View Full Version : Yes, it can be done

03-21-2011, 04:15 PM
I have been working on converting a baritone ukulele to bass ukulele.

NOTE - I am not calling this a UBASS out of respect for Kala and their quality instrument(s), so please let's call this a "Bass Ukulele", thanks.

Anyway here are pictures of this project. I won't include all the steps, just the highlights. I got help from several people around the net and did quite a lot of research before starting.

Started with a Rogue Baritone Ukulele from Musician's Friend $30.00



Next came the parts;

RoadToad Pahoehoe strings, the Low Tension set $24.00

A set of Ashbory Tuners from largesound.com $20.00
(I also had to buy some more screws because I dropped the originals "somewhere")

The piezo / preamp came from ebay but this is the item $40.00

continued . . .

03-21-2011, 04:17 PM
I removed the bridge by popping out the plastic dots covering the screws, removing the screws, and CAREFULLY removing the bridge with a razor scraper.

The headstock MUST be sanded down to fit the Ashbory tuners. Also, two need to be "flipped" (pop out button shaft and flip over) because the Ashbory tuners are 4 in a row not 2 by 2 like normal ukuleles. I used an electric sander for this.

Originally I though sanding the uke down and staining it would give a nice improved natural look but alas, the wood did not absorb the stain evenly so don't bother, just prime and paint.

Next I cut out the hole for the preamp (adding some reinforcing strips made of paint stir sticks). drilled out a hole for the output jack, and filed the nut slots wider (I fudged the E and G slots outward to give me more room).

I used Duplicolor automotive paint. I had not worked with this before and when they suggest you spray 3 light coats three times then let dry a couple of days, do it! I did not prime it which would be best especially if covering the original finish. Then many coats of Clear Coat (again Duplicolor).

I made the bridge out of (you guessed it) paint stir stick and the saddle from Corian samples I ordered ($10 for two 3" sq samples). I filed the bottom of the saddle so it sits over the piezo strip (which is round) yet firmly on the wooden bridge.

The tailpiece I made from a wooden business card holder I picked up at Goodwill for less than a buck. The tail piece is screwed onto the top but not glued. Under the top I placed a brace (again, pain stick) that was glued as the tail piece was screwed on.


Here is the finished bass uke and closeups of the headstock preamp, and tailpiece/bridge.


Note the creative use of a Scruncci to keep the interior strings angled.


continued . . .

03-21-2011, 04:18 PM


The strap is a long cloth belt (also Goodwill) and is attached using the (in)Famous Ukenukem Velcro technique.

I have not developed the courage to trim the excess string yet. These Pahoehoes really stretch but you can pull them and re-loop to quicken the process.

It plays like it should, a might touchy but that is the nature of the strings and I did make the action lower than normal. I noticed I have to fret the strings toward the low side between the fret wire otherwise I get more growl than I like. It takes a very light touch to get a clean sound and I'm experimenting with both finger plucking and using a rubber pick.

Amazingly, it is acoustically louder than I thought it would be. Loud enough to practice and MAYBE play with ONE quiet uke or guitar.

One other thing, you really do need to use FingerEase on the strings, they are quite sticky. As well, I put some the whole length as I noticed as I plucked with my right hand, the strings (especially E & A) would roll under my finger tip and throw off my timing. The FingerEase not only lets your left hand slide normally but makes the right hand plucking natural.

I don't have a bass amp so I've just been playing it softly though a Roland MicroCube. At first the D & G strings were much lower in volume than the E & A strings but as the higher strings tightened up that has lessened. I also like the sound of the active piezo much more than a passive.

So, was it worth it? I think so. I got a very usable bass uke and had fun in the process, not to mention learning a lot as always happens. Final price will be as follows.

Baritone Uke (Volunteer/Victim) $30
Strings $24
Ashbory Tuners $20
Piezo / Preamp $40
Paint $35
Foam Case (eventually) $50
Total $199

mm stan
03-21-2011, 04:51 PM
Aloha Bob,
Wow another use for the rogue baritone...it has a strong neck for the added tension....and has good volume too....must have been a fun project....any sound samples?? thanks for sharing...MM Stan

03-21-2011, 08:15 PM
Looks like a fun instrument. I'm curious about the slant of the bridge - it seems backwards to me. How's the intonation?

03-22-2011, 03:58 AM
Sorry, no sound sample yet. I'm not really set up properly for recording. Several folks noticed the bridge right away. Yes it's slanted the wrong way but that's the way it gets the closest intonation. Likely the thickness of the strings has the most impact but since that picture I have readjusted it and it is straighter (though still backwards).

Since the bridge is not attached, it is easy to lift the strings an pull it out so I might work on filing angles where each string sits to get it closer. The E string is quite sharp at the 12th fret, the A slightly flat, and the D/G are spot on. I thought that would be a good starting point as I'd be more likely to play runs on the upper strings.

