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so I got a piezo buzzer from Radio Shack...

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by RyanHelms, Jun 15, 2004.


  1. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    ...after reading a diy article about a replacement pup for an Azola Baby Bass. A thread from another BBS had guys saying "Yeah, this sounds like a hundred bucks and the buzzer only cost me $2.99" Got to wonderin' "Hmmmmmmmm, what would happen if I put one under the bridge on my solidbody?"
    A couple of buzzers later (breaking the disc out of the plastic buzzer case and then soldering it up without ruining it along the way is super fun...) there's now a piezo bridge on my homebrew solidbody fretless.

    I must say I'm shocked at how good it sounds. Not a true DB replication but the notes are definately there! Open notes have a new growl I've never heard from that bass, and if I really dig in there's that unmistakable string click. And that's straight, a pre-amp will really juice it up. The string response isn't 100% even, but hey - I'm comin' in under $10 here.

    Anyone ever mess around with something like this? I found a nice solidbody bridge with piezo saddles made by Shadow Electronics , but they start at $320 ($400 for a 6-string :eek: ) Who else uses piezos and what's yer set-up?
    There's got to be an alternative to what's available out there...

    -Ryan
     
  2. cods

    cods

    Sep 16, 2003
    what is a piezo buzzer?
     
  3. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Alexandria,VA
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I've been thinking about doing something similar. It's good to hear that it is workable.

    I've built triggers for my drum set using piezos, and wondered how it would translate to bass. Do you get extraneous noises if you strike the body or bridge?

    I was also thinking of wiring up a couple of piezo buzzers to a bass and running them to a drum module so I could play percussion on the bass, or maybe even trigger MIDI sounds.
     
  4. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    I've used them to make drum triggers and as an internal-mount pickup in an acoustic guitar. They sound not bad, put out some brittle-sounding highs that need to be EQ'd out but for the price they are great. For triggers I don't even take them out of the housing, just glue in the whole thing and wire it up...works great!


    BTW I just took apart a malfunctioning $100+ Roland kick drum trigger and inside was the same old piezo buzzer.
     
  5. cods

    cods

    Sep 16, 2003
    ?
     
  6. I'm not 100% sure myself but I think its just a little thing that will buzz because its got a little piezo in it that is made to vibrate with an oscillating current.

    And Ryan, I think, has made it work backwards by rather than putting out vibrations from current, it picks up the vibrations and turns them into current...

    I've considered something kinda similar but using a regular bridge but slip maybe a sheet of metal or something real stiff and thin under the saddle adjustment screws. Then stick the piezo bit under that. Or you could do up a little block of wood that sticks to the back of the bridge and the string run through that. Then your piezo bit in between the block and the bridge but that might not work so good...

    I'm thinking I might have to see if I can get a few of these little things.

    Josh D
     
  7. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    _cods - what is a piezo buzzer?_

    "daveze" is right, it's a buzzer that operates from supplying current to a piezo electric element, basicaly a thin layer of ceramic sandwiched in brass. Hit it with current and it vibrates at a frequency and buzzes. They come housed in a little plastic box with slits on the face, much like a tiny speaker. Break that open, carefully pry out the disc, and you've got a piezo pickup that works in reverse, it creates current when you apply the vibration.

    _jive1 -Do you get extraneous noises if you strike the body or bridge?_

    You bet, since the whole instrument is now "live" so to speak. Really not that bad, no more that an acoustic guitar with a piezo stuck on it.

    _TimmyB - BTW I just took apart a malfunctioning $100+ Roland kick drum trigger and inside was the same old piezo buzzer._
    :eyebrow: Hmmm...makes me wonder what lurks inside other "Name Brand" gear...

    Mine is literaly under the bridge. Just run the wires to the control cavity thru the tunnel for the string ground. There was a lot of surface noise when a pre-amp was added, although the response and tone were greatly improved. Had to roll of the highs a bit, but that's easy to manage internally a number of different ways.

    I replaced my volume pot with a push-pull pot and ran the piezo to the switch, then straight to the output jack so it can be added to any tone that's dialed up. (the rest of the bass is a P/J with a blend) Even w/o a pre-amp, you can definately hear the presence and "acousticness"? the piezo provides when switched into the signal. Not to mention eliviating the need to roll of the highs, since the mag pups are always on and overtake the frequencies you would want to otherwise dial out.

    The integral drum trigger idea sounds very cool. I can imagine Victor Wooten and Futureman rolled into one.........
     
  8. Kelly Lee

    Kelly Lee Yeah, I'm a guy! Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Marana, AZ, USA
    This is very interesting...hmmm. Anyplace I can see how someone has put this together, like a how to? Do you just lay it under the bridge and bolt the bridge on top of it? I would love to know more!
     
  9. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    Whoa. Got sidetracked for a while there...
    Anyhow, yep, lay it under the bridge and bolt the bridge on top of it. Run the wire to the control cavity along with the string ground, assuming there is one. (sorry I didn't take pics of the whole thing) If not, then it becomes a treacherous mod since you need a 1/8" drill bit that's 10" long or so to drill a hole at that angle. :eyebrow:

    I've noticed that switching the piezo into the output in a higher volume group setting has a negligable effect, but quieter settings do let you hear the acoustic response quite well. There's a "pop" when I activate the push/pull switch, could be the switch quality, or maybe I need to modify the setup.

    Hopefully I can some sound clips online...
     
