P-Bass Stomp Box.


Over a month ago I have posted few words about some sort of invention in the DIY stomp box world.
The idea was simple so genius: Using the p-bass pickups as a sound transformer.
The majority of the DIY stomp boxes I saw so far has a piezo buzzer for this goal.
And as any piezo element it comes with 2 common issues:
1. “Dirtiness” of the sound. Not only the kick of you foot is transmitted but all possible squicks and even smallest rustles.
2. Huge feedback. You have to be a sound engineering guru to get an acceptable sound. So it is loud enough and without the self-generated feedback sound.

The regular magnetic pickup supposes to solve both problems at least the big part of it.
Just because it’s only able to transmit the vibrations of the metal object.
In the case of the guitar it is the vibration of the string. But you can use any metal object for this goal.

Now. Why p-bass pickup?
Well our DIY stomp box is a foot drum, right?
Therefore we want to get as low frequency of the drum sound as possible.

MATERIALS USED IN THE PROJECT:

1. Cohiba cigar box..

At the beginning I was thinking about the bigger box as I saw in the internet and described in the blog article.
But finally I have decided on this one.
Main reason – the portability.
2. P-bass pickups.

The cheapest solution was to order the set of p-bass pickups on eBay.
Its price was just $6.50 to the moment of ordering from (surprise!) China shipping free.
The first test showed the significant electric feedback.
Well that’s the price of the low price I guess.
Therefore I had to add the item 3:
3. Self-adhesive aluminium coil.

The best solution for the shielding of the box would be a copper coil of course.
But the aluminium coil is much cheaper and still does the work.
The covering of the interior of the box will protect the pickups from the electromagnetic interference and thus will decrease the unpleasant sound.
4. 1/4″ Guitar/Phone Jack.

This is a standard part for any DIY project.
You have to have a plug to connect the amplifier cable. Right?
The only relatively complex job in this project is the soldering the pickup wires to this jack.
You can buy them in any store electric department just for $0.7 or 10 pieces for $6 or so.
Make sure to sand a bit the contacts before soldering.
5. Self Adhesive Double 2 Sided Sticky Strong Mounting Tape.

Of course, you can use the screws or glue to mount the parts inside the cigar box.
I’ve found for myself that this mounting tape is the best solution.
Just be patient and don’t rush to remove the protecting paper from the other side until you sure all stripes are in place and ready to catch the item.
6. String Replacing Metal Object.

Remember that we need some metal object vibrating on the foot hits?
After some thoughtful search in the recycling bin I’ve made my decision on the Fisherman’s Friend metal box for the lozenges. I’ve ruthlessly detached the lid and that’s what I will use as a “string”.

WORK.

Step 1. Drilling.
Drill a hole for the 1/4″ jack (#4 above).
You can use one of the end faces of the box but not the one you plan turn toward to you while playing.
I usually use left/right side ends but the top side end might be even better.
Oh. And I turn the box to me with the side and opposite to the one which has a lock.

Step 2. Shielding.

This step is fairly simple.
Just cover tightly the interior sides of the box with the self-adhesive aluminium foil.
All sides including the cover lid.
Don’t leave the uncovered spaces between the stripes.
The overlapping is better.
For an example take a look on the resulting image at the bottom.

Step 3. Installing Jack.
I guess this step doesn’t need any detailed directions.
Just put it through and tighten the nut. Don;t forget the washer though.

Step 4. Mounting the pickups.

The position is not really important.
Just as a rule of the thumb the central position should be the best considering the fact that the maximum of the vibration occurs in the center.
Firstly stick two stripes of the mounting tape on the bottom sides of the pickups.
Then take them in one hand ready to put in place and remove the protecting paper with another hand and stick them to the center of the bottom with wires side facing the installed jack.

Step 5. Connecting the Pickups to the Jack.

This is the only step where you probably will need some special tool. I mean a soldering-iron.
I saw some people just tying the wire to the jack contacts holes.
Well, it might work. But not for a long time.
So if you want a good device then solder it.
Remember that the black wire is for the ground.
Actually I’m not sure that polarity in this case is important.
But I’m trying to be just accurate here.

Step 6. Final. Installing the “string”.

As I said I used the lid from the small Fisherman’s Friend metal box.
Just because this is the first suitable thing I was able to find.
But feel free to use whatever you can find.
Any piece of metal which is thin enough to produce the vibrations will work.

Now the important part. The GAP between the metal plate and the pickup.
I would vote for 2mm max. The closer – better the response.
But at the same time you have to make sure the plate won’t touch the pickup during the hit.

While using the mounting sticky tape put it on the 2 far ends of the pate so the middle is left free for better vibrations.
But remember that it has to hold the plate strong enough to fight the pickup magnet attraction.

