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View Full Version : Electric Uke advice please..



plucky
05-21-2016, 02:32 AM
I'm getting interested in having an electric uke but this has raised a few questions, Firstly, is the style of playing the same as an accoustic model or can the tone be altered to suit different types of music? Also I see that there are some sort of pick up attachments for a regular accoustic,. I intend visiting a local music shop where I can hear different sounds and effects but I'm a firm believer in asking the end users before talking to a retailer. I'd be really grateful for any help and comments on the subject to help me decide what is best for me. Thanks Guys......

Rakelele
05-21-2016, 02:53 AM
If screaming rock riffs are what you'd want it for, you'd have to go with steel strings and magnetic pickups, like the Risa LP or Vorson. Most other electric ukes will have nylon strings and undersaddle pickups to sound like regular ukuleles; they can be run through effects, of course, but distortion fades away rather quickly, in my experience.

DownUpDave
05-21-2016, 03:18 AM
As Rakelele pointed out there are two seperate animals here. One is like a solid body electric guitar but with 4 strings and the second is an acoustic ukulele with a pick up installed in it so you can plug it into an amplifer. Which one were you referring to???

If you are referring to the solid body type with steel strings then "yes" playing style is different. They sustain FOREVER and you have to learn how to dampen out the ring. Try playing your standard C, F, G down up down up song and you will go crazy. If you are into fingerpicking, leads, riffs or solos then they shine.

Griffis
05-21-2016, 04:24 AM
Can't really add much to the chorus. Not sure if you mean a solidbody electric such as something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/Vorson-FSUK1BK-Style-Electric-Ukulele/dp/B00GXMYYF6/ref=sr_1_1?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1463840092&sr=1-1&keywords=electric+ukulele

...which will be very much like an electric guitar and will work well with effects pedals, loud amps, rocking out, or if you mean something like the more common acoustic/electric (or A/E uke) which is essentially a ukulele with a piezo or other sort of pickup, often an EQ panel and can be played both unplugged or amplified:

http://www.amazon.com/Kala-Mahogany-Soprano-Acoustic-Electric/dp/B00WL4E26G/ref=sr_1_1?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1463840530&sr=1-1&keywords=acoustic+electric+ukulele

...beasties like these can also take effects pedals, be played distorted/fuzzed out or whatever, but they will of course be more like an amplified small, high pitched classical guitar rather than an electric guitar designed more for rock.

You could certainly use either type of electrified uke to cover many different styles, but it would help us if we knew more what you had in mind/what uses you see it being applied to.

Rakelele
05-21-2016, 04:54 AM
There are some slim body ukes without a soundhole as well; they avoid the feedback issues, but work much like an electro-acoustic instrument. For example the Ko'olau CE as well as its more affordable version, the Pono TE, and Lanikai has started making something similar with their Manana and Makapu'u models. I've also seen them from Imua. Here's a video of the Pono:


https://vimeo.com/160792403

Croaky Keith
05-21-2016, 05:09 AM
There are electro acoustic, & then there are electrics, with nylon or steel strings.

If your interest is mainly in a uke sound the electro acoustic will work with or without an amp, which can have effects that will work.

A nylon strung solid body uke, like a RISA solid/stick, can be used quietly for practice, or plugged into an amp, with or without effects.

A steel strung uke will sound like an electric guitar.

:music:

kissing
05-21-2016, 06:34 AM
This will be more or less summarising what others have stated already, but broadly speaking there are two broad categories of "electric" ukuleles that are regularly seen.

1. Nylon string, piezo pickup

This includes both ACOUSTIC-ELECTRIC ukuleles and SOLID-BODY ukuleles.

They both use piezo pickups, which are the pickups of choice in most acoustic-electric instruments.
They produce a signal for the amplifier by converting the physical vibrations of the strings (usually via a piezo bar underneath the saddle, or a transducer on the soundboard) into electric currents.

These are designed to closely reproduce a clean acoustic tone of an instrument.

Acoustic-Electrics are basically just normal acoustic ukuleles with a pickup installed.

Solid-body electrics are dedicated to be played electrically and produce little acoustic sound but usually produce a superior sound through the amplifier.
The solid structure of the body improves the amount of vibration energy transferred to the piezo pickup, resulting in greater volume, sustain and clarity than a similar quality Acoustic-electric.

Furthermore, solid-body electrics will always be less susceptible to unwanted "feedback" produced at higher amplification settings compared to acoustic electrics.

Example of an acoustic-electric ukulele plugged in (played by me):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDEOs_hpqVg

Examples of a solid-body electric ukulele (nylon strings):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNIimZxy3iw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tqY6OPtJzQ

As you can see, solid body nylon string electrics can be made to sound like an electric guitar by using electric guitar amplifiers and effects.
However, they are not quite ideally suited for that.

