View Full Version : New Technological Uke - populele

03-15-2017, 08:36 PM
Have you seen the ads for this ukulele...looks pretty cool. Good looking uke and I'm a sucker for gadgets. Thoughts?

03-15-2017, 09:37 PM
I think there is some things tech should stay away from. Not that it hasn't been done in the past with guitar and keyboard.

Its nice to use things that don't need updates, reboots, hassle you with notifications, get released yearly with incremental updates making the old thing outdated instantly.

Man/woman, wood and er nylon...

03-15-2017, 10:33 PM
Man/woman, wood and er nylon...

You can always use gut strings!

On a serious note, the ukulele was my escape from computers, tablets, phones, and other electronic devices. This is also why none of mine have a pickup, though there are times I regret that.

Rob Uker
03-16-2017, 03:47 AM
It looks expensive but It also appears to be of decent quality.
I would never disparage any learning tool. People learn in different ways.
I don't think anyone would rely on the lights for very long.

03-16-2017, 10:42 AM
The Ukulele Teacher has one of these and did a review of it. He had lots of positive things to say about it. Also, apparently you can do what you want with the lights (make a mini light show) which would be fun once you out grow the need for them to learn with.

One Man And His Uke
03-16-2017, 10:53 AM
I like the quirky look of it. Not for everyone I know, but quirky and different is good in my book. One of the reasons I bought a Flea. No idea what a Populele sounds like mind. That is the acid test. If it sounds good ;)

03-16-2017, 11:33 AM
The original Populele,

Southern Marylander
03-16-2017, 12:05 PM
CAVEAT: I am not a ukulele expert. I first held a ukulele on January 5, 2017. My experience is limited to a Kala KA-C and a Pono TT-4. I have no idea what I'm talking about. You've been warned.

The one video that I saw of the ukulele seemed to show that the construction wasn't that well done. Specifically, the connection of the neck to the body looked awful. Pause the Ukulele Teacher's review at 1:34 ( https://youtu.be/8q8ANU2_ocw?t=1m34s ) and look at the seam where the neck extension attaches to the body. It looks poorly glued with an unsightly gap to me. Again at 2:17 ( https://youtu.be/8q8ANU2_ocw?t=2m17s ). Compare how that looks to the Kala KA-C, which was my first ukulele ( https://www.amazon.com/Kala-Concert-Mahogany-Ukulele-Padded/dp/B00AN91I2C/ref=sr_1_2?srs=13995947011&ie=UTF8&qid=1489697799&sr=8-2&keywords=ka-c ). I would not be surprised to see this ukulele having issues very early in its lifespan, not out of carelessness of the makers necessarily, just out of a lack of experience that other makers have.

Keep in mind that at the listed price of $150 + shipping (for the first 200, 14 claimed so far... $180 after), this kind of sits well beyond beginner / toy ukuleles (up to ~$75) and at the top end of beginner / quality laminate ukuleles ($75 - $150), but below intermediate / solid ukuleles ($200 and above). It seems like it's more like a $75 ukulele at a much higher price. Now, that's not to say that this is a bad ukulele, depending on the intention of the player. If the player has never held an instrument before or has had difficulty learning chords or possibly if you just really love Guitar Hero / Rock Band and you know that's how you'll learn ukulele, then this might be a viable option. However, if the player is looking to get an instrument to possibly play in front of people (either locally or on YouTube), then I would say this is a no-go.

There are also a few other things to consider regarding the Bluetooth, which is where probably $100 of the purchase price is going to (combined with the app). Who makes the Bluetooth? What is the lag between the Bluetooth in the ukulele and on screen (this is why I don't watch YouTube videos on my phone through any Bluetooth speakers... they don't sync well)? I certainly understand the thrill of being an early adopter, but I've been in the technology world enough to know that for something like this, it's worth waiting for other early adopters to beta test, even if it means you pay a bit more down the line.

As a concept, I love it. As a physical thing to purchase right now, I'm not particularly sold.

CAVEAT REMINDER: Those are just a few of my random thoughts and I don't particularly know things.

03-16-2017, 01:12 PM
As a educator who speaks about technology in music education, I have been watching this device as it has been coming to market. I am a big fan of the Jamstik, which has other functionality after being used for its initial purpose (initially for non-guitarists, later as a Bluetooth USB interface for guitarists).

