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Bagaag
07-08-2014, 03:03 PM
I recently began the painful but exciting year long wait for a Mya Moe tenor. Right now I'm really stuck on wood selection and wondering if anyone here can weigh in.

Currently I play two mahogany ukes - a Pono concert and a Mainland tenor. I've only played one Koa instrument (a Martin 2k) in a store once, and I really liked the sound. I play finger style, mostly traditional and classical, and enjoy a clear bell-like tone.

I've narrowed it down to these three options:

- all Koa: it's traditional, a popular choice at Mya Moe, and I've played a Koa uke that I really liked. It's all the way on the "warm" side of the warm/bright scale Mya Moe uses to rate tone woods.

- all Myrtle: it's what Gordon from Mya Moe supposedly prefers and even more popular than Koa among Mya Moe orders; it's sustainable, right in the middle of the warm/bright scale. Supposedly a nicely balanced tone and youtube videos (as lousy audio quality as that is) do sound great.

- cherry back/sides and port orford cedar top: really beautiful, also right in the middle of the warm/bright scale. Aaron from Mya Moe said in a video it's the best option to achieve the widest range of tones from the instrument.

Obviously all this is enormously subjective, but anyone have any thoughts, opinions, experiences to share?

janeray1940
07-08-2014, 03:14 PM
This is the hard part of ordering a custom - you never really know what you're going to get! I can't speak to Mya-Moe specifically, but I will say that based on my own experiences, I'd recommend sticking with what you know and love. If myrtle is an unknown quantity to you, but you know you like koa, then go for that. Or if you really love mahogany and that's an option, stick with it.

There's a lot of talk on these forums about "different woods for different purposes" and such. For some folks, that may be true. My own experience, though, has been this: I like koa, and keep coming back to it. FWIW, I play fingerstyle and my preference is for a bell-like tone, and I find that I get the sound I want from koa much more than from mahogany (or other woods, but those are really the only two I'd personally consider).

coolkayaker1
07-08-2014, 03:24 PM
I have gotten the "bell-like" tone consistently from mahogany, and not from Koa.

Koa is the prettiest wood, and the most expensive wood offered by Mya Moe; even if you get the common Koa, it is the same charge to you as a buyer, it is more expensive for Mya Moe (Gordon has said such on his videos). It also has the best resale value as it is a desirable wood species for ukuleles, largely because of its rarity and looks. Even the "common koa" from Mya Moe is pretty compared to, say, cedar or spruce. Myrtle is pretty, too, and is sustainable (i.e. readily available, now and in the future), so is generally not as ideal for resale; ukulele players will almost all, at some point, desire or own a Koa ukulele, and that cannot be said for Myrtle. Myrtle, since it's a quite variable grained and hardness wood depending on the piece you choose, will have the most unpredictable sound. That said, I truly like the sound of my one myrtle tenor.

That is my opinion, and many (all) will have their own.

Mya Moes are delightful.

Oh, and consider a pickup, especially with a Koa instrument. Koa is warmer, and generally not as loud. Even my KoAloha tenor was not loud. The pros often use Koa, many reasons, but they are amplified. Amplification, in my opinion, brings out the best in Koa.

KnowsPickin
07-08-2014, 03:30 PM
I've been thinking about this question quite a lot. I plan to order one myself as soon as I can get my financial ducks in a row. A lot of the decision hinges on what style you plan to play. I am leaning toward jazz, personally. So that colors my choice.

A wide range of possible tones from one instrument is a nice goal, but be careful. In my experience it is best to have an instrument that gives you your primary tone easily rather than one that you can massage into lots of other tones easily. You will spend most of your life with that primary tone. So don't force yourself to work too hard.

If I were ordering today I'd certainly order all myrtle. I really like the fact that it is so sustainable. Plus, based on videos and sound samples, I like the tone. My logic is kind of weird, actually. On guitars and mandolins I tend to go for woods that give me a "U" shaped spectrum with warm lows and lots of sparkly highs. But on ukes I prefer a slightly barky midrange tone. I want to emulate an archtop jazz guitar. I think the myrtle will do that nicely.

I want a ukulele to sound like a ukulele. Therefore I really don't care for the sound of a uke with a fancy hardwood back and side and a soft wood top.I think that the soft wood top sounds too much like a flat top. One thing I try to avoid is a uke that just sounds like a tiny flat top guitar, or a flat top caped up. Of course, YMMV. An awful lot of pros really like something like koa with a spruce top. That just is not for me.

