You’ll find plenty of contact mic tutorials floating around the Web, but bassling (Jason Richardson) – working with a learned technique – has what I think is a really nice example, one that sounds really good. It’s easy to do, but unlike a popular tutorial (and one I’ve tried myself), you won’t wind up dis-assembling a Radio Shack piezo speaker. The result is an inexpensive, versatile microphone that will happily go places your conventional mic won’t, giving you new possibilities for sampling and sound design.

bassling credits his source:

This technique was taught to me by Alan Lamb when we worked together as part of the 2006 Unsound Festival. He’d developed this approach for recording ‘the wires,’ a large-scale aeolian harp modeled on telegraph poles he recorded in Western Australia.

Full tutorial:
How to make contact microphones [Bassling / Selectronica blog]

Here’s what it sounds like:
Piezo contact mic demonstration using a biscuit tin as a hand drum by bassling

I’d love to hear from readers: have you built contact mics? Which technique worked best for you?

And, if you try this one, any suggestions on various suppliers for the piezo crystal part itself? (Particularly in the US, Germany and continental Europe, UK, Japan, other places we have lots of readers.)

More:
Creme Dementia’s handmade bottle cap mics, on GetLoFi
Tutorials on the “Radio Shack” approach (though I like the one above better):
furious contact microphone assembly
Make a DIY Contact Microphone

  • leakeg

    looks brilliantly simple, I really want to have a go.

    Minimum piezo order: 5.

    Bah!

  • Peter Kirn

    Yeah, but surely — no one can make just one. ;)

    Make more, make friends!

  • http://music.cornwarning.com chaircrusher

    If you're not into fiddling around with these yourself, check out the Creme Dementia bottlecap contact microphones:

    http://www.getlofi.com/?page_id=1472

    These are very durable and versatile and are a triumph of design by recyling.

  • AMRA

    This looks/sounds awesome.

    Any ideas on piezo suppliers in Canada?? I'm not having much luck. ca.mouser.com has stuff but most of it is like $50 or more per sensor. I must be looking at the wrong thing, right??

    An American supplier would be good too, given that I can ship it to the UPS store in Detroit and go get it. (I'm just across the border in Windsor.)

  • http://noisepages.com/members/danielo/ Daniel Ottini

    Piezo Film available here :http://windworld.com/products-page/electronic-hardware/. I have used the SDT1 piezo film pickup with some sucess, but the film itself is also available.

    Amra…I am in Toronto and the above e-tailer worked out OK with me (though it was a few years ago)

    Not sure what's up with posting…my previous post seem not to have materialized. Oh well, do be surprised if you see some repeats (timing?)

  • http://danielottinimusic.tumblr.com/ Danielo

    Piezo Film available here :http://windworld.com/products-page/electronic-hardware/. I have used the SDT1 piezo film pickup with some sucess, but the film itself is also available.

    Amra…I am in Toronto and the above e-tailer worked out OK with me (though it was a few years ago)

    Not sure what's up with posting…my previous post(s) seem not to have materialized. Oh well, do be surprised if you see some repeats (timing?)

  • http://www.ebenestudio.com lematt

    i find them at Farnell (france). any piezo will do really, but i found myself thinking the smaller one are more "precise" when it comes to use them as microphones more than just shock sensors.

  • http://richard.ritornell.at Richard Eigner

    to take into consideration when using contact mics:
    http://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog/the-first-rule

  • http://robcruickshank.net Rob Cruickshank

    In Toronto, Creatron and Honsen have them (Honsen has a bit more variety in size, and is a bit cheaper, Creatron will do mail order) Note that some of the raw piezos at Active Surplus are stainless steel, not brass- so you can't solder to them.

  • http://humanworkshop.com durk

    A nice way to make piezo discs durable is by using plastidip. When making sure you isolate it untill the jack cable isolation start you could even use it as a Hydrophone.

  • Brian Tuley

    Nice link Richard Eigner.  I was totally not into contact mics, until I saw that webpage.   Contact mics sound like pure sh$%#t, even when engineered properly into guitars and stuff.  However using contact mics on bike rims and spokes and cymbals is a practical use for sampling interesting tones.

  • http://www.pulsewidth.ca pulsewidth

    Active Surplus in Toronto always seems to have piezo discs on hand.
    http://www.activesurplus.com/

  • eli

    http://cranksturgeon.com/PIEZOCRANK.html

    this guy is a legendary contact mic creator/ performer.

  • http://buzzville.typepad.com/oldmanfury/ oldmanfury

    I made what I believe to be the first DIY contact microphone site something like 15 years ago.  It is, er… dated, but looking at the new site above it looks oddly familiar!

    http://home.earthlink.net/~erinys/contactmic.html

  • http://www.cutthenoise.com/ Ben

    I've used the round piezo sensors a few times. They are similar to the ones in a piezo buzzer, but you don't have to crack open the plastic, they are just ready to go. You can find them at jameco.com, allelectronics.com, and mouser.com for dirt cheap. Lots of fun.

    As mentioned earlier, I've also dipped them in that plasti-dip or liquid tape, making them essentially waterproof. I made a fun and super lo-fi ukulele pick-up by attaching a contact mic to a magnet and then throwing another magnet into my uke. They stuck together through the wood to pick up the instrument's vibrations….and there was no need to drill holes!

     Check out Nicolas Collins' book "Handmade Electronic Music" for detailed info on putting them together and some delightful suggestions on how and what to record with them. Fun post, makes me inspired to go use some of the mics I have kicking around.

  • AMRA

    @denielo checking the link now! thanks.

    @pulsewidth ooo… active surplus… next toronto gig I'll have an excuse to go… not that I need an excuse.

  • Casey Basichis

    That contact mic club site is fab, thanks.

    I've been wanting to use one to hold between my teeth so that I can capture cleanish humming in noisy environments.

    Would that be effective?

  • david

    What's wrong with the round piezos? They are readily available, cheap and seem more practical to apply to surfaces than these toothpicks. No need to tear apart a buzzer either, you can buy them all over the place.

  • license

    @Richard Eigner thanks for the excellent link!

  • http://Www.klang-manufaktur.de Andreas

    I ordered 5 pieces for about 12 € here in germany?&nbsp ;http://de.rs-online.com/web/p/vibrationssensoren/0285784/

    I will built a stereo set too and let you know about the sound and ideas. I'll also try to build a hydrophone from them :) 5 pieces are enough to play around with :)

  • http://www.tomhall.com.au Tom Hall

    The Piezo/Redioshack way is still better and will give a much better/accurate sound, you just have to buy the blanks Piezo discs and not get them from Radioshack

    http://contactmicrophones.com/

  • antonio

    That doesn't seem such a good idea for an introverted musician haha, but the TED performance was impressive and the system seems pretty fun, props!

  • antonio

    what a fucking asshole am I, my comment above should have been posted on the beatjazz article, sorry.

  • latif

    I cannot get a piezodisc because in Afghanistan i don`t think i can find it help me to create a piezodisc.

  • nt