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Thread: Electronic stuff for dummies? (pickups and more)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014

    Red face Electronic stuff for dummies? (pickups and more)

    As the prospect of another stay-at-home order looms, (sounds like it in my area, anyway), and the possibility of working virtually again seems likely, I'm thinking of added ways to entertain myself over the winter. I keep wondering about things like pickups, which I assume would give me the ability to play with things like looping.

    So, for someone who doesn't even know what to look into, (that's how uneducated I am about it all), what would be a good place to start?

    A cheapie electric ukulele? And/or...?
    What are pros and cons of various pickups? Would I potentially regret having one installed in a current ukulele?
    What else would I need?

    Would it be complicated to learn how to play with things like loops?

    Anything that someone would like to mention about any of it all is appreciated. (Can't ask what I don't know to ask, so any input anyone thinks of is good. I need the "for dummies" version. )

  2. #2


    I have been wanting to get something like this too, but I know it is complicated.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2019


    Ukulenny recently did a workshop on looping. He saved it on Facebook:

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2017


    I'm in the same boat as you Joyful Uke.......Winter has arrived, Covid is running wild, and more restrictions are possible. Winter alone is enough to increase my " in home" time.

    My Roland AC-33 amp has a looper feature which I have so far never tried. I have been using my amp and playing plugged in since last April. I like using the chorus and reverb features to shape my sound. If I can't play with a group, at least it gives me a more rich and interesting sound. Some folks I play with on Zoom have commented that they like my sound and that it kind of sounds like more than one uke playing in a way.

    I guess it's time to start experimenting with the looper. I can see some pedals/gadgets in my future perhaps? My mom keeps asking me what I want for Christmas this year. Maybe some sound gear? I'll be watching this thread with great interest. Simple instructions for looper dummies is right where I'm at.
    My ukulele family.....
    KoAloha Koa concert - circa 2006 (Living Waters)
    aNueNue Moon Bird concert - Spruce & Rosewood - 2018 (Blackwater)
    Blackbird Clara - 2019 (Oasis Bright)
    Cocobolo concert - 2019 (Worth Brown)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Ames, Iowa


    I have a pickup in most all of my ukes. They are not hard to have installed and I've installed them myself. I don't buy an instrument anymore without one. If you aren't using them you aren't using them. I don't think acoustically it makes any difference at all so there is no down side to having one in your uke. I have them in all my guitars as well. I'm partial to the MiSi pickups. They are a little pricey and you can get a much cheaper setup. I just got one in a uke that I bought a long time ago and got along well with it so it has become the one I'm familiar with. There are lots of good ones out there. Loopers are fun. So are a lot of other effects you can run through your uke with a pickup.

    I've got amps and effects pedals, microphones, and all kinds of stuff. In fairness, I also have an electric guitar and it all comes with the territory. Right now I'm thinking about an interface for my computer. I'm looking at the Focusrite Scarlet. I would like to do videos and put them up on the internet. I'm kind of like you, I don't have any opportunities right now to get out and play so I'm looking for something to do during the winter while I'm stuck at home.
    Last edited by Rllink; 11-09-2020 at 05:22 AM.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Honoka'a, HI


    Perhaps more versatile and straightforward than a looper would be a USB microphone and Audacity/Garageband. You can either play the entire amount of backing track or, if you really wanted to make life hard, learn how to edit audio enough to copy/paste your part on to a grid and create a kind of loop.

    I think the flashiness of looping gear seems more appealing than it is, but really, all most players need for some practice is something to play along with. It's really great practice to sit and play something repeatedly for 10 minutes. Then you can save it for another time, something that's clunky to do with a looper.

    EDIT: Also, unless you're bang-on with your timing, you might end up spending more time starting/stopping the loop to get it punched in right instead of just playing some music.
    Last edited by Brad Bordessa; 11-09-2020 at 07:21 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I have never played a guitar in my life--electric or otherwise--so I don't know a lot about electronics. So this is not expert advise; it is more of an overview of what another novice did just to give other beginners some basis for comparison.

    1. I researched the difference between active and passive pickups as well as standard pickup brands such as MiSi and L.R. Baggs
    2. I bought a 75 watt solid state amp which digitally produces most of the pedal effects at a fraction of the price.
    3. I bought a fuzz pedal as well as a wah wah pedal to supplement the amp's effects
    4. I've often thought of getting a looper, but it just doesn't seem important to me right now since I can google any backing track I want and my metronome provides me with my beat

    That's it. Again, it isn't some prescriptive list of things you have to do. It is just what I did to get rolling in the electronic world.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Wisconsin, central USA


    Quote Originally Posted by Joyful Uke View Post
    As the prospect of another stay-at-home order looms, (sounds like it in my area, anyway), and the possibility of working virtually again seems likely, I'm thinking of added ways to entertain myself over the winter.
    Anything that someone would like to mention about any of it all is appreciated. (Can't ask what I don't know to ask, so any input anyone thinks of is good. I need the "for dummies" version. )
    JoyFul Uke

    I, too have struggled with the status of “amateur electronic stuff.” My ‘player’ status continues to be at the advanced beginner level…far and away from any public performance. That relieved me from any need to over analyze the tech specs of either amplifiers or electrified ukes.

