Piezo Element / Melodic Step Sequencer

So what's a piezo element? And what is it used for? 
The simple version: A piezo element is a little metal disk that when vibrated, bumped, hit, etc. produces an oscillating electrical voltage.

AND ... it can be used for... LOTS OF THINGS!


Piezo Element

Piezo Element

 
That ol' familiar piezo we all know and love.

That ol' familiar piezo we all know and love.

You're probably familiar with the annoying sound of your household smoke detector alarm... Well, by APPLYING an oscillating voltage to a piezo element, it vibrates and produces sound!

So what about music? 
The easiest example:  A contact microphone is a type of microphone that picks up vibrations from contact with objects... This is different than the more common type of microphone which picks up pressure waves in air.

Easy right!?... 

But what else could we use them for?  I've always been fascinated by the possibilities of piezo elements and it's my pleasure to share some of my first ideas for my new live show with you... And I would love to hear your comments.  

First, we need a way to get the piezo input.  I wired a piezo element to a mono 1/4" female jack.  Now, we can plug it in using a standard guitar cable.   - See Example 1a. >

Next, we've built a housing for the Electronics to get input to the computer using a simple Altoid Mints Tin for the housing  - See Example 1b >


Example: 1a) Here's the piezo wired to a mono 1/4" female jack.  You can plug it in the same way a guitar player plugs into an amplifier. 

Example: 1a) Here's the piezo wired to a mono 1/4" female jack.  You can plug it in the same way a guitar player plugs into an amplifier. 

Example: 1b) A simple Altoid Mints tin box used to house the electronic components.

Example: 1b) A simple Altoid Mints tin box used to house the electronic components.

So, check this out!

Here, I'm playing a melody from my keyboard into a step sequencer that captures each part of the melody note for note on the computer... I then trigger the melody using a piezo element attached inside of a book! 

Take a look at the video! - Video Example 1 >
Any ideas for what you'd like to see? 

I've included a few pictures of the basic 1 input version hardware... But, I'm currently working on a new 5 input system to be used with a drumset where the piezos will work both as contact microphones and as triggers like in this example.

Please stay tuned for future developments and an insider look at how these new experiments are incorporated into my live show!

Keep an eye out and have an awesome week!  

 - Harlan

 

Video Example 1: Test No. 1 of the hardware and piezo element.