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Thread: Ukulele opening up.

  1. #1
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    Default Ukulele opening up.

    There was a thread recently about what it means to have a ukulele open up.
    I know the theory that the vibration of the top overtime will eventually make the ukulele sound better. This may be true to some degree, most things work better after you put a couple of miles on them.
    My personal theory is that the longer you play a ukulele the more the player adapts to the instrument.
    Without even thinking about it, as you become more acclimated to a specific instrument you intuitively find the best way to play it. So what folks think is the instrument opening up is really them learning the best way to play the instrument.
    An example of this is, I always pick with my finger nails. When I cut my nails and play with my finger tips it sounds bad until I adapt my playing then is a day or so I sound similar to before I cut my nails.
    Bottom line, my experience says that an instrument opening up has way more to do with the player adapting to the instrument and less to do with a physical change that takes place in a ukulele that gets played a lot.
    Rob Uker
    RIGuitars & Ukuleles
    One of a kind handmade instruments
    https://m.facebook.com/RIGuitars/

  2. #2
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    Interesting thoughts, Rob, and I think you're onto something there.

  3. #3
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    I agree, we adapt. But I think the uke adapts too, to its environment (humidity, temperature, etc). Then, there's always the scientific stuff, like mojo and pixie dust!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Uker View Post
    So what folks think is the instrument opening up is really them learning the best way to play the instrument.
    From an article in Premier Guitar:
    "Luthier Alan Carruth has probably done more in-depth investigation into the science of acoustic guitar design than anyone else. One bit of science he has brought to the attention of the lutherie community is that wood consists mainly of cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose, and that all wood gradually loses hemicellulose—a soluble polysaccharide—to evaporation over a long period of time.

    I’ve had to learn that the first sounds I hear are not the ones I’ll hear later. The significance is that wood loses some weight along with some strength as it ages, but it does not lose stiffness as fast as it loses the tensile strength. As long as the tensile strength remains sufficient to withstand string tension, there is a net gain in one of the most important features of tonewood: the stiffness-to-weight ratio, which is known as Young’s modulus.

    Let me back up a bit: The difference between strength and stiffness is one of the keys to understanding tonewoods. Tensile strength is a measure of the ultimate breaking point of any material put into a stretching mode. Stiffness, however, is a result of tensile modulus—a measure of how much a material will stretch under a given load. Hence, you can have a material with a very high breaking point (high tensile strength), but it may stretch and elongate a great deal before it breaks. On the other hand, you can have another material that will barely stretch at all before it reaches its breaking point.

    Two modern materials that illustrate this are aramid fibers (Kevlar) and carbon fiber. Kevlar is used in products from bullet-resistant vests to very expensive racing yacht sails. Carbon fiber is often used by luthiers these days to add stiffness without a weight penalty to guitar necks and bracing. Kevlar has a higher tensile strength than steel for a given weight, but it stretches, which can be an advantage in many applications. Carbon fiber has a higher tensile modulus (stiffness factor) than the same weight in steel, but it will fail sooner than Kevlar. The trick in harnessing the tensile-strength and tensile-modulus factors of different materials is in knowing where you need which properties.

    Different wood species and individual pieces all have different ratings for strength, stiffness, crush resistance, tendency to split, how much they may damp vibrations (the opposite of resonance), how well they glue, etc. The stiffness, resonant properties, density, and ultimate strength are the four most important aspects of what defines a tonewood, and these are also the properties that change with age and thus affect tone and responsiveness of guitars."

    Originally Posted by ukemunga:
    "Best is a very personal thing. You gotta play it to love it. And you'll always think there's one better. And there is."

  5. #5
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    Also very interesting thoughts! Perhaps the "opening up" phenomenon is a combination of all of the above-- including the pixie dust!

  6. #6
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    I thought my Luna opened up after a bit when I was a newbie. Turns out I just wasn't bad anymore lol
    Just Feel The Groooooove

  7. #7
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    Well, you can argue this subject forever and not get a consensus, believe me, this isn't the first time I has been discussed.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...tective+Agency

  8. #8
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    A bit from column A, a bit from column B.

    What proportion exactly? Hard to say and varies from case to case.

    One thing we can be sure of: better player + better uke = better sound.

    Enjoy the "opening." But don't count on it when choosing a new uke. And don't fret too much over its mechanism.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill1 View Post
    Most ukes are made to avoid warranty claims, among other things, so they are overbuilt and are not likely to "open up" in our lifetimes, they may take 60 - 80 years.
    I actually prefer the sound of vintage Martin Sopranos that are 70+ years old, they were not over built to begin with, however they are not much in demand in spite of their already opened up condition. Martin Guitars are another story. The new Martin ukuleles may open up, but not in my lifetime.
    I think that most ukulele players these days want new nice looking instruments from imports to custom and with serviceable to good sound.

  10. #10
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    I think you make a good point Rob, and I have always been cautious about the whole 'opening up' thing. It's a reason I tend to run a mile from those devices that claim to do the job for you quickly.

    My beef with the subject is how utterly and totally impossible it is to test it one way or the other - better or worse.

    You buy a ukulele in year 1 and you have been playing (say) 5 years. The ukulele sounds like X to you. In five years time the ukulele sounds like Y. However whilst I am sure the ukulele itself has changed, so has you, the player. Which is contributing more to the change in sound? And it's impossible to test. The closest you could get to testing it is to record the ukulele in year 1 in a certain studio, with certain mics and recording equipment, playing an exact piece of music, with brand new strings of a certain brand - and then record with exactly the same controls in 5 years. That gets you as close as possible to a like for like recording as you can get. BUT... How do you control for the fact that your playing has changed, (possibly for the better, but maybe not!). That's the bit that is impossible to replicate. And unless you can do that, there is no way that I can see to test the theory other than good old 'gut reaction'.

    Ultimately though, if you find over time that your ukulele sounds better - that's great - enjoy it. It probably did change a bit, and so did you.
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