How can I get some serious sustain out of a ukulele?
April 7, 2005 5:04 PM   Subscribe

UkeFilter: What would be the best chain of effects to give some serious sustain to an electro-acoustic uke? I know sustain is not what a uke is all about, but hey, I'm in a Genesis cover band (language warning) so anything goes. Bonus points for the cheapest solution (eg budget multi-effect boxes).
posted by hifimofo to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
no opinion on the sustain, but your band rocks.

posted by fishfucker at 5:50 PM on April 7, 2005

Traditionally, one gets the appearance of more sustain by using a compressor. A compressor tries to equalize the amplitude of a signal. When the signal's amplitude drops, the compressor boosts it. Compressors are also plagued by noise because they amplify that too.
posted by plinth at 5:58 PM on April 7, 2005

Use a violin bow.
posted by mischief at 6:03 PM on April 7, 2005

Assuming you use metal strings: Ebow, the letter. They can be found fairly cheap used, but new prices are not *too* bad.

good luck.
posted by raygun21 at 6:07 PM on April 7, 2005

While plinth's desciption of a compressor and what is does is somewhat wide of the mark, a compressor could help to some degree. The sound of a uke though is defined by the short decay time of its strings and so the sustain you're looking for is after the natural decay has dropped below a certain level - so you're looking for an expander, not a compressor (which will have the added side-effect of increasing noise, as plinth suggested). An ebow might help too, but it'll sound strange.

Having played with a Genesis tribute band myself some years ago, I can't help but wonder which songs you're trying to cover how by using an articficially sustained uke...
posted by benzo8 at 9:02 PM on April 7, 2005

Nice lo-tech suggestions, but I think I want gear. So, an expander or a compressor. What about an expander followed by a compressor? Is there anything you can do with delays/echoes? I've seen bands where everything the guitarist plays sinks back into a wall of sound/noise. Any tips on how that is done?
posted by hifimofo at 9:21 PM on April 7, 2005

You'll get the most serious sustain by adding some distortion. But then you may run into the problem of feedback, either from your onstage amplification or through your monitors. This can be ameliorated by using the type of pickup that employs the rubber seal over the sound hole. Perhaps a small multi-effects unit like the Digitech RP50 would be a good choice.
posted by gnz2001 at 8:58 AM on April 8, 2005

A lot of these other suggestions sound like good ideas that you might want to try, but I'm another vote for distortion. I'd recommend a distortion pedal that offers some independent filtering, volume and distortion/effect capabilities. I use one pedal with the actual distortion setting turned pretty low, the filter up as much as possible while maintaining a good tonal balance between the powers of the filter and the brightness/treble/high end, I also give it all a slight volume boost from the pedal as well.

I Am Not A Ukulele Player, but it works well with an otherwise uncompressed or expanded bass signal and may do the trick for you.
If it's not in there yet, I hope The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway makes its way into your repertoire!
posted by safetyfork at 10:37 AM on April 8, 2005

Note: Expansion (a.k.a gating) is the opposite of compression; it will tend to cut-off sustain, not increase it.

I think you need to start with your instrument. You need a well-built, solid-body ukelele. Humbucking pickups would be nice. Run that sucker through an overdrive or two and into a good tube amp turned all the way up. Sustain for days.

Maybe you can make a bass into a ukelele. It's got the right number of strings.

Or maybe you can find one of these.
posted by timeistight at 12:09 PM on April 8, 2005

I noticed my sentence about my signal was poorly constructed. The signal in question has neither compression or expansion applied to it. I didn't mean to imply that it was uncompressed but it was expanded. That would be false. Sorry about that!
posted by safetyfork at 12:20 PM on April 8, 2005

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