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

  1. #11
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    All my wooden instruments sound just as bad as they always have and make about as many mistakes —ahhh, well . . .
    Kala "Spalted" baritone - Lo D GBD - Fingerpick
    Gold Tone tenor banjolele - Lo F BbDF Fingerpick
    Luna “Peace” concert - CGDA Fingerpick (5ths)

    Kala tenor eight string - gGcCEEAA Strum
    Flea "Red" concert - Hi-F BbDG Strum
    Kala "Exotic Mahogany" soprano - Hi-A DF#B Strum

    Mahalo yellow "Smiley" soprano (Dad's Day gift)
    Ka-Lai Pineapple soprano (old) gift

    Old age should rather be feared than death. - Juvenal
    God gave us old age so we wouldn't mind dying so much.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rllink View Post
    but why is it that the change is always positive?.
    The space for sound to improve is much smaller than the availability of ways it can sound worse. The sweet spot is a small target.

    I believe, not know, that getting used to a uke’s voice and making small adjustments in playing are underestimated in their effect.

    I loaned my universal underestimating estimator to a friend who is now afraid to answer his phone. If I can get it back I’ll make it available here for a small fee.

  3. #13
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    Mar 2016
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill1 View Post
    The golden rule of opening up is that you should never buy a wooden musical instrument hoping it will open up. Buy it because of how it sounds on the day you buy it, if it does open up that will be a bonus. Never spend more on a uke, hoping that it will open up.
    Unless you are buying a teak sitar. No serious player will ever buy a teak sitar for the way it sounds new, but rather, for the way it'll sound after a few years of playing. Tun sitars open up as well over time but not to the same extent. A sitar however is constructed much differently then a uke or guitar, obviously, so the amount it will change over time is much greater. There just isn't that much wood on a uke to open up.

    John
    Last edited by jelow1966; 01-06-2019 at 08:27 AM. Reason: clarity

  4. #14
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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.
    Before I started playing uke about 5 years ago, I played guitar for almost 50 years, so I have plenty of experience and skill. There's no doubt that my Bruce Wei custom gypsy jazz tenor with solid flame maple top and solid Indian rosewood body has opened up since he made it for me 4 years ago. In the first year or so I felt it had limited projection and sustain, but using it more often in the last 2 years, the projection and sustain has definitely improved a lot. I keep all 8 of my ukes in a humidity controlled cabinet when I'm not playing them.


    8 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 10 solid body bass ukes, 7 mini electric bass guitars

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  5. #15
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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.
    This I agree most. Some minor sound adjustments can be had of course.

  6. #16
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    Mar 2016
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rllink View Post
    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.
    It doesn't have to be always positive. A bright uke opening up could lead to one that is too bright. Perhaps that is why I don't like my flamenco uke much anymore. Or perhaps I'm just older now and more sensitive the very bright sound it has. But, again, there isn't that much wood to open up in the first place on a uke.

    BTW, going back to sitars, they do open up too much over time. Professionals often 'gift' their old sitars to students who are thrilled to get them but the truth is they are just disposing of an instrument that has opened up so much it's basically worn out.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rakelele View Post
    On the other hand, I'm not convinced that a vintage instrument will necessarily sound all that much better than a new one.
    My take on this is, old ukes were built from old wood, that grew slowly, and are denser than what you can get now. The old wood is gone, mostly.
    New ukes are pretty much built from new wood. It's harvested younger, and is less dense.
    If you can find an old piece of tonewood, thump it, then thump a piece of new tonewood. Hear the difference?
    I hope to be able to get my next uke built from older wood, that has be allowed to age and dry naturally.
    My uke just gets really dirty from playing it. It sounds just like it did the day I got it. It just dosn't look or smell quite as nice.
    "Those who bring sunshine and laughter to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves".

    Music washes from the soul, the dust of everyday living.

  8. #18
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    Lost in this discussion is Jeffelele's wisecrack about having loaned his "universal underestimating estimator" to a friend. That is one of the funniest posts I've seen here. I'm not sure why. But it is.
    Last edited by Bill Sheehan; 01-06-2019 at 03:11 PM.

  9. #19

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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.
    I am going to agree fully with this.
    It's an old myth that is repeatedly discussed on the internet, especially for old guitars.

    Degradation of glue and parts from time is not a reliable or objective means for our subjective perception of an instrument's sound to "improve" over time.
    If the sound was so heavily influenced by an instrument changing physically over time, more often, you are likely to suffer with a worse tone with time.

    Simply changing the strings... adjusting the action through a setup and changing out nuts/saddles... and most importantly, your changing playing technique would greatly overshadow an effect (if any) of minute changes to glue and wood of your instrument.

  10. #20
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    An age old topic that has been active online since the internet developed - see guitar forums for a flavour.

    My issue with the topic is how utterly impossible it is to measure in any meaningful way. Whilst I believe that solid wood instruments DO change over time, whether they change for better or worse, greatly or minimally is impossible to demonstrate.

    Take a ukulele, made of solid wood, bought in 2000 by a player. It is now 2019 so many years have passed and the player believes there is a difference. Perhaps there is, but surely there is a difference in the player too. We change as much as the ukuleles do. As such there is no way to quantify it. You would need the exact same strings, recorded in the exact same room and conditions in 2000 and 2019. The harder bit is you would need the exact same level of skill and touch from the player too - and that simply cannot be mimiced.

    So I say - sure there may be a change - but dont fret about it, just play the thing.
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