I don't see any functionality for this ukulele after its initial purpose..although the LED lights would be fun to play with (customizing messages, and so on). The Bluetooth functionality cannot be used to help the player tell if they play he wrong notes (feedback) nor can the device transmit MIDI data.

I'm just not sure it is a wise use of funds..I would likely tell people to invest in a equal (or better) instrument and some Aquila KIDS strings!

As for the Ukulele Teacher...I love his work and his impact--however I would caution that his review could be impacted by the receipt of a free unit.

03-17-2017, 03:10 AM
Folks, as a new user hear I'd like to offer my $0.02 (full disclosure I'm the main developer of The Ukulele App and business partner with John Atkin - The Ukulele Teacher.

Having recently joined the forum I'm interested in peoples feedback / thoughts about the Populele - I'm not the developer of the instrument or the associated app - but like John I've been given early access as we are promoting the Indigogo campaign via The Ukulele App)

It's my understanding talking to the company behind the Populele that production will start in the next couple of months so don't judge the final product on what are probably production prototypes.

That said I should be receiving my own instrument early next week and I'm happy to take and post as many photo's of my instrument as you want (post requests on this thread).

I would offer to record it playing - but I'm far from the best player in the world and I doubt I'd do it justice :) however if I can find someone to play it for me then I'll post that!

I've also been given a special link by the Populele people to get an extra $5 off the current offer price (I won't post it publicly unless requested - but I'm happy to share it via PM).

As a developer and tech nut I was initially very excited to hear about the learning possibilities of the instrument - granted it's not for everyone, or to everyone's taste - but I was initially inspired a couple of years ago when I saw the progress my young daughter made on a Yamaha keyboard that had light up keys and how quickly she learnt to play several different songs at age 10 using only the key lights. So inspired that I actually started plans to create my own bluetooth instrument / app combo (which eventually gave birth to The Ukulele App) - those plans got shelved late last year when a friend pointed out the Populele to me and since then I've been waiting to see the final device.

So in short - if anyone does have any questions or queries about the Populele or the associated app then either post below or send me a PM and I'll do my best to answer them.


03-17-2017, 05:44 AM
Here's another populele!



Edited to insert forgotten link!

03-17-2017, 11:49 AM
I don't know who the Ukulele Teacher is - never saw any of his videos before - but I watched this promo thing all the way through.

Okay, it is a cute, gimicky instrument. It looks nice. It might be great to learn from, especially for people who play video games like Guitar Hero (which I have never used.)

But I'm not a big fan of plastic fretboards, except on plastic ukuleles. And frankly, I didn't like the sound of the instrument in the video - it just seemed.... off.

No disrespect is intended to techdojo or the Ukulele Teacher, because they are on board with the promotion of a tool to help people learn to play an instrument, and that is cool. I just wonder about the market for the instrument, at that price point. If a couple of people get one, learn how to play, and others are impressed and jump on the bandwagon, and we see the joy of uke spreading, well then that is Great. But I, too, would like to see something beyond a prototype before I'd drop a penny on the project - and I have supported other ukulele projects in Indiegogo and Kickstarter in the past.


03-18-2017, 01:15 PM
Folks, as a new user hear I'd like to offer my $0.02 (full disclosure I'm the main developer of The Ukulele App and business partner with John Atkin - The Ukulele Teacher.

Jon, thanks for joining UU and for joining this thread. Thank you for making the Ukulele App, which I think is a great tool. I did pay to join pro mode.

If you are open to suggestions, I would love to see a Universal binary that worked iOS, a tuner that would listen to your pitch and perhaps indicate whether the string had to go higher or lower for a certain note (my students seem to have a hard time telling the difference), and I would love for videos to go to a PDF of the song (perhaps you would have to do an IAP to buy it, but you could do so).

All that said, I love what John has done for ukulele players all over the world, and he is particularly an inspiration for me as he isn't the world's greatest singer--yet he keeps singing. As a choir teacher I LOVE the message in that! Unfortunately, a large percentage of my students are forced into choir, and don't want to sing. It is GREAT to have them see a person who loves music and loves to sing, even if they aren't going to be invited to Carnegie Hall any time soon. I am wearing my Ukulele Teacher T-Shirt today, in fact.

