Player's influence on instrument's sound

JustinJ

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I was looking at this auction on HMS for the Devine Uke

http://www.theukulelesite.com/auction-devine-tenor.html


It got me thinking, how much a player influences an instrument's sound. This is the same uke and recorded the same way. There are different tones brought out by each player.


When we read reviews of a ukulele or hear a sample, how much should that influence our decision?

If someone is an excellent player then most ukes will sound good while they play them. But here is the opposite side, if a player is average or poor, then their sound sample may not show the instrument in a favorable light.

How much does a player contribute to the sound of an instrument?

I'm beginning to think that the player contributes much more to the sound of an instrument than most people think.
 

Jon Moody

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On an acoustic instrument, it's going to have a greater effect on the sound. How someone frets, attacks the strings, WHERE they attack the strings, how they're holding it to their body, how they phrase a line, what chords they choose to use, where on the neck they play said chords, etc.. All of those have an effect on how the instrument is going to sound.

On an electric instrument, it's still there but not to the same degree.

So yes, if a demo video of a high quality ukulele is played by an average player, it may not show the full capabilities of the instrument that it would if a very talented/experienced player did the same demo.

However, from a marketing standpoint, having an average player demo a uke may appeal to a wider audience base. A lot of times, I see threads where someone (that is a very high level) demos a product and the general consensus from the average audience is "I could never play like that" over the merits of the product in question, whereas having one of their peers demo it might make them more open to trying/buying one.
 

hendulele

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On an acoustic instrument, it's going to have a greater effect on the sound. How someone frets, attacks the strings, WHERE they attack the strings, how they're holding it to their body, how they phrase a line, what chords they choose to use, where on the neck they play said chords, etc.. All of those have an effect on how the instrument is going to sound.

On an electric instrument, it's still there but not to the same degree.

So yes, if a demo video of a high quality ukulele is played by an average player, it may not show the full capabilities of the instrument that it would if a very talented/experienced player did the same demo.

However, from a marketing standpoint, having an average player demo a uke may appeal to a wider audience base. A lot of times, I see threads where someone (that is a very high level) demos a product and the general consensus from the average audience is "I could never play like that" over the merits of the product in question, whereas having one of their peers demo it might make them more open to trying/buying one.

As someone who is an average player (on my best days), I second this! The challenge for the demo-er probably should be striking a balance between showing off the full range of an instrument and selecting a player of such great ability that the talent overshadows the uke. Tough choice, I'm sure.
 

Jon Moody

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As someone who is an average player (on my best days), I second this! The challenge for the demo-er probably should be striking a balance between showing off the full range of an instrument and selecting a player of such great ability that the talent overshadows the uke. Tough choice, I'm sure.

I think that's more of the performer's ego over anything else. Way too many demo videos end up showcasing the players chops over actually focusing on the product, and that's more on the performer not doing their job.
 

pbagley

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Great thread, so far nothing to disagree with.

One thought - a good musician can make an inexpensive instrument sound good while a beginner needs a better instrument to produce a good tone. By this I mean that a beginner will be tripped up by a poor set-up, and they will become discouraged by their failure to produce the sound they envision when playing a "beginner" instrument. That same beginner will be more inspired by a better instrument that plays easier and sounds better, and they will progress faster. Meanwhile the better and more experienced player has a pretty strong idea of what they want the make the instrument do and the poor set-up and less than optimal sounds are just a minor obstacle to their musical goal. The better player may not even realize how they are changing their approach to an instrument, they just find what sounds best and get on with the music making.

In my own musical journey I started on the same basic cheap beginner instruments that are typical for those of us who limited our initial investment. My first bass was pretty bad. When I moved up to a "new" bass I was very picky about everything, but I was especially picky about neck profile and action. I was still pretty much a beginner at this point. Years passed and I grew as a musician. I began to learn to use the wide tonal palate that the new bass offered - it was far broader than one would expect from a single pickup instrument. As time passed I had some disposable cash now and then, and I bought a sold a few basses as I explored different styles of electric bass. Eventually that "new" bass with the skinny jazz styled neck moved to the back of the stack and my main gigging basses became 5 string with chunky necks. Even my upright is a 5 string. And one day while trying various basses in a music store I found that I could play just about anything well enough for a basic rock and roll or country gig my cover band was doing - the cheap basses sounded OK enough and the high end basses no longer inspired anything new. I began to question why I owned mid-level US made gear when I could do just as well with an entry level Affinity bass. And then I realized that the journey had brought me to the point where the instrument is not the source of the music. If you take any of my basses and give them to someone else they will not sound like me. Likewise if I take someone else's bass and play it will not sound like them. No matter how much I may want to play and sound like someone else, I still play and sound like me.

