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Thread: Soprano by Choice

  1. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
    Yea I tuned my son's SpongeBob uke to that, very bright
    (Referencing the "a D F# B" tuning)... Thanks, Larry, and in fact I remember when I first got my Martin S-0, the literature that came with it (entitled something like "Care and Feeding of Your Martin Soprano") specifically said that the uke is designed to utilize the "a D F# B" tuning. I just find that the higher tuning really makes a soprano come alive, although of course it's totally good to opt for gCEA. Some of my friends have expressed apprehension that tuning a step higher might put too much strain on the bridge, but honestly I've never had any problems in that regard. The only thing is, if you're singing as you play, the higher tuning tests your vocal range a bit, but not anything radical. And the last thing I need at my age is anything radical...

  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Sheehan View Post
    (Referencing the "a D F# B" tuning)... Thanks, Larry, and in fact I remember when I first got my Martin S-0, the literature that came with it (entitled something like "Care and Feeding of Your Martin Soprano") specifically said that the uke is designed to utilize the "a D F# B" tuning. I just find that the higher tuning really makes a soprano come alive, although of course it's totally good to opt for gCEA. Some of my friends have expressed apprehension that tuning a step higher might put too much strain on the bridge, but honestly I've never had any problems in that regard. The only thing is, if you're singing as you play, the higher tuning tests your vocal range a bit, but not anything radical. And the last thing I need at my age is anything radical...
    Well that's fine with me cos I do not sing lol
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  3. #43
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    There are two things that I particularly like about Sopranos.

    Firstly they are a thoroughly usable instrument that is also small enough to be easy to store and transport in nearly all circumstances; for example the original Soprano(s) came to Hawaii on what would have been a very difficult and cramped passage for many on what we would now consider to be a very small ship. Of course that ease of storage and transport now has little importance to many players, I like it but others have their own criteria.

    Secondly Sopranos tend to be relatively affordable to the man in the street so the entry cost to decent music making can be accommodated. IMHO Sopranos offer fantastic value. Concerts and tenors are almost always dearer than the equivalent Soprano but they still still sell too and to me they seem to sell because of some real or perceived superiority in use and/or sound.

    Given the above being correct a question occurs to me. At what point(s) does the compact and typically cheaper Soprano size begin to loose advantage relative to the Concert and Tenor sizes? Almost all of the players that I know who have expensive Ukes have chosen to spend their money on bigger than Soprano instruments - at least half of them started on a cheap Soprano and often still have it hidden away and dusty in some cupboard. Such folk obviously have their reasons to turn their back on the ‘original and best’ size and I just wonder what they might be and at what point they (the reasons) have relevance to the rest of us. Any comments, experiences or ideas ?
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 12-03-2019 at 02:30 AM.

  4. #44
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    Good points, Graham. I think the small size of the soprano, which is such an advantage in some respects, makes it look toy-like, and some folk feel better with something bigger in their hands.

    As ever, size matters.

    John Colter

  5. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Greenbag View Post
    There are two things that I particularly like about Sopranos.

    Firstly they are a thoroughly usable instrument that is also small enough to be easy to store and transport in nearly all circumstances; for example the original Soprano(s) came to Hawaii on what would have been a very difficult and cramped passage for many on what we would now consider to be a very small ship. Of course that ease of storage and transport now has little importance to many players, I like it but others have their own criteria.

    Secondly Sopranos tend to be relatively affordable to the man in the street so the entry cost to decent music making can be accommodated. IMHO Sopranos offer fantastic value. Concerts and tenors are almost always dearer than the equivalent Soprano but they still still sell too and to me they seem to sell because of some real or perceived superiority in use and/or sound.

    Given the above being correct a question occurs to me. At what point(s) does the compact and typically cheaper Soprano size begin to loose advantage relative to the Concert and Tenor sizes? Almost all of the players that I know who have expensive Ukes have chosen to spend their money on bigger than Soprano instruments - at least half of them started on a cheap Soprano and often still have it hidden away and dusty in some cupboard. Such folk obviously have their reasons to turn their back on the ‘original and best’ size and I just wonder what they might be and at what point they (the reasons) have relevance to the rest of us. Any comments, experiences or ideas ?
    Graham, I'm going totally off-topic here, so please forgive. But, I just wanted to let you know that, with your U.K. domicile and the language dynamics which are common to it, you have just made a little light bulb go off in my head, putting something into context about which I was unsure for years. You mentioned that the larger size ukuleles tend to be "dearer" than the equivalent soprano... and it immediately reminded me of the Beatles song "When I'm Sixty-Four", in which Paul's character dreams of renting a summer cottage, "if it's not too dear." I first heard that song when I was in the eighth grade (I'm 66 now), and I never really understood that use of the word "dear". Now I understand that it means "expensive" or "costly". (I probably should have figured it out by paying more attention to the lyric following, which said "We shall schrimp and save...") So, thank you for clearing that up for me!

  6. #46
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    .....& we often have to 'read between the lines' with American colloquialisms too.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  7. #47
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    Yes! Language is a wonderful thing! Baffling at times, but wonderful!

  8. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Greenbag View Post
    There are two things that I particularly like about Sopranos.

    Firstly they are a thoroughly usable instrument that is also small enough to be easy to store and transport in nearly all circumstances; for example the original Soprano(s) came to Hawaii on what would have been a very difficult and cramped passage for many on what we would now consider to be a very small ship. Of course that ease of storage and transport now has little importance to many players, I like it but others have their own criteria.

    Secondly Sopranos tend to be relatively affordable to the man in the street so the entry cost to decent music making can be accommodated. IMHO Sopranos offer fantastic value. Concerts and tenors are almost always dearer than the equivalent Soprano but they still still sell too and to me they seem to sell because of some real or perceived superiority in use and/or sound.

