DIY Musical Instruments: Stomp Box

I’ve done a lot of verbal rambling about the stomp boxes I’ve been making the past few months and it’s been quite a fun adventure, so I’ve decided to post the process up here in chunks. I’ve also been lucky enough to have some friends randomly capture images of parts of the process, so I’ll stick them up here too.

And, if you’re one of my friends out there testing one right now and feel like sticking up some feedback on them,  that would be insanely amazing.

Here we go a stomp box makin’:


Several years of not being able to afford an Ellis stomp box and desiring one (and feeling like jumping on a piece of plywood would just be biting Stompin’ Toms’ styles) left my musical soul feeling a bit restless. I’m a chronic foot-tapper/shuffler when I play and feel like if you do it, you might as well amplify it and get some free, natural percussion going on.

But, the mission really began when a few music friends mentioned they too wanted a stomp box, and a chance meeting with Marcus on a bus to Peterborough resulted in these fine instructions for furious contact mic assembly here:

If you can decode the technical-speak (or get a handy friend to decode them for you like I did) these instructions are pretty wicked, but I did discover that this Radio Shack piezo transducer is no longer being made. I had to buy a piezo doorbell buzzer for $5 and crack it open to pull out the goods. Also, if you’re a patient soul, you can find a similar part at Active Surplus on Queen. (All these details and more will be in pt. 1 of instructions, coming soon.)

Basically, a contact mic is a homemade pickup that lets you amplify anything with a vibration. It only picks up vibrations so you don’t get any surrounding sound bleeding through, which is good, but it also means you have to really think about what materials transmit vibrations well and which silence them.  (I’ll post my trial-and-errors later.)

When planning your stomp box, think about these three things:

  1. Sound. Do you want a clean, “cloppier” sound like the Ellis boxes? Do you want a sloppier, more natural-sounding box? (this is the one I went for) Do you have pedals and effects you can use to change the sound if need be, giving you more options? This will effect what type of wood you’ll need and also the shape you make the box.
  2. Your Playing Style. Do you stand while you play, sit down and tap, dance, or all of the above? I needed a stomp box that could allow me to play it different ways, depending on my accompanying instrument. When playing guitar and singing, or playing banjo, I don’t move too much so tapping is best. When playing the mandolin or my little Washburn Rover, or any of my smaller instruments like melodica or kalimba, I wind up doing this weird sort of marching shuffle and end up on my toes and back heel a lot. I don’t know why, I can’t help it. When I play the spoons, I dance my little arse off in true Kincaid spoon-playing styles, so this complicated things a bit (yet ended up sounding fantastic!)
  3. Shape and Size. Once you’ve figured out your needs you can design your box. For my playing needs, I determined that I needed a fairly large, natural-sounding, versatile box that could be played both flat (for marching or dancing) and raised from the ground to give it a more echo-y sound while tapping.

Now that you’ve determined what type of box you need, it’s time to get to work! Stay tuned for more…


~ by hooksandladders on May 26, 2009.

4 Responses to “DIY Musical Instruments: Stomp Box”

  1. Thanks for blog post. It’s very imformative read.
    I love to browse

  2. I’m still finding the transducers at Radio Shack here in Kansas. But you can also dig them out of old doorbell buzzers, clock radios and smoke or ozone detectors you find at garage sales.

  3. Hi,
    My name is Peter Sesselmann and I make the peterman pickups and stomp boxes. I would love for you to try my stompbox transducer available from my website!

    I also make a missisippy drum machine kit!


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