  10. Yowsa! So I just tried this mod and it works great! For me anyways. I've got an old beater Vantage 600 fretless that had some crappy stock P pickups in it which I removed and went with the el-cheapo piezo setup. I used 2 piezo buzzers from Radio Shack, ripped out the elements and mounted one under the E string area of the bridge and the other under the G string area. I wired 'em up in series for slightly higher output, and it suprisingly sounds really good. I've gotta roll off most of the high frequencies, though. It sounds fairly natural, especially if I finger pick over the neck. The only drawback would be that it may be a bit microphonic. I haven't tried it through my full rig, yet, so I don't know if it's gonna feedback like a bastard, but it'll atleast be good for quieter stuff and recording. So, thanks to this thread, I turned a crappy beater bass into a decent sounding bass that I actually like to play. Anybody want some clips?
     
  11. yes!!! Clips would be extremely cool, especially of various mixes of mags and piezo's. SOmething that illustrates the difference in fret noise would be cool, as thats one of the notable differences about piezos.
    ty
    Pat Mahoney
     
  12. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    Most ecxellant, RumbleBot. I did demo this mod minus the mag pups and also needed to roll of the high quite a lot. What about hardwiring in a tone cap? Playing quietly with just the piezo, though, sounded sooooo acoustic. The microphonics *are* a problem at high volume, through a full rig it definately feeds back. There again, that's with the piezo alone. Blend it into the mag signal, and tada. Piezo definition rounded out with mag body and bottom. No prob w/feedback.

    And, Pat, I'm using flatwounds on a fretless, so there's virtualy no lefthand noise. Roundwounds on a fretted, though, will most likely be as noisy as any electrified acoustic ever with the piezo alone. Blending, however, should yield many useable settings.

    Time for sound clips :D
     
  13. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Totally excellent. I love seeing inovative posts like this.
     
  14. I think I'm gonna put the P back in with a blend knob before I do some clips. The piezo is lacking in the big bottom department (in my situation, anyways), so I can go about 25%/75% with the P/piezo, respectively. Plus, I wanna do P/piezo comparison clips. Plus, I forgot to re-round the bridge, anyways. Oops. Oh, and as a side note, I would advise anybody else doing this to use two piezo elements, one under each side of the bridge. This is giving me really good string balance. And, has anybody tried a piezo in the neck?
     
  15. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    I've never heard of a bass that has tried this, but I love to know what the results are. If you do this, take pictures and I'd be happy to archive your construction article on my site if you like.
     
  16. I've tried piezo on the headstock. It doesn't work very well, because it gets quieter the farther you get from the end of the neck. I suspect you would get similar volume fades when you moved towards and away from the PU in the neck as well.
     
  17. phatcactus

    phatcactus

    Apr 2, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I've always wanted to try a Radio Shack piezo pickup, but was always afraid of the nasty tone I'd get without a preamp, not for tone shaping, but impedance matching. Piezo pickups are very very high impedance, which is probably why their unprocessed tone is so trebly. Being the anal retentive fellow I am, I won't settle for an outboard preamp, which are commonly available for reasonable prices. Too many wires.

    Fishman makes the Powerchip (among other piezo devices), a PCB stuck to a blend pot which blends special saddle-mounted piezo pickups on guitars with regular magnetic pickups. I've always had an urge to buy one, but I don't wanna buy one and find out it's tuned specifically for guitar and chokes on bass frequencies. They don't say it doesn't work on bass, but they don't say it does, and I'm not familiar enough with this kinda stuff to make an assumption.

    If I can find a Powerchip cheap enough (under $50), I'll buy one and report back with my experience. Worst thing that can happen is I have a piezo pup for my ghetto guitar. The eBay user guitarfetish_com sells an unbranded Fishman Acoustic Matrix pickup/preamp combo for a reasonable price, which I might jump on if I can't find a cheap enough Powerchip. The Matrix preamp is contained in an endpin jack designed for acoustic guitars, but I don't see any reason it can't be mounted in the control cavity of an electric. It just lacks the blend control of the Powerchip, and that seems like it'd be important.

    I think a piezo between the neck and body might be a good idea. I'd imagine the headstock is weak because there's too little pressure transferring to the pickup surface. It probably has to be sandwiched between two parts (traditionally the bridge and body) to work well. The neck pocket is right in the middle of the string's vibration,, and it's the main point transferring vibration between the neck and body. The fact that it's so far away from the points where the strings connect to the bass might give it a particularly woody tone...? Haven't tried anything yet myself though, so who knows? :D
     
  18. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    Aye, there's the rub. I guess it was kinda cool, though, to be able to just break apart a cheap plastic widget, connect a jack to it's innards, and get sound out of an amp. ;)

    But yes you're right. Would the Matrix endpin mounted preamp be ok since it would see your mag pups too? I'm leaning towards a simple, discreet circuit just for the piezo...and a better piezo. So much for cheap.

    By the way, I need to say here that if you're uncomfortable hacking hardware into your instrument, or if your bass is anything better than a project or back-up, don't do this mod. Keep in mind, a piezo bridge for your bass is $300. The piezo element out of a buzzer is $2...
     
  19. phatcactus

    phatcactus

    Apr 2, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    Hmmm. Just found Bartolini's buffer/blend at http://guitarelectronics.zoovy.com/product/MPB . $65 ain't tooo bad, right? And it says up front that it works with bass guitars. I think I'm convinced. If eBay treats me right this week, I'll pick one up.

    What I can't find is a cheap piezo material big enough to fit under a bridge. I'll look some more later, but I guess RS buzzers will have to do for now.
     
  20. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    You know that you guys could easily build your own high impedance preamps.