newprotest.org: ELECTRIC MOTOR PICKUP

ELECTRIC MOTOR PICKUP

November 11, 2007
by: jovial_cynic
This audio project I've got going on is more than just making an amp and playing music. It's really about experimenting with ways to make music. I like the idea of being able to make my own set of speakers and my own magnetic pickup.



After doing a little bit of reading on how magnetic pickups work, I was curious about whether or not an electric motor could be used. So, I grabbed a spare motor I had sitting in my electronic goodie box, a large rubber band, and some spare wire, and sure enough, the motor's magnetic field picked up the vibration from the rubber band, and I could hear the twang of the band coming out of the amp.

It's not terribly loud. When I put my distortion pedal inline, the sound is amplified quite a bit (although there's no distortion), but without the pedal, it's not quite what I'd call a success. However, if I build a mount for the motor and bolt it into the inside of a resonating chamber of some kind, that might make a bit of difference.

Using a motor in this application isn't much different than using a piezoelectric speaker... but I feel like a motor is closer to what I could actually build (it's just a magnet and a coil), whereas the piezoelectric speaker is beyond me. I think that if I decide to build my own little DIY instrument, I'll probably wind my own coil and and build my own magnetic pickup.

For that matter, I wonder how an electromagnet would work with an external coil. I could create the magnet used in the pickup. Whoa. It's getting crazy now...

Update: After doing even more research, it turns out that an electric motor is functioning like a contact microphone, and not at all like a magnetic pickup. The motor case itself is causing the signal to go through the coil, and anything that is vibrating the case ends up causing that vibration to go through the coil and to the amp. Neat.

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