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Thread: Electric Uke Question

  1. #1
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    Default Electric Uke Question

    Hello Everyone -

    I have a few quick questions about electric ukuleles that weren't well answered after a few tries with the search feature. The biggest among them is this:

    "Which, if any, of the electric (i.e. solid-body) ukuleles (preferably concert or tenor, but any size will do) sounds like a "traditional" ukulele (and not a capo'd guitar)?"

    I'm very curious, because the majority of the jamming I do is with electric guitarists. I love my fluke, but it really just can't keep up as is. I've considered adding an acoustic pick-up to my uke, or even just buying an acoustic-electric ukulele (I'll probably do that anyway, damn UAS :P), but I figure if I can get the sound of a uke, and the crazy effects of a guitar, I'd be in a very happy place.

    Thoughts?

    PS - Feel free to post links to ANY uke. I'm not worried about price, though if it's an uber-expensive custom, I'll probably just have to be content with drooling from a distance.

  2. #2
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    I'm not a tech-head or anything, but you're talking about e-ukes with steel strings and magnetic pickups right?

    If you want to sound like a ukulele, you need to play an ukulele. I'm not knocking e-ukes...but that ukulele sound comes from the nylon strings. So when people want to jazz up the ukulele by making it a solid body electric, they will typically make it guitar-like with steel strings and magnetic pickups--that changes the sound.

    You can make an electric guitar sound like an acoustic guitar through an amp by using a transducer, because its same strings and same vibration principle.
    If you want a solid body electric uke to sound more like an uke, its my opinion that you need nylon strings with a good transducer.

  3. #3
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    I don't have one of those solidbody electric only ukes like a bugsgear, so I can't comment on the sound of those. However, I do have acoustic-electrics. And when I feel like some effects, I run them through a Line6 M13 pedal modeling board all the time. I love that thing, gives me so many effects in a neat package and for not a lot of money (relative to buying all of the real pedals and effects.) I can add distortions, fuzz, wahs, delays, echos, reverb, synth effects, chorus, phasers, comp, and basically whatever I want. Does it sound much like a uke after all the effects? Well, if its only a reverb or delay, and maybe a bit of chorus, then yeah, it does. Put in too much distortion, and it just doesn't sound too good.

    I had a time when I liked doing all kinds of crazy effect stuff with my uke, but I'm sort of over it. Mostly just use a bit of reverb to make the sound a little less dry now, if I'm using any effects at all.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornfedgroove View Post
    I'm not a tech-head or anything, but you're talking about e-ukes with steel strings and magnetic pickups right?

    If you want to sound like a ukulele, you need to play an ukulele. I'm not knocking e-ukes...but that ukulele sound comes from the nylon strings. So when people want to jazz up the ukulele by making it a solid body electric, they will typically make it guitar-like with steel strings and magnetic pickups--that changes the sound.

    You can make an electric guitar sound like an acoustic guitar through an amp by using a transducer, because its same strings and same vibration principle.
    If you want a solid body electric uke to sound more like an uke, its my opinion that you need nylon strings with a good transducer.
    I'm just talking about e-ukes in general. It seems a lot of them are steel-stringed, but I'm not exclusively referring to those. It does make a lot of sense though - that aif you use steel strings, guitar pick-ups, and more guitar-like bridges, you'll get a guitar-like sound.

    So...if I want a uke that can do it all (or at the very least, handle sounding like a uke, and occasionally rocking out without horrific feedback), I need a good transducer and nylon strings? Well...what is an example of a good transducer? Would an Uklectric qualify? (link: http://uklectic.com/electric_tenor_ukulele.html)
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  5. #5
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    The Ovation Applause UAE20 acoustic/electric incorporates "Adamas holes", which project the sound outside the strings, instead of underneath them. These ukes can be played amplified with a lot of gain before feedback. I own two and they are my favorites for performing. They have a very natural sound, but can be played loudly on stage before feedback occurs:

    http://folk-instruments.musiciansfri...ele?sku=516727


  6. #6
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    It's also built in a tenor version:

    http://folk-instruments.musiciansfri...le-?sku=516719


  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by experimentjon View Post
    I don't have one of those solidbody electric only ukes like a bugsgear, so I can't comment on the sound of those. However, I do have acoustic-electrics. And when I feel like some effects, I run them through a Line6 M13 pedal modeling board all the time. I love that thing, gives me so many effects in a neat package and for not a lot of money (relative to buying all of the real pedals and effects.) I can add distortions, fuzz, wahs, delays, echos, reverb, synth effects, chorus, phasers, comp, and basically whatever I want. Does it sound much like a uke after all the effects? Well, if its only a reverb or delay, and maybe a bit of chorus, then yeah, it does. Put in too much distortion, and it just doesn't sound too good.

    I had a time when I liked doing all kinds of crazy effect stuff with my uke, but I'm sort of over it. Mostly just use a bit of reverb to make the sound a little less dry now, if I'm using any effects at all.
    Ah. Well...it's sort of like putting an acoustic-electric guitar through a lot of effects, right? If you hit that with too much distortion or gain you're going to get your ear blown off, and it doesn't seem like doing the same thing to a uke would give different results. My question for you then, is this: can you get a bluesy / mildly crunch sound out of an A/E without feedback? Or are you more or less restricted to clean playing? Granted, if you use enough effects on anything, it won't sound like the source, but it'd be nice to at least have the option of switching from cleana uke to blues machine to whatever, as desired.
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  8. #8
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    Personally, I would not go with an uke with steel strings. I don't play the uke with a pick, and I imagine playing a steel string uke with bare fingers wouldn't feel so good. Instead, I second ricdoug's suggestion. I've got a tenor version of that Applause. And although I never play it at high levels of amplification, it does work well, and I have never had feedback problems with it. And if you want even less feedback, yes, Pete's ukelectic would work.

    What kind of music do your electric guitar friends play?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricdoug View Post
    It's also built in a tenor version:

    http://folk-instruments.musiciansfri...le-?sku=516719

    I've heard good things about this instrument, sound-wise. Is the battery any easier to change, though? (I heard on the Jumping Flea / Ian Chadwick's blog that this uke had some serious ease-of-use problems in that department.)
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by FromTheWayside View Post
    Ah. Well...it's sort of like putting an acoustic-electric guitar through a lot of effects, right? If you hit that with too much distortion or gain you're going to get your ear blown off, and it doesn't seem like doing the same thing to a uke would give different results. My question for you then, is this: can you get a bluesy / mildly crunch sound out of an A/E without feedback? Or are you more or less restricted to clean playing? Granted, if you use enough effects on anything, it won't sound like the source, but it'd be nice to at least have the option of switching from cleana uke to blues machine to whatever, as desired.
    Ah, I've done the acoustic-electric guitar with lots of effects before. I brought my Rainsong OM1000 guitar to my friend's place, not knowing that his brother really wanted to do an electric jam. So we ended up all plugging in to a Fender Twin Reverb. It was my first experience with a tube amp and holy cow, we needed ear protection. I plugged my guitar into his Tonebone Hot British tube pedal (which is a super sick effect if you're willing to spend the money.) And although it was loud, and I was sitting just a few feet from the amp, I was lucky because my guitar's LR Baggs's onboard equalizer had some anti-feedback controls. I don't remember what they are called and am too lazy to get out the guitar now, but it cancelled that feedback right out. I'm pretty sure my ukes would all have been feeding back like crazy. But there's always that option of getting rid of feedback through equalization.

    But I think that FacemeltingUkulele on Youtube stuffs his KoAloha sceptre with foam to eliminate most of the feedback problem.

    And to answer your question, you don't need a solid body uke to play blues or a bit of crunch. I just plugged into my Roland Cube 30 to make sure (My M13 is in a box and I'm too lazy to take it out). And unless you're playing really loud, and putting your uke right in front of the amp, you're fine playing with any of the COSM models. So yup, you can play Clapton or whatever it is you want, with a regular-style uke. You are definitely not required to stay on the clean settings. Distortion and gain are fine without feedback. Just keep the volume levels reasonable and use common sense as to where you put your uke in relation to the amp.

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