Cowboy Jake and another dumb question

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

Cowboy Jake and another dumb question

Postby cowboyjake » Sat Aug 05, 2006 7:25 am

I've been blowin harp for a short while now ... learned enough so's I don't usually embarrass myself in acoustic jams ... just startin' to do a little open mic work and stage shows playing guitar and singin' but when it comes to bringin my harps up on stage I get MIC FRIGHT-- cause basically I'm scared to death I'll make awful sounds that will drown out all the good music my buds are makin' cause I don't know a dern thing about how youre supposed to use a mic when you blow harp ... sure, I've seen it done but like do you blow and draw not quite as hard? how much distance do you need between the instrument and the mic? do you just throw caution to the winds and leave the results to God and the mixing board?

Help???
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Postby t bone bruce » Sat Aug 05, 2006 8:36 pm

Hi Cowboyjake.
First off, there's no such thing as a dumb question when you're beginning. We all have to learn somehow.
Now on to the second part. There are two approaches to amplifying harmonica. The first is that you simply amplify the acoustic sound by playing as you would normally, to a mic on a stand. The difficulties with this are getting a suitable distance from the mic enough to use hand effects and not hit the mic, while still picking up the sound. Usually I find the mic has to be turned up from the sound desk in order to achieve this, as I can "sing" (least, that's what I call it...) louder than I can play the harp.
The second technique is the "amplified technique" beloved of many of us, often using a bullet mic and guitar amp but working well into a PA too. In this you cup the mic in your hands while playing, rather than using a stand.- you can see me doing this in my avatar pic.
There are two schools to cupping the mic. Personally I prefer to hold the harp as usual in my left hand, and curl my left hand's ring and litte fingers around the head of the mic, leaving a space between the harp and the mic. Then I cover the mic with my right hand and try to get an airtight seal, which can be opened for wah effects. If you do this into a PA, you'll want the mic turned down at the desk, as you will overdrive the microphone element
because you are very close to it, and have a tight seal around it. If someone doesn't turn the mic down then you will be rewarded by howling feedback.
Until you get experienced always get someone to sound check it quickly before you start to play. Once you have experience you will develop strategies for how to deal with vocal mics without changing the volume settings....but that's another days lesson!
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RE 'nother dumb question

Postby cowboyjake » Sun Aug 06, 2006 5:26 am

Hey T Bone

:D Thanks for the great feedback--sure beats the feedback I'd be gettin from the p.a. if'n I'd gone in flyin' blind like I so often do ...I'll give your advice a shot--it all makes sense to me ... meanwhile, I've got a little Hitachi deck (complete with sound meters) hooked up to my computer, I've got Audio grabber and Audacity on board, so ifn I can figgure out how to get their formats converted to mp3 or wav., maybe I can give you guys a sample of what to do and what not :lol:

Thanks again Tbone --you guys are the greatest :!: :!: 8)

Jake :D
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Postby bosco » Mon Aug 07, 2006 1:02 pm

That's some great advice from T-Bone there, Jake.

Whenever I sit in w/o an amp and use a vocal mic/PA for harp, I ask them to knock the top 25% off of the gain and treble as a starting point. This usually puts me in the ballpark which can then be tweaked.

It's worth noting that when playing through the PA you will have much more power and be more "up front" in the mix. It then becomes even more important to pick your playing spots and not step all over the vocals. You can get away with a little more activity playing through an amp when you are just part of the stage mix.

Go on with your bad self and have fun!

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re "nuther dumb question

Postby cowboyjake » Mon Aug 07, 2006 4:06 pm

Thanks Bosco, for the "sound advice" (pun intended)
Like I said to T-Bone you guys are the greatest :D

Which is really nice, on acountof I'll probly never run out of questions like "What kinda mic and amp combo should I be lookin' for?" and "how much should it cost?" and and "how do ya get that really cool single hole bend on #5 hole and...

:lol: ya get the picture?

Thanks again Bosco and any update on how Elliot's doin?"