When I first got the Rogue Bari, I tuned it up and tested the tension. It felt quite high to me and now with the Pahoehoes, they don't feel anywhere near as tight.

03-22-2011, 05:47 AM
You did a great job on that conversion. Too bad you are not set up for a sound sample. Are you happy enough with the sound?

03-22-2011, 08:34 AM
I posted my attempt at a bass 'ukulele conversion earlier here:

I took the easy way out, and made as few modifications as possible. The standard strings I used don't have the stickiness of the short scale E and A strings and still seem to do the job. I am not fully satisfied with the simple piezo mike I used, so I'm considering the same mike/pre-amp as UkeNukem.

03-22-2011, 03:45 PM
Acoustically it has more than enough volume for practicing. My wife even said she could hear it in the next room (with the door open). I wish it sounded as good through the pickup as it does naturally but that's a comment many musicians have made (and will make) about amplified acoustic instruments.

As I play it more I am getting used to the feel / touch required to get the right sound so by the time I get some audio or video I'll be able to show it off better.

On a side note, I posted links to this thread on related areas of the talkbass.com forum and the Ashbory largesound.com forum to show off the UU experience! :smileybounce:

04-04-2011, 04:38 PM
I rigged up a new piezo pickup made of three discs, 1/2", 1", & 1.5", wired in parallel. I used a pre-made piece of coax with a 1/8" mono plug and then an adapter for the 3/32 to the preamp. The best I could do for placement was right into the sound hole in back of a brace, three in a row with the small one on the E string side. I think the large one is in the center. Vast improvement! Now the balance slightly favors the top strings but since I don't have a bass amp it is hard to tell if that is the whole picture.

Here is a video at an open mic using the original pickup for reference. My fingers kept rolling off the fat strings!


04-18-2011, 01:43 PM

Since I had intonation issues with the bridge I created four individual bridges that float so I can adjust each string. Works well but the volume is lower, so I may eventually make a combination of the two where the individual saddles sit on another larger piece to spread out the contact with the top.


10-04-2011, 05:27 AM
I had an idea over the weekend to turn a Rogue baritone uke into a bass uke, and was searching the web. Well, this page came up. I am curious, did you ever go about finishing up the bridge? I figured intonation was going to be a nitemare with this project and had a bridge idea in mind, which is along your thinking. If you made the new bridge, and wouldn't mind, could you please share some pictures of it? Also, I was thinking of making mine with a tailpiece that attaches to the endblock and have a floating bridge, similar to a mandolin or archtop guitar.


10-05-2011, 05:43 AM
Well, if you check my link above (post #8) you'll see that it can be done even simpler.
It's a great little instrument no matter which method you choose.


10-05-2011, 07:49 AM
I saw yours, and was pondering that too, but these are fairly cheesy made ukes, and I kind of like the idea of the floating bridge and tailpiece. I'm making this for my brother-in-law, and he is hard on any bass, so I thought my way would add more longevity to the bass.


01-02-2012, 02:58 PM
This little bass turned out well enough that I've been playing it in my band as we try to get a performance list together. I did modify the bridge making a piece that sits on the top and in which four adjustable blocks move to intonate the strings. Today I also added a short plastic tube to extend the E string beyond the end block to increase the tension. The E string was much looser than the others and thus was lower in volume through the pickup. Sounds better now. Here is the demo although the amp is very low powered.


01-03-2012, 04:13 AM
Awsome stuff! thanks for posting...

01-07-2012, 05:33 AM
Here's another vid on the details of the bridge, end block, preamp, and sound hole. Sorry but it's a little fuzzy. If anyone needs really clear pix just PM me and I'll see what I can do.


The spacer I added to the E string really improved the volume. Now the A string is noticeably lower so I may add a spacer the that as well, perhaps half the depth of the other one. If I was to do this again I guess I'd make a two piece end block so the strings have more equal tension. or maybe just angle the block (hmmmm).

01-10-2012, 01:55 PM
Here's my recent attempt to convert a uke to a bass uke .. I'm calling them "BAZZUKA" ... This irst prototype needs a violin type of sound post bracing fitting insid the body to brace the soundboard to the backboard, theory is that with a violin it increases the sound 'voulme' bay inducing the backboard to also resonate...( it was mentioned by the guy on TV program aboutnmaking a scrapyard orchestra on uk tv just before xmas) but I might not work on an instrument where the back is braced against the players body and dampened..

In any case it wil stop the board warping under the strain of the through-the -body stringing...

Then the action needs very slight adjusting at the nut and the intonation needs tweaking - but with this bridge arrangement that's easy enough.

Please let me know what you think:

01-17-2012, 09:57 AM
Great "outside the box" thinking. You have to experiment to get any instrument to sound as good as it can and sometimes little teaks make a big improvement. Keep at it!

09-19-2014, 02:51 PM
Looks like Ashbory no longer sells their tuners