Wolf Kater :: Custom made musical instruments Wolf Kater :: Custom made musical instruments
Wolf Kater :: Custom made musical instruments

"Instrument building in schools" program

We all inherit cosmic mandates. I have been fortunate to have been able to realize two of mine; the making and playing of musical instruments and teaching. My being mentored at an early age (see Bio) deeply imprinted upon me the life-altering effect of such an experience and the profound influence a teacher can have on a student of any age. I have taught at all levels of the educational hierarchy, and spent the last decade on the staff of our local high school fortunate then to be under the leadership of an enlightened administration very active on the forefront of pedagogical innovation.

The ukulele: finished but not decorated
The ukulele: finished but not decorated

Consequently I was given great freedom to devise new and imaginative ways of teaching traditionally dry academic subjects, along with creative hands-on shop programs, such as guitar building. This was tremendous fun, coming up with a suitable instrument that would fit all the parameters and school shop limitations. Musical instruments are metacognitive in nature, appealing to diverse learning modes and boosting self-esteem, especially for the demanding hands-on kinesthetic learners. Once completed, an instrument generates a different learning cycle in the desire of its proud new owner to play it, leading naturally through music and decoration into multidisciplinary areas. Instruments are also ideally suited through "four-handed" building situations to co-operative learning and teamwork.

The challenge is to suit the instrument design and construction logistics to a particular pedagogical application that adapts itself to the budgetary and physical aspects of today's schools.

Parts kit for 4 ukuleles
Parts kit for 4 ukuleles


These triangular four-stringed instruments are meant for primary school class-room settings, ages 8 to 12 (Primary three to six) with no shop facilities whatsoever. Students are divided by their teacher into teams of four, with desks nested accordingly. A box containing the parts for 4 instruments is issued per team. A 3 hour morning session is devoted to building the ukulele body with students following an instructor demonstrating the building process step by step. Wooden parts are aligned, glued and held for 10 minutes per activity to allow the glue to set—not alway an easy job for the boys. After a lunch break, the fingerboards, tuning pins and strings are installed, resulting in a finished, playing instrument. These can then be "personalized" to the decorative taste of each student.

The ukuleles are designed to be played in open tuning—a 4 note chord, major or minor, pitched anywhere from A to E. Two frets create the subdominant and dominant chords enabling the budding musician to play a song almost immediately. The greater task is then transferred to the music teacher, who will need to tune a class of enthusiastic ukulelists to a chosen unison using a slot screwdriver to turn the tuning "pins". Music, of some sort, is then made.

All parts, with glue and sandpaper, are supplied in kit format, brought in by the instructor at the beginning of the session.

For more information, please refer to the Contact page in the web site.