Marine Band sound

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

Marine Band sound

Postby mike932 » Thu Aug 16, 2007 3:34 am

I play SP20's and MB's. Is it just me or does anyone else find that the SP20' are easy to play , but the MB's produce a better or should I say dirtier blues sound. The MB's seem to take a little more effort to play, but I get a great sound from them. I don't tune my harps or modify them in anyway. When jamming with friends the guitars are tuned to whatever harp I start with. We think we sound good, and that'a all that matters to us, just having fun.
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Postby 601blues » Thu Aug 16, 2007 11:58 am

:shock: Ive always liked the sound of the MB, however at one time they were a throw away harp once it got dirty just bought another, you could pick one up at any drug store or 5&10 for a buck fifty,along wif black diamond strings same price, But not today!!I refuse ta play em now due to the cost, its really pricey for what you get and the life you expect to get from a wood comb,Plus if you rinse em off the wood swells and iits like playin a garden rake ,its really throwin your money away, you can get a lucite comb harp like bushman ,for just a couple dollars more and have a better harp that will out last the MB,by at least 3x then you can change the reed plates in the bushman,or oscar,
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Postby dcblues » Thu Aug 16, 2007 12:13 pm

I can't tell the difference between harps (how they sound, that is), but I like the way wood combs feel and respond to my playing. That's why I prefer Marine Bands. I've never had a problem with them swelling. They do sometimes swell, but they always return to normal size once they are dry.

I don't think I know any pro blues players who don't play Marine Bands.
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Postby 601blues » Thu Aug 16, 2007 12:24 pm

:shock: How many pro harp players ya know??
If the definition of pro is being paid for what you do,then I would be a pro as well, But its easy ta start a debate over somtin, but it boils down too what you feel comfortable playin , don't make a difference , what others play, do what is right for you, I have MB in my case as well, Just like the last gig I played one guitar player asked me, hey 601 you got gibson guitars lined up,and you brought a peavey JF1 to play, why??cuz it was her turn,was my reply!!But it was that guitar responds to me and I love her sound, if it works it works,right!! is what it is.
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Postby dcblues » Thu Aug 16, 2007 12:38 pm

Pretty much every pro player (that is players who tour and record for a living) I've seen play MBs. That includes Rick Estrin, Kim Wilson, Phil Wiggins, Jumpin' Jonny Sansone, Annie Raines, James Cotton, Carey Bell, William Clarke, Doug Jay, Magic Dick, Mark Wenner, Mark Hummel, Gary Primich, Adam Gussow, James Harman - the list goes on. There must be a a reason why so many players prefer them.

The only ones I can think of who don't/didn't play them are Charlie Musselwhite, Jr. Wells, Jason Ricci and Paul deLay.

But that doesn't really matter - whatever works best for you is what you should play. Personally, I can't stand Special 20s, Golden Melodies and (especially!) Lee Oskars.
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Postby JakeyVimto » Thu Aug 16, 2007 12:56 pm

Hey DC,

Did William Clarke play very much diatonic harp? I've never really tried to emulate much of his playing, because I only see pictures of him playing a chromatic harp. But thats pretty cool.

Out of interest, could you tell me what brand Junior preferred?

As far as what harps to play, I've decided to take what I can find in Scotland. But it makes sense MB's are pretty good, as they still are the first name out of everyones mouth when a beginners asks about harps.

Gotta say I prefer plastic combs, especially SP's though. I definately aint pro though.
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Postby 601blues » Thu Aug 16, 2007 12:57 pm

I don't care for Oskars myself, but again thats a personal preference, The only 2 harps Iam familar wif is the Horners and Bushman, the Old stanby is a nice harp but only one Key, Also the bushman case is tight at the lip rail, where as the MB get loose, This may sound funny but I have always since 1970 had a big stash under muh nose, and I cant tell ya how many times I got it caught in a MB, hurts like crazy and causes my eyes ta water HAHAHA! That don't happen with the bushmans, so its strange what each of us look for in an instrument!!
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Postby dcblues » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:00 pm

Clarke played probably 2/3 diatonic and 1/3 chromatic every time I saw him. It's probably the same way on his cds.

Jr. played Lee Oskars.

Musselwhite used to endorse Lee Oskars, then Hering, and I'm not sure what he plays now.
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Postby JakeyVimto » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:03 pm

Thanks DC
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Postby bosco » Thu Aug 16, 2007 2:12 pm

Pretty much every pro player (that is players who tour and record for a living) I've seen play MBs. That includes Rick Estrin, Kim Wilson, Phil Wiggins, Jumpin' Jonny Sansone, Annie Raines, James Cotton, Carey Bell, William Clarke, Doug Jay, Magic Dick, Mark Wenner, Mark Hummel, Gary Primich, Adam Gussow, James Harman - the list goes on. There must be a reason why so many players prefer them.