You can do the same with an acoustic-electric, but it won't sound as sustained and the amplified sound may be susceptible to feedback.

In summary, an acoustic-electric is designed for faithfully replicating natural acoustic sound.
A solid-body with a piezo pickup has the same purpose, but is a bit more flexible with using it as an "electric" instrument.



2. Steel strings, magnetic pickups


These are what I would call "true" electric ukuleles, when compared to the guitar family of naming instruments.
These are basically 4-stringed electric guitars that are the size of an ukulele and are tuned like an ukulele.

Basically this allows you to use the ukulele exactly as you would use an electric guitar.

They use the same strings as electric guitars, hence the tension and feel of the strings will feel like an electric guitar, rather than an acoustic ukulele.
In contrast, you could say nylon-string ukuleles feel like a classical guitar.

This kind of electric ukulele will sound the best when you're wanting to make electric guitar sounds.

Examples (by humble me):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkpn5bN2l1M
https://youtu.be/FwdW-IEqJ4M?t=29

plucky
05-21-2016, 09:43 AM
A big thanks to everyone who replied..... this has been a great help to me. I am not looking for an electric guitar sound, so it looks like it will be more of an electric/acoustic type I would need. I do like to play a general selection of music on my present Tenor but I'm not looking for special sound effects. The general idea was to be able to perhaps adjust the tone by electrical means so that the typical Ukelele sound is kept for the George Formby sort of stuff but being able to make the instrument a bit more mellow sounding for lullabies and that sort of thing. Perhaps this is not possible with an electric/acoustic setup, the Tenor is certainly loud enough for home entertainment so maybe I have reached a stalemate, perhaps a low G might be the answer........ back to the drawing board eh?
Once again, many thanks for the help and time spent giving me the information.... really do appreciate it folks. In the meantime, best regards to you all from a budding ukulele player on a windy and rainy evening in York area of the UK.

Ukulelerick9255
05-21-2016, 10:31 AM
Have an L.R. bags 5.0 installed and play it through a high quality acoustic amp or through a good PA system.

Booli
05-21-2016, 03:58 PM
...The general idea was to be able to perhaps adjust the tone by electrical means so that the typical Ukelele sound is kept for the George Formby sort of stuff but being able to make the instrument a bit more mellow sounding for lullabies and that sort of thing.

All of that can be done on an acoustic ukulele by learning/using a different playing technique, of which there are MANY, AS WELL AS via electronic means with an equalizer to reduce the cutting treble sound and make the uke sound softer, even WITH an acoustic uke, recorded with a microphone, using controls in the program that recorded the audio.


Perhaps this is not possible with an electric/acoustic setup...

It seems you are confused and do not understand the excellent explanations with demo videos given above by kissing.

All of what you want is possible. There is some technique you would need to learn, both on ukulele, and with recording software, and if you go the solid-body electric route you have the additional options of the controls built-in to an amplifier, or with the use of 'guitar' effects pedals, ALL of which work perfectly fine with ukulele, as proven by all of us here and they other folks on YouTube that have used them.

Maybe go back and have another look at what kissing said in his post - I'd hate for you to miss out on an easy answer to your question.

kissing
05-21-2016, 10:19 PM
A big thanks to everyone who replied..... this has been a great help to me. I am not looking for an electric guitar sound, so it looks like it will be more of an electric/acoustic type I would need. I do like to play a general selection of music on my present Tenor but I'm not looking for special sound effects. The general idea was to be able to perhaps adjust the tone by electrical means so that the typical Ukelele sound is kept for the George Formby sort of stuff but being able to make the instrument a bit more mellow sounding for lullabies and that sort of thing. Perhaps this is not possible with an electric/acoustic setup, the Tenor is certainly loud enough for home entertainment so maybe I have reached a stalemate, perhaps a low G might be the answer........ back to the drawing board eh?
Once again, many thanks for the help and time spent giving me the information.... really do appreciate it folks. In the meantime, best regards to you all from a budding ukulele player on a windy and rainy evening in York area of the UK.


If you want to adjust your tone by electrical means, it sounds to me you are looking for a high quality acoustic-electric or a solid body electric.

But you will also need an amplifier that is capable of shaping the tone (a good quality acoustic amp), or perhaps even an acoustic preamp as well if you wish to shape your tone even more than what an amp offers.


You have several options.

1. You can get a pickup installed on your current ukulele.
You can spend as much or as little money as you want.

Spending lots of money: Get a professional quality active system like the LR Baggs 5.0 or Mi-Si installed.

