closeup of an electric ukulele conversion of a toy guitar, showing the four strings and the pickups mounted inside the sound hole

A Kid’s Toy Guitar Turned Into An Electric Ukulele

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!
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Building An Old Guitar From A New One

Anyone who’s ever played guitar to at least the skill level required to form a terrible garage band knows the names of the most legendary guitars. The driving sound of the Gibson Les Paul played by Jimmy Page, the upside-down and smooth Fender Stratocaster from Jimi Hendrix, or the twangy Rickenbacker made famous by George Harrison are all lusted-after models. The guitar that [Frank] really wanted was a Danelectro DC59 and since they’ve been steadily creeping up in price, he decided to build his own.

The body of the clone guitar is hollow and made from effectively scrap wood, in this case plywood. As the original guitars were in fact famous for using the least expensive materials possible, this makes it a great choice for a clone. [Frank] made the guitar using almost exclusively hand tools and glued everything together, but did use a few donor parts from a modern Stratocaster-type guitar. With most of the rough shape of the guitar finished, it was time to add the parts that make the guitar sound the way that a real Danelectro should: the lipstick-style pickups. He purchased these completely separately as they are the most important part to get right to emulate the tone and feel of the original.

With everything finally soldered and assembled, [Frank] got right to work recording a sample audio track which is included at the end of the video. It certainly sounds like the original to our untrained ears, and for around $100 it’s not a bad value either. If you’d like to see a guitar built from the ground up without using another as a clone, take a look at this build which brings a completely original guitar into existence, entirely from scratch.

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A Simple Way To Analyze Guitar Pickups

To the uninitiated an electric guitar seems fairly simple: you pluck a string and the electronics send the corresponding audio signal on the 6.3 mm jack output, all ready for for the amplifier to work its magic. Much of what makes a guitar like that sound good depends on the pickups, however. These are the devices which are placed between the guitar body and the strings. Depending on the guitar there can be one, two, or more of them, of varying types and configurations.

As a Gibson fan who upon getting introduced to a Fender Telecaster just had to replace its pickups with humbucking types, [Ken Willmott] found himself thrown into the wonderful world of pickup design and characterization. After two years of working through a number of designs and approaches, he eventually settled on a preamplifier design featuring a JFET opamp (LT1058) on a custom PCB which amplifies the pickup response from a test signal, acting as a front end signal conditioner.

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internal guitar effects

The Effects Are IN The Guitar? It’s So Simple…

We’ve all had that problem. Up on stage, rocking out Jimi Hendrix-style on guitar with your band, but frustrated at having to mess around with foot pedals to control all of the effects. [Richard] solved this problem in a unique way: he put a preamp and a microcontroller in a guitar that can create some very interesting effects.

For the musically challenged, electric guitars often have several sets of electromagnetic pickups that detect vibrations in the strings at different points along the strings. Selecting different pickup combinations with a built-in switch changes the sound that the guitar makes. [Richard] wired the pickups in his Fender Stratocaster to the microcontroller and programmed it to switch the pickups according to various patterns. The effect is somewhat like a chorus pedal at times and it sounds very unique.

The volume and tone knobs on the guitar are used to select the programmed patterns to switch various pickups at varying speeds. This has the added bonus of keeping the stock look of the guitar in tact, unlike some other guitars we’ve seen before. The Anubis preamp, as it is called, is a very well polished project and the code and wiring schematic are available on the project site along with some audio samples.

Piano Repurposed As A Resonant Synth Speaker


[Richard] recently rediscovered some files from a hack he did back in 2004. He was experimenting with exciting piano strings via electromagnetic fields. The idea shares some elements with the self tuning piano we saw back in 2012. Piano strings, much like guitar strings, are made of steel alloys. This means they create electricity when vibrated in a magnetic field. This is the basic principle upon which electric guitar pickups are built. The idea also works in reverse. The strings will vibrate in response to a modulated electromagnetic field. Anyone who has seen an E-bow knows how this can be applied to the guitar. What about the piano?

[Richard] started with the Casio CZ-101, a classic synth in its own right. The Casio’s output was run through a Peavy 100 watt amplifier. The amplified output was then used to drive custom coils mounted on a piano. The coils had to be custom wound to ensure they would be compatible with the 4 – 8 ohm impedance expected by the amplifier. [Richard] ended up winding the coils to 28 ohms. Six of these coils in parallel put him just over the 4 ohm mark. The coils effectively turned the piano into a giant speaker for the synth. In [Richard’s] write-up (word doc link) he mentions that the strings basically act as a giant comb filter, each resonating strongly in response to frequencies in its harmonic series.

The results are rather interesting. The slow attack of the magnetic fields coupled with the synth’s patch results in a surprising variety of sound. The three examples on [Richard’s] blog vary from sounding like a power chord on a guitar to something we’d expect to find in an early horror movie. We would love to see this idea expanded upon. More efficient coils, and more coils in general would add to the effect. The coils on various string groups could also be switched in and out of the system using MIDI control, allowing for even more flexibility. Continue reading “Piano Repurposed As A Resonant Synth Speaker”