Install a Cortado Balanced Piezo Pickup in a Banjolele

Introduction: Install a Cortado Balanced Piezo Pickup in a Banjolele

About: Zeppelin Design Labs combines the talents of two engineers: Brach, an expert audio products designer; and Glen, a veteran project manager. Our team also includes three lava lamps, two plasma balls and a rhodo…

Our friend Scott is a children's entertainer and balloon artist. He asked us to electrify his banjolele, so we fitted it with a Cortado balanced piezo contact pickup from Zeppelin Design Labs. This is the same device featured in our popular Instructable, "New and Improved Tin Can Microphone." That Instructable includes detailed instructions and schematics for building your own mic from scratch, or from our kit.

The Cortado produces a balanced, buffered output signal that provides broader bandwidth, flatter frequency response, quieter signal and superior cable-driving capacity compared to typical, unbalanced piezo pickups. The XLR output from the pickup runs straight into his mixer. Phantom power from the mixer energizes the circuit. He is now independent from a microphone and free to carouse among his little fans. Here's how we did it.

What you will need:

  1. A Cortado balanced piezo contact pickup from Zeppelin Design Labs.
  2. About 1.5 square inches of industrial-strength hook-and-loop self-adhesive fastener (Velcro). Do not use consumer, household or sewing grade products.

Step 1: Build a Cortado Piezo Contact Pickup

Get yourself a Cortado balanced piezo pickup kit from Zeppelin Design Labs and follow the assembly instructions to configure it as an instrument pickup (as opposed to a contact microphone or vocal microphone). You can make it from scratch yourself too; see our Instructable "New and Improved Tin Can Microphone" for parts list and schematic. Either way, the result is a neat little circuit shielded in copper tape, with a piezo disc at one end and an XLR male connector at the other.

Step 2: Mount the Piezo and Circuit Inside the Body

Remove the sound board. With the industrial sticky tape provided with the Cortado, carefully attach the piezo to the underside of the banjo head just behind the bridge, and a little off-center toward the low strings, as shown. Use a bit of industrial Velcro to attach the shielded circuit to the inside of the body.

Step 3: Complete the Installation

Replace the sound board. In this case, the output cable slipped easily through the gap between the body and the sound board. Some instruments may require a small divot in the body to permit the cable to pass out.

The last task is to apply another little bit of industrial Velcro to the outside of the body to hold the XLR jack in place. And that's it! Scott now uses any standard mic cable to patch in his banjolele.

Be the First to Share


    • For the Home Contest

      For the Home Contest
    • Game Design: Student Design Challenge

      Game Design: Student Design Challenge
    • Make It Bridge

      Make It Bridge



    Question 5 years ago

    Can I have more detailed construction details for the pick up itself aside from just saying “go buy this kit and assemble it”. I feel like this less of Instructable and more an underhanded advertisement for your pick up kit. DIY should include a parts list for the pick up at least. Very disappointing because this seems cool.

    Zeppelin Design Labs
    Zeppelin Design Labs

    Answer 5 years ago

    I'm sure sorry for your disappointment. First we published "New and Improved Tin Can Microphone" instructable. a detailed step-by-step for building the Cortado contact mic into a tin can mic. This banjo instructable was offered as a "By the way, you could also use it like this." In isolation, I totally understand it just looks like an ad. I'll add some text to give it context.

    We also offer a free download assembly manual at our web site, with more details and application ideas.