Mr Monkey makes a good point on marketing. I submit that the best players can dial in a demo that will inspire a new musician instead of frightening them away. There are many music videos where I have said I could never play like that, but when I play along I play like... me. Finding your own voice on an instrument is a great joy.

I sure hope all this made some kind of sense.
 

CactusWren

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You've pretty much said it all. A lot of gigging musicians I know use very ordinary gear. Yet people will come up and want to look at the label or ask what kind of guitar it is ("Is that a 12 string guitar?"). The instrument is just a tool, and very few can tell what kind of tool you are using when listening to the final product.
 

70sSanO

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This really demonstrates what One Bad Monkey is talking about. And it also demonstrates what happens when the best of both comes together.

https://vimeo.com/136443320

While it is truly magic I really had to think about how it would sound in my hands. I have to agree, especially when it comes to high end instruments, that an average player demonstrating the instrument makes it easier to relate to as a prospective buyer.

John
 

JustinJ

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Onebadmonkey, I never thought about the demo and selling the instrument but that makes perfect sense.

pbagley, I enjoyed reading about your story of the bass. It makes you think about how many artist begin play fewer instruments the longer they play.

cactuswren, I think you're correct. The instrument is a tool and ultimately it's the user that brings something to the tool.


If the user is the one who brings out the sound in an instrument, then why do people keep buying new and more expensive instruments?

I think there is a myth that a more expensive instrument will make a person sound better. I'm not denying that when you see nice appointments or beautiful work that it does not add to the experience. But most of us buy an instrument to play it. When you play it,then you're not thinking about the way it looks.
 
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PhilUSAFRet

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I notice on my better sounding ukes that I have to be more careful I use good technique. If I play sloppily, well......you know.
 

Jon Moody

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This really demonstrates what One Bad Monkey is talking about. And it also demonstrates what happens when the best of both comes together.

https://vimeo.com/136443320

While it is truly magic I really had to think about how it would sound in my hands. I have to agree, especially when it comes to high end instruments, that an average player demonstrating the instrument makes it easier to relate to as a prospective buyer.

John

Actually, no. That's a fine performance, but it tells me nothing about the ukulele in question nor does it make me want to get more information on the uke or where to buy it, which is the ultimate point of a product demonstration video.

For that to be a solid marketing tool, I'd want to see it cut in half (2+ minutes is way too long for a demo) as well as some information on the product in question. That could be done by either talking about it (again, keeping it to a minimum) or some pop-up specs on the screen.
 

70sSanO

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If the user is the one who brings out the sound in an instrument, then why do people keep buying new and more expensive instruments?

If you look at a sport like golf... why does the average player keep buying new and more expensive clubs?

I think that it is easy for someone to convince themselves that if they only had a little better equipment, they would reach their potential.

John
 

70sSanO

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Actually, no. That's a fine performance, but it tells me nothing about the ukulele in question nor does it make me want to get more information on the uke or where to buy it, which is the ultimate point of a product demonstration video.

I think I was agreeing with you. To me that playing on that ukulele is one of the best performances in demonstrating technique and the subtleties of the instrument. But at the same time I was not moved to want to buy that ukulele for the reasons you mentioned. Apart from the affordability, after spending that much, how will it sound in my living room with me playing it. In a sense, how much disappointment would I experience after I spent that much and the sound did not match my perceived expectations.

John
 

JustinJ

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Onebadmonkey,

What you said about a demo struck home the longer I thought about it. I recently started learning Classical Guitar. I had some extra money saved.

So I was seriously looking at the Cervantes Crossover I guitar.

I watched this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOOMTHmRtso , which is a very good performance.

I started looking at the Cordoba guitars. I looked at the Cordoba Dolce which is 1/9 of the price of a Cervantes Crossover. The video that sold me on the Cordoba Dolce was this one

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXmVW_BMLEY

He gives the information about the guitar at the bottom.
The person plays several styles of music on it. He shows you what each string sounds like. I'm very happy with my purchase.
 

Jon Moody

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Onebadmonkey,

What you said about a demo struck home the longer I thought about it. I recently started learning Classical Guitar. I had some extra money saved.

So I was seriously looking at the Cervantes Crossover I guitar.

I watched this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOOMTHmRtso , which is a very good performance.

