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DaviHumbl
10-24-2015, 08:21 AM
Evening all,

I have been playing ukulele for a couple of years now and recently started to do some open mic nights with my Kala. I have always liked the idea of making my own ukulele, but the standard hollow body approach looks beyond my ability and capabilities. As im happy with the ukulele i have, im looking to make a ukulele which is a little different with a specific theme - repurposing old furniture, scrap items etc - basically the things now obsolete in society. Im looking to stick to wooden items and preserve them as much as possible in most cases. Hopefully artistic and beautiful rather than novelty :)

As the acoustics on such a project would be terrible, im going to aim for an amplified approach. I have an old scrap electric guitar and i am trying to avoid buying anything new - only scrap or obsolete. This leads to my questions:

I am looking to use an undersaddle pickup but for my first project, I doubt i can fit a pre amp - and for my budget I suspect it would sound awful anyways. Would an unpowered undersaddle pickup linked directly into a jack socket work if played through an external amplifier?
If yes, would it also work if i added a volume knob in the circuit? Would a normal electric guitar one work?
Finally, if I instead used steel strings, would an electric guitar humbucker work or would I need a specific one for ukulele due to the width of the pickup?

Any help or advice much appreciated.

Allen
10-24-2015, 08:51 AM
Go with a MISI undersaddle pickup. They have a built in preamp, so if you can install the endpin jack, you shouldn't have any trouble installing the MISI.

DaviHumbl
10-24-2015, 09:01 AM
Thanks Allen. In honesty thats a god old chunk outside of my budget and at this point im not even confident my first project will even be in tune so just trying to look at the low end at the moment until the rest of the quality gets in line :)

LASERMAN
10-24-2015, 09:11 AM
look at this pre-amp:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/LC-4-Bands-Acoustic-Guitar-Preamp-EQ-pickup-Tuner-Piezo-/191719529640?hash=item2ca35fdca8:g:TWkAAOSwGzlTtQB 6

if you want to go real easy, here's one you can stick on and plug directly into your amp.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-Upgrade-Piezo-Contact-Stick-Microphone-MIC-Pickup-For-Guitar-Violin-Banjo-Ukul-/161297669124?hash=item258e171c04:g:t1MAAOSw91NTuji d

here's a simple under-saddle with a jack attached:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/High-Quality-Under-saddle-Rod-Piezo-Pickup-Pin-End-Jack-Harness-For-Ukulele-New-/300932792444?hash=item4610fe007c:g:0SwAAOxyWalR36H O

Putting a volume knob o the straight-to-jack pickups don't work too well - adds more noise than it's worth. You can always use the knob on the amp.

Hope this helps.

DaviHumbl
10-24-2015, 09:31 AM
Thanks Laserman. The third one is exactly the kind of thing i was going for as I could add it quite discreetly. I assume if that was plugged directly into an amp it would work? I am concerned it may be too quiet where a normal electric guiar pickup for example may produce a higher voltage signal to be heard.

rudy
10-24-2015, 11:13 AM
Evening all,

I have been playing ukulele for a couple of years now and recently started to do some open mic nights with my Kala. I have always liked the idea of making my own ukulele, but the standard hollow body approach looks beyond my ability and capabilities. As im happy with the ukulele i have, im looking to make a ukulele which is a little different with a specific theme - repurposing old furniture, scrap items etc - basically the things now obsolete in society. Im looking to stick to wooden items and preserve them as much as possible in most cases. Hopefully artistic and beautiful rather than novelty :)

As the acoustics on such a project would be terrible, im going to aim for an amplified approach. I have an old scrap electric guitar and i am trying to avoid buying anything new - only scrap or obsolete. This leads to my questions:

I am looking to use an undersaddle pickup but for my first project, I doubt i can fit a pre amp - and for my budget I suspect it would sound awful anyways. Would an unpowered undersaddle pickup linked directly into a jack socket work if played through an external amplifier?
If yes, would it also work if i added a volume knob in the circuit? Would a normal electric guitar one work?
Finally, if I instead used steel strings, would an electric guitar humbucker work or would I need a specific one for ukulele due to the width of the pickup?