Spending less money: Get this inexpensive passive piezo and depend on your amplifier or preamp to fine tune
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Piezo-Pickup-ARTEC-PP404U-for-Ukulele-PREMIUM-QUALITY-/331610291574

Note: This same pickup is sold elsewhere by a well known ukulele company for $99 when under their own brandname.



2. Buy a good quality nylon-strung electric ukulele
Some of the best in my opinion are:

http://www.theukulelesite.com/pono-te-tenor-electric-acacia.html

and

http://www.theukulelesite.com/godin-multiuke-chambered-solid-body-tenor-electric-package.html

Coupled with good quality amplifiers, these will give you the capability to greatly modify the sound of your ukulele.



You can also achieve this on a good quality acoustic-electric, however I don't recommend an inexpensive one that comes with a cheap, generic pickup and onboard preamp (such as the Kala). They have been disappointments in my experience, though some have been salvaged by personally replacing the cheap undersaddle unit with a better one.

plucky
05-21-2016, 11:07 PM
Thanks Guys.... Yep, I need to study the options carefully and make sure that I understand what is available to me, then I can visit my local supplier and see what they are able to supply. After this weekend I will have more time to spend looking through all the posts in detail. Thanks for your time..

Best Regards to All.

cml
05-21-2016, 11:12 PM
Or you can build your own :): https://circuitsandstrings.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/building-a-travel-ukulele/

DownUpDave
05-21-2016, 11:37 PM
A big thanks to everyone who replied..... this has been a great help to me. I am not looking for an electric guitar sound, so it looks like it will be more of an electric/acoustic type I would need. I do like to play a general selection of music on my present Tenor but I'm not looking for special sound effects. The general idea was to be able to perhaps adjust the tone by electrical means so that the typical Ukelele sound is kept for the George Formby sort of stuff but being able to make the instrument a bit more mellow sounding for lullabies and that sort of thing. Perhaps this is not possible with an electric/acoustic setup, the Tenor is certainly loud enough for home entertainment so maybe I have reached a stalemate, perhaps a low G might be the answer........ back to the drawing board eh?
Once again, many thanks for the help and time spent giving me the information.... really do appreciate it folks. In the meantime, best regards to you all from a budding ukulele player on a windy and rainy evening in York area of the UK.


If you are looking for a mellow warmer sound then switching to low G will certainly do that for you. That would be the cheapest and most effective way to change the sound of your existing ukulele.

kissing
05-22-2016, 02:02 AM
Well if you prefer high-G as it is, then changing the brand of strings to a more mellow set would do the job too!

D'addario Pro Arte clear nylons are my goto strings for mellow!

plucky
05-22-2016, 09:47 AM
It's good to know that there's plenty of advice available on the forum. I'll yell again when I get stuck ( which I'm sure will be fairly soon) At least I've got plenty to research now.... Thanks again Guys.

bnolsen
05-22-2016, 01:45 PM
here's a sample of someone playing metal on an acoustic:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8o6dDJHImWs

Booli
05-22-2016, 01:58 PM
here's a sample of someone playing metal on an acoustic:

[video/snipped]

Man have I gotten old. When I was like 12 yrs old I would have loved to blast that kind of music at a neighborhood-rattling volume, much to the pain of my family, along with AC/DC, KISS and other 'acid rock' as my mother used to call it...

Mind you, I'm not knocking the style of music by any means, but now, I can barely tolerate 10 seconds of such heavy distortion without reaching for the mute button...

How have I changed so much???? :old:

I guess I'll be cripple soon too.

HEY KIDS - GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!!!!

bnolsen
05-23-2016, 02:19 AM
Man have I gotten old. When I was like 12 yrs old I would have loved to blast that kind of music at a neighborhood-rattling volume, much to the pain of my family, along with AC/DC, KISS and other 'acid rock' as my mother used to call it...

i dont like that video much either but the guy is able to dial in a heavy metal electric guitar sound with a simple cheap kala.

Croaky Keith
05-23-2016, 02:28 AM
I think that video just shows how much fun can be had from a uke! :)

(....& I'm knocking on 66.) ;)

kissing
05-23-2016, 03:44 AM
here's a sample of someone playing metal on an acoustic:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8o6dDJHImWs

It is not difficult to achieve that with any acoustic instrument.
It's just as easy to do on an acoustic guitar or classical guitar with a decent undersaddle pickup.

Is it ideal? Not really.
But it's doable and kinda fun.

