Live Sampling


So on the flute side of things, if I remember correctly from around that era, he’s using an omni lapel wireless mic inserted into the bottom of the flute (you can see the cable coming out of it and the wireless pack on his hip). That’s then running into a volume pedal and finally into a tiny practice guitar amp with built in distortion.

Because of the nature of the flute he has a lot of control over the feedback “pitch” by changing the position of the flute (and his body) to the amp, along with his mouth/embouchure. The volume pedal also helps a lot there. (you can see some of it in more detail in this video I think) (also I highly recommend his album Amp/Al which has more of his explorations on it, along with a studio version of this piece (and brilliant artwork by @Angela))

The mic, wireless system, and amp, are all pretty shit quality, which adds to the sound of it too, particularly the wireless system as in quieter sections you can hear the sputtering/downsample-y sounding AM of the thresholding being crossed.

For the snare I’m also using an omni lapel mic, which happens to be a Naiant X-X microphone because it was cheap and turns out pretty good sounding. (I own like 5 of these now! (and at some point I’ll probably pick up an LOM mic to test/compare with)) It runs into distortion (in Max), then out into a volume pedal and finally a guitar amp (a 1x12 Fender Reverb in that performance). (these days I go until a full-range wedge and put some filtering on the input to avoid having bass or highs runaway with the feedback, but I find it’s more dynamic and expressive)

If you’re interested in this piece/approach I go into a LOT of detail in this blog post here:

As far as more general advice, I highly recommend the book Getting a Bigger Sound, as it covers a lot of ground about different approaches to amplification (great section on contact mics for example). But besides that I’m a big fan of omni mics for this kind of thing, as you get a fairly realistic signal into the computer. If it’s in your budget DPA 4060s are pure magic. I bought a pair of those as soon as I could afford them and it made a massive night and day difference. Particularly for drums, I can honestly get a really solid and full sound by just clipping it to the front of the snare. (Going with the 4060s was inspired by early jams with @tremblap, who is often my “fancy gear mentor”).

Going with omnis obviously brings in problems with room noise, bleed, etc… so that’s not going to be the best solution always, but it works well for me.

As far as contact mics go, I’ve been suuuper happy with K&K hotspots, which are cheap and pretty full sounding. As a point of reference I also own an expensive Schertler, which is worlds quieter, but not quite as full ranged as the K&K. In either case a preamp comes in handy. Lots of DIY options available there. In terms of the mic itself, unless you get some good elements and/or know what you’re doing, I wouldn’t go DIY here as they tend to sound shit and are quite noisy, and things like the K&K are pretty cheap.

Hope that helps a bit (and happy to answer any more specific questions).


Hi. Yes! A shotgun works really well if the room is a bit dead. I did some gigs with a full size brass ensemble. I used a Røde Ntg-1 at rehearsals and on the concerts I got group mixes from the FOH technician.

The reason was mostly that we wanted the mics as close to the performers as possible to not but even more of the room sound back into the pa.

I have also used contact mics on piano wich worked great.

Also when I am playing with my jazz quartet I usually put an sm58 in front of the sax and don’t worry about it.
I usually want to transform the sound anyways so I am more interested in getting the signal to noise/spill level best than the actual sound quality.

I do have two pairs of the Lom Usi pro microphones and even though they sound greeeaaat they pick up waaay to much spill for most settings.

Of course everything depends if you are doing lowercase flute solos or you are micking a metal guitarist.


Nice of you to stop by.

Surprised to hear that you use omni’s! I haven’t had good luck with my bigger omni’s though I’m doing much more straightforward looping than you usually are I think. The k&k’s seem pretty good, and I like the price point. Do you think built in mixer pre-amps would do well enough in terms of pre-amplification for those?

I’ve also found that my DIY piezo’s have not done well for quality, though I was running using those into a handheld recorder with no pre-amp.

I’ve been doing a lot of live sampling with mic’s. It’s really tricky with feedback. Especially when layering multiple layers of the same mic.
I always use severe EQ settings on the input channel of the mic to filter out any resonant frequency’s in the room and the system.
I’ve used condensers and it can work but with something like a SM58 you are much safer. Especially if you are going to improvise this gives a lot of freedom.
But the feedback problem with instruments and mics with live looping on larger PA’s made me move mostly to instruments with pickups. Being it coils or piezo’s.

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The omni thing depends a ton on context obviously.

