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
If you have been following this blog, you certainly know that I’ve been kind of crazy about the ukulele for the last three years (though perhaps not as much as George Harrison, in the picture). Now, locked up at home because of the coronavirus pandemic and with more ukuleles within reach than cats in the home of a British spinster (no relation to George), I’ve finally sort of put it together, perhaps for your enjoyment and even moderate edification. The result is no less than what I believe to be the fastest route to learning to play an instrument at a mature age. It may come in handy for the many folks who, perhaps because they comb white hairs already, are in no hurry to leave their hiding holes and breathe the (arguably pathogen-laden) fresh air. Read More
Well-known fact: the standard-tuned ukulele is pitched higher than a guitar. In fact, one of the ways you can get a ukulele of sorts from a guitar is by putting a capo on the 5th fret (and avoiding strings 5 and 6). But did you know that there are other ukulele tunings, some of which are higher, while others are lower? In this article, I try to put some order in this mess, coming along the way with a number that might help you decide how to tune your ukulele. Read More
Those of us who have attempted (rather unsuccessfully) to learn guitar and ended up learning the ukulele sometimes miss the “fuller” sound of the guitar, which makes it appropriate for sadder songs, just to mention one possibility. The re-entrant high-G tuning of most ukuleles doesn’t help much in this regard, but if you are, say, in a gig situation where you are going to amp the instrument anyway, there’s an inexpensive solution that will supply the “missing strings” without having to change your uke or your playing style at all. It’s called an “octaver pedal.” Read More
I have this thing for making a guitar sound like something different, like a piano, or a marimba. Those instruments produce short, “plucky” sounds like a guitar, so why not? One way to achieve this is to output MIDI instructions from a guitar, which has been attempted with rather limited success ever since MIDI was invented. Well, I’m happy to report that the wait might be over for the majority of us guitar (or ukulele) hacks. It’s a gizmo called “TriplePlay Connect,” and you can get it for under two hundred bucks. In this article, I make a pretty thorough review of it, including how to connect it for the quickest best results. Read More
No, it’s not a tongue-twister. Rather, it’s a new cool-sounding tuning that you may want to try. Ingredients: a baritone ukulele, an extra guitar 5th string (or baritone uke 4th). It sounds particularly good using a capo. Read More
By “baritenor” I mean a tenor-size ukulele that rather sounds like a baritone. Why do this? Because you can always get the standard uke sound from a baritone by simply putting a capo in the 5th fret, and you get two ukes for the price of one. Ideal for traveling, except that baritones are a bit too large to stuff in a suitcase. The solution? Tune a smaller uke like a baritone, or close to it. I’ve found that a tenor uke works well as a starting point, with good results. The baritenor set, plus a couple wound strings for the basses, should also work well to make a good-sounding guitalele with standard tuning.
A couple years ago, I wrote a post on how to make a banjolele starting from parts bought here and there. I’ve simplified the process to make a 4-string banjo, and it has turned out so well that I just had to share it.
One of the appealing qualities of the ukulele is that it sounds “sweet” to many people. Perhaps this is why it became so popular in Hawaii, from where it spread to the rest of the world. Musicologists explain that this perceived “sweetness” is the result of close harmony, made possible by the 4th string typically being tuned one octave higher than it would be normally. In this post, I delve into other re-entrant tunings (some already known, others not so much) that can be applied to a ukulele or similar, with sound samples. Perhaps there’ll be some that appeal to you. Read More