Jake
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Postby jeffl » Mon Aug 07, 2006 4:41 pm

Hey t-bone & Bosco: nice summaries. Just a note-- when I have to play through a vocal mic eq'd for voice (jumpin' in on a singer's mic)--which I do ALOT-- , I get right up on the mic,with my hands in a cup around the mic,without contacting it (I'd guess about an inch or so off of it),and I jus' don't use much for hand effects. If I need a little wah,I can jus' change the shape of the cup a little,but otherwise, I jus' bear into it; feedback hasn't been an issue...when I get the start of feedback, I jus' open up the cup a little,or back away a half inch or so. It's a game of inches.
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Postby t bone bruce » Mon Aug 07, 2006 9:06 pm

If I've got to use an untested singers mic I'll use the same technique. I may not get the exact tone I'm looking for, but I'll get heard.
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Postby jeffl » Mon Aug 07, 2006 9:23 pm

I heard two great harpers at a blues fest last weekend,and both of 'em were eq'd to the treble side. Both of 'em were guys I've heard numerous times during the last 30-35 years,so they've been around a while. I wanted to talk to 'em both and see how they were rigged,but I stayed in my camp chair and sucked on my hard lemonades and beers insteada makin' the trip up there(It was hotter than heck). Corky Siegel really didn't surprise me that he was pushin' some treble, but Pay Hayes from the Lamont Cranston band shocked me with his sound. He was fightin' feedback consistently,compounded by the fact that he was movin' all over the stage. He was still good though.
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re Cowboy Jake and another dumb question

Postby cowboyjake » Tue Aug 08, 2006 1:56 am

Hey Guys

Nice to see my question provoked a little discussion ... now that I've figured out how to run my tape deck through this electrified bread box of mine, I can hook up and practice a little and listen to the results in privacy ... :lol: while momma's out lookin for a new pair of shoes ... nuther question Anybody heard of a good quality small mike yu can clip to a harp rack so's you can play that way with your guitar plugged in?

I know two or even three things at once is a lot for a one thing at a time guy like me, but on a good day harp guitar and singin' seems to work ... not that Charlie McCoy or Bob Dylan have come up to sign my guitar or anything :cry:

leastways nobody's paid me to shut up :lol:

thanks for all the input

(cowboy)Jake
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Re: re Cowboy Jake and another dumb question

Postby Bournio » Tue Aug 08, 2006 8:41 am

nuther question Anybody heard of a good quality small mike yu can clip to a harp rack so's you can play that way with your guitar plugged in?




Only Videos I've seen of this, they use a mic where you'd sing into it as well...

Anyone tried contact pickups on a harp? that''d be wierd, I'm assuming pretty frail too...
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Postby 1armbandit » Tue Aug 08, 2006 1:17 pm

>nuther question Anybody heard of a good quality small mike yu can clip >to a harp rack so's you can play that way with your guitar plugged in?

You could try a Strnad. The harp slides in and is held in place by the mic. Not a honking mic though, really clean dynamic element.
Marine band is too narrow and slides around and Hering 1923 is too thick. SP20 and LO's fit well though.

I couldn't find any on Pappy's site but they are out there.
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Postby dcblues » Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:28 pm

There's a great local player named Robert Lighthouse who plays solo and with a band. He plays guitar and harp (and has been known to use a kick drum) at the same time. He has some kind of rig he wears that has a mic or mic element in it, and the harp fits into a slot or something that holds it. He plugs that into a tube amp and gets a great amplified sound.

One of Robert's big influences was Dr. Ross, who also played amplified harp with guitar.

There are ways to play amplified on a rack, it just takes some creativity and exerimentation. Fortunately for me, I'll never be a real guitar player (I just occasionally fool around with a cheap acoustic) so I won't have to worry about creating a rig. :)
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Postby jeffl » Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:41 pm

I'd try to get aholda Walter Tore on that one. He plays racked all the time,but I think he jus' plays and sings right into a vocal mic. I haven't heard from Walter lately; I think he's moved up the coast to Oregon,and I don't know if he's even got internet set up yet. He might be gone walkabout right now,too. I would think havin' a mic on the harp would catch yer voice when you're singin', which could be a problem if you've got the harp eq'd brown.
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