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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 9:45 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:47 pm
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First name: Jay
Last Name: De Rocher
City: Bothell
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I've noticed that the type of woods used for ukulele tops are MUCH more diverse than what you see on guitars. I hardly ever see back, sides, and top sets of a single type of wood available for sale for guitars and when I do, they are usually koa. Apart from koa and mahogany, the vast majority of guitars are built with spruce or cedar tops with the occasional redwood top. Ukulele builders, on the other hand, appear to use many different woods for the tops. Why is that? Are ukulele players more open minded about woods? Does the wood used for the top not matter as much for tone with ukuleles or are guitar players and builders just too tradition bound to consider alternatives to the usual suspects?

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2015 8:52 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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First name: ernest
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Jay. I/ve built about 25 ukes so far using abt 7 different species of tops and same for backs/ sides. My guess is that with such a small top to drive the sound, there is little variance between wood x and Y same for the backs . I use standard fan bracing and falcate bracing for my tops. For the backs I/ve used standard bracing on the backs as well as radial tuned braces. Most of my braces are spruce .there is an excellent article by bob gleason in this issue of GAL . I have quite a few videos on you tube discussing uke making www.tomistrings.com. Ukes are fun to play . Perhaps the players are more open minded maybe not ?? as far as CL gtr players they are very tradition oriented and looking for certain sound / aesthetic features . SS players may be more open ended in their needs. My 2 cents.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2015 3:53 pm 
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ernie wrote:
Jay. I/ve built about 25 ukes so far using abt 7 different species of tops and same for backs/ sides. My guess is that with such a small top to drive the sound, there is little variance between wood x and Y same for the backs .


I was wondering if that might be the case. I saw a photo of an uke with a bocote top yesterday. I think it'll be a while before I see a SS guitar built that way. It must be nice to have that kind of flexibility of wood choice because I see quite a few very cool looking ukes out there.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2015 12:23 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2008 3:20 am
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Yup, the smaller bodies can "take" more types of hardwood tops that you normally don't see in guitars. A while ago my friend had me make an all Curly Maple "thinline" tenor. Talk about all roads leading to the wrong place. Guess I was wrong on my projections - The Ukulele Site graciously reviewed it into their Ukulele Review Extremely Awesome Ukes back in 2012. I've not built another one since then, go figure (pun intended).

Personally, most of my Tenors have Spruce tops, for all the reasons guitars use them, and they're tuned low g, which gives you the same guitar tuning for the first 4 strings capo at the 5th, at about the same scale length, which is why I'm guessing classical guitar strings work well for me on my ukes.



These users thanked the author Aaron O for the post: J De Rocher (Sun Jun 28, 2015 2:09 pm)
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2015 6:47 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Jay /aaron I/ve used FWIW spruce , mahogany, a. sycamore., western red cedar, yellow cedar, tzalam (carribean koa) cottonwood, fir, redwood. tops For backs Tamarindo , pecan, ash/r.oak, w.oak, balsam wood or balsamo ,cherry. spalted silver maple, sycamore. ipe brazilian walnut , tzalam ,mahogany , american walnut ,black locust,, honey locust, spalted hackberry, hawaii koa , pernambuco etc


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:48 am 
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First name: Chris
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City: Stowmarket
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There are (broadly) three styles of uke playing, and each goes for something different in construction terms.

1. Hawaiian traditional music, or music continuing that tradition, is simple. All koa.

2. What I think of as the "modern" style, inspired by Jake Shimabukuro. This is, simplistically, playing on uke the kinds of music previously only played on guitar - lots of instrumental work in particular. This style tends to use a tenor uke with a softwood top, to get closer to the sustain of a conventional guitar. Back and sides make only a small difference to the sound, particularly at this size, so appearance preferences can be accommodated widely.

3. What might be called "mainland" style, originating in vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley and moving through to the Beatles and more modern performers. Here we have primarily songs accompanied by the uke. Instrumental playing happens, but usually as part of a song rather than on its own, and playing to emphasise rhythm is particularly important. This style was traditionally played on soprano ukes made of mahogany or koa. More recent builders have discovered that a wide range of hardwoods works well too - I've built in cherry, walnut, oak, ash and padauk as well as mahogany and koa. I've built sopranos with softwood tops, but find that (except for cedar on cigar box sopranos) these sound shrill and jangly. I think the long sustain and emphasis of the trebles from spruce and cedar doesn't match well with this style of music. However, English yew works extremely well - technically a softwood but works more like a hardwood.

I wouldn't put this forward as a definitive description of uke styles, but in very broad-brush terms it's how I see things. I suspect you could cut the cake lots of different ways.



These users thanked the author profchris for the post: Ken McKay (Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:54 pm)
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:45 am 
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I've made ukes with mahogany, koa, mango, and walnut tops. They sound different with different woods....but not night and day different.
The small body and low string tension really reduces variance. There's also not much sustain in a uke compared to a guitar so most of what you hear is the initial string pluck and not much wood affected resonance.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2015 4:05 pm 
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Koa
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I have built with mahogany, spruce, cedar, and koa soundboards. Each wood has it's own sound which should be considered from the start of the design.

Spruce is bright and loud with good sustain, even brash.

Cedar is mellow and quiet with decent sustain.

Mahogany is round with medium sustain.

Koa should be similar to mahogany. My experience with a koa soundboard was so-so.

I am wondering how the wood species of the neck will change the sound and loudness of an ukulele.

Bob :ugeek:


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2015 11:03 pm 
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First name: Greg
Last Name: Harrington
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have used maple, koa, mahogany and spruce. I kind of like the tone with spruce. to me it bseems sweeter

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2015 4:47 am 
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Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:17 am
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First name: Gary
Last Name: Gill
City: Greenwood
State: Indiana
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My builds are mostly tenor size. I have used cherry, mahogany, spruce, and Douglas fir soundboards.


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