Amplifying Your ‘Ukulele

The basics:

To “plug in” your ‘ukulele you need three things:

  • An ‘ukulele with a pickup
  • An instrument cable
  • An amp

Plug one end of the instrument cable into the jack on the bottom of your ‘ukulele.

Plug the other end of the cable into the “input” jack on your amp. Plug the amp into an electrical outlet or install batteries. Make sure that all of the volume knobs on your amp (volume and gain) and volume slider (or knob) on active pickup controls are set to 0. Turn your amp on. Turn the volume knob up as you play, until you reach the desired volume level (With an active pickup, turn your amp’s volume to halfway and then move the volume slider (or knob) to control the master volume). Play!

Amp controls:

  •  Input – jack where you plug the cable coming from the ‘ukulele in
  • Volume – controls output volume
  • Gain – controls input volume (distortion)
  • Tone or EQ – controls which pitch range gets the most volume
  • Amp models (some amps) – selects amp model
  • Effects – controls effect and amount (see below)

The not so basics

Effects:

This is where plugging in your ‘ukulele has big benefits.

Effects come in many varieties from little stomp boxes to multi-effects units to rack mounted effects ($$$). Effects essentially change the tone of your ‘ukulele, add to it, or take away from it. There are tons of effect combos so sound possibilities are virtually endless.

The effects:

  • Volume control pedal – is an effect that you control with a foot rocker, it turns the volume up and down
  • EQ – changes the tone and controls individual frequencies
  • Noise gate – cuts off any sound that doesn’t reach a certain noise level
  • Compression – increases the sustain of a note and balances tone
  • Distortion – happens when the sound signal gets overloaded. It makes the ‘ukulele sound more like an electric guitar
  • Overdrive – about the same thing as distortion except more bluesy
  • Delay – records notes picked and then plays them back as echoes. You can specify when and how many times this happens
  • Reverb – a type of delay that makes your playing sound as if it were bouncing around a big room
  • Tremolo – turns the volume up and down rapidly
  • Flanger – originally invented when a studio engineer played two tapes back at the same time and drug his finger across one to slow it down. Creates a swirling underwater type of sound
  • Phaser – sounds about the same as flange except it is a frequency-based effect instead of delay-based
  • Chorus – makes the signal sound doubled with a flange like swirl
  • Octaver – instantly adds a duplicate of your playing an octave above or below the original signal
  • Wah-wah – a rocker pedal that shifts frequencies and gives the signal a weird whoosh sound

Feedback:

Feedback is the nasty screeching sound that you hear when a mic gets too close to a speaker. This can also happen with acoustic instruments. When the amp’s vibrations cause the strings of an instrument to vibrate, and the pick-up feeds the signal back into the amp you create a loop that gets louder and louder. Feedback is most commonly heard when either the bass or treble frequencies are too high.