Any help or advice much appreciated.

If you're investing your sweat equity in making any instrument then you should consider the quality of anything you use. I would personally advise staying away from all the eBay stuff, sound-wise and longevity-wise.

Since you're concerned about producing an acceptable tone you might consider a K&K Big Island single disc or at least the JBB equivilant. You can see the specifics for how to mount them on my uke construction tips page here:

http://www.bluestemstrings.com/pageUke1.html

A normal volume pot will not function well with a piezo element of any type due to the piezo's high impedance nature. Save your money and real estate.

Your best bet is to run your transducer directly to a output jack and then feed a pre-amp or other device that can be used to control your volume. A pre is really necessary to impedance match the transducer to an amplifier or PA input unless it has an input designed for high impedance transducers.

As far as making a steel strung version with a humbucker, that's really a description of a functionally limited electric guitar. I'm not sure you would be happy with putting all that effort into getting that far away from the sound of an actual ukulele.

LASERMAN
10-24-2015, 01:45 PM
I have used a LOT of those under-saddle pickups from Ebay - with NO ISSUES. I buy them in lots of 10. I have also installed several of the tuner-type pre-amps (not exactly the one I linked to, but similar). Never had a complaint. The last set I got had Ibanez labels on the battery covers. Lastly, a transducer is a transducer, as far as the frequencies we are talking about. You would have to show me a spec sheet before I would believe that one brand is that much better than another. The cabling attached to it probably affects the performance the most.

rudy
10-25-2015, 02:56 AM
I have used a LOT of those under-saddle pickups from Ebay - with NO ISSUES. I buy them in lots of 10. I have also installed several of the tuner-type pre-amps (not exactly the one I linked to, but similar). Never had a complaint. The last set I got had Ibanez labels on the battery covers. Lastly, a transducer is a transducer, as far as the frequencies we are talking about. You would have to show me a spec sheet before I would believe that one brand is that much better than another. The cabling attached to it probably affects the performance the most.

Sorry to have offended you. Forums being what they are, there are always wide variances in opinion on virtually any subject.

I've been making instruments and occasionally installing transducers for somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 years so I offer my opinion based on my personal experience. The OP stated "Any help or advice much appreciated" so I contribute in that spirit. Advice given on any topic must be weighed, and the OP will certainly do so and make their decision on what rings truest to them. A bit of forum searching here will certainly yield past information on what the average user has installed and if they were happy with the results. The vast majority of forum topics will show a strong bias towards either K&K or JBB for piezo "stick-on" transducers as well as many who prefer them over USTs. Such is the nature of the informed consumer, and those results weren't based on users randomly deciding on a transducer technology.

I only offer my opinion on Ebay stuff based on two purchases; one being an instrument-mounted pre-amp and one a under-saddle guitar pickup. Two different sellers were involved and needless to say I did not use either. The pre-amp definitely didn't instill confidence that I would want to actually invest time or effort adding it to an instrument and the UST cable had braided ground conductor that would actually disintegrate and break as the cable was flexed. You can probably guess where that one ended up. I guess I'd have to just say "YMMV" when relating Ebay electronics. I'm sure there must be a lot of great stuff out there. I just haven't noticed many touring musicians or leading manufacturers using stuff imported cheaply from China.

The OP can only take diverse opinions given and use it to reach an informed decision on what to purchase.

