I have not done very well with this ‘post a new tune immediately with every new instrument I receive’ commitment. To be fair the blog technology was dodgsky for a bit. Maybe this latest post will count as a catch up.
Ever since woodshed from UkeHunt published the tabs for this in duet form I’ve wanted to get my hands on a multitrack thingy and put up a vid around Halloween. I ended up getting a wee bit carried away though so missed the deadline.
Original by Ray Parker Junior / Huey Lewis (yes I believe there was a legal thing).
Ukulele tabs by Woodshed of UkeHunt.com
Liberties taken by me. Substantial.
iPad with Garageband
Biscuit tin bass (home made)
Breton biscuit tin guitar (clawhammer + slide (17mm socket)) (home made)
Flea market balalaika (clawhammer) (home repaired)
Golden syrup resouke (home modified)
Mele mahogany concert pineapple ukulele (imported from Hawaii)
Muller’s Orpheus Edwardian era German autoharp / zither
Armadillo charango (shell and strings) (home repaired)
Neck of a vintage banjolele I’m modifying
Olive oil can
My favourite espresso cup
1m steel ruler and needle-nose plyers
Time to break out the Breton. Biscuit Tin. Maple through-neck. Crappy bridge I ripped off a cheap toy guitar (I made a bridge but lost it. Like my tooth…) It has a pickup but I usually play unplugged as here, the volume’s fine.
Sorry about the ropy singing, chuggy pace ( I normally play this faster but with even more mistakes), alarming visage, rakish camera angle (ipad propped against a plant pot) and shower room setting. In fact, sorry about everything. You have been warned.
I have been doing stuff but not posting stuff. Will try to post more. As discipline, I am going to try to post actual music with any new instruments I make / get as soon as I can get half a tune out of them.
In this spirit, I introduce the Muller Orpheus Autoharp. An ebay purchase, of course, for 20 quid. It’s about 100 years old (as endorsed by Kaiser Wilhelm, or at least the model up is). Produced 1890 -1915.
It came with a bashed up old case, key, and tuning pipe, and what looks very much like an original instruction manual. Also a couple of bits of manuscript, one apparently dated 1915.
It came today, it’s just out of the box, I have given it a first pass tuning and tried to play something. See if you can guess what.
This is my mod of a cheap soprano uke I got for £10 off ebay. Stick a tin can in it and turn it into a resonator ukulele. Inspired by Aaron Keim amongst others (even down to the choice of tune). After reading around on UkuleleUnderground I went for cutting the hole by hand with a craft knife, and it did the job, but I had to even it out with a rasp and ended up a bit uneven. Would have been invisible if the tin had more of a lip but sadly it doesn’t. That’s the one thing I’d do differently next time. (That and be more careful with the hot knife on the finish when I’m taking the bridge off.)
I first tried the tin about the same depth as the body, then drilled holes in it, then cut it down. Each resulted in an improvement in the resonator tone. There’s no soundwell, just the tin with its edge sitting on the soundboard. New tailpiece of course, maybe not that obvious from the vid, because it’s now a floating bridge (so dodgy intonation fixed!). Just used the cheapest mandolin tailpiece from ebay. Strings are Fremont Fluorocarbon Hards. First time I’ve tried them. Quite nice, a bit like Worths in feel. Not too tough on the fingers but stiff enough to feel responsive and feel like they’re really driving the resonator.
The pickup as usual is a £1 piezo disc, soldered to a 1/4″ jack, this time embedded into an offcut block from the stick I made the Biscuit Tin Baritone from and glued to the body next to the resonator. I originally tried it glued to the resonator itself but, while it amped OK, it damped the acoustic sound too much.
As well as the techinical mods I toned back he original pukey orange stain on the neck to more of a bleached driftwoody look and gave the whole thing a wee shine with TruOil.
Sorry about the bad slide playing. And the commentary…
Ok I need help on the name for this one. Currently it’s the ‘Loft Bed Electrouke’.
Some years ago we had a pine Ikea loft bed. I dismantled it and put the bits in the attic. Luckily, being in the attic, it survived whereas my wood pile in the cellar, alas, succumbed to a bout of cellar organisation.
Having not seen any bits of stick lying around of late to make anything with, and nothing but biscuit tins for a soundbox, I thought I’d try to use a bit of bedplank and see if I could make a solid electric ukulele. I suppose inspired a bit by the Risa Solid, though I’ve only seen pictures.
It’s fretless, concert scale length. All one piece of wood, hand sawn and sanded. I went for a really basic construction – no frills whatsoever. Snapped off toothpick for a zero fret, strings penetrate the body to get the angle at zero fret and bridge. Don’t anticipate it’ll last long as the pine is so soft the strings are cutting into it already. Piezo transducer sandwiched in carboard under the bridge, which is a sawn-off Ikea allen key bolt – probably from the same bed !
It’s spaghetti junction around the tuners because, being offcut strings, they weren’t all the same length and so I had to compromise on which tuner they’d reach.
Wasn’t sure if it would make any sound at all. As ever, I don’t know how to play it yet, so bear with me on the soundcheck. You do want to know what it sounds like, no?
It’s through an cheap pedal and a wee plastic 10W battery powered amp, both cheap as chips off ebay.