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Fun with microtones (Cenobyte)


This page will explore a different approach to xenharmonics and micro-tonality than anyone else has attempted. Whereas a lot of people make and use micro tonal Guitars, I have felt that simply beginning with Ukulele instead will make a symbolic and real difference- after all, the Uke is fun, whereas the Guitar is 'serious', right? Not to mention, a hackable Uke can be had for far less than all but the trashiest of guitars. Here's my project in question, a little thing I like to call the Micro-Uke...

My apologies if things look weird, I just beginning to learn editing. I will be posting more on the history of the MicroUke (currently at 1.1) in the future

As for a quick intro to me, I am Cenobyte, a new member around here. My musical influences include Nobuo Uematsu, Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, Jacob Borshard, Herb Ohta, Miles Davis, Weather Report just to name a fraction...

As far as my ideology goes, I am a strong copyleftist, especially since a lot of Microtonal music is not immediately commercially viable. I believe that copy-lefting Jacky Ligon's Galunlati, for instance would solve his obsurity problem at least though probably not his money problem... I am a supporter of many things-Free-culture, like Free audio formats/codecs, making source or steps available, etc. So, obviously, I run the Gnu/Linux OS on my PC's

In my adventures with this humble Uke I hope to make "the other side" of music more accessible, and fun to curious people. I also hope to make music that while being foreign at first, expresses a genuine human sentiment that could NOT easily be done in 12TET.

I also hope my music and ideas can resound with elegance and simplicity.

Tue-July 26 2011:


Here is a sample sound byte from the MicroUke (currently tuned to 7edo)

Now I do apologise because the quality is not the best; it was done with my internal laptop mic and had to have a lot of amplification and noise removal, but hopefully at this price you get a good glimpse of how the uke sounds tonally and a sample of my style of playing. The files I post are all intended to be downloadable, remixable, and sharable, (creative commons license) though I am not sure how to license content on this wiki. Since so little is posted, that's not a problem right now.

Another note is that somehow the recording cuts off a lot, so sorry about that.

Thurs Aug4 2011

I thought I would post an update of how things are going. I am still trying out tunings on the Uke, I have completed preliminary 5 and 7 edo testing and have the songs I've recorded as souvenirs on my journeys. Note that I am not 'micro' tonal YET, that doesn't happen until 13 edo upwards, but I AM xenharmonic at this point. This is how things have been going in terms of recordings

5EDO: There are 10 songs total including original pieces and re-workings of cultural favorites (such as auld langes syne) I recorded each song in 3 tunings, which is not a different tuning SYSTEM, but just refers to a pitch center. So if the pitch center is C, that means that my 0 note is about 261 HZ in frequency, and so forth. So I did a 240hz, C, and D version.

7-EDO: I found this system drastically more rife with possibility with just 2 more notes. As a result, I was able to record 15 familiar tunes (some of dubious legality, though, but I doubt I will be found out, let alone punished for being creative) which I thought merited a separate "album", or at least folder on my hard drive. In addition to the tunes, I have about 6 original tunes, but I just used one pitch center. ( I want to preserve my somewhat delicate stock strings...)

Currently all songs are HUGE Flac files (about 10+ MB ea.) and are just solo Uke,which I might like to add ambient sounds to later, so they are unreleased. I may post a list of the names later though, I have about 30 songs so far (not including 20 which are alternate pitches)

That's about it for now, if anyone (all 2 of you) is following this page, I'll try to update soon, but of course this is not a high traffic area of a high traffic site anyway, so peace out...

Late Nite Sun Aug 8:

I am having a bit of trouble getting 8EDO to be in tune on the Micro Uke, so I decided to do some visual hacking. Here is a remixed Public Domain Ukulele picture adapted to show the micro uke

Micro-Uke-Clipart (png version)

Download and edit as you please, the work is public domain.

