Saturday, December 5, 2009

Opening Up Your Mind

We often hear talk of ukulele’s “opening up”. But what the hell does this really mean? And do ukulele’s really “open up”? Or is this just another one of those myths that they would have us believe in. Like Aliens, or Big-Foot, or the female orgasm? I often hear people say things like “I was playing my uke this weekend and it really opened up” or “I’ve owned my new Kala for 3 months and it’s really starting to open up”. Really? Can this be? Hmmm.

I did some research on the web and came up with a few interesting articles like this one which says “The reasons for the improvement have to do with subtle changes in the stiffness and flexibility within the cellular structure of the wood, as well as the hardening of resins within the cells themselves. These changes usually take many years. In the final analysis, it seems that the major change is to the wood itself, with the top leading the way as the major tone-producing element.”

Huh? OH stiffness and flexibility within the cellular structure, and hardening of resins within the cells improves the tone-producing elements…yeah, that's what SHE said.

I actually read the above article all the way through (so you don’t have to) and what they did was they tried to speed up the process of aging a guitar by “shaking” it in order to replicate many years of playing. Here is their verdict; “difference between the before and after tapes is hard to pinpoint and not necessarily consistent from song to song, but we did feel that the guitar was ringing out more in the second session” That’s right we did “feel” that the guitar was ringing out more. Ok, buddy, shake this.

So to sum it all up? Horse-shit. Some people feel that old instruments sound better than new ones. IF this is true you would be looking at upwards of 50 years, not three months and definitely not a weekend. So if you want something to open up, get yourself a bottle of wine and a corkscrew. Otherwise we'll see you in 50 years.


Adelle the Great said...

I'm not letting my instrument take the credit! If after I've played it for years it sounds better... I'd like to think it's because *I've gotten better over the course of those years. Glad to hear it's horse shit :)

Mugambismonkey said...

I agree with Boozelle & Adelle. I think that the instrument starts sounding better with the time because you've been playing it for long and are now more capable of "making it sound better". :-)

Baron said...

Well, actually I have to disagree with everyone. I really do think an instrument can sound better if you play it a lot and keep it alive, so to speak. I've heard that old stradivarius violins that have been hanging untouched for decades in museums can loose their great tone completely.

But I agree about the female orgasm. That's just gotta be a myth.

UkeNinja said...

My Fluke opened up to me two days after I got it.

Bad hair day, Booze?

RussBuss said...

haha, great post boozelle! horse shit indeed.

Grumpy Coyote said...

There is no doubt that wood changes over time. What I DO doubt is that it makes much of a difference *on sound* beyond the first 24 months or so.

I know new wood goes through some substantial changes - but I have very serious doubts that playing the instrument has anything to do with it.

Environmental changes, I buy - for a while at least. Playing? Unlikley. More likey that just having it out of the case does the trick, and that the "trick" is limeted until the wood stabliizes natually.


I have nothing to add to theis discussion.

deach said...

Boozelle opened up after aging him with a few drinks.

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