com/kala-ka-sslng-gloss-soprano-longneck-spruce-top.html
It's anything but tinny, brash, etc, and goes to the How It's Built thing.

The Big Kahuna
03-10-2014, 01:26 PM
wood. It serves no purpose.

So, another vote for Formica ;)

Sporin
04-01-2014, 02:56 AM
Coincidental that this topic came up because I am selling my laminate Mahogany Islander (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?94533-FS-Islander-MT-4) to purchase a Solid Spruce top uke, specifically the Kala KA-STG (http://www.theukulelesite.com/kala-ka-st-solid-spruce-top-satin-finish-1041.html). I've played a few spruce tops now and I really, really like them.

I play mostly with guitar players and I think the spruce top blends beautifully in that setting. Perhaps its my guitar-focused ear that makes spruce work so well for me?

All the reviews of the latest Kala's are very, very good and great value at this price point. I'm feeling confident that with HMS setup, and a set of Worth Brown Low G's, it will be exactly what I'm looking for.


http://vimeo.com/68261892

bborzell
04-01-2014, 04:33 AM
Not sure about the Formica comment, but I do have a Masonite guitar. And then there is this flash of reality:

http://benedettoguitars.com/2011/09/16/flashback-friday-knot-so-bad/

MutinousDoug
04-01-2014, 03:52 PM
Coincidental that this topic came up because I am selling my laminate Mahogany Islander (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?94533-FS-Islander-MT-4) to purchase a Solid Spruce top uke, specifically the Kala KA-STG (http://www.theukulelesite.com/kala-ka-st-solid-spruce-top-satin-finish-1041.html). I've played a few spruce tops now and I really, really like them.

I play mostly with guitar players and I think the spruce top blends beautifully in that setting. Perhaps its my guitar-focused ear that makes spruce work so well for me?

All the reviews of the latest Kala's are very, very good and great value at this price point. I'm feeling confident that with HMS setup, and a set of Worth Brown Low G's, it will be exactly what I'm looking for.


http://vimeo.com/68261892

That video sounds VERY nice but guitar like (wish I could play like that). I picked up the uke as an alternative to the guitars I play equally badly and don't care to have a uke that sounds like another guitar. OK, I also don't like the look of that white spruce top, so there's some prejudice there.

CanuckUkeMaui
04-01-2014, 05:38 PM
Spruce top ...give a good one a try! My current Ukes have koa solid tops and koa back/sides with one having mahogany back/sides. a few days ago I stopped in at the Kamoa Store in Kapa'a, Kauai and tried their solid wood tenor with spruce top and maple back and sides. These are, I believe manufactured off shore and set up on kauai. Their 500 series retails for about 6-$700. With my koa Kamakas and Meles in my mind I played the Kamoa and was actually shocked--in a good way-- at the sound it produced. Loud, yes but full and lots of sustain ( think it had Aquila strings).

The aspect that surprised my was that my rib cage was vibrating and resonating with the Kamoa Uke ...have never felt that before. I thought my UAS had ended but back on Maui now and may try to track another 500 series for an extended try

Terry

PhilUSAFRet
04-02-2014, 01:00 AM
Guess I have no expectation that ukes only sound one way

Sporin
04-02-2014, 04:16 AM
Guess I have no expectation that ukes only sound one way

Same here.

I will always have my first uke, a Kala KA-C, the 40th bday gift from my wife that started my obsession. It's what I'm playing now that my Islander is gone and while I wait for my new uke from HMS. I keep it stung reentrant. The forthcoming Tenor will be strung Low g as my Islander was.

The 2 of them will have very different sounds, just as my Islander sounded very different from the KA-C. Both will continue to be played, and I like having the options depending on my mood, the song, or the sound I'm going for.

Brian W
04-02-2014, 04:57 AM
For acoustic guitars, I like the combo of a Sitka spruce top with either a rosewood or mahogany back and sides. For ukuleles, I am very much a traditionalist and prefer all koa or mahogany. However, I have never liked tone of an all mahogany guitar, as I find them a little too muddy and boxy sounding; what is pleasing to one's ears has always been subjective.

strumsilly
04-02-2014, 05:11 AM
all of my best sounding ukes are either vintage mahogany[ Martin,Favilla]or Hawaiian koa[Koaloha,Kanilea]. I believe a skilled builder could make a nice sounding instrument out of almost anything available though.

anthonyg
04-02-2014, 05:29 AM
I think it depends a LOT on the build. I've owned a spruce top Kala concert which was a little brash but then I've also played a luthier made spruce top baritone that sounded wonderful. DGBE baritones can get a little TOO mellow if your not careful and the spruce topped baritone I played had an excellent sound balance and punch.

Anthony

TG&Y
04-02-2014, 09:38 AM
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your bright spruce-tops yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Nickie
04-02-2014, 03:05 PM
I just gotta say....one of the nicest soudning ukes I've ever heard was a spruce top/rosewood from Moku....

Hammond
04-02-2014, 05:14 PM
Agree its about the construction of the ukulele. Factory built spruce top ukuleles maybe usually sound too brash but not always. However the professional builders can always build wonderful sounding ukulele with spruce top.