    Having just purchased an Antica Ukuleleria UFOS for my grandson, we now also ‘share’ a Roland Micro Cube GX. I must say, it’s a real blast to go from a nicely amplified, typical acoustic uke sound, to a head banging rendition of “Smoke on the Water” using the British amp setting. :-)

    All that said, I / we are really happy with the $150 spent on the Cube GX, and I will likely purchase another so that my grandson can torment his parents. [ They originally denied his request for a drum set and a boa constrictor :-) ]

    I currently own a nice travel/thinline Kala SSTU-S soprano; surprisingly big, bold sound. I’ve also played the concert version. So, when I saw that Kala made an electrified version of the Tenor, I made the purchase. It arrived a few weeks ago and I’ve played it -hooked up to the Cube GX, and been delighted with the sound… with and without amplification. Didn’t have to deal with what pickup or electronics to buy…. Kala made that decision for me.

    The good news is that I no longer need it! … Last Monday I received a new-to-me gift of a Pono TE… a real WOW surprise. I will be putting up the Kala on the Marketplace later this week. It will be in original packaging, labels and all. I’ve got about $250 plus shipping in it, but will probably take much less. Ukes deserved to be played, and with the Pono TE now in possession, it will likely take on dust :-). PM me if you become interested.
    KoAloha KSM-10 Pikake ::: Kanile'a Islander MAPG-4-C ::: Kanile'a K-2 Super Concert ::: Kala KA-SSTU-S ::: Fender Montecito Tenor Koa ::: KoAloha Silver Anniversary KCM-00 #060 ::: Antica Ukuleleria Concert Libero ::: Pono TE-MD-R

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2020


    On the electronics and effects front - in terms of things like loopers, or recording, etc - there are a lot of very cheap and highly functional digital multi-effects units on the market these days, which would be a good place to start. They will typically include looping and just about any other effect you could think of. Many of them also have the proper interface to plug in to a mic-in port on a PC if you want to record or do things on your computer. These units aren't awesome quality, and people who are doing "real" recording or live performances may scoff at them in general, but when you are just getting started, don't know what you want, and need to experiment in order to learn, it's a really great place to start. Look at places like guitar center, sweetwater, etc and look for a category of "guitar multi effects pedal." Brands like Zoom, Boss, Line 6, etc. If you look for used gear on guitar classifieds forums you can probably get something nice in the $100 - $200 range.

    On the pickups front - it really depends on what sound you're looking for. An acoustic ukulele with a piezo pickup (usually installed as a strip under the saddle) will sound very much like an acoustic ukulele, just louder. Most are active, meaning there is a battery and a small preamp onboard. Some are passive - the pickup connects directly to the jack. Generally, active piezo pickups will give you a more even tone response. Some units just require the pickup and a jack mounted in place of your tail strap button, other units need a hole cut in the side for a control panel that lets you adjust the tone. If you want the "acoustic" sound, you can also skip the pickup entirely and just use a microphone. A solid body uke with a typical magnetic pickup will have a tone a little closer to an electric guitar (although by virtue of the scale length and string selection it will still retain some of the uke-like tone). It's worth noting that such instruments, with magnetic pickups, also need steel strings in order for the pickups to work - so the feel of playing one will be different than a traditional uke with nylon strings. The choice really just depends on what tone you want and what kind of instrument you want to play - everything "downstream" in terms of effects, amps, and so on is essentially interchangable.

    In terms of amps, again it really depends on what you want. Generally there are two or three classes of amps. Amps aimed at electric guitars have a lot of tone-shaping built in, basically to simulate the traditional expected electric guitar tone. If you want your uke to sound like an acoustic uke, an electric guitar amp would be a bad choice, since it'll roll off much of the characteristic frequency range. Amps aimed at acoustic guitars or basses are generally much flatter in terms of their tone response and preserve the sound of the instrument more accurately. If you want an electric guitar-like tone, get an electric guitar amp. Otherwise, or if you're not sure, try to stick with amps marketed at acoustic guitars or basses. Some modern electric guitar amps have typical electric guitar effects modeling built in to them (usually the basics like reverb) and most will have an overdrive channel meant to simulate a distorted tube amp tone. Worth considering if you want to go that route.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2014


    Lots to read over here and figure out. :-) That will be my first project.
    New restrictions put into place here, with likely more complete shut down coming after Thanksgiving. Trying to find the up-side to that, (as long as everyone I know stays healthy), and this will be it. Time to focus on this project. :-)
    Any and all input still appreciated.

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