Gordon has said that you can really over think the choice of wood. Different woods from the same maker will sound more similar than a particular wood from different makers. So don't sprain your brain in this. If you like the Mya Moe sound you will like what ever wood you choose.

Good luck,
Bill

Cornfield
07-08-2014, 03:34 PM
When I want koa, I buy Kamaka. I had a myrtle Mya-Moe Tenor that was very nice. Currently have a quilted maple resonator on order with them.
If I was getting a tenor, I would ask Char her opinion. I trust her.

srpompon
07-08-2014, 03:55 PM
Koa for the first one, is classical have good sound and good resale value over the time.

but no matter what wood you choose first look at ALL THE UKES IN THE GALLERY OF THAT WOOD select a style and tone (you can see how much variants of each wood they have) and ask Char for a wood sets like your selection.

Pompon

Jim Hanks
07-08-2014, 05:08 PM
You ask for opinions, so here's mine. I haven't played any of these woods personally but I'd go for the myrtle. I've just about settled on that for my upcoming Ono build. If I wanted Koa, I agree with poster #5 that I would opt for a K-brand. All the POC-topped ukes I've heard on videos are way over on the bright side of the spectrum - too far for my taste. So that brings me back to myrtle.

I agree with CK1 you should spring for the pickup - regardless of the wood I'd say. As a fraction of the uke price, it's not that much more expensive and increases your options and resale.

Bagaag
07-08-2014, 05:28 PM
janeray1940 - Thanks, and I agree that Koa sounds a bit nicer than mahogany.

coolkayaker1 - Good stuff to think about. Resale value is a consideration, but a distant one. I had the Taylor guitar that I sold to fund this venture for 14 years, and I don't see myself selling this uke any time soon. I was surprised to see that they don't change the price based on wood selection aside from a "master" grade, which is not wood specific.

Bill - I agree that some of the myrtle samples I've heard have a decidedly punchy midrange, which I also like. You've definitely talked me out of the cherry/cedar option.

John - I will definitely ask Char! Though from what I gather, their recommendation on wood tends to lean towards myrtle, all other things being equal. Which is why I started here.

Pompon - Yes! I have been spending way too much time in their gallery and have been saving links.

This video of Aaron comparing a koa and myrtle uke is compelling. I can't tell any difference at all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is9fvk_6XXU

So the cherry/cedar option is out. Between koa and myrtle I think I'm leaning a bit more towards myrtle. Yes, its sustainable, but more importantly, it's local to the builder and is the builder's own first choice. Koa is the ukulele wood of choice because ukes were traditionally built in Hawaii and that's what they had to work with. Mya Moe myrtle is purchased 5 minutes from where this instrument will be built, and it is the wood of choice of the builder. I have to believe that holds some weight when it comes to a hand-made instrument. That, and I can't tell the difference in tone. They seem to work hard to adjust the build around the wood to provide as consistent a tone as they can. I'm going to sleep on it. Thanks everyone for your insights!

dtikim1
07-08-2014, 05:45 PM
I recently began the painful but exciting year long wait for a Mya Moe tenor. Right now I'm really stuck on wood selection and wondering if anyone here can weigh in.

Currently I play two mahogany ukes - a Pono concert and a Mainland tenor. I've only played one Koa instrument (a Martin 2k) in a store once, and I really liked the sound. I play finger style, mostly traditional and classical, and enjoy a clear bell-like tone.

I've narrowed it down to these three options:

- all Koa: it's traditional, a popular choice at Mya Moe, and I've played a Koa uke that I really liked. It's all the way on the "warm" side of the warm/bright scale Mya Moe uses to rate tone woods.

- all Myrtle: it's what Gordon from Mya Moe supposedly prefers and even more popular than Koa among Mya Moe orders; it's sustainable, right in the middle of the warm/bright scale. Supposedly a nicely balanced tone and youtube videos (as lousy audio quality as that is) do sound great.

- cherry back/sides and port orford cedar top: really beautiful, also right in the middle of the warm/bright scale. Aaron from Mya Moe said in a video it's the best option to achieve the widest range of tones from the instrument.

Obviously all this is enormously subjective, but anyone have any thoughts, opinions, experiences to share?

