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Thread: Open sound

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    Default Open sound

    Hi. I’ve been lurking in UU for a while learning from your wonderful discussions but I’ve never posted anything. I’ve often seen you talking about your ukes opening up or that your ukes now sound open. I can’t for the life of me understand what that means. How do you know what an open sound is? Let’s say you’re blindfolded and given an uke to play, how do you know whether it has an open sound? I’ve been playing for over a year and just enjoying learning. Thanks for any feedback.

  2. #2
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    Jan 2009
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    Su S, I can understand your puzzlement. I've been playing for about thirty years and have no idea what is meant by a ukulele "opening up". I hear the term used quite frequently, and gather that some people can perceive an improvement in the sound/tone of an instrument, supposedly brought about through much use. There are people whose senses are much more subtle and discerning than mine - particularly in the areas of sound and taste. I would never argue with a wine expert. I simply do not operate at that level. Same with the finer nuances of sound that some people can hear. I don't hear them. I just have to accept that they do.

    Thank you for asking the question. I will be interested to read the responses.

    John Colter

  3. #3
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    Queanbeyan, NSW Australia.
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    Default

    Good question and I suspect that there will be a few different opinions and answers.

    To start with let me put on the table the idea that an "open" sound is kind of opposite to a "tight" sound. You could also talk about an "open" sound being different to a "closed" sound.

    A tight sound is a sound with short sustain and you hear it quite a bit on instruments with "overbuilt" tops in as much as a heavily constructed top needs a lot of power from the strings to move back and forth where as a lightly constructed top responds quickly and loudly to the strings movements.

    A closed sound is often heard on instruments that respond mostly in just one part of the sound spectrum, usually in the midrange or the highrange but restricted in the lower range. An instrument that responds broadly across the spectrum can be considered more "open".

  4. #4
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    The term 'opening up' is really just the components of a uke 'bedding in' to each other, occasionally there will be a perceived increase in tonality, but not by much, if at all, & it may feel easier to play too, but I think it is just the fact that the player is getting used to the uke.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  5. #5
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    Sep 2013
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    Los Angeles, near the Beverly Center.
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    My experience with opening up: About 6 1/2 years ago I had a custom uke made by Bruce Wei Arts out of Vietnam for $750 delivered. I specified a tenor gypsy jazz Django style with a solid flame maple top and he suggested solid Indian rosewood for the body. When it arrived 7 months later, he made it nicer than I was expecting and it was comfortable to play, but I was disappointed with the sound. It did not resonate well, lack of sustain and projection. I played it off and on for the next year and a few months when one day I played it and I was surprised that it had much better resonance, sustain and projection. It's been that way ever since.




    This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
    9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

    • Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
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  6. #6
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    May 2020
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill1 View Post
    The only way to learn about "opening up" is to experience it. People who have never experienced it have difficulty believing it exists.
    ....
    I think this is the key. Wood does change over time, it is just the laws of physics; so your instrument sound will change as the wood changes. Now whether the change bring good things or bad, I guess that'd depend on how the instrument was made. (just read up on old violins, some age well others don't).

  7. #7
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    It basically means that over time the player of the instrument is getting better at playing and figuring out the instrument. The aging process can alter an instrument but more often than not this is not an improvement.

  8. #8
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    Dec 2018
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    Thanks for your input guys. It has certainly helped me to understand this better. I now know that not everyone believes in this process. Also, not everyone who believes in it, believes that it’s necessarily a good thing. I’ve observed that the tone wood most associated with opening up seems to be spruce. I recently saw a video of a very accomplished player describe a particular uke as sounding open even when brand new so I guess how an uke is built also contributes to its openness.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Su S View Post
    Thanks for your input guys. It has certainly helped me to understand this better. I now know that not everyone believes in this process. Also, not everyone who believes in it, believes that it’s necessarily a good thing. I’ve observed that the tone wood most associated with opening up seems to be spruce. I recently saw a video of a very accomplished player describe a particular uke as sounding open even when brand new so I guess how an uke is built also contributes to its openness.
    I think there's a difference between "sounding open" and "opening up." And in reply to the idea that one just gets better at playing, I played guitar for almost 50 years before I picked up the uke, which took me maybe an hour to warm up to it, and a day or two to feel comfortable and settled.
    Last edited by kohanmike; 07-28-2020 at 08:42 PM.

  10. #10
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    The theory behind opening up is as the instrument is played the top vibrates. This in turn causes the fibres to break down or soften up a bit. The top will then flex or vibrate more freely causing the tone to change, possibly more open, resonant and sweet sounding. This is debated vigorously in stringed instrument circles, it can get ugly. Some believe it some don’t. Wood is wood and it is all different from piece to piece. Some tops will open up, I have experienced it and some do not.

    The old saying still holds true: if an instrument doesn’t sound good to you when new chances are it wouldn’t improve enough over time to make you change your mind about. Because again, some might open up and some might not.
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields walnut pineapple super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Enya Nova *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

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