Howto: install a contact mic in a melodica (or anything!)

I recently installed a contact microphone in On Ensemble’s melodica. Here are some photos and a few things I learned along the way.  You can hear the finished product in Gamelgong, at 1:30.

melodica_orig contact_mics

A contact mic can be fashioned from pretty much any piezoelectric buzzer. On Ensemble’s good friend, Charlie Campagna, gave me a stack of them he picked up at a surplus shop. You can get new ones online, at Radio Shack, or better yet, by recycling them from old electronics.

I installed a 1/8″ phono adapter from a walkman into the melodica itself and a break-out cable that goes from 1/8″ male 90 degree plug (3.5 mm mono TS) to 1/4″ female to accept a standard 1/4″ guitar cable.  I pulled the 1/4″ female TRS jack from a broken headphone amplifier and installed it in a tiny plastic container I had sitting around.

Surprisingly, the signal out of piezo elements is strong, so you can test by plugging it directly into any RCA input.  If a single contact mic is unable to pick up the instrument’s full sound, multiple contact mics can be connected in parallel.

Hot glue is a great way to attach the contact mic semi-permanently to wood, plastic, and metal surfaces. Solder all the wiring first, as the hot glue melts at a lower temperature than the solder. Use a dab of hot glue about the size of a dime and press the contact mic securely into the glue. The contact mic will quickly transfer the heat of the hot glue and become too hot to touch, so press with a piece of cardboard to protect your fingers.

Happy hacking!

melodica_orig melodica_screws melodica_letter_opener

melodica_opened melodica_closeup drill

hole_and_connector soldering installation

installation2 finished_prod connector2

connector connector3

Tags: , ,

5 Responses to “Howto: install a contact mic in a melodica (or anything!)”

  1. Aaaahh!
    LOve it!!
    great track- love the squirming fue/ melodica clusters!
    gONg ensemble!

  2. edu says:

    Great work!!! thaks for posting this

  3. Mario Morais says:

    Thank you very much :). This tutorial is very usefull e very well done . Thank you for sharing. :)

  4. Zethane says:

    Would it matter if I were to place the contact mic say in the middle compared to one of the sides?

    • kris says:

      The contact mic is responding to the vibration of the case to which it’s attached. I assume the middle of the case would be more resonant than the edge, so I think you’ll get a louder signal there. Attaching with hot-glue will allow experimentation… if and when you want to move it, a hair-dryer on the contact mic will melt the glue beneath it.

      Have fun!

Leave a Reply

On Ensemble is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).