You need to decide on what sound you like. It is a fact that ukes made in Hawaii sound different than those made here on the continental US. If we would generalize, ukes made in Hawaii are bass centric. The luthiers here on the continent whether they will admit to it or not in general their ukes made of Koa are not consistent. In other words they cannot be consistent with Koa. Now that being said, it is just my opinion. I have not come across a Koa ukulele made on the mainland that is as consistent as those coming from Hawaii. Hope I wont open a own of worms....
That being said, you also need to determine the kind of sound that you are looking for. The Hawaiian sound or mainland? Only you know best what you are looking for. Remember each luthier has his own unique sound on his line of ukes.

DownUpDave
07-08-2014, 05:48 PM
You hit the nail on the head when you said myrtle is the builders wood of choice. I was going to say that every builder has a unique sound and best achieves it with the wood they like. They know that wood the best and can usually get everything out of it that they want to.

wickedwahine11
07-08-2014, 05:52 PM
I have no personal experience with Mya-Moe but Gordon knows his stuff. If his preference for the ukes he builds is myrtle, that would carry a lot of weight with me. If myrtle is native to their area, that would also weigh on my decision. Even though I am a koa girl, if it was my uke I would vote myrtle -- save the koa for a Hawaiian made uke if you add to your collection.

NewKid
07-08-2014, 06:52 PM
When I get my Mya-Moe tenor it's going to be all Myrtle - and probably Master Grade Chocolate Heart Myrtle. Gordon, Char, and Aaron are the only builders I would buy a Myrtle ukulele from. They are not only great builders but also some of the nicest people I've ever met.

bborzell
07-08-2014, 08:23 PM
Perhaps there is a difference between asking this question in general and asking which wood from a builder who expresses a preference for building with a particular species (such as myrtle).

In the latter case, and assuming that the builder suggested combination is likely to deliver on the sound that I know I want, I would go with the suggested woods. In the former, and assuming that I wanted a bell like tone, I would select the densest maple available for the back and sides and spruce for the top. I have owned several mandolins of varying woods and the three that had the maple/spruce combo were all clearly in the bell tone category.

The same has been true of the maple/spruce ukes that I have played.

Andy Chen
07-08-2014, 09:39 PM
Since I was open to any kind of wood with a nice pattern and having no real preference for sound (I like the full range of any good sounding instrument), I chose all-myrtle for my Mya order since Gordon, Char and Aaron seem to be "specialists" with the wood. FWIW.

TheCraftedCow
07-08-2014, 10:53 PM
Being a distributor for PEGHEDS, I get to talk to a lot of high end builders. We talk about how strings are secured at the other end of the instrument...what wood for fret boards..shapes..placement of sound holes and all other sorts of construction stuff. I know the fellow who supplies Gordon with the Oregon Myrtle. He also supplies Pistachio wood from nut tree orchards which are being changed to a different land use.

Something to say against koa and ebony or rosewood....if you fly with your instrument, and some "agent" asks for your S.I.T.E.S. certification that any of those have been legally acquired, if you cannot produce it, your instrument might be seized and destroyed. One "Jerk" is all it takes.
Myrtle is NOT endangered, nor is Pistachio. The range of colouring and patterning surpasses koa. Mine is all myrtle from the one end to the other. It is a concert pineapple with a )) shaped slit at the front of the A string bout.[unplanned by me, it's a great place to place my little finger for support at times. The G side has an 0 shaped side port. Bradford Donaldson built it for me .Reaction for looks-sound-play ability is favorable. Maple is another remarkable wood for looks and sound.

hollisdwyer
07-08-2014, 11:52 PM
The last two MM ukes I purchased were different woods from each other (Koa back & sides with Sitka top and an all master grade myrtle) and different from the MP uke ( walnut & sinker redwood) I had already owned. All visually stunning but more important for me, all with different tonalities. My long standing visual preference has always been a hang over from my guitar playing days as I have always liked rosewood/ebony/coco bolo back and sides with a spruce (Sitka,englemann,bear claw, etc) top. I guess there are as many opinions on wood choice as there are people who will commission a ukulele.

coolkayaker1
07-09-2014, 12:25 AM
Gordon, Char, and Aaron are the only builders I would buy a Myrtle ukulele from.

That is a true statement for me, too.

