Ukeleles

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My first expedition into the design of stringed instruments, executed while helming a series of workshops in instrument design in New York’s Hudson River Valley in July, 2011. In the timeframe of one week, students were introduced to instrument design by way of Picasso’s guitar sculptures, inspired by a recent trip to the NY MOMA and asked to create a cardboard template in response to their initial viewing of these pieces. The templates were then transferred to scrap wood, derived primarily from bookshelves taken from my parent’s home and the occasional 2×12 for some of the larger designs. Not wanting to expose my students to power tools deemed too unpredictable and dangerous for your average pre-teen, the templates were then cut out over the course of two evenings, and delivered to the students in the morning for further elaboration. From there, templates for necks were designed and bridges were fashioned out of assorted scraps leftover from other projects, as well as shipping crates salvaged from the dumpster behind the school. Once the bodies and necks were joined, paint, stain and polyurethane were applied to the students’ specifications. Once dry, strings were added, fashioned from various gauges of monofilament fishing line and finally, students assisted in the construction of a piezoelectric pickup which was adhered to the bridge. The final result, a series of “rustic,” electric guitars, lutes, ukeleles and other stringed oddities, created by a group of thirty students aged 9-13. Regarding lesson plans, each group followed the same procedure, with the only variation being the size limits imposed on the students’ templates in accordance to age – littler people, smaller instruments. This particular selection is the product of my youngest group, ages 8-10.

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