View Full Version : Anyone play steel string electric ukes?

01-18-2010, 03:56 PM
Having played around with plugging the uke into an amp, I have grown a strong interest in electric ukuleles.
They're just so much fun and suit my tastes :)

So I thought why not venture the electric ukulele full-on by getting a steel string one, just like an electric guitar.
I got to play an Epiphone Mandobird just yesterday at a music store, which is an electric mandolin with 4 strings (I have seen people tune it like a uke on Youtube), which was a lot of fun to play around with. The steel strings hurt my fingers as I'm used to Nylon, but that's something I can grow into. Since it's a mandolin, the neck was narrow with the strings close together, which I didn't like. And the action is painfully high.

So at the moment, I'm saving for a Risa steel string electric. I have a while to go to get the $'s, but the time may work to my advantage as apparently they have yet to release a new Les Paul design with humbuckers.

But I have heard so little about steel string electric ukuleles here, and was wondering if anyone has played them/own them or are interested in them :)
If anyone's played them, I would love to hear about what they're like.

And if you were in my position, would you go for the current model, which has single coil pickups (lipstick) or the newer ones which will have humbucking pickups?

01-13-2011, 12:47 PM
Ive had people tell me ukes aren't "legit instruments". They were just plain dumb.

01-13-2011, 02:55 PM
I am building one right now- it is my first. It will be a concert scale Pineapple and for the time being, I like the vintage sound of a single coil PUP, which I also have installed in my lap steal (also built by me). These represent my first foray into building anything, but my ears are well trained and I have a lot of Lap/pedal steel exposure. Admittedly, I am a newbie to strings, and electric strings, and Pick-ups, but I am also a scientist, meaning that I pour over everything out there and read and read- typically way over done.
Really simplified, the Humbuckers produce a fat, warm sound and are easier to deal with, because they "buck the hum" associated with single coil PUPS. If you want to play modern music, this is a great choice (although any sound can be obtained with the right effects set-up). The single coils are going to be BRIGHT. I love that sound- rockabilly, western swing, jingle jangle...vintage Hawaiian lap steel. They are harder to wire correctly, can be problematic (hummmmmm), but I can't get over how good a forties steel sounds, so they are for me.
While not possible on my design for the lap steel- I do plan to make the PUP swap-able on the Uke. Figure I route an accommodating cavity and make two pick-gaurds and I can have either or...but I am not there yet. There is also the possibility for my case of doing both Humbuckers and a single coil with a switch, but I have to see how that might look before I get that crazy.

01-13-2011, 04:42 PM
I had a Mandobird tuned as a ukulele - as you say, the fretboard is very narrow, and after a while I got to dislike it, and eventually sold it.

I bought a Risa Les Paul (with humbuckers), and I absolutely love it. Well made, beautiful fretboard and a delight to play. I get lots of comments, as it just looks so good (even from diehard guitarists). I run mine through Amplitube (so I can get any effect I want), and it is an absolute riot in terms of fun. I'd highly recommend one.

01-13-2011, 07:25 PM
Risa Les Paul is a thing of beauty-someday
Unfortunately I spent all that money on tools...so back to the man-cave I go
On a happy note- my lap steel is AWESOME- played it tonight for the first time, and I know I can build an electric uke now :)

On the Mando-bird, i have heard without a truss rod that tuning is hit or miss...verify? Little neck does not bug me as it is the same as my banjo uke and I quite like it

01-14-2011, 12:08 AM
Lol I made this topic a whole year ago. Check the date.

Within that time frame, I now own 3 steel string electric ukes, both the regular and Les Paul tenor from Risa, and a 8-string baritone uke stratocaster :D
I'm lovin' it :D Steel string electric ukes rock!

02-28-2011, 07:01 AM
I love the Risa "artist's pallet" shaped model, tenor. I also use a silver wound .18 C string too. I use this uke with a Fender Princeton Reverb amp. I have attached a video from last year with me playing this set up with my band the Tiki Cowboys.



02-28-2011, 07:43 AM
I seem to recall that many years ago (1950s?) Gibson made electric uke strings that were nylon impregnated with iron filings, so they worked with magnetic pickups. Anyone know more?

02-28-2011, 11:32 AM
See Risa tenors above, burst and black, well I have a red one...have a black strap with red chili peppers on it. Awesome, but little uke sound.