As for the Populele, the only reason why I caution about the review is that it isn't clear if John (or the Ukulele Teacher Brand) is getting a kickback or sponsorship from the Populele company. There isn't anything wrong with that...the Ukulele Teacher channel brings a LOT of eyes with it. As a person who reviews technology (much lower scope of influence), it is hard for me to be tough on a product when I have received a version for free--and it would be harder still to be negative if I was paid for a review.

So...please do share more information about the Populele as you have it...and the big question many on UU would ask (a different audience than The Ukulele Teacher videos) is, "Why would I, as a non-beginner, want this ukulele," and, "Will this device REALLY help new users to learn how to play?"

03-19-2017, 07:45 AM
Hi Choirguy - thanks for the feedback (and doubly so for the app support :) )

I don't want to hijack this thread and make it all about the app but seeing as you asked :) (Hmm - I'm wondering if I can get permission to open an app support thread on UU - maybe in exchange for some free ad space for the UU forums?)

Anyway - I'm always open to suggestions, one of the main reasons I created the app was to become the app I was / still am looking for, to help me / any one start, develop and improve their playing on the Ukulele - for it to be a lifelong tool for players of all levels.

First off - Universal binary, it's on it's way - The app designer is working on a number of different layouts (most probably landscape) so we can present the screen in the best way possible, it won't be in the next release (which is due out in a couple of weeks) but will be in the one after that.

As for responding to pitch - that is absolutely on the list, however at the moment it's not technically possible with the dev tools I used to make the app, I am currently investigating new tools that will allow me to add in that functionality and it'll be the first thing I add when I am able (currently the app is a part time side project for me - if I'm ever lucky enough to make it a full time deal then you can expect a lot more updates a lot more frequently).

As for PDF's that's a whole different can of worms - it's been the single most requested feature and as much as we would LOVE to be able to provide the song sheets within the app - it's vital that we do it in a way that's legal and not going to get us in a whole raft of copyright trouble. We're in the process of talking to copyright attorneys as to how best to approach this but I for one am not going to do anything that opens the app (or me personally) up to fines potentially of over $100,000. I know a lot of sites show lyrics and provide song books for "personal use" but with the app being a commercial product I don't know how we can achieve that without complicated licence agreements and paying out massive amounts in royalties, amounts that would cripple us at the moment - I know a LARGE portion of all ad revenue generated from John's YouTube videos is held back by Google and distributed directly to the licence holders to protect us (and anyone else who covers copyrighted music on YouTube) from copyright infringement notices. However please, Please, PLEASE if anyone knows any copyright lawyers who can help us find a way to be able to achieve this in a realistic (and economically viable way) then please get in touch via PM.

It's funny you mentioned that about John's singing - it was one of the first things I mentioned to him and still rib him about from time to time as well :). In fact I think his "realness" is part of his attraction - I know he'd be more than happy to know he's inspiring more people to get into any kind of music.

Also (again full disclosure) yes it was a paid promotion for the Populele (it's mentioned at the start of the video), but John is fiercely protective of his brand and wont do anything to jeopardise that, so the quality of the Uke was a big deal for him and he would rather have walked away rather than promote an inferior product. In fact one of main reasons John and I have been talking to the Populele people is to discuss the possibility of directly supporting the Populele from within The Ukulele App - something that won't happen if neither of us feel that it's not a combination that provides real benefit to both our userbase and Ukulele players in general.

Side note - If anyone else has any ideas as to how The Ukulele App can provide benefit or help to players of any age / ability then please don't hesitate to send me a PM.

To answer your final point - I would say to start with the instrument / app is definitely aimed at beginners - as a tool to learn basic chord shapes and to be able to follow simple chord progressions as well as strum along to songs I think it's ideal - especially when the concepts are introduced via games / fun activities, anything that makes people want to pick up the uke and have "one more go" has got to be a good thing.

As for more advanced players I don't know (geek factor maybe - after all Jake Shimabukuro did call the Ukulele the Smartphone of Instruments :) ), personally I've been looking to the FretLight guitars and their apps / videos for inspiration as to how I personally would develop things - so for me, the ability to learn chord shapes up and down the fretboard, be able to play any scale in any key, have custom fretboard fingering exercises, extended chord progression sequences (that's in the next Uke app update BTW), integrate strumming patterns with a metronome, program your own extended fretboard sequences (and make them shareable with other app users), have video tracks with embedded fret data - these are all things I could see as being useful - although NOT being a pro uke player I'd be open to have UU users tell me what they wanted the instrument to be able to do.

