Daft question?

The lowdown on the Mississippi Sax. Just for Google, this section is about harmonicas.

Daft question?

Postby gogs » Tue May 16, 2006 9:13 am

This may sound daft to those with a bit of knowledge,but does just the act of playing through a mic alter the sound of a harp?I've noticed that on all my cd's(and the radio) the harps have a harder,round sound irrespective of key which I find impossible to duplicate..it's nae a life ambition or anything,I'm just curious!
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Postby dblues » Tue May 16, 2006 11:17 am

Absolutely and depending on type of mic and element there is a large spectrum of tonal variances
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Postby brianp » Tue May 16, 2006 2:45 pm

If you play a harp through a black label controlled reluctance element you will most certainly hear a difference in the sound that comes through the amp as compared to the sound you would acheive using an SM58 vocal mic. The biggest difference most players hear is the tone of the more experienced player. The more you play the more you can acheive their sound. IMO the mic and amp and effect pedals you play through most certainly influence the sound of the harp but it isn't solely responsible for their big sound. That lies in their personal tone. I hope this helps.

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Postby songdog » Tue May 16, 2006 4:02 pm

Hey Gogs

I have this CD where a guy just recorded his voice (reading a manuscript) using 20 different microphones, both new and vintage, and it's very enlightening to hear how different the tonal characteristics are for each mic.

So yeah, the microphones are really like tone controls and do add something to the mix whether you're playing amplified or recording acoustically. Most present day recording engineers are savy to these tonal differences and can recommend a specific mic for a specific 'sound'. However in the early days of recording, I'd guess that in most cases the musicians and engineers just used whatever was available to them at the time of the recording.

But like Brian says, most of the tone is really created by the player. I've only been playing harp for a few years but I've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hear many good harp players play unamplified. And hearing what can be done unamplified has dictated how I practice and develop my skills, i.e. I don't spend much time playing amplified just yet.

I've also heard too many really bad harp players that relied on grunge and distortion for their tone. So I'm trying not to get sucked down that path.
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Postby t bone bruce » Tue May 16, 2006 6:14 pm

There's no such thing as a daft question, but the answer you get may not always be serious!
Mic's certainly influence tone: My Shure CM element sounds very different to my Hohner Bluesblaster's crystal element. Each sound different through different amps. But your acoustic tone is most important. The trouble being that you don't notice your own progression, because it's a gradual process. If you listen to someone who's never played harp before and compare how they sound and how you sound, you will see how much better your tone is.
I heard a saying once that harp playing is 80% meat and 20% metal... but 20% is still 20% and so most of us go off into the goal of searching for the perfect harp, mic or amp to get us those last few percent..
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Postby ricochet » Tue May 16, 2006 6:28 pm

You ought to hear electric guitarists go on and on about different pickups. Exact same thing.
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Postby jeffl » Tue May 16, 2006 6:46 pm

Long as were on tweaking tone,any of you harpers try HCl 05% nose drops to create larger resonance passages in your upper cavities,for browner tone....? (jus' kidding,me buckos)
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Postby gogs » Thu May 18, 2006 2:28 am

Cheers one and all,now I can rest easy!Think I'll ask another question....
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Postby thebluesbox » Sat May 20, 2006 4:10 am

gog if you ever read the terms playing with a mic and get that dirty crunchy tone, or playing with a mic to get a clean crisp tone... well these two instances are refering to the mic elements the first would be a mic with a hot element such as a green bullet or a jt-30 the hot sensitive elements make them more round and harder sounding, a clean sound would be a regular vocal mic with a dynamic element giving you a clearer crisper sound.

Hope this helps
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Postby gogs » Sat May 20, 2006 4:59 am

Thanks Bluesbox,that explains a couple things I was wonderin about.Might have to go and spend some money... :)
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Postby bosco » Sun May 21, 2006 2:41 pm

One thing no one has mentioned is the effect that "cupping" the mic has on tone...

Cupping the mic with both hands and creating an airtight seal between the harp and mic has a pronounced effect on the amplified tone. It really compresses the air that the harp reeds are moving and can help to overdrive the mic element for a rounder or browner sound. This can be achieved with a bullet or vocal mic.

A clean tone can be achieved by playing 6 inches off a vocal mic and just letting it pick up the natural tone of the harp. These techniques are very useful depending on the material. You can cup and raunch it up for Chicago type blues or play clean for piedmont, folk or country blues.

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Postby t bone bruce » Sun May 21, 2006 4:43 pm

Odd you should mention that.. My Shure CM mic I keep tightly cupped all the time except for wahs. The moment you lose the tight cup the volume drops significantly, the wah's don't sound so good. With my Bluesblaster tightly cupped I get a beautiful deep warm tone, more bassy and less mids than the Shure element, but the moment I loosen it up I get a nice cutting cleaner tone, without the same drop in volume that I get with the Shure. Wahs and other hand effects really shine. I'm absolutley amazed by the variety of sounds and tones that can be produced. I was always put off before by the "reduced lifespan" of the crystal element. Now I'm really glad I've got one.
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Postby whitewolfofsc » Sat Jun 17, 2006 9:35 pm

Dirty! I love a raw dirty sound. I use an old chicago crystal mic that I picked up at a yard sale for 50 cents, or my $60. dynamic mic, and I like to overdrive both of them, and run through heavy effects. My yahama qy100 and my tascam pocketstudio5 have lots of effects to select from. Cupping is a very important element, as was mentioned. It gives a resonant "box" to the harp, and changes its sound dynamically, as you move your fingers.
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mic tone

Postby colmanL » Sun Aug 06, 2006 1:26 pm

when you hold that harp to your mouth and cup it thats mostly like mute
on a horn,same thing for the waa effect. also when you are playing
turned up, using a tight cup,you can get some nice tone variations by
opening the cup just a little in different areas. there`s two main blues
styles of tone resonance,off your lips and mouth,like sonny boy 2,and
tone from back in the throat like little walter.when you use the lip and
mouth style its more percussive and when you use the back in the
throat style the tone gets fatter resonating in your whole mouth also
i believe there are overtones showing their tone too. so the more you
mess with it the more you`ll do.....have fun !
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