Works sooo much better with a solid body electric though.

joneo
06-03-2016, 06:57 AM
If you are still researching options, here are two specific, very different examples. Both solid bodied instruments, the SB Fluke by the Magic Fluke Co. has nylon strings, no tone controls, and sounds about as close as you can get to a traditional hollow bodied ukulele. The Kona Blasters by Blue Star have steel strings and magnetic pickups, and are basically the equivalent of an electric guitar. Both are handmade by small businesses in the U.S.A., and have similar price points. Personally, I went with the Fluke partly based on recommendations in this forum (thanks to kissing and others) and I am really glad that I did. However, if I was looking for more of that "electric guitar sound" I probably would have gone for a Kona Blaster.

http://www.magicfluke.com/Fluke-SB-Electric-Ukulele-p/fluke-sb.htm

http://bluestarguitarcompany.com/ukuleles/1811901

Lori
06-03-2016, 07:20 AM
If you really don't need the amplification for performing, I would stay simple and just get more ukes. Find a good banjolele for the the Formby sound, and then go low G with a Koa or Mahogany uke for mellow tones (tenor size). When you have to hook up to an amp, and maybe other boxes, things get complicated. It is just easier to pick up another uke, and you will be more likely to play (unless you keep your electric system set up and ready to play).
–Lori

JackLuis
06-03-2016, 08:08 AM
You can get a piezo pick up that clips on the head stock and play with the sound with video or audio software. It's a cheap way to experiment and the one I bought (for $5 on Flea-Bay) works with my computers mic input.

Inksplosive AL
06-03-2016, 06:48 PM
After playing a nylon stringed solid uke with a piezo pickup through a Digitech RP360 and adjusting the settings for such a hot pickup I assure you that yes you can get an acoustic uke sound out of it. You can also get screaming guitar like distortion if wanted.

Plugging in my steel stringed Kona Blaster with magnetic pickup the signal is much more compressed and dead when compared.

I'm not very good but this is what can be had from a Risa stick soprano through the RP360 with a set of Aquila reds as far as a heavy guitar sound. Steel strings are way overrated. My KB soprano gets zero play.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuSuzkNuPYc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6GvhxR4M9A

I'll admit I did cheat a bit down tuning to e A D G... lol

Of course if you already have acoustic ukuleles you like and are really only looking to record, an iRig acoustic through a Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 can sound like this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDas0zjzMBs I put the recorded file into Reaper on my computer and cut off an unnecessary bit but anything can be done to it. Of course any effects can be added after recording such as an echo or reverb. Other tablets or phones with a microphone jack can be used but my Lenovo was the only tablet I have that worked. Its an android tablet and I used an app called rec forge lite as it works in landscape mode. Other voice recorders work as well but most are made for phones.

Let us know what you choose.

~peace~

plucky
06-04-2016, 09:02 AM
Hi All and thanks again folks for the input. I've enjoyed seeing the videos and listening to the variations which are possible with the Ukulele - seems like there's something to suit everybody's taste in musical styles. I mainly play at home for my own entertainment apart from the occasional family parties, so I'm not really into high amplification. I do like a variation in tone though, my Soprano gives a good George Formby effect, and the Tenor has a nice ring to it so maybe the idea of having another Tenor with a low G is the solution. Since I started with the Ukuleles I don't touch my acoustic guitar and banjo much at all - I've really got hooked on the smaller instruments which not only sound great but are also easier to manage for ancient fingers. (In case anyone is wondering, I've had mine for 79 years this month) Anyway, glad to hear how much people enjoy playing the 4 string.... keep it up folks whatever your style of music is. :music:

PTADavid
12-14-2016, 02:50 PM
Sorry but I just could not find where to do a new post. So, I'm looking for a "silent" baritone nylon string uke. Does Risa, or anyone else, make a baritone stick ukulele? I've checked out the Pono but it has a chambered body so it's too loud unplugged for late night playing. I see that Harmonia / Sojing make a Silent Ukulele but again, not in baritone. I own a baritone Eleuke but the intonation is terrible and it has steel strings. Thank you.

Croaky Keith
12-14-2016, 10:15 PM
If you already have a uke, try putting some foam under the strings at the bridge, or weave a bit of cardboard between the strings, it may do what you want. :)

Tootler
12-15-2016, 10:53 AM
I like the Risa ukes. I have a Uke'Ellie. I actually have two, a soprano and a tenor but I mostly play the tenor. Solid body with under saddle pickup. No on board preamp so you either have to put them through a pre-amp or pedal(s) but you then have plenty of scope to play with the sound.

Here's some examples

Clean through a chorus pedal: https://youtu.be/eyJhVSzq_Eg

Clean through an acoustic preamp: https://youtu.be/x4M9hojYU9A

Through an overdrive pedal with delay and chorus: https://youtu.be/-Q49lgNtkb4