Beeswax for Contact Mics

Contact mics perhaps take the greatest amount of patience of any audio transducer to work with. From identifying what to attach them to, to simply finding a method of attachment, they can frustrate a new user easily.

I own a pair of JRF C-Series mics, and have tried attachment methods from blutack, to a clamp, to electrical tape. The Tonebenders podcast featured a great analysis by Michał Fojcik of several techniques of contact mic attachment, one of the best (to my ears) being beeswax.

From Michał's blog post, it appears he used raw beeswax, and a beeswax putty available to children as a Play Doh alternative. I figured that raw beeswax would be pretty unworkable if you were trying to work outside, as it would take a lot of body heat to make it malleable enough. Some additional research brought up this video:

Further research brought up a mention of Ann Kroeber, also previously featured in Tonebenders, and her use of a FRAP contact mic. An old colleague of her's mentioned mixing the natural moisturiser, lanolin, often used in crafts and health products to keep the beeswax sticky. So, with my beeswax order having arrived, I set about making my own contact mic beeswax putty. 


  • 1 cup of beeswax pellets
  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp lanolin


I followed the method from the video above, except for adding some lanolin while adding the oil. 

Also, I gently heated the oil and lanolin together into a mixture before adding, so the mixture wouldn't cool the melted wax around it.

I found the wax took a lot longer to melt than I thought, though I was using a large pyrex measuring jug in the pan, instead of a small cup like in the video tutorial.

The end result worked really well. It was sticky but malleable, and quickly warmed up in my hands for use. I would add an extra tsp of oil, as it did firm up to fairly hard wax again. The only other downside is that the wax will stick on the surfaces you attach it to, so beware. It will also leave wax on your mic surfaces.

I only had time for a quick test. I stuck the mics to the bottom of a porcelain type sink. This smooth glass like surface is usually troublesome for tape, but the wax had no problem attaching and staying there. Sonically, it does sound as though it captured a more even spread of frequencies than other methods I've used. The following excerpt has the raw recording, and an additional processed version to hear how well it could handle varispeeding.

Film: Silence

Directed by Pat Collins;

Written by Pat Collins, Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde and Sharon Whooley;

Featuring Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde

Some Spoilers Follow

Silence, the first feature film by documentary maker Pat Collins, is by no means an easy film. Held together by sparse plot, momentary dialogue and little characterisation, it provides minimal traditional traction for the audience.

What it is does provide is a stunning love letter to the flora and fauna of West Ireland, and a sobering meditation on the connection a people have with their homeland.

Beginning with a sojourn in Berlin (with some location work by Chris Watson), we meet Eoghan, an Irish émigré working as a sound recordist. The nature of a sound recordist is quickly defined in this first act. Eoghan stands below bridges and on street corners, headphones on and mics aimed, listening intently to the minutiae of the surrounding environment that escape the everyday listener. The oppressive din of the U-Bahn and traffic dominates these moments, completely obscuring the majority of one conversation, reminiscent of The Social Network's club scene.

Eoghan receives a commission to record the natural ambiances of West Ireland, completely away from any man-made noise. This creates a dilemma for Eoghan as he hasn't been home for more than a decade, yet, as anyone who lives in a city knows, he seems fatigued by the constant hum of urban life.

The film morphs between drama, documentary and nature film, using archive film and photos to punctuate scenes. Through all these lenses (and the anamorphic one fitted to the camera), Ireland is examined as an entity, the land cultivating a deep bond with it's inhabitants; history is carried on the wind, to be heard and inhaled.

The representation of a sound recordist at work is encouragingly accurate, perhaps falling a bit more into the realm of meditative activity than an activity focused on creating an end product. Eoghan sports Rycote blimps, Sennheiser HD IIs and a Sound Devices 722 protected in a Portabrace. The niche nature of sound recording is revealed in an exchange between Eoghan and a bar man, who's face broadcasts failure to understand the value of recording 'silence'.

In the films most philosophical conversation, writer Michael Harding states: "Whenever you sing a song, the first note comes out of silence, and the last note when you finish the song, falls away down into silence again". This underlines the ebb and flow of the film, with singular, small, intermittent bouts of human interaction and noise rising out of nothing, before we are treated to a rest of ambiance as heard through Eoghan's mics.

Ten years in production have resulted in a film that feels lean and well sculpted. Extraneous themes and influences have been relegated to the fringes of the film, but hover there always, making their presence known throughout. These influences, as expected, include the work of John Cage, Susan Sontag, David Toop and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The film contains several themes, too numerous and broad to discuss here. But these themes are weaved together tightly around the prodigal son plot, never weighing down the film.

I can imagine certain audiences being frustrated with the pace, ambiguity of the characters, lack of genre definition and specificity of subject matter, but truly I left the cinema in silence, feeling the film resonate with me for many days on numerous levels. I know already that it is a film that will stand to multiple viewings, as different elements can be pondered and unraveled in their entirety.

Essential viewing for any sound lover.

Deaf Cinema

[vimeo w=400&h=225]

Attending the première of Silence, the first feature-film by renowned documentarian Pat Collins, this Thursday at the reopened Lighthouse Cinema.

I've been mesmerised by the trailer alone, by the apparent exploration of two of my favourite themes, sound and silence (and everything in between). The synopsis of the film is:

Eoghan is a sound recordist who is returning to Ireland for the first time in 15 years. The reason for his return is a job offer: to record landscapes free from man-made sound. His quest takes him to remote terrain, away from towns and villages.

Throughout his journey, he is drawn into a series of encounters and conversations which gradually divert his attention towards a more intangible silence, bound up with the sounds of the life he had left behind.

Influenced by elements of folklore and archive, Silence unfolds with a quiet intensity, where poetic images reveal an absorbing meditation on themes relating to sound and silence, history, memory and exile.

The name Chris Watson appears in the crew list for the location recording in Berlin; hopefully I may be able to clarify if it's the Chris Watson.

Never thought I'd actually do a film review, but given the nature of the film and the interest it might generate, I'll post one by the end of the week.