I started looking at the Cordoba guitars. I looked at the Cordoba Dolce which is 1/9 of the price of a Cervantes Crossover. The video that sold me on the Cordoba Dolce was this one

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXmVW_BMLEY

He gives the information about the guitar at the bottom.
The person plays several styles of music on it. He shows you what each string sounds like. I'm very happy with my purchase.

I agree. The Cervantes video started out promising, but then turned into a performance. The Cordoba video covered a couple of styles, kept the technical abilities to a reasonable level, and focused on the instrument.
 

CactusWren

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I used to own a handful of Lie-Nieson planes. Check out some Tool-Porn!

https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/standard-bench-planes/no.-4-smooth-plane?node=4171

Owning one of these planes is not going to make you a good woodworker. That being said, given that they come adjusted and sharpened and the cheap ones you get at Home Depot are unusable, having one will help the raw beginner. An expert carpenter may be able to get marginally better results with a fancy plane. He may enjoy having his hands on a beautifully-crafted tool during his workday.

Or--maybe he'll pick up old Stanleys from garage sales, fix them up, and spend his extra cash on more clamps. :)
 

drmosser

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I think Kimo Hussey demonstrates this phenomenon very well in the conscious effort that he makes to find "the sound" that a particular ukulele "wants to sing".

https://youtu.be/hOiNvJFDmRA

Early on in this video he shows plain vanilla strumming with very little dynamic, phrasing, or technique applied. There is little wow factor at that point in the video except for the visual appeal of this ukulele. Then he demonstrates what a player's experience and finesse can do to bring out the best that a particular ukulele has to offer. He advocates playing to a particular ukulele's strengths. However, I think Kimo's default, mellow style is one that plays well on a broad range of ukuleles. In contrast I think a strong or more aggressive and percussive style might not translate as well across as many ukulele builds and setups. I will use this rationalization as justification for having multiple ukuleles. ;)
 

Jon Moody

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I think Kimo Hussey demonstrates this phenomenon very well in the conscious effort that he makes to find "the sound" that a particular ukulele "wants to sing".

https://youtu.be/hOiNvJFDmRA

Early on in this video he shows plain vanilla strumming with very little dynamic, phrasing, or technique applied. There is little wow factor at that point in the video except for the visual appeal of this ukulele. Then he demonstrates what a player's experience and finesse can do to bring out the best that a particular ukulele has to offer. He advocates playing to a particular ukulele's strengths. However, I think Kimo's default, mellow style is one that plays well on a broad range of ukuleles. In contrast I think a strong or more aggressive and percussive style might not translate as well across as many ukulele builds and setups. I will use this rationalization as justification for having multiple ukuleles. ;)

While I think that could've easily been a 3min video or less (Kimo could've buttoned up the speaking a bit), I really like how he built that demo. The basic chords and strumming are what many people are accustomed to (as he said) and having that type of thing is crucial. Then he starts in with some more complicated chords (appealing to a more intermediate player) and then goes into playing the melody (appealing to an advanced player). While he doesn't cover a wide range of styles, he hits enough that no matter your abilities, you can get a good idea of what that ukulele will do for you.
 

pbagley

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I think that it is easy for someone to convince themselves that if they only had a little better equipment, they would reach their potential.

I did that for a long time with basses. The last electric bass I bought was because I liked the looks of it, not because it was going to propel me to any new level of musical enlightenment.

That said, drmosser commented on finding the song the ukulele wants to sing. My new Kala has a different color to the sound from my other ukuleles, and it wants to sing differently. I like the difference and I added to the collection. This will not make me a virtuoso or even the slightest bit competent on ukulele. It will make me smile. Then the Mele will make me smile. Then the Martin, and the Kamaka, and... The all sing a little differently, and I enjoy them all.

And somehow I still sound like me on all of them.
 

Icelander53

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I was looking at this auction on HMS for the Devine Uke

http://www.theukulelesite.com/auction-devine-tenor.html


It got me thinking, how much a player influences an instrument's sound. This is the same uke and recorded the same way. There are different tones brought out by each player.


When we read reviews of a ukulele or hear a sample, how much should that influence our decision?

If someone is an excellent player then most ukes will sound good while they play them. But here is the opposite side, if a player is average or poor, then their sound sample may not show the instrument in a favorable light.

How much does a player contribute to the sound of an instrument?

I'm beginning to think that the player contributes much more to the sound of an instrument than most people think.

This is true in my case. When I play a look of horror comes to the audience's faces. I think I sound wonderful however. How can so many people be wrong?

But I agree that as a entry level intermediate player I'd much rather hear someone at my level play any instrument I'd want to consider. I never thought about it before but I surely agree.
 
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