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Thread: Question -Is it possible for a Uke to be “overbuilt” resulting in reduced volume?

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Ames, Iowa
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    3,798

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    I don't have an answer, but Pono is a very reputable builder and I can't imagine that they would sell a ukulele that is inferior to the accepted norms. I do know that I have a couple of mid range ukuleles, one is mahogany and the other is cedar top with myrtle sides and back. Both solid wood. Both comparable in price. The cedar one is much lighter and the top is thinner than the mahogany, and the cedar one is noticeably louder.

    I've busked with both of them and my wife has told me that when she comes out to check on me that when I play the cedar one she can hear it a block away. The mahogany she can't hear from across the street. But that is just comparing two ukuleles, so I don't know if there is a correlation. But I've just always assumed that the mahogany one is normal and not the cedar one. My thought is that the cedar is not just louder, but the sound from the cedar one carries farther as well. I don't know if that makes sense, or if that is how sound waves work, but it is something I've thought.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

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

  2. #12
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    Aug 2016
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    PNW
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    I don't think I'd hold onto an instrument for two years hoping I'd like how it sounds at the end of that time. If you don't like it now and can still send it back, I would do that. If it's not as loud as your soprano now, it's unlikely to grow a tiny internal amplifier in two years.

  3. #13
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    Sep 2013
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    Los Angeles, near the Beverly Center.
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    About 5 years ago I had Bruce Wei build me a Selmer/Maccaferri Grande Bouche Gypsy Jazz uke to my specs, solid curly maple top, solid rosewood body. It turned out to be heavy and quiet with limited sustain, though also with great tone. I changed the strings from Nylgut to fluorocarbons, but it didn't help. I mentioned it to Pepé Romero at an event he attended, who said curly maple is too stiff for solid tops. But, after about 2 years of playing it off and on and keeping it in a humidified display case, it opened up, the volume and sustain are much better now.




    This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly West near the Beverly Center
    9 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 11 solid body bass ukes, 9 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 34)

    • Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
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  4. #14
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    Jun 2014
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    CH
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    Yes, ukes can be overbuilt. But usually, this would result in a twangy sound with little to no sustain, and this isn't the case with your Pono. Nor is it with most of the Ponos I have played. Out of a full dozen, only two have had a somewhat softer voice. I tend to think this is normal with such a large sample of instruments. My own Pono ETSHC is among my all-time favorites: Extremely well built, but also loud, and very musical.

    As you have mentioned, Ebony is among the heaviest or densest woods, and an instrument built to 3/4 of this wood will naturally be heavier than one with Koa or Mahogany. But since the back and sides function as a reflector, density (and the weight that comes along with it) shouldn't be inhibiting the sound.

    I have measured out every single one of my ukes and cannot find any relation between volume and light weight. My Pono ETSHC is indeed the heaviest tenor of the bunch with about 840 grams (1.85 pounds). It is closely followed in weight by my wife's Maple/Spruce tenor from Beau Hannam: this one weighs 805 grams (1.77 pounds), but is by far the loudest and most musical tenor I have ever heard. My wife's Blackwood/Cedar LFdM tenor is very loud as well and has a weight of 675 grams (1.49 pounds). My lightest tenor is a Koa Kanilea of 560 grams (1.23 pounds), and it has the softest voice of them all. My all Acacia Pono AT is 630 grams (1.29 pounds), only 70 grams heavier than the Kanilea, which is the exact weight of the truss rod. My Sapele KoAloha Opio has the same weight as my Pono AT: 630 grams (1.29 pounds). My all Koa Moore Bettah has a similar weight at 653 grams (1.44 grams). Out of this sample, the heavier ones are definitely not lacking volume. My own subjective ranking in terms of volume would be 1. Beau Hannam, 2. LFdM, 3. Pono ETSHC, 4. KoAloha Opio, 5. Moore Bettah, 6. Pono AT, 7. Kanilea.

    I'm just trying to add a bit of perspective to the discussion of weight vs. volume. While the weight can be measured objectively, our preferences in terms of sound are highly subjective. If there is something you don't like about the volume and/or tone of you new uke, I see no point in waiting and hoping that it will change to your liking.

    I'll add that I've never liked the stock strings that the Ponos come with. I've always changed them to some Fluorocarbon strings and thought the ukes came to life with them.
    Enjoying instruments by - Beau Hannam - Jay Lichty - Jerry Hoffmann - Luis Feu de Mesquita - Kala - Kamaka - Kanile'a - KoAloha - Ko'olau - Moore Bettah - Pono - Romero Creations - and others

  5. #15
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    Jul 2014
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    Really useful info in your post Rakelele, thank you! If you could afford the time I'd be really interested for you to download a sound meter app onto your phone and measure the difference in volume. I did this before to see if a uke I found to be quiet really was (it was) but my biggest surprise was that my loudest uke was a fairly cheap laminate soprano. Serious bark to it!

  6. #16
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    Apr 2019
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    What a fascinating thread, thanks to all for contributing
    Happy just to be a Newbie, Penny

  7. #17
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    Feb 2019
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    Honolulu
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    I have a Pono MT-E dating back 5 or 6 years and I recall it was rather soft and soulless when new. After a few years it opened up and sounds great now: sweet fat harp-like tone with ample volume. Perfect for thumb flesh strums over the fingerboard. Not as loud as my Kremona Coco but plenty of volume to do a good job in an acoustic ensemble of ukulele and guitar. It's not really a heavy instrument and seems rather average in weight for a solid mahogany uku.

    In my years of teaching I have encountered many locally homemade uku with beautiful woodworking, solid koa build but with tiny metallic voices. All of them had really thick tops and reminded me more of a solid body electric guitar than an uku. One thing I noticed about these heavy instruments is they tend to have long sustain through pickups while sounding terrible acoustically.

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Location
    Sacramento, CA
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    I’ll chime in that there does seem to be something about light being equal to loud. I arguably have the loudest uke in my club in my KoAloha pineapple. It’s really light.
    I think I have pineapple UAS

    Ukes in order of purchase
    2018: Córdoba concert 15CM, Luna soprano, Islander tenor AT-4, Iriguchi concert “Ma’Alaea” - Birdseye maple top and poplar back Aug 2018
    2019: Mahalo soprano Kahiko, KoAloha koa pineapple soprano KSM-01 (made in 2012), abused but unused gold label Kamaka koa pineapple, *rough* 1930’s Kamaka “Historic Mahogany Pineapple” with Philippine mahogany and wooden peg tuners.

  9. #19
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    May 2015
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    London
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    My Pono Mango Pineapple is by far the heaviest but possibly the sweetest sounding instrument I have. If I want some quiet strumming time it's the one I reach for, if I want to rock out a bit I'll choose something else. It's also the cheapest uke I've ever bought but I would never part with it.
    Kamaka HF-2LD - Kanile'a Custom 5 string Super Tenor - KoAloha Special Issue Tenor - Mya Moe Maple & Spruce Tenor - Pono MGTDP

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
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    28

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    I've been dreaming of a Pono for a while now - probably because they're mysterious and expensive (from my perspective). I've never touched one, but I'd love to one day.

    That said, I've heard it can take time for a uke to open up and really sing. I wonder how many good instruments aren't bought for this reason (they sound muted when young). Hmmm....
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