Thanks (and sorry for the long response) - and as promised I will share more info about the Populele as soon as I get my hands on one!

03-19-2017, 09:05 AM
Interesting and cool concept, a natural next step in making stringed instruments easier to learn. It's also a moment where I stop and remember how different it was learning an instrument pre-internet, heck pre CD for that matter. Drop the needle on the record. First you had to figure out what key the song was in, tune your guitar to the record, maybe stereo pan to one side where you could hear the guitar part better. It could take hours but wow it was exciting when you figured it out. Having to wrestle with it all I'm sure made us better musicians.

03-21-2017, 12:59 AM
Whilst I agree that "doing it the hard way" will eventually make a better musician there is an inherent barrier to entry that will dissuade a lot of people (I've seen the same in a lot of different hobbies / industries). To my mind what the Populele offers is a way to lower that barrier to entry and make basic skills available to a lot more people which I feel is ultimately a good thing.

That said - I did get my Populele yesterday and as promised here are some photo's I took last night. Enjoy and feel free to post any follow up questions / requests for more info.


03-21-2017, 01:02 AM
And some more...


03-21-2017, 01:18 AM
I have a few more but apparently I've exceeded my quota :(

I'll find some way to post the rest online and share a link

My initial thoughts is that the uke is well made - I think it might be a concert sized uke but it seems to have 17 frets (which I thought was a tenor).

Looking over the instrument, the comments made earlier about the join between the neck and the body are unfounded, the internal bracing and kerfing looks clean and well made - there's no mess or extra glue on the inside that I could see. The body feels nice and the next is nice and smooth and has no sharp edges. When turned on the fretboard lights up to show the usual 3,5,7,10,12th frets and there are printed markers on the side.

It comes with Aquilia strings although it's a bit too early to tell how well it holds it's tuning or what the intonation is like.

I was able to get the device to pair with the app fairly easily (just hold down the button on the side until you see a bar move down the fretboard - then start the app) - despite the app being mostly in Chinese (I have an early release version of the app as well).

The lights are fairly bright and do the job they're intended to well.

It's easy to "draw" your own patterns on the fretboard and the "dazzle" modes work well - basically they use the phone microphone to record input levels and sends an "equaliser" style pattern to the lights - just talking was enough to get it to register.

One thing to note is that when you turn the app off the lights seem to go off as well, so you'll need to leave the app open if you want to keep "dazzling" :)

There is a library of songs (mostly foreign) and some games that seem to work well (I only had a short time to play with this) and as the app seems to use the microphone to work out what's going on I think the app might actually work with any Uke (I'll have to test this out later).

The games part seem to be a cross between the Yousician (strum chords as the chord passes through a "gate" to score points) and the Uke'oke apps, there are different "levels" ranging from beginner to advanced.

That's all I have for now, if anyone has any specific requests / questions then please post below or send me a PM.


03-21-2017, 01:28 AM
Links to external gallery for the remaining pictures - enjoy!

https://s28.postimg.org/ngbvmglnd/IMG_0277.jpg (https://postimg.org/image/ngbvmglnd/)

https://s28.postimg.org/ivpp7j1y1/IMG_0279.jpg (https://postimg.org/image/ivpp7j1y1/)

https://s28.postimg.org/rf935aaah/IMG_0280.jpg (https://postimg.org/image/rf935aaah/)

https://s28.postimg.org/da3a3h195/IMG_0281.jpg (https://postimg.org/image/da3a3h195/)

03-21-2017, 01:29 AM
Last set

https://s28.postimg.org/ny712bb89/IMG_0282.jpg (https://postimg.org/image/ny712bb89/)

https://s28.postimg.org/l5dtiaavt/IMG_0285.jpg (https://postimg.org/image/l5dtiaavt/)

https://s28.postimg.org/5xxtxxj15/IMG_0288.jpg (https://postimg.org/image/5xxtxxj15/)

05-08-2017, 05:20 PM
It's looks like it might be fun but I'm not paying nearly three times the Xiaomi price to back it on IndieGoGo.