What started out as a joke with mates turned into a real project, and ended up getting an article published in IEEE Potentials, thanks to some kind people.


What is this?

I built a laser ukulele. It's a ukulele that has lasers instead of strings and buttons all down the fretboard where you would usually hold down the strings to change the notes. There are eight tuning pegs on the back of the headstock, which allow all four strings to be independently tunable through 11 octaves of 12 notes, coming to 128 notes all up.

There is a small LCD screen on the headstock that displays the current note and octave of each string. There are a whole bunch of standard ukulele tunings saved onto the ukulele, so you can tune straight to your favourite standard tuning, or you can tune to whatever your heart desires. Additionally, there are 12 LEDs across the top of all of the frets. With the press of a button, these LEDs light up, only ever one is on at a time, and they indicate that a virtual capo has been placed across the corresponding fret.

So basically, it has the full functionality of a ukulele, with some extra features as well. However, finger picking is pretty tricky when the strings are only made of light.

Why did I do this?

If you read about the basic laser harp that I built, that's where this all started. I was talking with some friends one day, and I said that since I had been able to produce music by breaking beams of lasers, any sort of string instrument should be easy to produce. Although I was only joking around, a friend's birthday was coming up, and since he played ukuleles and guitars, among other things, I decided to go for it. Within four weeks or so, I managed to create this whole thing. It was heaps of fun and I learned a lot along the way, thanks to plenty of mistakes. Never solder when tired.

Extra Notes

This project was completed in late 2014, toward the end of my 2nd year of electrical engineering.

In the course of this project, I learnt about and used:

-Circuit design


-Embedded programming

-3D printing and CAD

-MIDI standard

-The importance of pull-up and pull-down resistors