PopuBand Music

What Do You Do With a Populele?

What Do You Do With a Populele?
Unsurprisingly, Populele is gathering ascending attentions from music educators out there. The fact that a ukulele interacts with the App, shows fingerings instantly while still remaining its nature of acousticity surely excites anyone who loves teaching music!
Let’s hear what one of them says about his thoughts on Populele’s educational potentials.

“Some time ago, I read about a high-tech ukulele, the Populele, which was a Kickstarter.  I saw articles on The Verge (link) and even from John Atkins, “The Ukulele Teacher” (YouTube link).  It was originally sold via a very successful Indiegogo campaign, and is now for sale directly on the Popband website.  While the instrument had some coverage, I didn’t see any reviews from other ukulele players, or from any music technology experts…so I contacted the company.  And then I contacted them some more.  In time, I think the company realized that I wasn’t just a person looking to scam the company–but someone with a genuine interest in blogging about the instrument in the field of technology in music education.

As for the ukulele itself, it is a nice laminate ukulele.  It sounds nice, although I swapped the Aquila Super Nylgut strings for Martin M600 strings, and I personally think it sounds better with the Martin strings (see the end of the long video to hear for yourself).  The ukulele has a nice clean build with notched kerfing inside and no visible glue stains.  The head stock is unique with yet another oval hole, which serves no function as the headstock isn’t a slotted headstock.  The tuners are very nice closed gear tuners (with a bit of a futuristic flair), and the strings are held in place by a pin bridge.  Upon changing the strings, some of the strings were held in with beads, others with knots.  I just used knots on all of them when I restrung the ukulele.  The action was initially very high…higher than my string action ruler could measure.  I lowered the action to about 2.75mm, and now there is a light buzz on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd frets of the C string…but it is a minor buzz, and with the LED fretboard, I can’t really sand the frets to try to get rid of the buzz.  I can live with it, and I doubt it will be an issue on all Populeles.

The LED fretboard works, and is visible in any light.  My students wondered if it could light up in other colors, and the answer is: no, at least not this version.  I can absolutely see the value in colors for educational purposes, much like Bernadette’s stickers (YouTube link). I can also see the wonderful potential marriage of the Populele with KIDS ukulele strings by Aquila (you can order them in bulk for a great discount directly from Aquila).  As an advanced player, the   LED lights don’t help much–I can’t see them when my fingers are already there or on the previous chord, but I can see the power of learning with the lights.  I can also see the potential for a classroom set of Populeles, where a teacher could press a button and the correct lights would show up on all of the ukuleles in a class!  This is not a feature at the moment–but you can see where it can go, either for learners with special needs, or for an entire class.  Populele does have a director for education, and they are aware that money is an option in schools, and that $179 ukuleles may not be a reality for a classroom set of ukuleles.

I can see how this ukulele could be used in educational settings, as both an incentive for students to practice on their own, or, with future offerings, the ability to trigger the lights on a number of Populeles in the same class.  I can also see how you could link play along videos to the ukulele, as the app registers sound anyway.  I would love to see the app updated with a far more extensive chord library, “favorites” in the custom light generator, and advanced player modes/games for additional chord positions and notes of the fretboard.

Pros:

  • LED 72 light Fretboard
  • The Populele App
  • Quality instrument with closed geared tuners, strap buttons, and side markers
  • Laminate ukulele and LED fretboard should require very little care

Concerns/Wishes:

  • A bit expensive for a laminate ukulele–although you have to keep in mind that you are paying for the LED technology and the app
  • The app needs more features such as additional chords and some tools for advanced players
  • While there are no promises, the Populele Version 2 has the chance to incorporate even more technology
  • To use the lights, you need to use your phone, too”

Quotes are derived from a blog. To read the original blg, click here: https://ukestuff.wordpress.com/2017/10/15/what-do-you-do-with-a-popuee-populele-review/