LASERMAN
10-25-2015, 05:08 AM
Hey Rudy - I didn't mean to sound harsh - I was brought up in New York - Sorry:)
You are correct that there are different opinions here - perhaps I just got lucky with my Ebay stuff. My first Ukulele was an Ibanez, and it had that style tuner-preamp. I found some online that were just like it, down to the Ibanez on the battery case. They were quite cheap and they serve me well. I have been putting transducers on pianos since the late 70s, and while it's not my first choice for a uke, some people seem to like it, and it works great for a piano. I have no idea how any of this stuff would hold up to professional, full-time use. If you can afford the good stuff, by all means go for it. But it the poster sounded like he was looking for a budget solution.

photoshooter
10-25-2015, 10:22 AM
I've installed piezos on about 7 ukes so far. These include a MiSi, three Joyo preamps and three passive. If you're looking to save money you can grab an Artec passive unit. I have one installed on a Kala concert and it works just fine if you plug into an amp. Running through an external preamp gives you more flexibility in shaping the sound.
The link below is for a US seller, the cost is under $10 shipped. If you decide to add an external preamp later look up the Behringer ADI21 on Amazon. It's $30 and works very well. For the record I tend to think like Rudy. I'm making a solid body uke and based on the amount of work I'm putting into it I intend to use a MiSi. Just my preference; higher end pickup for higher end uke and vice versa.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/331610291574?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

sequoia
10-25-2015, 05:59 PM
I'm not really into pickups in ukes, but I'm installing an L.R. Baggs 5-O in my latest. We shall see...Below is a really good comparison of pickups done by HMS which entailed a lot of work and gives a good feel for the different pickup available. Aloha.

http://www.theukulelereview.com/2013/04/13/ukulele-pickups-5-great-options-compared/

DaviHumbl
10-26-2015, 09:36 AM
Thanks for the information all. For a first build which i expect to be terrible, some cheap chinese electrics will probably be the highest quality components :)

While i have the build planned, I have also been looking at some other options with scrap wood including a one-piece solid body ukulele made from several strips of mahogany and cedar glued together. A bit like a Tahitian Ukulele in terms of style, but no acoustic element.

Would anyone have any suggestions as to potential thickness i should use for the body? I was thinking of only using nylon strings so considered that a 1 inch thickness may be sufficient?

Patrick Madsen
10-26-2015, 10:24 AM
My Chennell archtop bass came with an Artec passive undersaddle. I was terribly disappointed in the sound and took it to my luthier for suggestions on changing out the pickup. He said it needed a preamp or my amp just wasn't good enough. It was a Fender Rumbler15. So I figured it was the amp.
I bought a Phil Jones Double4 75watt bass amp. Incredible as it weighs 8.9 lbs and can work off a comp. battery. A good sound but not much volume. So I went on the Talkbass forum for suggestions. Again, they said the Artec is a fine pickup but it needs a preamp to match the impedance.

I bought a Baggs preamp and it made all the difference. The bass has become one of my favorite instruments to play and the piezo pickup makes it sound like a standup bass.

I've gone from thinking the Artec pickup was faunky to now considering putting one in my archtop baritone uke. I learned a lot on the differences of piezo and active pickups. If you want the sound to be more natural; a piezo may be the way to go. I'm really naive on pickups so this thread has really been informative before my next one to install.

bookoo
10-26-2015, 02:52 PM
A preamp is almost a necessity with a piezo. There are signal-level AND impedance issues. If you plug a piezo directly into a guitar amp, you're likely to be extremely disappointed with the sound quality and level.

You can get a kit that includes an onboard preamp, or you can get the simple piezo-wired-to-jack system and get an external preamp.
I have an early electric-acoustic guitar with no preamp, and it sounds pretty lame plugged in (even though it is an awesome acoustic), and drastically quieter than any A/E with preamp or an electric guitar. Those are heavy steel and bronze strings on a dreadnought guitar. I would imagine the problem would be seriously compounded by nylon strings on an ukulele.

sequoia
10-26-2015, 05:19 PM
The L.R. Baggs FIVE.O Ukulele Pickup System has an onboard pre-amp. Like anything, you gets whats you pay for and for the price (high) it should be good... Oh and a peizo is a high impedence output. My eyes always glaze over when the impedence issue arises. I just remember it is a vitally important issue when I was shopping for mikes many, many years ago. It has something to do with that sparky thing called electricity. Or something. This is why I just do acoustics.