New Uke Day (NUD) Hanson 5-String Concert

LorenFL

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Bought this Hanson 5-string concert here on the marketplace. It's the one in the right. Included my Ohana in the photo for comparison that I'll make in a bit.

Here are the specs from the ad:
  • Extended Concert Scale - 16 1/4"
  • Solid Port Orford Cedar Top
  • Solid Myrtle Back and Sides
  • Nut Width - 1.5"
  • Fretboard and Binding - Rosewood
  • Rope-Style Purfling and Soundhole Rosette
  • Neck - Honduran Mahogany
  • Peghed Planetary Geared Tuners
  • 2 Strap Buttons
  • Padded Cloth Gig Bag
  • Currently strung with a LaBella 908 Low "G" string and Uke Logic High Tension Pink High "G" strings
 

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That’s such a cool-looking instrument! The 16.25 inch scale is intriguing.

Enjoy!
 
Now, I didn't consider some of those specs closely. I noticed them, just didn't give them a lot of thought.

I'm making comparisons to my Ohana here. The Ohana is a CK-42, Sinker Redwood with Rosewood and it sounds glorious.
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The WOOD I looked up. Port Orford Cedar, is not actually a cedar, it's actually a variant of Cypress, and is said to have a tone something between cedar and redwood. Not as soft as cedar. And pairing it with Myrtle seems to be a common thing to do. Known good combination of woods. Nice! And I can attest that it sounds GREAT! I can't say it's "better" than the Ohana, but seems to be just as good. Certainly different, possibly louder. Without doing a ton of back-to-back comparison, I think the Ohana has a little more sustain, but the Hanson has an absolutely absurd amount of "chime" to it. I've heard people say "chimes like a bell"... yes! The High/Low G adds something to it, but it's more than that. Definitely the tone woods and the way it's built.
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The nut width, 1.5" = 38mm. A tad wide, but that makes sense with the added string, and I've always thought I'd like a wider nut, anyway. My Ohana is a skinny 1-3/8" (33mm), I think it would be better at around 35-36mm. So, the 38mm does feel fat. But, what I noticed more than that is that the string spacing is WIDE. I could see me making a new nut for this with the strings slightly closer together. But, maybe not. I might get used to it.
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The scale length, 16.25". I glossed over that. It's a bigger deal than I thought. And for a lot of reasons. Concert scale is "supposed to be" 15-16". My much loved Ohana is right about 15-1/8, on the short side of Concert spec. I measure the Hanson at 16-1/8". So, it's just on the long side of Concert, I wouldn't even call it "extended" given that it's so close. (but, what do I know?)

Let me preface this with the fact that I started on a Tenor, played a few different ones for about 9 years before I decided to try a Concert. Instantly loved the Concert scale! Tenor just feels like too much fret-spacing near the nut. Concert is WAY easier for me to play, it just feels right.

What the 16" scale Concert is... effectively, it's exactly the same fret spacing as my 15" Ohana, PLUS another wider spaced fret at the nut. That makes the fret spacing up there (down there?) feel just a little off to me, but it will probably do me good to adapt to that sort of thing. Other folks can play every size of uke AND guitar AND anything else with strings... I'll try to broaden my scope!
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Neck length and bridge placement. It took me a minute to figure out why it felt so weird. The neck length FROM THE BODY to the nut is only about 1/2" longer. The other added >1/2" is achieved by moving the BRIDGE towards the end of the body. If you'd asked me before I picked up this uke, I wouldn't have thought anything of it. But, here's what that does... for me, anyway... There's less uke body beyond the bridge, and that's where I rest my forearm.

With the Ohana that I'm used to, my arm fits right where it should, and my strumming thumb (or :eek: pick) lands right past the end of the fretboard over the sound hole. Opinions may vary, but I think that's where it "should" be. If I move my strum up the neck, it doesn't sound as good.

With the Hanson, placing my forearm where it "belongs", my strum is about 3/4" down the neck. Not a big deal. Doesn't "feel" right, but I'll get used to it. If I were doing a custom build, though... this is something I'd want to consider that I'd never even thought about before. (That's not true, I own a "tiny tenor" that has the same problem... but, I made a custom forearm rest for that one to extend the body... it was truly unplayable before I did that and a couple other things to it. Yes, as a VERY non-professional player, I'm picky about things fitting me just right because I'm just not that good!)

So, the bridge placement is "a thing", but not a huge deal. I think.
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The other thing in the ad that I didn't pay any attention to because I know I can (and expected that I would) change strings, is the fact that it has high-tension strings on it. I like low-tension strings, almost floppy. I totally forgot that fact until I started writing this. But, it jives with what I felt!

Right out of the box, the strings were slackened, and I tuned it to 2 steps down, which is where my Ohana currently is. And... the strings were too tight! Went down another step, not much different. Back up to match the Ohana and did some comparisons. Okay, okay. But, DANG these strings are tight.