(There’s a lot of optimization you can do too, using something like @tremblap’s HISSTools. I know for a lot of his live sampling oriented pieces he will do some measurements at the venue and correct for the microphone and the speakers in the hall to do things like getting a “realistic” omni distance mic from a close direction mic etc… I do a much lower tech version of this where I sort of ‘bleed’ out the room and dial out problematic frequencies. (I’d like to eventually have an automated system that will sweep and tune a filter to minimize feedback spikes)))

For the value the k&ks are hard to beat. They also have lots of variations (hotspot, twin spot etc…). As far as preamps, contact mics have specific impedance requirements, and a regular mic/mixer preamp isn’t ideal. Cable length also matters a lot too. I would recommend making something like this, which does nothing but correct the impedance (a buffer). I have a couple of these sitting in a drawer somewhere.

What’s even better though is something like this:

(@mods, do let me know if it’s not cool having a schematic like this up here)

This one is a buffer and a preamp, and has a built in EQ to boot. I found the schematic online then had someone make a stripboard layout that fits inside an altoid tin. This sounds fantastic. Using this gives you a ton more bottom end without doing any boosting, just by buffering the signal. You’ll notice a big difference even with a shit contact mic.


I guess this would be an appropriate time to plug my live sampling SuperCollider program called Animalation:

It’s for grid and arc, can be used grid alone and can be used with non-varibright grids. It offers live sampling with mlr-style slicing, pitch shifting in octaves and fifths, reverse, a lowpass filter, fm, and loop start and stop controls, as well as trigger recording. Nothing is quantized.

My favorite technique is resampling the sound coming out of the speakers.

Here’s a full performance video to get an idea:


Oh yes, what with the electricity and all…

But ok that impedance buffer looks super doable. Seems like something my fiddly soldering skills could piece together.

I’m also very interested in HISSTools. I’ve tried the manual method of blocking out the bleed points with a graphic EQ but I always have ened up with a swiss-cheese comb filter sort of thing that weirds up the input signal too much. I suppose a proper mic’ing setup could make that easier.

It’s a different price range than the 58/beta 57 stuff for sure, but I’ve heard that the Sennheiser MD-441 is very good for these sorts of applications.

I am still hunting on the lifelong quest of finding my soulmate in a live sampling suite, but the journey is not over. Block Party is keeping me engaged in the meantime though

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Whoah @Rodrigo, thank you for turning me on to Bart Hopkin!

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Back in the 90s I walked into a Barnes and Nobles and came across the first edition of Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones: Experimental Musical Instruments (which came with a big book and CD) and it changed my life! I don’t remember if that was where I first came across circuit bending, but it had a chapter on it which blew my mind.


Thanks for this rod, I was thinking about that pre amp earlier today so good to not have to dig around for the board layout :slight_smile:

Oh that’s great! The problem with potentially life changing links on the internet is that they are so accessible and I come across them too frequently…I should buy this book though

If you can find the original one on ebay or wherever, it’s worth it (it’s rectangular and has longer and more chapters). The CD is the same in both I think, the original book just covers more ground. There’s a follow up book too, which is the size of the reissued first book, also good but less detailed.

I also have on my HD somewhere the complete Experimental Musical Instruments back catalog. Don’t know if they still sell it, but ages ago you were able to buy pdfs of the whole thing. So much great stuff in there.


I have Bart Hopkin’s other book, Musical Instrument Design, and highly recommend it. I’m not familiar with the book you mentioned, but this one is very a much a deep dive into acoustics, tuning, and the fundamentals of acoustic instrument design and construction. It has less detailed guides on how to build specific instruments. This book really changed how I think about music!


just wanted to say this is a very cool thread. im lurking hard.

i love live sampling. i have been using an octatrack with a zoom h4 field recorder as a mic. i just turn monitoring on and use the headphone out in to the octatrack. i also use samplr, an amazing ios app. i use the built in mic when i’m improvising or playing with others. i find that quick and dirty works for me in general.


Damn, I wish I could find that complete collection. I’d like to buy all the little books for each type of instrument group, but they add up to a lot! I might start with Making Lamellaphones…

Best take away from reading Getting a Bigger Sound: I can use a piezo film mic to amplify and process my clarinet by dangling it in the air column. I just bought (online) the pieces to diy. Hopefully I’ll have an example vid soon to post. Currently hoping a 1M ohm guitar pedal is sufficient for getting a decent sound straight from the pickup…


Yea please share the results, interested to see/hear how it works out


A cool trick I saw Kjetil Møster do was out a contact mic on a stripe of gaffers tape in front of the hole on his sax. Worked great with distortion pedals and so on!

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I have that collection on PDF somewhere as well, as well as on a couple CD-Roms - will try to get uploaded somewhere soon, or when I figure out where I put that stuff

not what i promised, but i just put together this little project Bart recommends in Getting a Bigger Sound. Its cute and fun.