A Love Story in Three Parts
Or… “How Little Piezo Elements Drove me Nuts — A Minor Drama in Three Parts”
What’s the fuzz about?
Having recorded sounds for some months with self-made piezo pick-ups now, I thought I share some of my experiences — building, recording and other practical knowledge. The material used to construct the little microphones or the places they are positioned for and during recordings has a huge influence on the outcome.
There are already several nice posts out there covering constructing piezo mics, but none of them talks about the consequences decisions like cable, connector plug or pre-amps can have on the quality of the recordings. This series of posts covers my experiences so far and gives a brief outlook on future construction plans.
Piezo — What?!
Since this series wants to focus on building and recording with piezo pick-ups, it would be going to far to explain piezo electricity in detail. Additionally, for our purposes it is currently sufficient enough to know the basics.
Piezo electricity works because of the difference in pressure, respectively stress on the material, creating an electric current. There are a several materials, i.e. various forms of crystals or ceramics, which can be used.
For people who have never heard of it or want to go deeper, here are a few links to articles, giving more detailed overviews on the topic:
- Wikipedia about piezoelectricity
- wikipedia has a short section on them in the general article about ‘ pickups
How to get recordings?
As mentioned, electricity is created by applying pressure on the piezo element. In our case, during recording the piezo ‘picks up’ mechanical vibrations directly from the material, and transduces these signals into recordable voltages. Since the electric signal is rather weak, every pickup mic needs some form of pre-amplification.
I currently use the consumer friendly and even among professional recordists famous Zoom H4, which has three different choices for pre-amplification next to phantom power. A later post will cover the construction of a pre-amp, which can replace the H4′s pre-amp.
- Experience with Piezos — Part III
- DIY Pickup Mics — Piezos Part II
- Stereo Piezo Pick-Ups
- DIY Hydrophones