Do better ukes tolerate out-of-tune strings better?

Doc_J

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Has anyone else ever noticed that a great sounding uke will still sound pretty great even when a string or two was out of tune ( a little)?
And, some other ukes sound terrible if just one string is off just a few cents?

Pulled my Kinnard bari out today and played it right away (not doing a tuning check). Thought it sounded fine. Then checked my tuner. 20 cents off on the 1st string, 10 cents on the 2nd, a less than 5 cents off on the other two.

Retuned and yes, it did sound even better tuned up.
 
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Jim Yates

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For me, no amount of quality woods, build, or set-up will make an outa tune uke (or guitar, banjo, mandolin. . .) sound good.
 

ripock

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For me, no amount of quality woods, build, or set-up will make an outa tune uke (or guitar, banjo, mandolin. . .) sound good.

You're too set it in your ways and obviously not receptive to new tunings such as: gC#1Eb2A
 

ripock

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In all seriousness, a bad note is a bad note. However I have noticed something rather converse to what we are talking about. A good instrument cannot make up for a bad note, but sometimes a bad instrument can malign a good note.

Just out of tradition, I wanted to get a soprano-sized ukulele. I got one of those crappy polycarbonate outdoor ukes. When I play a G major chord, it sounds wrong. I put on the tuner and confirmed the strings were right. However the chord still sounded off. I cannot explain it.
 

KohanMike

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When my ukes are out of tune, I hear it no matter how high or low quality the uke. I find if it's not sounding all that good even when the tuner says it's on, it tells me it's time to change the strings.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
Member The CC Strummers: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers
 

dwizum

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I can't say that I have any reason to disagree with the premise of this thread, but I'm wondering what actual, physical factors or design traits are responsible for what you're observing. "Good" can mean so many different things. When I think about what impacts the tuning quality and stability when played (not just intonation), things like neck shape (since it influences your hand shape when you hold the instrument), fret size (which influences how much the string displaces when you fret), and general setup (nut height especially) would be the things that come to mind.

If anyone is interested in listing specific details about the "good" or "bad" ukes they felt sounded OK even though out of tune, or bad because they were out of tune, that might be interesting in terms of trying to qualify this beyond "good" or "bad."
 

Peter Frary

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In all seriousness, a bad note is a bad note. However I have noticed something rather converse to what we are talking about. A good instrument cannot make up for a bad note, but sometimes a bad instrument can malign a good note.

Just out of tradition, I wanted to get a soprano-sized ukulele. I got one of those crappy polycarbonate outdoor ukes. When I play a G major chord, it sounds wrong. I put on the tuner and confirmed the strings were right. However the chord still sounded off. I cannot explain it.

Funky overtones can make an in tune fundamental sound out of tune, especially if it's the 3rd, 5th or octave partials.
 

Doc_J

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Maybe I should clarify a little what I was trying to say.

To my ears some ukes don’t sound good to me unless they are perfectly as possible in tune. One string off just a little off ( say 1-2 ticks on a tuner) is very noticeable and irritating to my ears. While another uke sounds pleasing even when not perfectly tuned. These tend to be better quality ones.
 
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Dohle

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Maybe I should clarify a little what I was trying to say.

To my ears some ukes don’t sound good to me unless they are perfectly as possible in tune. One string off just a little off ( say 1-2 ticks on a tuner) is very noticeable and irritating to my ears. While another uke sounds pleasing even when not perfectly tuned. These tend to be better quality ones.

I have noticed this as well. However, I don't really think it has necessarily much to do with the quality of the uke but rather the sound properties, and with that, strings come into play as well. I have a Kamaka soprano that I've been struggling with lately. Not because of the build quality because that's undoubtedly very good. The issue I have is that if the pitch (usually because of intonation) of a string is even a tiny bit off I notice it really easily. The uke came with black nylon strings that cause really noticeable overtones or harmonization (I don't really know the proper term) in the tone which makes me very sensitive to a pitch that is even slightly off, and consequently the intonation of the black nylon strings is also quite poor compared to other types. Switching to clear nylons alleviated this somewhat. If I tried fluorocarbon strings I bet the issue would be alleviated even further. Some of my other ukes with fluorocarbon strings and/or less of that harmonization don't suffer from this almost at all while some do a bit but often not nearly as much as the Kamaka.
 

clear

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Has anyone else ever noticed that a great sounding uke will still sound pretty great even when a string or two was out of tune ( a little)?
And, some other ukes sound terrible if just one string is off just a few cents?

Pulled my Kinnard bari out today and played it right away (not doing a tuning check). Thought it sounded fine. Then checked my tuner. 20 cents off on the 1st string, 10 cents on the 2nd, a less than 5 cents off on the other two.

Retuned and yes, it did sound even better tuned up.

If the strings aren't too far off from each other to produce noticeable dissonance, then it won't sound bad. Also, our equal temperament tuning doesn't have exact consonances for the intervals except the ocatve, so out-of-tune strings may actually produce strong consonance if it happens (for example) to be in perfect just intonation.

The other thing you noticed, which is better instruments sound better than bad instruments. A lot of better instruments have good balance of overtones that doesn't overwhelm the fundamental tone but also is noticeable enough to give the sound a fuller timbre (color); technically, sympathetic resonance is also wel controlled in good instruments. Hence, you get the characteristic sounds of some manufacturers, e.g. a Steinway piano sound. Remember the old PC speakers that can beep at different frequencies? Those speakers can produce the correct fundamental tone but without overtones (sometimes the PC case or other components can vibrate sympathetically too), but the sound don't sound very good.

So, the 1st paragraph may explain why out of tune strings can still sound OK. The 2nd paragraph may explain why better ukes may sound better.
 

clear

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I just went to the local folk music shop and they had two vintage Martins, with great tone even while I was tuning them by ear and sounded great when I got them as in-tune as I could. Then I played a way out of tune unidentified vintage uke and the tone was so bad, I didn't even want to waste the time to tune it up.

Depends on the relative out-of-tune-ness of the strings. For example, if 2 strings happens upon the tritone, (devil's interval), you get a strong dissonance. So, you can't judge out-of-tune instruments against each other or against anything really. You have to tune it to something. Then you can judge.
 

Ukecaster

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Hell no. Good tone which is out of tune is still...out of tune, at least to my ears. YEMV (your ears may vary).
 

Doc_J

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Hell no. Good tone which is out of tune is still...out of tune, at least to my ears. YEMV (your ears may vary).

That’s the point. Some ukes don’t obviously sound out of tune, even if not perfectly tuned. While other ukes only sound decent if perfectly tuned.

Yes, my hearing does vary. After a long day I don’t trust my hearing.