Put 2 or even more layers of the sticky tape (one on one) if you need to set the plate closer to the pickup.

RESULT.

That’s actually it.
You are pretty much done.
I also would advise to put some rubber legs on the bottom so it will not slide while in use.
Some people put the bigger/higher legs on the outer side so the box is comfortably inclined towards to your foot.
But it really depends on personal preferences.
I personally use the roll of the soft carpet.

The following image demonstrates the interior of the p-bass stomp box:

The demo video is to come shortly.

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rod WEbster
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 19:49:10

    Hi There,

    This is a well good explanation so thank you for your time.

    Is it possible to use active P bass pickups I have 2 spare and wiired ready to go? also why can’t you have the jack plug in facing you as you play?

    Thanks Rod

    Reply

    • admin
      Apr 29, 2013 @ 14:48:24

      Hi.
      Thanks for the comment.
      Honestly, I don’t see why the active pickups won’t work while I never tried yet.
      Maybe it will work even better than the passive ones.
      The only disadvantage I see is that you’ll have to “feed” this stomp box with batteries.
      But probably it will work perfectly without batteries too.
      Just one more tip that I’ve realized recently: closer you place the “membrane” (metal plate) to the pickup better the sound.
      Just as close as possible but without contacting it during the kick.
      Best of luck.

      Reply

  2. Brent Hannah
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 18:43:39

    What a great idea! Thanks for sharing.
    Just a couple of notes.
    1. Shielding the inside of the box is a great idea, it uses the principles of a Faraday cage to isolate the components. However aluminum is a poor choice because it is not influenced by magnets (it don’t work). Any ferrous metal will do, but copper is the best.
    2. A humbucker type pickup might not need shielding at all.
    3. I imagine that the thickness of the plate “string” as well as the thickness/type of wood on the stomp surface would greatly affect the tone. Have you done any experiments?

    I have some old guitar pickups I’m going to try this with. I also work a lot with plexiglass, so I’ll give that a shot as well.

    Thanks again. I’ll keep you posted.

    Reply

    • admin
      Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:34:49

      Hi.
      Thanks for your feedback.

      1. I agree that the aluminium foil is not the best choice. I always use the copper shielding when it comes to making the guitars. In this particular case the main goal was to keep the lowest budget. Just to make it interesting and affordable for everyone.

      2. I have one FB friend who had followed this idea with the humbucker. He made it real simple. He just put the can lid right on the top of the hum and it worked very nicely.

      3. I didn’t have enough time to experiment with the “membrane”. But you have the point. Everything may count the thickness, the space, the distance, the suspension method etc.

      Keep in touch. Soon I will be able to trade the links.

      Reply

    • Brandon Hibberd - Sound Hole Music
      Oct 31, 2013 @ 12:20:27

      Hi Brent – i’m actually surfing to see different wiring diagrams for stomp boxes. I built the box yesterday and finishing it up today. Checked it for the first time after a friend used one at a gig over the weekend – he had used ply wood but it was rather thick, and as mentioned above does not have the best sound – it sounds like a box with a mic inside. I used a 3 ply – which is about 3 mm thick, more or less the same as an acoustic guitar and it sounds so much better – so yes the thickness actually makes the biggest difference of all. I only had normal elec guitar pick ups (Humbucker), so to counter this i wired in a volume and tone pot – so it’s wired just like a guitar and it sounds better than any other stomp box i’ve heard – it’s my first attempt but it’s really come out so much better than expected. So i would agree with all of the above !

      Reply

    • Mike E
      Feb 10, 2014 @ 21:29:39

      Um. Copper isn’t ferrous either. Besides you really don’t want anything ferrous as this would indeed interact with the pickups. Aluminum is fine for this, as long as it is connected to ground.

      Reply

    • Kratt
      Feb 28, 2016 @ 17:20:14

      Copper isnt farrous and also isnt influnced by magnets. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-ferrous_metal You are shielding from electial noise not magnetic.

      Reply

  3. Marc Franz
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 19:29:22

    Like this a lot.Would it work if you used that two sided foam adhesive tape and stuck a thin strip right to the polepieces and then stuck the steel lid to the other side of the tape?That would preclude any direct contact and leave the majority of the lid free to resonate.Just a thought.

    Reply

  4. Michael V
    Mar 12, 2014 @ 04:38:51

    I’ve been looking for a cigar box to make my own stomp box, but to no avail. So I drew up a plan and am ready to build- I have a p-bass jack & pick-up to put in it. I’m planning to make an 8″ x 6″ slanted box (3″ at high edge, 1″ at low edge) out of cedar (3/4″) with a 3/8″ or less plywood top and bottom.

    I’m wondering if your plexiglass test worked, Brent? Any other suggestions for the “face” of the box? Also, has anyone found a good, but common material for the membrane?

    Cheers!

