Gift Lab #9: An Inspired Ukulele
1) Product Name: Make your own Ukulele Kit
2) Background Research: This is a joint project that my partner, Leo, and I will endeavor upon as a team. I have a continuing fascination with building models. In college I built a full-sized circular saw with a rotating blade entirely out of cork. I also am a working painter. My partner can play the accordion, trumpet, piano and guitar.
3) Hypothesis: The do-it-yourself nature of the project will enable both of us to bring our talents together to create a functional instrument that will have continued playability.
4) Experiment: I will paint the body of the ukulele and Leo will demonstrate the sound.
5) Results: Music has the capacity to transport one to specific moments in our lives so I wanted the ukulele to speak to the present in my own life. I’m about to celebrate one year living in Brooklyn, New York, so I decided that a view of my daily commute home from work would be the prefect landscape. I’m fortunate enough to live within walking distance from the UncommonGoods warehouse so I enjoy the sights of Brooklyn’s Fourth Ave each day. Additionally, from a compositional standpoint, I hoped that the median would echo the fingerboard of the ukulele.
The wood grain behaved differently than the stretched canvas that I am more familiar with. The gouache soaked into the wood and bled slightly (I decided against applying gesso). I enjoyed the effect in the large color planes, like in the sky, because it added a softness that would have been difficult to achieve with the brush alone.
After I completed the body, it was time to assemble the instrument. The directions kept declaring “This is a point” whenever something important was about to be written, but due to my lack of general guitar anatomy and the somewhat confusing translation miscues, I admit I found myself perplexed on what the “point” was. Nevertheless, my partner and I trudged along, despite some complications with gluing plastic to wood (be sure to use clamps). We found a metric ruler and assembled the hardware.
After the ukulele was fully assembled, my partner researched how to string and tune a ukulele on Youtube as a supplement to the written instructions. As a guitar player, the process was not difficult for him, but he noted that the tuning of the ukulele was much different than that of the guitar. Because of the nylon strings, as opposed to the metal strings often found on acoustic and electric guitars, the ukulele may be more forgiving on the fingers of a beginner string instrument player.
6) Conclusion: Whether displayed on the wall or sitting on the player’s lap, the ukulele was a success to both one’s ears and one’s eyes. The time we committed to the ukulele-building project was rewarding and justified.
Click here to see Mary Catherine and Leo play the Ukulele!