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View Full Version : Sustain - Too Much vs Too Little, and Somewhere Inbetween



PhilUSAFRet
07-19-2014, 05:36 AM
After listing to the Blackbirds, and then the Clara's, I was struck by how much sustain they have. It got me thinking about the matter. I've heard the Luna Tatoo at one end. A sound cannon, but very little sustain, then there's Clara.....nearly endless sustain. How does this fit into your uke choices and playing style. Where would Clara's sustain fit? Tatto's? Would you choose one over the other or are you happy with a "reasonable balance?"

Icelander53
07-19-2014, 05:56 AM
Nearly endless! Wow that's a long time. But I like cannons too but only when trying to frighten the enemy.

bariukish
07-19-2014, 06:02 AM
Sustain, like many of life's simple pleasures, can never be too much.

anthonyg
07-19-2014, 06:06 AM
I like lots of sustain. It helps to make the instrument sound "big" and is what you need for slower tempo playing. Short sustain works well for fast tempo playing where it helps to maintain separation between notes. Also as a one man band I like to fill up the audio space with some sustain. If your playing with others then short sustain may work for you.

Anthony

Steveperrywriter
07-19-2014, 06:24 AM
Seems easier to damp too much than it does to create more, so I would rather have the choice be more than less.

RAB11
07-19-2014, 07:00 AM
Definitely more sustain

PereBourik
07-19-2014, 07:06 AM
Give me sustain. You can mute it out if you need too. I used to play a Luna Tattoo. It was loud, but with little sustain it was pretty dull.

janeray1940
07-19-2014, 07:07 AM
Most of my uke and string choices have been to gain as much sustain as possible, particularly higher up the neck. I can't imagine why anybody would want less, but I suppose it depends on one's playing style. I'll be curious to know if there are any who consider sustain a bad thing!

Doc_J
07-19-2014, 07:10 AM
While I enjoy ample sustain, I would think some Jazz music would be best played with less sustain.

coolkayaker1
07-19-2014, 07:21 AM
I dig the baritone low tuning, but the rubberband-like sustain just kills me.

Dan Uke
07-19-2014, 07:59 AM
I play tenor and since it's bigger, sustain is not a problem. Therefore I like as little sustain as possible.

stevepetergal
07-19-2014, 08:28 AM
I don't think there's such a thing as too much sustain. There are very easy techniques to stop a sound once begun. No way to lengthen one that has died out.

Funny thing though. I have a Blackbird Clara (on loan as a "traveling uke") which is reported to have lots of sustain, as you say. I plan to do a review and talk about that. I don't find the sustain anything special at all. I own three ukuleles, and all have equal or longer sustain. The Clara has a rather loud, (full?) percussive sound at the beginning of every note played which dies away very quickly. Then the remaining sound does carry for some time, about equal to my Oscar Schmidt. But that is pretty quiet.

strumsilly
07-19-2014, 08:49 AM
While I enjoy ample sustain, I would think some Jazz music would be best played with less sustain.
I agree, but as others have3 said, there are techniques to dampen sustain, but not to create it if it's not there.

stringy
07-19-2014, 10:16 AM
For me there is no such thing as too much sustain. It is easy to lessen the sustain but next to impossible to increase sustain on a dead instrument.

Doc_J
07-19-2014, 10:53 AM
If you're looking for the longest sustain on a uke, steel string electric ukes are it for me.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
07-19-2014, 11:11 AM
Lots of sustain with a bad tone just sounds bad for a long time, but just a little sustain with great tone sounds great for a little while. I've found that if an instrument has great tone, it'll sound great with or without long sustain.

For soprano and concert ukes, I don't even consider sustain---it's all about tone. For larger ukes, it's only important to me that the tone sounds good as long as the note rings---the length of the ring isn't important to me.

Of course, if notes die away way more quickly than normal, I notice. But that's rare.

stringy
07-19-2014, 11:33 AM
Lots of sustain with a bad tone just sounds bad for a long time, but just a little sustain with great tone sounds great for a little while. I've found that if an instrument has great tone, it'll sound great with or without long sustain.

For soprano and concert ukes, I don't even consider sustain---it's all about tone. For larger ukes, it's only important to me that the tone sounds good as long as the note rings---the length of the ring isn't important to me.

