With the emerging popularity of the ukulele stateside and the release of Eddie Vedder’s album Ukulele Songs in 2011 it is likely that in the foreseeable future audio engineers will struggle with the most efficient ways to record these “exotic melody-makers” of the guitar world. Among the challenges and considerations for recording professionals are the amplification techniques and microphone placement.
The first important selection the artist will need to make is what type of ukulele they are going to use to record. Is it going to be acoustic electric, a straight up acoustic, or (yes!) a solid body electric uke? Personally, I believe that your comfort level and skill on the desired instrument should come first. Recording and performing live are very different as well with different attentions such as movement on stage, amplification, etc.
The ukulele is for the most part an impeccable instrument being compact and wonderfully artistic at times. The acoustic electric ukulele, like a regular acoustic, is going to provide you with that hollow body thus a more rounded tone. If you record from a pickup, however, you will lose some of the instrument’s intended sound as under saddle pickups aren’t a 100% accurate reproduction of the sound. It will provide you with the projection that can be so crucial with recording and live performance. It is also going to give you a bit more versatility and cleanliness when cleaning up your tracks or adding effects with your production software since you are providing a line straight in to your recording gear.
If you don’t have the benefit of an on-board pick-up then your best option is to use an external condenser microphone. The two types to consider using are large and small diaphragm types. Large diaphragm models typically have a broader frequency range, but more importantly they have less self-noise and are more sensitive to sound. Condenser microphones operate frequently on battery or, more commonly, phantom power. Be sure to take that into consideration when making a purchase. You will have to experiment with the placement of the microphone both to minimize ambient noise and to get the intended amplification of your ukulele. Remember to have fun with it…and try to learn something at the same time!
Below is an excellent beginner’s video that discusses the major challenges of recording your ukulele. I encourage more comments below and feel free to ask any questions. Perhaps you would like to share your techniques, disagree with my recommendations, or share a recording! Contact me with all of your media and you may be showcased on www.TheGangiSound.com!! CLICK HERE!! for a phone number to an excellent ukulele resource in Madeira Beach, Florida (Compass Music). Just ask for Chris and tell him Mike Gangi sent you!