DIY Ukulele Pickguard Pad - How to Make Sound With an Ukulele Pickguard Pad and Piezoelectric

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About: My name is Sabine. I'm a hobbyist with a variety of interests which includes 3D printing, tinkering, music, stories etc.

Hello and welcome to the fifth and last part of my experimental mini-series of:

"How to make sound with XXX and piezoelectric"

The piezo discs I'm using in my projects are actually pressure sensors.

In this build I applied one piezo disc

  • to create an additional sound for setting highlights
  • placed in a small 3D-printed frame
  • attached as a removable pickguard to my e-ukulele.

Let's have a look how this turned out:

Supplies:

  • 3D-printed Pickguard
  • Piezo Disc Sensor
  • Flexible Tube
  • 6.3 mm female mono Jack
  • Cable Connectors
  • Wire
  • Super glue
  • Filament (PLA, transparent)
  • Sissors/Cutter
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire Stripper
  • 3D Printer
  • Trigger Module (TM-1)
  • Instrument and Audio Cables
  • Voice recorder (DR-05)
  • Headphones
  • Mixer (Mix8)
  • Looper Pedal (RC-1)
  • Foot Switch FS-5U (optional Stop/un-do switch)
  • Tinkercad
  • Gimp
  • Inkscape
  • IdeaMaker
  • Reason Lite - Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

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Step 1: ​The Concept

This time the piezo disc is embedded into a 3D-print and attached to another independently played instrument - the ukulele.

Step 2: The Piezo Disc

I've used the previously ordered Brass + Copper + Aluminium Wire Base Piezo Discs.

  • Diameter: 27 mm,
  • Thickness: 0.40 mm
  • Wire Diameter: 1 mm
  • Wire Length: 33 cm

Step 3: ​The Shape

The pickguard's shape is based on the shape of the ukulele's cut away.

I've

  1. transferred the rough shape of the ukulele's lower body to a paper sheet by outlining.
  2. figured out the preferred shape of the pickguard.
  3. generously cut out the model and modified it
  4. taken a photo of the model
  5. loaded the photo into Gimp, cleansed the edges* and did more modifiing
  6. loaded the modified png-image into Inkscape and converted it to a svg-format
  7. imported the svg-format into Tinkercad

* If your outlining is really sharp, precise and exact, you don't need to clean this up in Gimp.

Step 4: ​The 3D Printing

I've developed and 3D printed some models to find out which works best. At last I went for the one-piezo-disc-model (because of the experienced "cross talk" by using two piezos in such a small space*).

The pickguard was 3D-printed in transparent PLA-Filament on the Ender 2.

* All attempts to avoid or remove the cross talk by adjusting the settings within the trigger module failed.

Step 5: ​The Assembly

I've used the little cable connectors to link the piezo and the jack and glued in the piezo disc. I reused the jack cable I've made for the foot pad.

Step 6: ​The Soundtests

After each process step I performed a sound test.

Step 7: ​The Trigger Module, Looper Pedal and Pickguard Pad

The Trigger Module (TM-1) has two mono trigger inputs. I needed one for this build.

All connections happened via cable.

I've connected

  • the ukulele pickguard pad to the TM-1,
  • the TM-1 and the ukulele to the looper pedal (RC-1),
  • the RC-1, headphone and voice recorder to the mixer.

The sound was recorded by the mixers OUT to the line-in of the voice recorder.

Step 8: The Song

I chose the 1927th song "Ain't she sweet", composed by Milton Ager, with lyrics by Jack Yellen and covered many times by a lot of artists. I slowed it down to 120 bpm, because I can't play the original tempo.

Step 9: The Recording

Recording with the looper pedal has been interesting for two reasons:

  1. I haven't played the ukulele for awhile
  2. I never used a looper pedal before, that's a new component of my music gear collection

I watched a lot of videos how to use a looper pedal and practiced some hours. But it wasn't easy to get used to it. I definetly have to practice many, many hours more.

The base sound

For a steady, quantized beat, I created a little drum sequence in Reason 10 Lite, added the sound to kit 1 of the TM-1, started the sound as a loop with the piezo disc and recorded up to 40 bars (120 bpm) within the RC-1 (fast forward video "Drum Loop Sequence").

The overdub

While playing the chords of a tremendous shortened version of "Ain't she sweet", I added some splash cymbal highlights by striking the pickguard. The TM-1 has two built-in foot switches to change the kits. With this I switched from splash 1 (kit 2) to splash 2 (kit 3).

At last I played the melody (video "DIY Ukulele Pickguard Pad - Chords & Melody").

First:

Unfortunately, the autofocus of my camera lost the focus at some points.

The sound of the ukulele is quiete soft. I'm trying to figure out why.

Second:

To make clear, the way I used the looper pedal for this project isn't exactly the way it's supposed to be used. Usually you'll loop one bar or two and then overdub. I recorded the whole sequence because the chord progression changes in the middle part of the song.

I also took breaks between the recordings.

Step 10: The Structured Chaos

no further comment

Step 11: ​Final Thoughts

First, thank you for reading, watching and paying attention.

Playing the ukulele in a long time and learning how to use a looper pedal have been the biggest challenges in this project. I also learned how to make a 3D model from a 2D picture. This will give me a lot of oportunities in creating and building whatsoever in the future.

As I mentioned before, using the piezo disc in this manner is only to set some highlights like a splash or crash cymbal, a clap or bell or start and stop loops within the trigger module.

If you are following this series you surely have noticed that the basic process is repetitive:

  • find an interesting base,
  • attach the piezo disc sensor,
  • connect it to a trigger module

and you are ready to make whatever sound you've loaded into your module. The piezo discs are cheap, easy to use and require no advanced technical knowledge.

In my opinion, this is an almost never ending topic and I definitely will make more interesting pads sometime, but I close the series with this build for now.

Please let me know if you've made one as well.

Here are 2 video-links; those helped me a lot for this project:

Hopefully Auf Wiedersehen in one of my next instructables.

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