Of course, if notes die away way more quickly than normal, I notice. But that's rare.


Well of course we aren't talking about a bad tone. I choose all sizes including soprano on tone, playability, and sustain. Without sustain it is just dead.

Dan Uke
07-19-2014, 11:37 AM
I would like to hear the technique everyone uses to kill the sustain when strumming. Besides chunking for certain songs, I don't hear people killing the sustain. I am only talking of tenor or larger.

stevepetergal
07-19-2014, 11:46 AM
I would like to hear the technique everyone uses to kill the sustain when strumming. Besides chunking for certain songs, I don't hear people killing the sustain. I am only talking of tenor or larger.

Here's just one technique. Gerold Ross playing a Dave Talsma ukulele with truly great sustain. As I said, there's no such thing as too much sustain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YafhDexY6I

CeeJay
07-19-2014, 11:50 AM
Nearly endless! Wow that's a long time. But I like cannons too but only when trying to frighten the enemy.


Hey Icelander ....perhaps we should form a Flippancy Club ....a bit like a coin ...Flip an' see ?

:nana:

Icelander53
07-19-2014, 11:58 AM
Well, at my age and with the things I've seen in this weird excuse for a life I've been living, without humor I'd be dead now.

I heard early on that women like a man that can make them laugh and I knew I wasn't going to be springing for any fancy restaurants so If I was going to have any chance at all I had to work on my stand up. ( pun intended) :):nana:

Dan Uke
07-19-2014, 12:07 PM
Here's just one technique. Gerold Ross playing a Dave Talsma ukulele with truly great sustain. As I said, there's no such thing as too much sustain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YafhDexY6I

Thanks Steve. I really like his style and he switches the chords so he can play every string. However, I don't see it much from us amateurs. Since most of the groups play strum and sing, I'm going with those experiences. Even Iz's Somewhere / Wonderful is up, down, up, down.

CeeJay
07-19-2014, 12:08 PM
Well, at my age and with the things I've seen in this weird excuse for a life I've been living, without humor I'd be dead now.

I heard early on that women like a man that can make them laugh and I knew I wasn't going to be springing for any fancy restaurants so If I was going to have any chance at all I had to work on my stand up. ( pun intended) :):nana:

Yeah ...we gotta gotta gotta form the Pune Club (Terry Pratchett) or A Play on Words
.......the only trouble I find is that I get into trouble for having a laugh ....well never mind ...nil illegitimi carborandum est.....innit (Stand Up .....f'naarrr f'narrr ....that's English for a Dirty Laugh btw)

CeeJay
07-19-2014, 12:21 PM
I would like to hear the technique everyone uses to kill the sustain when strumming. Besides chunking for certain songs, I don't hear people killing the sustain. I am only talking of tenor or larger.

The answer to this is actually simple ....and is exactly what Mr Ross is saying too...but you can do it yourself ...in fact only you can do any of it.....

Get a good Chord Finder Book ...like the Hal Leonard Ukulele Chord Finder.....use it thus...the chords are arranged thus 1st position ..with the open strings ...then second and third ....invariably with closed chord shapes .....thus you can control the sustain and make it chop short or ring out as you like ........

you can also control the sustain with the inside of your forearm resting on or off the strings just above or over the bridge.....or palm mute (chunk) but that tends to be on off ...if you can bring your forearm (the thicker part up near the elbow) you can mute and still strum ...chunking is strum/ kill/ strum /kill....(and nothing wrong with that )

BlackBearUkes
07-19-2014, 01:51 PM
Once a string is plucked, the sound it makes starts to decay. There is only so long the string can sustain given the fact that the instrument has no loose braces, the top isn't touched, etc. As soon as you move your fingers from one chord to another, you lose the sustain, as it should be. I know of no person who plays by letting the strings sustain until there is no sound before they move on to the next chord or note. IMO, way to much emphasis is put on sustain. Nature decay of the note is built into the music.

stevepetergal
07-19-2014, 02:12 PM
Once a string is plucked, the sound it makes starts to decay. There is only so long the string can sustain given the fact that the instrument has no loose braces, the top isn't touched, etc. As soon as you move your fingers from one chord to another, you lose the sustain, as it should be. I know of no person who plays by letting the strings sustain until there is no sound before they move on to the next chord or note. IMO, way to much emphasis is put on sustain. Nature decay of the note is built into the music.