Slow Eddie
07-09-2014, 07:43 AM
When I get my Mya-Moe tenor it's going to be all Myrtle - and probably Master Grade Chocolate Heart Myrtle....
Like this (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?98384-Mya-Moe-Classic-tenor-master-grade-choc-heart-Myrtle-brand-new-2014!-Free-shipping!) one?

iamesperambient
07-09-2014, 07:49 AM
I have gotten the "bell-like" tone consistently from mahogany, and not from Koa.

Koa is the prettiest wood, and the most expensive wood offered by Mya Moe; even if you get the common Koa, it is the same charge to you as a buyer, it is more expensive for Mya Moe (Gordon has said such on his videos). It also has the best resale value as it is a desirable wood species for ukuleles, largely because of its rarity and looks. Even the "common koa" from Mya Moe is pretty compared to, say, cedar or spruce. Myrtle is pretty, too, and is sustainable (i.e. readily available, now and in the future), so is generally not as ideal for resale; ukulele players will almost all, at some point, desire or own a Koa ukulele, and that cannot be said for Myrtle. Myrtle, since it's a quite variable grained and hardness wood depending on the piece you choose, will have the most unpredictable sound. That said, I truly like the sound of my one myrtle tenor.

That is my opinion, and many (all) will have their own.

Mya Moes are delightful.

Oh, and consider a pickup, especially with a Koa instrument. Koa is warmer, and generally not as loud. Even my KoAloha tenor was not loud. The pros often use Koa, many reasons, but they are amplified. Amplification, in my opinion, brings out the best in Koa.

Can someone please explain to me what 'bell like' tone means. I have heard it around here before
and i'm trying to figure out if it means has a lot of sustain like how a bell rings out for a long time
or if you mean very bright with high sustain? Just curious. I always felt mahogany had a very warm
almost 'dark' sound to it. Anyway i'm very interested in other peoples view points on different tones.

janeray1940
07-09-2014, 07:58 AM
i'm trying to figure out if it means has a lot of sustain like how a bell rings out for a long timeor if you mean very bright with high sustain? Just curious. I always felt mahogany had a very warm
almost 'dark' sound to it.

I can't explain it, but I sure know it when I hear it :) But here goes... for me, it's all of the above. A general clarity of tone for single-note playing, combined with good sustain *as well* as dark undertones. Bells come in all sizes - little jingle bells to the Liberty Bell - and I want both the highs and lows.

I think what others have said about specific builders using specific tone woods makes sense. I find the sound I'm looking for pretty consistently in Kamaka koa ukes, but not so much in other makers of koa ukes - but I do find other makers to have a pretty consistent characteristic sound, i.e. a Kanile'a and a Koaloha sound very different from each other IMO.

I've also found vintage mahogany tenors to sometimes have the sound I'm looking for. Sopranos and modern 'hog ukes, not so much - they tend to sound sort of abrasive to my ear. "Barky" is the word I've heard others use - it doesn't work for the type of playing I mostly do.

iamesperambient
07-09-2014, 08:08 AM
I can't explain it, but I sure know it when I hear it :) But here goes... for me, it's all of the above. A general clarity of tone for single-note playing, combined with good sustain *as well* as dark undertones. Bells come in all sizes - little jingle bells to the Liberty Bell - and I want both the highs and lows.

I think what others have said about specific builders using specific tone woods makes sense. I find the sound I'm looking for pretty consistently in Kamaka koa ukes, but not so much in other makers of koa ukes - but I do find other makers to have a pretty consistent characteristic sound, i.e. a Kanile'a and a Koaloha sound very different from each other IMO.

I've also found vintage mahogany tenors to sometimes have the sound I'm looking for. Sopranos and modern 'hog ukes, not so much - they tend to sound sort of abrasive to my ear. "Barky" is the word I've heard others use - it doesn't work for the type of playing I mostly do.

well explained actually! thanks !!!!! I would say than a 'bell like tone' is what i'm after than :D

KnowsPickin
07-09-2014, 03:08 PM
Just in case you are not 100% decided, here is another Mya Moe video to confuse you further. :confused: This one is a comparison between two tradition model tenors, one common koa, the other curly myrtle. There is a lot more difference between these tenors than there was between the two concerts. This particular link is to the myrtle tenor, but the video at the bottom is actually for BOTH ukes. NOTE: both ukes are tuned low G.

http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/uketracker.php?trackingNumber=1010&submit=Track

The koa is notably warmer than the myrtle, but I think it actually comes across as a bit muddier than I'd prefer. The myrtle, however, comes across very nicely IMHO. The balance is just what I like. This was a great comparison for me to see because I tend to play mostly low G.

