Cheapest MIDI guitar

For quite a while, I’ve been interested in making a guitar or ukulele sound like other instruments. The way a guitar sounds when strummed appeals to me, since it blends so well with singing to make a song, but I get bored quickly with things always sounding the same. This is while I’ve built a number of ukuleles in the last few months and my collection now counts some 15 units. There is this device called “MIDI guitar controller” that you play like a guitar but can sound like anything else, since what it does is get real-time note information from your performance, which can then be fed to a hardware or software instrument. Most MIDI guitars, however, are either discontinued or very expensive. I was resigned to never using one until I ran into the “Rock Band 3 Fender Mustang guitar controller pro” (whew!), which is now selling (new) for a tad over $50. This article expounds how this relatively cheap device compares with much more expensive devices. Read More

At last! A MIDI ukulele

There are a number of MIDI-enabled guitars out there, but did you know now there is also a MIDI ukulele? Kudos to Maker Hart for their courage in developing the DU-one and EU-one instruments. They were kind enough to send me a free DU-one so I could write this review. Short version of this rather long article: it takes a lot of effort and frustration to get it to work, but in the end it is all worth it. Read More

Make a c-guitar

Or you can call it a cigatar, if you like, because we’re starting from a cigar box guitar, pictured at left. The point of this article is how to change its tuning so it can be played exactly like a ukulele, without having to buy new strings. This also works for a G6 baritone to C6 standard tuning conversion, if you have a baritone ukulele. Read More

Convert a ukulele to play in G

One year after I started learning the ukulele, I have learned to accompany many songs by strumming. But I still divide them into “easy” (key of C), and “all others” (any other key). This is because the basic chords involved in a song written in the key of C (C, F, G7, Am, Dm) are especially easy on the standard-tuned (gCEA) ukulele. But it turns out that the “easy” songs are only about half the songs in most books. One solution is to use a capo, but then the sound goes from tinny to tinnier, especially if the difference is large (say, a song in the key of G, which would mean a capo on the 7th fret; try that on a soprano!).

But I’ve found a better solution, and this is to get a second uke and turn it into a “cuatrolele” by simply swapping the order of the strings. As a demo, I have sound samples for a soprano uke originally tuned in C6 (gCEA), which has become a G6 (DGBe) g-ukulele, or “gukulele” for short. Read More

Guitar and ukulele sizes: all the numbers that matter

As part of the ukutar project, I looked for small guitars that I could turn into ukuleles, and found there is a bewildering array of names that often don’t describe very well the size of the instrument or how it sounds. Pictures are pretty much useless. In this article I present a table with most of the guitar and ukulele sizes I’ve found, and try to make some sense of the numbers. Read More

Make a ukutar

Here we go again with a “new” hybrid instrument. A ukutar is a guitar that wants to be a ukulele. It has four strings and it plays exactly like a ukulele, but it sounds rather like a guitar, with all that deep resonance that we love in the instrument. Read on to see how you can make one with a $30 budget. There’s also some sound samples. Read More

Make an octave ukulele

An octave ukulele is a 4-string instrument tuned like a regular ukulele (gCEA, with the g being one octave higher than one would expect), but a whole octave lower. It is still played exactly like a ukulele but it sounds more like a guitar, with pretty deep bass. For those of you who actually want to accompany your singing and don’t want the instrument competing with your voice, yet are too lazy to learn a new instrument and set of chords. In this post, I tell you a simple way to make one starting from a baritone ukulele. Read More

Make a cuatrolele

A what?

Well, there is the ukulele, and then there is the cuatro. So the cuatrolele is their love child. Essentially a ukulele that sounds like a Venezuelan cuatro, but can still play along with other ukuleles. The good news is that building one requires less than one hour of your time, plus a two-dollar budget ($38, starting from scratch). The result is a sweet-sounding instrument that your friends will want to borrow constantly. Read More