Nine months have passed since I decided to learn to play the piano, and I’m still on it, which is good. Not a virtuoso by any stretch, but I can almost accompany songs and have a lot of fun practicing by myself, which is bound to lead to good results. In this article, I muse about what has worked, and what hasn’t worked so well, in case it might help you.
Mostly about ukuleles, but also some theory
More control for your keyboard
The Casio keyboard I bought a few months ago to learn piano is working great, but it does not give me a lot of control over the sound, since it’s relatively inexpensive. For instance, it has no native way to quiet down a layered instrument so it doesn’t overpower the base sound. This is has been reported by many owners. I found a simple solution that likely is valid for most modern keyboards from most brands.
Learning piano not so young: The beginning
New Year 2022 resolution: to learn to play the piano. I’m sure many of you have made a similar resolution, and perhaps abandoned it after a while. I am aware of the pitfalls ahead, and so I’d like to tell you how I’ve gotten started. In this article I review the different learning methods I’ve surveyed, the instrument I chose, my general setup, and some basic ideas about the whole thing. I cannot promise this will work, so stand by for another article a few months from now telling you how it went.
Make a 6 string baritone uke
In this recent article, I told you how to make a fairly rare 6-string ukulele starting from a regular tenor uke. Well, you can still buy those, but the 6-string baritone variety is impossible to find. The good news is that it is quite easy to make one, on a very tight budget.
6-string ukulele tunings
Six-string ukuleles are getting quite hard to find, and it’s a shame because they sound particularly ukulele-like, at least to my ears. In this recent article, I tell you how to convert a regular 4-string ukulele into a six-stringer with conventional tuning, but I found that there are a lot more tunings you could use, and some sound just as sweet as the standard. In this article, I go through the math and give you some samples. Read More
Make a 6 String Ukulele
If you do a web search for “6 string ukulele,” you will find that a majority of links lead to the “guitalele,” an instrument the size of a tenor ukulele with 6 independent strings, which is played rather like a guitar. But a few of them will lead to the true 6-string ukulele, where two of its four strings are doubled up in octaves. This one is played like a regular 4-string ukulele, but sounds richer, more uke-like if that were possible (see this video, for instance). True 6-string ukuleles are hard to find, and those that you do find tend to be pricey, but in this article I show you how to convert a regular ukulele into a 6-string uke with a minimum of hassle and expense.
Two very different pickups, one instrument
My latest ukulele is an exercise in versatility: short enough to go inside a suitcase, long enough to be remain playable under heavy capo and, of course, both acoustic and electric. And not just merely electric, but featuring both a passive piezo pickup and a magnetic pickup, which can be mixed in any ratio. I looked for a wiring diagram that could do this, and found nothing simple. They all required a switch to select the main pickup, with perhaps the ability to add a bit of the other, or had something weird about them. Since the two pickups are very different electrically, there was no assurance that they would mix well. I took a guess, and it worked, though theory predicted that it shouldn’t have. Read on for the solution.
The perfect ukulele pick?
First, an awful disclosure: I use a pick to play the ukulele. Now if you still haven’t canceled me, you may be interested to hear that I may have stumbled into the best combination of strength and softness for a ukulele pick. Kind of like a Japanese sword in reverse. Read More
Make a Panjo
A what? . . . A pan-jo, dummy! That is, a banjo that is made from a pan. It turns out that you can make beautiful music from a humble pizza pan, plus a stick, a doggy bowl, and a limited number of special parts. And it’s quite a looker, as you can see from the picture, showing a G6 (guitar tuning) panjo with metal strings next to a C6 (uke tuning) panjo with plastic strings. Recipe and sound samples inside. Read More
All String Equations in One Place
I gave my students the job of building string instruments, for which they need to select the materials, calculate the appropriate string gauges and tensions, and pay attention to the energy flow from strings to air. After spending half a day putting the relevant equations in one sheet to make their work easier, it dawned on me that others might enjoy having them as well. So here they are. Read More