But, wait... if they're this tight, that means I can TUNE LOWER! And with a longer scale length, that just might work! So, now I'm down 4 steps. I'm tuned to "Low Eb" (or I guess "High and Low Eb"). I've not played with it much, but it sound GOOD, and the strings are closer to a reasonable tension. Believe it or not, they're still too stiff.

I'll keep tinkering with it. Maybe throw a set of my custom low-tension fluorocarbon fishing line strings on it. Maybe play with double Low G.

I'll try to do some sound comparison videos at some point. But, I'm recording from my phone, quality won't be great.
 
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thanks for the very detailed writeup. Fascinating that you're getting Ab tuning on "super concert" scale. I have that tuning on my baritone

BTW, David's last name is "Hanson"
 
thanks for the very detailed writeup. Fascinating that you're getting Ab tuning on "super concert" scale. I have that tuning on my baritone

BTW, David's last name is "Hanson"
I'll fix that. You know why I made that mistake? I initially made this post from my phone (easier to upload the photo that way), and it auto-corrected it to Hansen (why, I don't know) and I went with it. I could have just looked at the sticker on my uke!

Yeah, I'm pretty stunned that I would happily tune that low and still sound good. In fact, I just went a step LOWER. It's starting to sound like a guitar!

And I can see the attraction of an 8-string uke now. I'm gonna put that thought WAAAAY on the back burner.
 
Okay, this is stupid. Terrible recording. Actually sounds a lot better than this.

I have it tuned down SEVEN steps. 7th fret is GCEA. With my preferred strings, I can't get more than 3 steps down before the strings go floppy. I've found a use for high-tension strings!

 
I'm still playing with this thing in different (very) weird tunings before I get around to changing the strings. Set it to 5 steps down for a while. I'm amazed at how it still WORKS there. The body of this uke is resonant in a VERY wide range. My previous experience is that Low G tends to be "boomy", and going lower can tend to be even more so... you have to learn to modulate how hard you hit the G string. This one isn't boomy. It just takes it in stride.

You want weird? Now I'm 8 steps down! Finally got the strings loose enough that they feel about as bendy as my other uke when it's 2 or 3 steps down. There's some buzziness somewhere that I need to locate. I don't think it's frets. It's probably me not fretting the wound string hard enough or something.

I decided to give up video in favor of audio. I put the phone closer to the uke to get better sound. Seems to have worked.

Would you just listen to this thing... 8 steps down with high tension strings. My mind is blown. I guess being specifically designed to produce the full range of G3-A4, it's got a lot of dynamic resonant range. But, I'm all the way down to B2! Crazy.



Gonna have to change the strings soon and see how it behaves.
 
I've had this one by my side (because I don't have a hook on the wall for it yet, and I want to play it) for about a week now. Settled on playing it 5 steps down. Tension is a touch too tight for me to enjoy finger picking bendy blues solos, but it sounded good and was plenty strummable.

Finally decided to change the strings tonight. I've got spools of 20, 25, 40 and 50 pound fluorocarbon fishing line that I use. Strung it up with a double Low G, and tuned it down two steps.

I still can't say it's "better" than my Ohana, but it is VERY different. It resonates a lot broader range than the Ohana, picks up a lot more highs. In that way, I guess it is better.

But, I found it's Kryptonite. When strung with very low tension strings, it has a buzz. Particularly on the G and E strings. Doesn't show up in my typical soft strumming. But, if I bang a string, it'll buzz down at the saddle. I figure it's one of two things. One is that the break angle of the strings down there (and at the neck, too... just a design choice) is pretty shallow. Works fine with higher tension, but could be part of my buzz at low tension. The other is something I noticed before. The saddle is carved with a bit of a flat spot rather than a sharp angle where the strings break. I'm hoping it's more that because that can be easily fixed!

Amazingly, the intonation is still excellent, even with low tension and Low G. Every uke I've done this with has had problems on the G and C strings at low tension. This one has the same issue (goes a little sharp if you're tuned perfectly at the nut), but not nearly as much.

I'm going to give this some time, let the strings settle, and keep playing it.

What I'm considering doing, and I'm reluctant to do it because I'd have to drill another hole in the bridge, is experimenting with doubling the A rather than the G, and leave the single Low G. I think I might like that. One tiny added hole in the bridge is not going to bother anything. I'll have to make a custom nut to grab the added A string. But, I've measured the spacing of the bridge holes, and it's almost like it was designed for this option. The main 4 string holes are evenly spaced with the 5th added 1/8" over... can do the same on the other end.

Not going to make that decision yet. I can play with tuning my 2nd G string to A and get a little bit of that feel, at least with SOME chords. That'll give me an idea of what it might sound like.
 
Here's another terrible video. I'm starting to figure my phone camera out. They like to constantly change the apps and the available settings, of course. So, I just learned that I had a "speech enhancement" setting turned on by default. I think that's what was making some of the other videos sound garbled. This video is making me think about microphone position. It's clearly left-biased. If I had better positioning, the sound wouldn't be bad at all!

Anyway. Just me noodling with the new strings.

 
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