With the holiday season fast approaching, there’s a good chance that some well-meaning friend or relative might buy a toy musical instrument for your children, safe in the knowledge that they’ll never have to listen to the results! The sound from these cheap toy guitars is pretty terrible, partly because they’re just too small to tune to a pleasing guitar tuning, so [joekutz] decided to see if one could be turned into an electric ukulele instead.
The first modification on the list was to reduce the string count from six to four, by notching out new positions on the nut and drilling the corresponding fixings on the bridge. One advantage of these cheap instruments is that it’s less of a risk to take tools to the bodywork!
Following the conversion and re-tuning to make it into a ukulele, the next step was to engineer some pickups. [joekutz] had a pair of children’s headphones in his parts bin and, along with some 3D printed parts, wooden dowels, paper cones and glue, managed to mount them inside the body to measure the differential vibrations between the front and rear faces of the instrument.
The output signal is around 80mV peak-to-peak, which is large enough to connect to a standard guitar amplifier and produce a pleasant acoustic sound… but who wants pleasant with an electric instrument? For full grunge distortion, a UTC2025H stereo pre-amplifier was added to the ukulele as a crude overdrive option.
Finally, to reduce some of the screechiest overtones, the uke was down-tuned and the conversion was complete.
We think that this would be an excellent way to introduce your kids to hardware hacking over the Winter break, and explain some of the principles of sound-making along the way. Who knows, maybe they’ll be asking you to help them make a real electric guitar from an antique fireplace next year?