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Thread: The Hype: "Wood Opening Up" or "Breaking In"

  1. #1

    Default The Hype: "Wood Opening Up" or "Breaking In"

    I believe cheap ukulele will "open" its' sound in few years. And expensive in few months.

    What is different? It is not "wood opening up". Expensive Ukulele is made from (in average) 50-years-old wood dried under managed conditions 2-3 years, to the internal moisture 6%-8%, before it was used for making the instrument. So, obviously, 5-7 months of hard strumming would add nothing to such wood... maybe very little to wood structure (are you sure? wood was being 'strummed' by winds during 50 years at least!)

    So, where is the trick?

    Glue. Builds. Bridge. Nut. String stretch-ups. Bridge getting into proper place (some micro-adjustments). How else can we explain that few months of using improves tone?

    You may say that 50-years-old vintage Ukes have definitely different tone and sustain: yes, but main subject of this discussion is "why few months of playing improve tone?" - and I believe it is not related to wood being aged.

    What do you think?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
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    There have been discussions in the past around this topic.. I have experienced instruments improving.. and some times cracks can do magic! Bottom line a good uke can get better but you canít make an apple from a lemon if you wait
    Last edited by kerneltime; 01-05-2019 at 04:22 PM.
    Current Set:
    Sopranos: Martin 1927 S1K, Ten Timms, Tin Guitar Khaya, Rip Tide Soprano.
    Super Soprano: Cocobolo Super Soprano
    Tenors: Moore Bettah, Compass Rose all Koa, Tyde learner Spruce with Koa, Ono 18 inch wahoo Adirondack with rosewood, Fluke with spruce top.
    Baritone: Les Stansell PO Cedar walnut, Les Stansell Incense Cedar Myrtle. Vintage unbranded laminate mahagony.
    Cello Banjo: Waldman Cello Banjo D dGBE
    Always buying, tradings and selling, reach out (kerneltime) at gmail

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
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    Southwest Louisiana
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    Not everything improves with age but my experience is that wooden instruments usually improve in tone and volume after being stimulated by playing, sitting in front of a speaker or using a vibrator such as a Tone Rite. Having used all three methods, playing is the most enjoyable, speaker vibration irritates others and the vibrators are excellent on brand new instruments or ones that have not been played in a while. I own and use 3 Tone Rites myself as I have been known to be a bit impatient. I tried another vibrator that actually turned the instrument into a speaker. It would not be my choice due to the noise it produces. It doesn't change the characteristics of the wood, but it does affect joints where top, back and sides are joined. I have had instruments that went a bit "dead" if not played for a while that improved with just 15 minutes of playing or artificial vibration. People who like to "save money" have used aquarium air pumps and personal pleasure items to accomplish this same effect, and I have heard a few horror stories about the DIY approach such as marred finishes and damaged relationships.
    Ko'Aloha KTM-00 Tenor
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  4. #4
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    Feb 2018
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterbright View Post
    Not everything improves with age but my experience is that wooden instruments usually improve in tone and volume after being stimulated by playing, sitting in front of a speaker or using a vibrator such as a Tone Rite. Having used all three methods, playing is the most enjoyable, speaker vibration irritates others and the vibrators are excellent on brand new instruments or ones that have not been played in a while. I own and use 3 Tone Rites myself as I have been known to be a bit impatient. I tried another vibrator that actually turned the instrument into a speaker. It would not be my choice due to the noise it produces. It doesn't change the characteristics of the wood, but it does affect joints where top, back and sides are joined. I have had instruments that went a bit "dead" if not played for a while that improved with just 15 minutes of playing or artificial vibration. People who like to "save money" have used aquarium air pumps and personal pleasure items to accomplish this same effect, and I have heard a few horror stories about the DIY approach such as marred finishes and damaged relationships.
    That was a fun read! Well put!!!
    Current Set:
    Sopranos: Martin 1927 S1K, Ten Timms, Tin Guitar Khaya, Rip Tide Soprano.
    Super Soprano: Cocobolo Super Soprano
    Tenors: Moore Bettah, Compass Rose all Koa, Tyde learner Spruce with Koa, Ono 18 inch wahoo Adirondack with rosewood, Fluke with spruce top.
    Baritone: Les Stansell PO Cedar walnut, Les Stansell Incense Cedar Myrtle. Vintage unbranded laminate mahagony.
    Cello Banjo: Waldman Cello Banjo D dGBE
    Always buying, tradings and selling, reach out (kerneltime) at gmail

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    It's a myth. If you think your uke is not great to start with but seems to improve over time then it's not the uke but your skill in making it sound better.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
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    Pennsylvania, USA
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    This is an age-old question.

    It happens. No one completely understands it. Some don't believe in it. None should rely on it.

    I say: just relax and enjoy the ride. Your uke will change. Play it, love it, take care of it. Don't worry about factors beyond your control.

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    My understanding is that the effect of "opening up" or "breaking in" is happening because everything "falls into place" in the first few months after a instrument is finished and then played for a while. This affects micro adjustments in the glue, bridge and nut, like you mentioned, but also the finish, joints and kerfing, and I'm pretty certain that the wood is "moved" by the vibration of the sound waves as well (my method is to use a capo at different frets to provide different pitches for this process).

    Don't hope for a dull sounding instrument to become a cannon, though. A poorly built instrument will not sound miraculously better over time. On the other hand, I'm not convinced that a vintage instrument will necessarily sound all that much better than a new one.

  8. #8
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    All manufactured wooden instruments 'settle in' - it's just a fact of life - some more than others.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  9. #9
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    Southern USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlin666 View Post
    It's a myth. If you think your uke is not great to start with but seems to improve over time then it's not the uke but your skill in making it sound better.
    Merlin, Iím inclined to agree. Iíve found that my right hand fingernails have the greatest affect on tone. At least thatís my experince.

    Tom
    TomtheBaptist

  10. #10
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    I've said this every time the subject is brought up, which is probably at least a dozen times, but why is it that the change is always positive? I will buy into the logic that over time there will be some shifting or settling in, glue drying, whatever, that causes change, but why would it always for the better? That same logic that makes me believe in the change makes me think that it could go either way.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

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