Again, good luck. Let us know what you order.

Raygf
07-09-2014, 03:50 PM
My first custom was a solid koa tenor made by Dave Means. What an amazing instrument. Several years later I ordered a Mya Moe Tenor Classic (http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/uketracker.php?trackingNumber=855) with walnut back and sides and Port Orford Cedar top. The walnut is absolutely gorgeous. I bought a Mya Moe myrtle concert Tradition on the forum and it has found a home. If I were able to redo the tenor order, I would order a solid myrtle tenor tradition with ebony fretboard and bridge, high contrast head plate and most definitely peghed tuners. That being said, I'm not selling my tenor Classic. This thing sings so sweetly. I hope you enjoy the process and love the uke you order.

coolkayaker1
07-09-2014, 04:22 PM
Great videos, knowspicking. It is as you state, and RayG affirms below--the Myrtle is snappier than the Koa. Koa warmth on larger ukuleles is "warm" to the point of being--no tomatoes--dull (unless amplified). That may be one reason a ton of Koa guitars are not sold. There is no beating common Koa for looks, even though Myrtle gives it a run, it can't catch Koa for looks.

TheCraftedCow
07-09-2014, 11:02 PM
Being out here in "Myrtle Country" I would say you are placing limits on builders that are unnecessarily restrictive. I know of three other builders who are at least equal in quality, and two who superceedes the MyaMoe standards.

Bagaag
07-29-2014, 04:54 PM
Just in case you are not 100% decided, here is another Mya Moe video to confuse you further. :confused: This one is a comparison between two tradition model tenors, one common koa, the other curly myrtle. There is a lot more difference between these tenors than there was between the two concerts. This particular link is to the myrtle tenor, but the video at the bottom is actually for BOTH ukes. NOTE: both ukes are tuned low G.

http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/uketracker.php?trackingNumber=1010&submit=Track

The koa is notably warmer than the myrtle, but I think it actually comes across as a bit muddier than I'd prefer. The myrtle, however, comes across very nicely IMHO. The balance is just what I like. This was a great comparison for me to see because I tend to play mostly low G.

Again, good luck. Let us know what you order.

I have listened to this with a good pair of headphones. They both sound lovely to me. But switching back and forth between 1:12 and 2:40 - I can't tell any difference. Even if I could, I think the slight difference in his position relative to the camera could just as easily explain it. I'm not saying that I wouldn't hear a difference if I played these two, but I really don't think its coming across meaningfully in the video. Just my opinion, of course.

tangimango
07-29-2014, 08:12 PM
For bell like tones and looks, go with quilted maple or curly mango

JasonTLC
07-29-2014, 09:26 PM
Mine is all myrtle as well... I can't hear a difference between the two....

Gerald Rousseau
02-01-2017, 04:36 AM
I have a beautiful handmade Ono myrtle concert that sounds exquisite.........it definitely has the balanced tone and does fall in the middle of the warm/bright spectrum. I personally think it would be the best choice after what you are used to and where you describe your playing style. I'm a long time fingerstyle player from the '70's and have a keen appreciation for clarity in all stringed instruments......I play ukulele, banjo and mandolin but guitar is my primary instrument. Good luck with your decision and I hope it leads to a 'happy place' for you. Best regards.

Pete F
02-01-2017, 07:38 AM
I've got the Koa Mya Moe tenor size, new a few months ago. I think it does have nice clear woody tones and works nicely for finger style. I did consider the Myrtle and the Cherry/POC combo too, but felt they sounded a little too bright for my taste - going on the Youtube examples.

The Koa is bell like and brighter than I imagined. I'm pleased with my choice. I did put up a short sound sample but, it's fairly limited. I can link to it, if it's of interest?

TheCraftedCow
02-02-2017, 10:01 AM
I have a myrtle tenor built by Les Stansell. He is the fellow who supplies the myrtle to the other builders. He was exclusively a builder of flamenco guitars for many years. He now builds them 1/4 scale as flamenco ukuleles. The looks are only exceeded by their sound and playability. Check out Les Stansell Guitars and Ukuleles. He has been centrally isolated in Curry County, Oregon years before I first met him in 1984.

tenor madness
02-02-2017, 05:26 PM
I was tempted by Les's POC with Incense Cedar top, but was too late. How do you think his POC or Black Walnut uke's compare to his Myrtle ones?