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

Guitar vs. ukulele

I am the kind of guy who has a musical interest but not a whole lot of musical talent, or at least not a whole lot of musical training. I have begun to learn guitar many times, always to give up with some frustration or another. Sometimes it was the pain in my fingers, other times the inability to make any chords that sounded half decent, still other times said fingers getting tied up in knots as I attempted to move from one chord to another. But I think I’ve found a way to end this. If you have a similar history, you may want to read on. Read More

How to (almost) learn to play guitar

Perhaps your story is similar to mine. Having missed that crucial period in my teens when all my friends were learning to play guitar (because I was studying, or so I tell myself), I’ve tried many times to catch up and accompany my (arguably) good voice with a stringed instrument, and always failed, for different reasons. In this article I try to explain why, and how I got some traction eventually so that I finally (almost) succeeded. Read More

Make a banjo

Lately I’ve been quite taken by string instruments, and collected four ukuleles, of different kinds, in a very short time (they’re so inexpensive!). I was going to acquire a fifth one, a banjo ukulele or banjolele, when I realized that I would save a lot of money if I made it myself from Chinese parts ordered over the Internet. A lot of waiting for parts, but about two months later the instrument is ready and it sounds awesome. This article will tell you how I made it while hardly possessing any luthier skill, in case you want to do the same. Read More