    Given the above being correct a question occurs to me. At what point(s) does the compact and typically cheaper Soprano size begin to loose advantage relative to the Concert and Tenor sizes? Almost all of the players that I know who have expensive Ukes have chosen to spend their money on bigger than Soprano instruments - at least half of them started on a cheap Soprano and often still have it hidden away and dusty in some cupboard. Such folk obviously have their reasons to turn their back on the ‘original and best’ size and I just wonder what they might be and at what point they (the reasons) have relevance to the rest of us. Any comments, experiences or ideas ?
    I’ve always felt that the concert size was right at the sweet spot when it came to ukuleles. I do love my sopranos, and sometimes it seems nothing will suit my mood better than a tenor. But the concert, in my opinion, is the ideal size for this instrument, not only in terms of playability, but also in terms of tone. It is not so much larger than a soprano that it becomes noticeably more difficult to carry. It seems to my ear that the concert is less prone to sounding harsh than sopranos. It is easier for me to fret accurately. And it still has the playful character of a soprano ukulele.
    Sopranos: aNueNue Khaya Mahogany 1, Bruko No. 6; Kiwaya KS-1; Kiwaya KTS-4; Kiwaya KTS-4K; Martin S-O
    Concerts:Cahaya CY-0112; Kiwaya KTC-1; Martin C-1 (ca. 1947-1955); Musicguymic's Kolohe
    Tenors: Cordoba 24T; Kiwaya KTT-2K
    Baritones: Cordoba 24B

  9. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Sheehan View Post
    (Referencing the "a D F# B" tuning)... Thanks, Larry, and in fact I remember when I first got my Martin S-0, the literature that came with it (entitled something like "Care and Feeding of Your Martin Soprano") specifically said that the uke is designed to utilize the "a D F# B" tuning. I just find that the higher tuning really makes a soprano come alive, although of course it's totally good to opt for gCEA. Some of my friends have expressed apprehension that tuning a step higher might put too much strain on the bridge, but honestly I've never had any problems in that regard. The only thing is, if you're singing as you play, the higher tuning tests your vocal range a bit, but not anything radical. And the last thing I need at my age is anything radical...
    This. In a decade I got into the soprano sound, grew into a tenor for the scale length primarily, then remembered I loved the soprano sound & body size most. Especially tuned up re-entrant to D, as they did for 60 years on the tiny ukuleles(it’s math it’s just a correlation of body size and vibrating at or below resonance). To this day I play a soprano bodied uke with a 17” tenor scale tuned up re-entrant D. Btw, if you’re going to tune up might as well use appropriate strings and then problem solved on your friends worried about “bridge strain”(i.e. I use soprano gauge strings NOT higher tension concert/tenor sets on this setup).

  10. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp Yankee View Post
    I’ve always felt that the concert size was right at the sweet spot when it came to ukuleles. I do love my sopranos, and sometimes it seems nothing will suit my mood better than a tenor. But the concert, in my opinion, is the ideal size for this instrument, not only in terms of playability, but also in terms of tone. It is not so much larger than a soprano that it becomes noticeably more difficult to carry. It seems to my ear that the concert is less prone to sounding harsh than sopranos. It is easier for me to fret accurately. And it still has the playful character of a soprano ukulele.
    I’ve always wondered about the original and early Sopranos and concluded that the makers set themselves the target of producing the smallest practical guitar like instrument possible for finger picking and singing with. They achieved that but without much room left for error, well not if you want a sweet sounding instrument that plays well.

    Edit. The way forward for me on that issue has been to try to upsize slightly from the original (smallest possible) design by buying the biggest versions of Soprano available within my budget (i.e. widest body + single piece top, deepest body, and approaching 14” scale). IIRC Uncle Rod had someone build him a Soprano with a Concert body, he’s pleased with it. The Ohana Vita is similar, I wish that they were more available here and that they didn’t have a narrow nut.

    The original Concert was, I think, a scaled up Soprano and now the neck joint is typically moved to the fourteenth fret which (IMHO) makes it noticeably bigger overall. In my view a short scale (14 - 15”) concert with neck joining at the twelfth fret (eg. Gretsch G9110) has some of the Sopranos compact portability. However such things are relatively rare, none of models available to me here have appealed enough to purchase and long neck Sopranos (with I believe slight too compact sound-boxes) are common instead.

    Some Sopranos are, to my ear, quite harsh and not what I want at all; other folk like them like that and think a Soprano should be jingly but I don’t. I think that a Soprano is one by size name only (rather than a voice description) and should have a good bass response rather than being all treble - so a balanced tone. To get that tonal balance I believe that a large single piece top is needed, just like a loud speaker needs to be bigger for lower frequency sounds.

    Some Sopranos are difficult to fret, part of that is the compact scale length but I think more of it is the closeness (to each other) of the strings. However I re-space the strings further apart and the compact Soprano scale also allows my fingers to usefully reach frets that would otherwise be just beyond my finger tips, so compact can be good. Some Sopranos do not speak well at the higher frets, the remaining vibrating string is short with little energy in it and their sound board build might be less than ideal. Concerts and Tenors work better up the neck, but there is a price to pay and compromise to be made for that.

    I’m still playing a Soprano by choice, they suit my needs. However one has to choose carefully and to some extent you’re ‘working’ towards or even at the limit of what sounds this deliberately small ‘guitar’ can reasonably be expected to produce.

    @Bill Sheehan. I’m pleased that my text prompted a ‘light bulb’ moment for you. Thought we have the Atlantic between us we share a common language, it’s just that sometimes the words don’t mean quite the same.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 12-05-2019 at 01:13 AM.

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