    Reply

  5. Stephen Prescott
    Aug 03, 2014 @ 13:19:42

    May be a stupid question.

    I’m going to build one of these with a basic mixer in it (so i can run the guitar through the same channel). Can I use the metal “string” to ground the circuit, or should I have another conductor running down the side or something?

    Reply

    • admin
      Aug 05, 2014 @ 03:01:54

      Interesting question. I didn’t used it with any mixer yet. So I haven’t faced any problem with that. BTW, I run the stomp box through the SWR LA-10 bass amp.
      But I think that it shouldn’t be a problem to use it as a ground. It’s absolutely the same principle as when we ground the strings in the guitar. If I’m not mistaken with the question.
      But thank you anyway. You gave me an interesting idea. I’ll try to ground mine just to see if it will improve the performance.

      Reply

  6. Will
    Oct 29, 2014 @ 00:10:23

    Ive got a brand new Bass Pickup almost just like the one above, and a new jack, and all i get is static. HELP

    Reply

    • admin
      Oct 29, 2014 @ 14:38:16

      Hi. The main trick is to mimic a metal string. As you may noticed in the article I have placed the thin lid of the metal “Fisherman’s Friend lid right upon the pickup inside the cigar box. I used the self-adhesive mounting tape to fix it on the top lid inside the box. Important. just attach it with the small pieces of the tape at the corners so the middle part can vibrate when you tap the box with your foot.
      You can can use any thin piece of metal, the removed lid of the cat food can for example.
      And experiment with a space between the pickup top and the metal plate. Some of my friends even just put it upon the pickup And it worked for him.
      Let me know if it’s a help.

      Reply

  7. Will
    Oct 30, 2014 @ 03:00:53

    My Pickups work, there is just a ton of static in my signal

    Reply

  8. Caleb
    Mar 10, 2015 @ 06:12:40

    Well done! That thing is rad. I have just built one with an old license plate on top as the sound surface and it looks awesome but just doesn’t sound that good. Would love to see a video of yours in action? I might have to re-design mine more like yours.

    Reply

  9. Peter Jones
    Apr 15, 2015 @ 16:13:15

    Hi there. This does indeed sound cool and like it would give a better bass response. I came across this while following an idea of my own, so I thought I may as well ask what you guys thought. I’ve got this idea to make a stomp box which has snare and kick sounds which could be played with a pedal and only needs one foot. I’ve tried to describe this, and some don’t get what I’m on about, but I’ll try.
    I imagine a box built with one type of surface on top, and a different type on the bottom. I imagine the pedal to be enclosed in the box and working withh a spring mechannism like a piano pedal or whatever. Here’s where it gets hard to describe, but if the pedal could have attached some how two beaters. On would strike the bottom of the inside of the box as you push down, there by causing your kick sound. The other beater would hit the underside of the top of the box as its released. The spring would need to be powerfull enough to give it sufficient force. That would be the snare beat. How to get the two sounds to differ enough, I’m not sure about. I imagine that a conbination of materials, plus the size and shape of the beater might contribute. Failing that, it would have to be something to do with the pick ups. There’d need to be two pickups inside. One on the bottom, and one on the top. Maybe two different kinds of pickups would vary the sound sufficiently. If this could all be done some how, you could get a great kick and snare going on if you could master the up and down notion of the pedal. You might wonder, why not just tap on different ares with both feet? I’m a keyboard player and I’m thinking of using this in conjunction. So my right foot is always busy on the sustain pedal. So I thought it’d be great to be able to get a back beat going with the other foot. I’ve seen some heal and toe type of stomp boxes but I didn’t like the sound, and I just think a better and easier way would be with a pedal. I also don’t want to go down the midi trigger route. I’m sure it can be done, but unfortunately I know sod all about ilectrics or building any type of equipment so it will need further thought. But I just wondered if you guys could see this working as a concept. I’m sorry for hijacking the thread, but I just need to talk to someone who knows about this sort of stuff. Thanks in advance for any feedback. Pete

    Reply

  10. mickeyj4j
    May 08, 2015 @ 12:42:26

    I have a stompbox this has what I believe is a double bass or electric guitar pickup active pickup. When I opened it up I did not see any metal part inside. The pickups where just stick inside the wood with double sided tape. It works great but sounds better with my Kong ax5b bass pedal (with some reverb and delay added) or my behringer bdi21 bass preamp/di. Maybe the metal sounds better or works with your type of pickup.

    Another idea is to get a proper made stompbox pickup like the ones on this site. http://www.peterman.com.au/music/stompboxes
    Either way as long as it works. Check out the many diy stompbox ideas online or youtube etc. Enjoy your stomping.

    ** It is strange that guitar effects pedals with an on/off foot switch are referred to stompboxes when originally only foot drums were **

    Reply

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