Tiptoe Through the Tulips in No Time With Ukule-LED

Take it from someone who has played at the guitar for over 20 years: reading sheet music can be a big stumbling block to musical enjoyment. Playing by ear is somewhat unreliable, tablature only works well if you’re already familiar with the tune and tempo, and pulling melody from chord charts is like weaving fiction from the dictionary. A lot can be said for knowing basic chord formations, but it can be difficult get your fingers to mimic what you see on the page, the screen, or someone else’s fretboard. Enter Ukule-LED, a learning tool and all-around cool project by [Raghav and Jeff] at Cornell.

Ukule-LED uses 16 NeoPixels across the first four positions of the fretboard to teach chord positions. All 16 NeoPixels are connected in series to a single pin on an ATMega1284P, which sits on a board mounted to the bottom of the uke along with power and serial. [Raghav and Jeff] set the NeoPixels below the surface so as not to interrupt playability. The uke can operate in either of two modes, ‘play’, and ‘practice’. In ‘play’ mode, the user feeds it a text file representing a song’s chords, tempo, and time signature. The LEDs show the chord changes in real-time, like a karaoke teleprompter for fingers. In ‘practice’ mode, the user enters a chord through the CLI, and the lights hold steady until they get a new assignment. Knowing which fingers to use where is up to the user.

To add another layer of learning, major chords alight in green, minor chords in red, and 7th chords in blue. These are the currently supported chord types, but the project was built with open, highly extendable Python sorcery available for download and subsequent tinkering. Go on tour after the break.

8 thoughts on “Tiptoe Through the Tulips in No Time With Ukule-LED

  1. If someone can’t learn tablature, scales, and sheet music then they aren’t going to learn to play anyway. The only people who think this is a good idea is people that play rock band the game and can’t play a real instrument.

    A good showing of serial LED’s, but if there is one thing that sounds worse than a pukeulele it’s an out of tune pukeulele. Hipsters, want a small stringed instrument? Get a mandolin and save the ears of everyone around you. Or spend the $200 plus required for a good ukulele and order some legit strings for it, just because it resembles an instrument does not mean it’s pleasing to listen to.

    Good quality tenor ukulele “Greensleeves” with fingerings, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLo-yF6ykns

    Here is “Greensleeves” guitar(with some accompaniment) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wARiOb80Zr0

  2. I wonder if you could, using smaller LEDs and small light sensors, use this as a better teaching tool, when your fingers are on the right spots they reflect more light into the sensors and tell you your playing right, less light and you suck, you’ll learn eventually.

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