“I’ve practiced on my tone for almost . . . 50 years, and if I can’t hear my tone, I can’t play. If I can’t play, then I won’t get paid. If I don’t get paid, then I’ll lose the house, you know? It’s a chain reaction.” -Miles Davis
Tone comes from a multitude of sources ranging from strings to touch, to materials, to even the room itself. As a maker of music, this is a constant pursuit that grows in stages and stretches in plateaus, getting longer the more one plays. The irony lies in the search itself as it is a completely subjective answer. The main focus is that we are on this constant pursuit, observing the subtleties that make what some may hear as a simple sound to a deep and complex tone.
As a player of wooden instruments, it is always fascinating to observe the various woods different makers use in search of “good tone.” Yes, the ‘ukulele’s traditional woods would be Hawaiian Koa and Mahogany but the sky is the limit as many builders often experiment with many different combinations. I feel exploring and learning more about tone woods help define the possibilities and broaden our knowledge of the instrument as a whole.
One of the premier and often sought after ‘ukulele builders come from a humble shop in Wahiawa, ‘Oahu. Ko’olau ‘Ukuleles and Guitars produce some of the finest instruments in the world for their immaculate work, often ornate yet tasteful design, and great playability in their instruments. To them it is not only an artform but a science as well, keeping track of the subtle differences in all aspects of the instrument. Their knowledge of wood is none short with these precise measurements and expansive descriptions of the various tone woods they use on their instruments. I thought it to be a great article and highly informational.
We all hear things differently and appreciate different aspects of tone. While it may be easier to say one tone is greater than another, I feel it best to embrace the diversity and listen to the many different voices the many different ‘ukuleles sing.