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Frank The Scarlet Goat
05-16-2015, 04:15 PM
Hey everyone, I'm planning on building my first ukulele. However, as I'm already satisfied with my acoustic uke, I want to make a full electric, and on top of that, a semi-hollow ukulele. Now I bet you're thinking "This Australian guy is insane!" but it doesn't end there friends, the body is also to be made of aluminium (or aluminum to the Americans among you).

Now the body holds no obstacle, I'm fully capable of making that part and I'm going to approach my uncle to construct the neck (experienced with making guitars) from wood. What I actually want to know is, do you think that I would be better off using a piezo pickup or a magnetic pickup, or both? I'm gravitating towards the magnetic due to my familiarity with them, but I'll admit, a piezo is a hell of a lot cheaper. the other thing is that a piezo with on-board EQ will drastically alter my design (making it noticeably thicker, which I'd like to avoid).

Next thing is the neck, I'm wondering whether a bolt-on or a through configuration would be better. I think I'd go with the through but I'm really not sure.

Lastly, I want to put steel strings on it, and the only strings I've found seem to only come in standard for a baritone. Can these be tuned to non-baritone standard? Better yet, are there strings that can be tuned to standard? Sounds dumb but I've got no evidence for the latter

TL;DR Building electric semi-hollow uke from aluminium, need advice on pickups, neck and strings

Booli
05-16-2015, 04:43 PM
Hey everyone, I'm planning on building my first ukulele. However, as I'm already satisfied with my acoustic uke, I want to make a full electric, and on top of that, a semi-hollow ukulele. Now I bet you're thinking "This Australian guy is insane!" but it doesn't end there friends, the body is also to be made of aluminium (or aluminum to the Americans among you).

Now the body holds no obstacle, I'm fully capable of making that part and I'm going to approach my uncle to construct the neck (experienced with making guitars) from wood. What I actually want to know is, do you think that I would be better off using a piezo pickup or a magnetic pickup, or both? I'm gravitating towards the magnetic due to my familiarity with them, but I'll admit, a piezo is a hell of a lot cheaper. the other thing is that a piezo with on-board EQ will drastically alter my design (making it noticeably thicker, which I'd like to avoid).

Next thing is the neck, I'm wondering whether a bolt-on or a through configuration would be better. I think I'd go with the through but I'm really not sure.

Lastly, I want to put steel strings on it, and the only strings I've found seem to only come in standard for a baritone. Can these be tuned to non-baritone standard? Better yet, are there strings that can be tuned to standard? Sounds dumb but I've got no evidence for the latter

TL;DR Building electric semi-hollow uke from aluminium, need advice on pickups, neck and strings

I've done some hack-builds and for the pickup, it depends first on the strings, which you said would be steel, as nylon strings will not be heard at all with a magnetic pickup.

Then is to decide how you want it to sound.

A piezo will have more of an acoustic sound, and be more prone to both string noise, instrument-body noise as well as feedback. There are many variables to the installation and configuration, and you will need to research them as well as experiment.

Magnetic pickups for 4 strings can be had relatively cheaply from CB Gitty (they have both 4-pole, and 6-pole magnetic pickups, as well as piezos) or for a little more money from Moongazer Music, with the proper string spacings for various instruments, or you can get a set of bass guitar pickups, that are a split-humbucker design, and use one or both, but the string spacing and pole-pieces may not line up exactly so you might need to set the pickup at an angle in order to get them in alignment with the strings.

You can use an external preamp like the Behringer ADI-21 or Behringer Mic100/Mic200 for either kinds of pickups which will run you $30-50 and can be used with more than one instrument (but only one at a time) so you dont have to install it into the body of the instrument.

Also, if you want a volume and tone control, CB Gitty sells them, even pre-wired for both magnetic and piezo pickups, and installation only requires a hole in the body for each shaft and a small cavity with space to run the wires.

You might find lots of hints and guidance from fellow UU member Dainel Hulbert, who has shared many of his builds here on the forum and has a blog and many youtube videos with demos of the instruments he has built. Maybe you should search his posts here on the forum, and even contact him for advice.

As far as the neck-thru options, I've only ever hacked a pre-built instrument, so I have no experience in this area, but I am sure that others here can advise you on that function.

Also, StewMac has many free wiring diagrams as well as all the parts you might need, but can cost more than other suppliers.

Please share your progress when you get something going. I'd love to see what you come up with. :)

Frank The Scarlet Goat
05-17-2015, 09:25 PM
I've done some hack-builds and for the pickup, it depends first on the strings, which you said would be steel, as nylon strings will not be heard at all with a magnetic pickup.

Then is to decide how you want it to sound.

A piezo will have more of an acoustic sound, and be more prone to both string noise, instrument-body noise as well as feedback. There are many variables to the installation and configuration, and you will need to research them as well as experiment.

Magnetic pickups for 4 strings can be had relatively cheaply from CB Gitty (they have both 4-pole, and 6-pole magnetic pickups, as well as piezos) or for a little more money from Moongazer Music, with the proper string spacings for various instruments, or you can get a set of bass guitar pickups, that are a split-humbucker design, and use one or both, but the string spacing and pole-pieces may not line up exactly so you might need to set the pickup at an angle in order to get them in alignment with the strings.

You can use an external preamp like the Behringer ADI-21 or Behringer Mic100/Mic200 for either kinds of pickups which will run you $30-50 and can be used with more than one instrument (but only one at a time) so you dont have to install it into the body of the instrument.

Also, if you want a volume and tone control, CB Gitty sells them, even pre-wired for both magnetic and piezo pickups, and installation only requires a hole in the body for each shaft and a small cavity with space to run the wires.

You might find lots of hints and guidance from fellow UU member Dainel Hulbert, who has shared many of his builds here on the forum and has a blog and many youtube videos with demos of the instruments he has built. Maybe you should search his posts here on the forum, and even contact him for advice.

As far as the neck-thru options, I've only ever hacked a pre-built instrument, so I have no experience in this area, but I am sure that others here can advise you on that function.

Also, StewMac has many free wiring diagrams as well as all the parts you might need, but can cost more than other suppliers.

Please share your progress when you get something going. I'd love to see what you come up with. :)
After a bit of research, I managed to find some pre-wired magnetic cigar box pickups for $20 AU, which is perfect.

I'm definitely getting an external pre-amp, probably the ADI-21 as I like Behringer stuff.

I'll definitely post pics of my progress and give updates when I can but I'm still in the planning and logistics stage.

Thanks for the reply :cheers:

Sven
05-17-2015, 11:03 PM
With a body of aluminium, I'd say a bolt on neck in the telecaster style seems easy. If the body machined from a block of metal.

mvinsel
05-20-2015, 11:57 AM
I'll be curious how the aluminium works out regarding shielding your magnetic pickup coils. Do you plan to have the whole body & neck as the ground?

BTW, the online spec sheet for the RISA steel string electrics give recommended steel string gauges for GCEA & DGBE & other tunings for tenor size.

-Vinnie in Juneau