Tiny Electric Ukulele




Introduction: Tiny Electric Ukulele

About: Creative Technologist.

This tutorial teaches you how to make the world's smallest (and probably only) capacitance-piezo-buzzer ukulele.

A ukulele is an instrument from Hawaii that looks like a small guitar with four nylon strings. Our strings will be made of wire and work by measuring the capacitance and then play the corresponding tone on a piezo buzzer. The ukulele itself is made of laser cut plywood.

Step 1: Get the Parts

We will use the LightBlue Bean to make this ukulele. It's an Arduino compatible microcontroller that is programmed completely wirelessly over Bluetooth Low Energy.


To make a ukulele you will need:


  • Laser cutter
  • Soldering iron
  • Pliers
  • Wire stripper
  • A small brush

Step 2: Solder the Piezo Buzzer


Solder the piezo buzzer's legs on the columns below pin 1 and 2. Make sure that the buzzer is centered on the perf board as below, otherwise it won't fit in the ukulele. Bend one of the legs so that it connects to pin 4. Solder the other leg to the 1k ohm resistor and then solder it to ground.


Illustration made using Fritzing

Step 3: Solder the String Resistors

To measure the capacitance, we need to use resistors. One end of the resistor is the string, and the other end will be connected to our common "send pin", pin 5 on the Bean. Pin 5 will be connected to all of our strings.ukulele-3

Take the four 1M ohm resistors and put them through pin 0-3 on the back of the Bean. Make sure that none of the legs touch the leg of the piezo buzzer. Put the other leg of the resistor through the holes along the border of the Bean.

Flip the Bean so that you have the front forward. The legs that come out on the right side of the perf board all need to be connected to pin 5. Take the bottom leg and bend it so that it goes through pin 5 and touching all the legs on the way. Solder it to pin 5 and to the other resistor's legs.



Cut the legs sticking out on the side of the perf board, but keep the ones coming out of pin 0-3! We need these to connect to the strings.


Illustration made using Fritzing

Step 4: Connect the Strings

The person playing the ukulele will need to be connected to ground so we will have two sets of strings: one set that measures the capacitance, and one set that is connected to ground. The "ground strings" are on the neck of the ukulele, and the "tone strings" are the ones on the body of the ukulele.

ukulele-strings-explained We will make all the strings out of wire. Cut four strings that are about 3 inches long each. Use the wire stripper to take off the plastic insulation.ukulele-8

To solder the resistor leg to the wire, put a drop of solder on each of them, put them together and heat it up with the solder iron. Attach one wire to each of the resistor legs and then insulate with heat shrink tubing.


Step 5: Laser Cut the Ukulele

Take the plywood and use a laser cutter to cut out the three ukulele parts. Each laser cutter works a bit differently so make sure that you're using one that you know how to handle. Download the Illustrator file.

The black areas need to be rastered at different depths, this is approximately how thick the finished cut should be:


Step 6: Paint the Ukulele

This is optional but it sure does look a lot nicer when it's painted a bit. We used an oil-based paint with the color walnut.ukulele-14

Step 7: Pull the Strings Through the Plywood

Take the Bean and pull the "tone strings" through the bottom holes of the front of the ukulele. Then pull them back trough the holes just above the sound hole.


Make sure that the piezo buzzer is placed correctly in the sound hole. Pull the strings through the bottom holes on the Bean's perf board and solder them there.


Step 8: Make the "ground Strings"

The "ground strings" are the ones that will go on the neck of the ukulele and that will connect the ukulele player to the same ground as the Bean.

Cut two wires about 6 inches long each and one that is 2 inches. Strip the insulation.


Bend the two longer ones in the middle and wrap them around the shorter wire and solder them there. Insulate the shorter wire with heat shrink tubing.

Solder one of the ends of the shorter wire to GND on the Bean. Solder the other end to the perf board to make sure that it stays in place and them pull them through the holes at the beginning of the neck of the ukulele.


Pull them through the holes on the head of the ukulele and fasten them by pushing them through the hole of the string on the same side, where a small notch has been rastered.

ukulele-222014-10-17 10.40.05

Step 9: Glue the Ukulele

Use the wood glue to put the front of the ukulele together with the middle part. The back part won't be glued, only fastened with screws so that you can change the batteries on the Bean.


Put in the screws and the ukulele is all set!


Step 10: Code

Upload this code to your Bean and get ready to blow everybody's mind with your new mini capacitance-piezo-buzzer ukulele!

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    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, is it a must to use iphone to upload the code? if i dun have a laser cutter, isit possible to carve it manually? Thanks.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    So when are you starting your peizo-electric band?? This turned out really cool!


    7 years ago

    cutest thing ever I'm an islander and I love it thanks for sharing it.=-:-) :-)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome project! I've never heard of the Lightblue Bean before, so thanks for showing me (it's so feature-rich)!

    *Checks author description*

    It's still really cool! =D