I think it's important to note that once players reach the level of proficiency as the group above, ANY harp they play is going to sound great. If you conduct your own acoustic A/B wood/plastic comb test, the wood comb may have a slightly warmer sound. But in the back of an auditorium, listening to any of the above mentioned pros playing through amplified rigs, it's impossible to tell what model of harp is being played. You could, and should, be able to hear the difference between a diatonic and a chromatic.

Most of the local pros I know (including myself) have a mixed bag of harp models for a variety of reasons. A certain band might play a lot of songs in the key of A so a harper might select the most durable harp for his D. I don't really like Oscars because of the equal tuning, but as I have mentioned before I have them for the Natural Minor keys.

The main reason I play Spec 20s is they have identical reeds and plates as the Marine Band without the hassels of a wood comb. I play a lot of smokey clubs and the wood absorbs the odor. In short order it's like putting a skanky cigar stogie under your nose. No thanks. I saw another local pro at a jam this week and while comparing harp cases he also mentioned the smell associated with his Marine Bands. I know you can get the combs sealed, but neither of us want that hassle. Also, once the sealed wood loses it porous quality what makes it that much different from a plastic comb?

Jr. Wells played Oskars because he had an endorsment deal and he got them for free, same as Musselwhite not being loyal to a brand due to endorsement changes. Piere LaCoque of Mississippi Heat, whom I would rate one of the top 5 players in the world, prefers Golden Melodies because it is easier to play single notes at the top end of the harp due to the reeds being set closer to the mouthpiece. (it is).

As you can see, the are a myriad of reasons why harpers play certain harps. As is often reiterated, play what works and sounds best for you!

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Postby barbequebob » Fri Aug 17, 2007 1:40 pm

A fair number of pros aren't using the stock versions, but using customized versions of the MB, and the most prized are the ones by the Joe filisko guild of customerizers http://www.customharmonicas.com, and these aren't cheap, and they no longer are throw aways. Most players are far too undisciplined to make the best use of those because they need VERY LITTLE breath force and effort to do anything.

The real bottom line is that not every instrument suits every players' tastes and/or playing habits or the musical situations they play in and so the old saying "different strokes for different folks" certaily applies here. The other truth that ALWAYS holds water is that a very highly skilled player can make the the most horrible instrument sound great a million times more than a poorly skilled player can ever make a great instrument sound barely acceptable in quality of sound.
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Postby 601blues » Fri Aug 17, 2007 3:08 pm

Thats so true Bob,like I mentioned,Iam guilty as well, I see all musicians rushing to get what ever instrument that is popular, Gibbys ,teles, etc. we sometimes confuse price with quailty, I have a number of gibson guitars,and fenders, I admit I bought the name and for my peers approval, However when I picked up my 1st JF1 I was in love, So even now when I go do a gig, I fight wif muh self on which guitar I wanna take, the Gibsons for awe and respect factor, Or JF1's cuz I love there sound and feel, Bottom line is like you said its what fits you, and brings you too another level,
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Postby mike932 » Fri Aug 17, 2007 11:44 pm

I appreciate the response, as a matter of fact , this post has been very educational for me. I play bass, but the harp is way too much fun to ignore. I started playing the harp due to my doctor telling me that playing a harmonica is a great way to keep ones lungs clear . I don't get a lot of exercise due to cancer, but harp playing does keep the lungs going . After reading the responses I recieved , I have come to the conclusion that an old cliche applies "if it feels good do it".
A couple of years ago I purchased a MB 14 hole monster, it takes every ounce of breath and strength I have to play it, but it sounds sooooo cooool. I just purhased from Coast to Coast a BLT reverb pedal. I hook my green bullet to it , then to my epiphone valve jr, which runs an old 16 ohm Ampro speaker. I gotta admitt, I sound good. Being a bass player my amps do not have reverb, so I bought the BLT (Danelectro), what a difference it has made on the harp. I have read where some harp players use effects and some don't. I really like the reverb.
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Postby 601blues » Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:51 am

:shock: Mike so sorry ta hear of your health problems!! all my prayers and best vibes your way!! Sounds like ya got a nice set up there, I play harp thru a valve jr as well I have the head,and connect that in to a Hartke 2/10 transport,sounds great, However I like you at times wanted a little reverb, so I picked up the epi valve special, same watts but it has spring reverb, and a couple other dsp effects that I don't much care for but has L"s M's H's, controls for jus 249. I love it!!
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Postby mike932 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:11 pm

Thank you kind sir, prayers do help. I like your set up. When you are playing live do you mike through the board or does your gear have enough power to cut through the mix? I usually just jam with friends when I am playing harp. I played at one gig , kinda of a get on stage or we will bug you till you do thing. All I had was a C harp and no gear. I just grabbed a mic , told the sound man to turn up the lows and wailed away. It worked somewhat, but just didn't have the sound I like. If I do it again I will bring my gear, and due to the low wattage I will mic my amp, unless you have a different idea. Playing harp on stage was like breaking the fun barrier, I loved it. There is something about the harp which makes the Blues sound more personal. I am a crowd watcher, and it seems people really start to sway with the Blues more when the harp player starts wailing.
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