UPDATE: as of about midnight on August 11, 2011 the Exmi Fret Calculator site is down and has reamained so until now. Thankfully, I found FretFind2d, the only other such calculator I know of which can also give you graphics of your fretboard! This is nothing new, as there IS a link elsewhere on this site that I had not seen to FretFind, but I am expressing my personal discovery just the same. So even if the other site never comes back up, fretfind is there for me, and it can do JI

as of 3:16 AM Mon aug 15, I have officially reached 8 EDO! It is likely the Micro-Uke will be getting another version number update for 1 or 2 reasons. 1 is after tightening an unnoticed but loose screw on the gear winder of the 3rd string, its tuning issues (being sharp) almost all but vanished. This is a major improvement. the 2nd is that I tuned 8edo by "ear", with the ear being my infallible tuner,Lingot. which is a great boon and allows me to greatly improve what would have otherwise been a "trash" ukulele. As an odd feature of this tuning method of going by how in tune the uke was, it seems a number of the nylon frets are tied on in a non-perpendicular way to the neck, slanted a little. By my new method, it is not the looks that matter though, just the tuning. It's actually a sort of Just Intonation way of doing equal temperament.

Needless to say I have probably made enough discoveries to call it MicroUke 1.2 now, or at least 1.1.1

by the way I have made a decal for the uke, which I will picture once I get my camera back...

ah yes, and before i go for now, I got my new ProArte strings and am amazed- they make everything sound better!

Aug 24 12:14 AM

Micro Uke Version 1.2 has arrived! see below. New graphic has been designed


There are currently no images of microUke1.1 or 1.0 (for which no label/decal exists) but I will post as time allows. Far more important is the music/sound.

New features of 1.2 are boring - 2 new notches in the heel for fret tension and friction

1.2 has retained the preferred method of fretting which is agnostic to the perpendicularity of the frets.

More later...

Mon Aug 29, 2011

Today I closed up the 9-edo recording session, and thought I would post a song count though I have not uploaded all my songs yet. One reason is that for the early songs, I only made FLAC's, which are quite large, so I have to go back and compress them. Anyways, here is a count so far. All songs will be on a page/album called Small-Scale Revolution, which will be all my raw "notebook paper" sketches in properly MACRO tonal scales on Ukulele, what I think is the world's smallest acoustic micro-tonal instrument.


10 songs (one is a cultural song), recorded thrice each


8 original tunes, 15 cultural songs


23 original tunes (no culture has ever come up with 8-edo as far as I know)


19 original tunes (9 has been my favorite so far)

so 10 far there are 75 songs, but more files.

And I still have 10 and 11 EDO to cover, and I 'm still basically cursorily improvising in-studio. Obviously, each said EDO has more potential when contemplated and composed in. Since I am limiting each EDO to a week, I'm not going too deep into any given one.

10 and 11 are sufficiently Xenharmonic enough that neither will likely lend itself to finding favorite songs from 12 TET, so all the tunes will be original. We'll see how it goes, thanks for following...

Tue Aug 30, not yet refretted for 10... thought I would try to put a button below...

Play ogg medium.png

A 440 7- 425.0120
E 329.63 3- 322.0989
C 261.63 0- 261.63
G 392.00 6- 396.5503

Above is a table of how I mapped 10 EDO to the Open strings of my Ukulele. The left column is the standard Uke layout, and using those Hertz, I choose similar values for the strings based on the nice table generated for me by Lingot. I set 0 to middle C as in the standard arrangement, and the computer does the rest.

Wed Sep 7 2:16 AM

10 edo is going well, 16 songs so far... I am not sure if it has been a week in this tuning, but my neck is quite dirty. Chances are I will wrap up tomorrow.

that makes the current total 91.

Wed Sep7 12:43PM

The final count for 10 edo is 19 songs, that puts the total at 94 so far and there is one more EDO less than 12 to explore, possibly one of the weirdest.

THu Sep 8 946PM

Before I start to fret up the Uke for the final Macrotonal EDO, here is how I will map the open strings

A 440 8-433.1210
E 329.63 3- 316.0666
C 261.63 0- SAME
G 392.00 6- 381.8361

Note that for all strings except C, which is the same, the others are tuned LOWER than expected. Hopefully this gives me a mellow, deeper sound.

Fri Sep 9 235 AM I think I started refretting for 11 at about 12, now it's about 2 and I am half-way done. That's a testament to how time consuming re-fretting is, even doing it the quick-and-dirty way! I'll do the other half tomorrow. I plan on penciling on the modes of 11 from the page on this wiki to the neck for reference.

437AM could not sleep, so I will design the Just Uke a little.

looks like fretfind 2d is not giving me what I expect...

OKAY, at 246 PM today I am finally done fretting for 11, here's a pic of it halfway done


So it has been over 12 hrs since I started...quite time consuming, BUT I have the worlds only 11 EDO Uke as far as I know...

Now all that remains is to record with it...