Yes, you're exactly right. In fact, the rather short sustain is maybe the primary distinction of the ukulele sound.

But, I'd like to say that some builders are able to get more sustain out of the short scale than others. And although moving on to the next note or chord does indeed kill the sustain of the previous, there's still a usefulness to having the best sustain possible. Almost always, the shorter the sustain, the faster the initial decay of a note. With quick initial decay, it is very hard to play a legato line. The faster the decay the less a line sounds like a phrase, and the more it sounds like "note, note, note, note, note..." Fast decay makes any line sound staccato.

Ukejenny
07-19-2014, 07:22 PM
If I really like the sound of the ukulele - good intonation, good tone/timbre, then the more sustain (perceived or real) the better.

If the sound isn't special to my ear, sustain or not, it just isn't happening.

wldpilot
07-19-2014, 09:14 PM
I Agree. Sustain is relevant. I have a friend that plays reggae almost exclusively. I don't come anywhere close to knowing enough about the genre to comment authoritatively, but I do know he is on a constant quest to reduce sustain. It always boggles my mind, and we generally have a bit of a laugh about it. At the same time no sustain does not equal dead. Personally, I agree with stevepetergal. I believe sustain *serves its purpose in reducing initial degredation.

PhilUSAFRet
07-20-2014, 03:25 AM
Nearly endless! Wow that's a long time. But I like cannons too but only when trying to frighten the enemy.

Yeah, especially at my age, since "a long time" isn't really relevant. the end is not really that far down the road.

Icelander53
07-20-2014, 04:14 AM
Wanna race? I'll give you a head start. :old:



Actually I've lost most of my attachment to his bizarre planet. I'm fine going first.

It's funny but I've spent the last 9 years in a philosophy, psychology, and sociology forum and it's really hard to drop that mind set over here. I'm always looking for the deeper meaning to the posts here. :p

Thank god there isn't any. :nana:

Yobmod
07-21-2014, 02:26 AM
Lots of sustain is nice, only if it is consistent across strings, imo.
My current saddle / string combination on my guitalele has given my G string ridiculous amounts of sustain - three times longer than any other string. This means unless it's stopped, I have a G note continuing to play over all my chords. Stopping it is extra effort, and still sounds weird: the rest of the notes fade naturally, and the G is cut off abruptly. So looking to change the string to reduce sustain. I wonder if there is anything I can do with saddle compensation or the nut groove to reduce it? Hmmmm

anthonyg
07-21-2014, 02:49 AM
Lots of sustain is nice, only if it is consistent across strings, imo.
My current saddle / string combination on my guitalele has given my G string ridiculous amounts of sustain - three times longer than any other string. This means unless it's stopped, I have a G note continuing to play over all my chords. Stopping it is extra effort, and still sounds weird: the rest of the notes fade naturally, and the G is cut off abruptly. So looking to change the string to reduce sustain. I wonder if there is anything I can do with saddle compensation or the nut groove to reduce it? Hmmmm

I'd look at the nut groove. I've had the bass string ring out much louder on a ukulele before but I fixed it by refiling the nut slot. It was just a little too wide which caused vibrations. I filed the nut slot, a little narrower and a little deeper and the string became balanced with the rest.

Anthony

PhilUSAFRet
07-21-2014, 03:39 AM
"I'm always looking for the deeper meaning to the posts here. :p"

LOL - I've gotten in trouble a few times for doing that.

1931jim
07-21-2014, 04:06 AM
Wanna race? I'll give you a head start. :old:



Actually I've lost most of my attachment to his bizarre planet. I'm fine going first.

It's funny but I've spent the last 9 years in a philosophy, psychology, and sociology forum and it's really hard to drop that mind set over here. I'm always looking for the deeper meaning to the posts here. :p

Thank god there isn't any. :nana:
Hello Icelander53 and Phil,
I would rather be a little late in this world than too early in the next. So much yet to do and so little time. HaHa!! Jim