Hack #3, The Talk Box.. for bass

Anybody over 35 remembers Peter Frampton and his talk box on the “Frampton Comes Alive” album. It sounded awesome!

He wasn’t the first one to use this device however. Pete Drake had and album in 1964 that featured a “talking” steel guitar

I’ve always wanted to try making one, so.. this week’s hack is just that, only it’s for a bass guitar instead.
A typical Talk Box consists of a speaker in a totally sealed enclosure with a tube coming out of it which carries the sound. The tube is runs up a mic stand and ends near the mic. It extends past the mic a few inches and goes inside the mouth of the musician. The sound from the guitar or other instrument comes out of the tube and resonates in the mouth cavity, then gets reflected into the mic. The shape of the mouth determines the timbre of the sound and so by altering the shape of the inside of the mouth one cane produce a wah wah type effect or a talking effect.

A bass sound signal is quite a bit different from a guitar sound signal. A guitar is in the higher frequencies which means it has more energy due to more cycles per second. It’s pretty easy to get that sound to run through a tube but a bass signal doesn’t provide enough energy to make a loud enough sound to work with using this method.
I came up with something that does work however. It came to me in the middle of the night. I woke up and suddenly thought, “hey, why not just mount a small speaker up on the mic and run a very short tube from that?” So, I did just that and it works great! The speaker is a tiny thing that came from a cell phone and the amp that drives it was hacked from a Sony radio cassette player.

Watch the video and you’ll hear how it sounds. I’m having fun playing with it!
If you’re a musician and you like to tinker, you should try building a talk box. They’re lots of fun.
Happy Hacking!

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