my first attempt at amplifeid harp since 1981

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my first attempt at amplifeid harp since 1981

Postby watertore » Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:01 am

Hi All: I had my allstar band in town tonight and decided to try some amplified harp. I used a shure 57 into a princeton reverb. Walter

tore up and low down

here is one if you are tired of harp sounds

sleep Mr. wah-wah
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Re: my first attempt at amplifeid harp since 1981

Postby jeffl » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:30 pm

I like the "trombone-like" tone and attacks Walter. That rig sounds very fine. I've been tempted by a 60's Princeton Reverb sittin' at my music store, in excellent condition, but he wants $650 for it, and I don't need it right now, so I'm talkin' myself out of it. It's the store owner's amp, so if he doesn't sell it, it'll be around. BTW, I'm goin' down to catch James Cotton on Friday nite, in town here. $15.00!
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Re: my first attempt at amplifeid harp since 1981

Postby watertore » Thu Jan 14, 2010 1:33 am

thanks bubba! I did a couple more songs tonight:

Amplified Reed
amplified harp boogie


It was fun for a few songs, but I got bored. The amped harp sound is too limiting IMO. I am going back to the old acoustic sound. Much more sublte and fine tuned than amped harp. I may go back it again but if it takes another 30 years I will be in 80's!! Walter

The princeton is a good amp. I love it. I would buy it at that price. For these recordings I had the volume on 9-10, treble on 0-2, bass 9-10 and reverb 2-4. I used a thd hotplate. That kept the speaker volume down to below a normal speaking voice. I hope you enjoy James Cotton. I saw him a couple summers ago at a festival I played. Age has been hard on him. Walter
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Re: my first attempt at amplifeid harp since 1981

Postby gheumann » Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:22 am

Walter - I don't understand what you mean by saying "The amped harp sound is too limiting IMO". If you back off from a good microphone, you ARE playing acoustic, and the amp should be able to reproduce that sound cleanly. When you hand-hold the mic and cup it hard, you get a whole new range of tones. I don't understand how that equates to "less". To me it is "more". You don't have to play dirty all the time. I certainly don't.

I don't mean any disrespect, I promise - it is a genuine question. I respect your opinion, just want you to clarify a bit.
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Re: my first attempt at amplifeid harp since 1981

Postby watertore » Thu Jan 14, 2010 2:44 pm

gheumann wrote:Walter - I don't understand what you mean by saying "The amped harp sound is too limiting IMO". If you back off from a good microphone, you ARE playing acoustic, and the amp should be able to reproduce that sound cleanly. When you hand-hold the mic and cup it hard, you get a whole new range of tones. I don't understand how that equates to "less". To me it is "more". You don't have to play dirty all the time. I certainly don't.

I don't mean any disrespect, I promise - it is a genuine question. I respect your opinion, just want you to clarify a bit.


Thanks for the reply! I agree with what you said. I will ocassionally cup my vocal mic when playing harp. The recordings I just did were with a fender amp and distorted like most blues harp players do. Give them a listen and you get what I am saying? Walter

I posted this on another forum in response to a harp player that felt I should keep exploring amplified.

I did play amplified when I started out in bands. It was what everyone was doing and all I really knew. I played unamplified up to that point because belive it or not, I had no idea little walter and the amped guys were using amps. I just figured they had some different kinds of harps. I was raised totally isolated from instruments. My parents wouldn't allow them. My father broke guitars I brought home, and I found the harp. I could hide it my pockets and played it in my pillow at night. Once he got wind of this, I took off for good(luckily wilbert harrison picked me up and then Red after that). Everything I knew as a kid was via the record or radio. I knew of sonny boy and jimmy reed, but they were all via records. The live stuff, cotton, nighthawks, bill dicey, carey bell, butterfield,etc, were who I saw live and I tried to emulate them. Mark from the nighthawks took a good deal of time to explain the amped sound to me. I then went to manny's in nyc and bought a brand new twin reverb amp and bullet mic. They didn't have any vintage bassmans and the saleman convinced me to buy the twin. I was making about 500-1,000 bucks a week playing and knew nothing of the music store world. I didn't even know there were vintage shops...... When I hit Ca and put together the below zero blues band, my guitarist was a vintage fender collector. He immediately gave me a tweed bassman. I used that for a couple weeks and blew out the speakers one night. Again I was touching the amped waters only to be redirected back to acoustic harp! After that I went totally acoustic. I understand there are different tones to an amped harp that you will never find unamped. I really enjoyed my days of being a powerhouse amped harp player/frontman. When louisiana red took me in, he shared some acoustic harp stuff (he is quite a harp player and most don't know that). Then I met Sonny Terry and it all clicked for me. I never mess with his stuff because it doesn't fit me, but he shared the root of unamplified harp with me. Since then, I have been driven by the acoustic harp sound. I fronted my trio for 20 years unamplified. It takes having good enough musicians to keep volume down and dynamics and fine tuned stuff up. The problem with most musicians is they get excited and get louder and louder. All the subtle stuff goes away and muddle is the game. Jimmy Carl Black played drums with me on and off during my 11 years in austin. He use to get disgusted with what drumming had become to most. It was and still is, a sledge hammer like approach - high hat/snare pounding. The finess of wrist action on the skins and cymbals is a dying art, much like unamplified harp in a band context. Katherine Stevens, my 61 year old drummer out in Ca (12 years) could play so quiet that we could easily set up our trio on a 10'x10' stage and never drown each other out and converse in normal volume with each other. If you listen to any of the live recordings we did you will hear it. She could swing and rock and still keep it quiet.
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Re: my first attempt at amplifeid harp since 1981

Postby ricochet » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:03 pm

A drummer like that is a rare jewel.
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Re: my first attempt at amplifeid harp since 1981

Postby gheumann » Sat Jan 16, 2010 6:29 pm

watertore wrote:
Thanks for the reply! I agree with what you said. I will ocassionally cup my vocal mic when playing harp. The recordings I just did were with a fender amp and distorted like most blues harp players do. Give them a listen and you get what I am saying? Walter



The sound in the recording definitely has "tube amp" written on it, and has some pleasing distortion to it. If you can't get CLEANER than that with that rig (turn down the reverb and turn up the treble) then I can understand your feeling of limitation. But I would suspect you can get a near acoustic amplified sound if you simply put the mic on a stand, play in front of it, and adjust the amp a bit. If I can do it with a Kalamazoo, the dirtiest little amp in show business, I'm sure you can do it with that amp! Am I still missing your point?

/Greg
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Re: my first attempt at amplifeid harp since 1981

Postby watertore » Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:13 pm

Greg: I like the sound of an unamplified harp. I get this via playing singing through the same mic in my studio ( a LDC condensor) and live with a shure 58. I sit down with my 1 man band set up and use a boom mic stand. I want my harp to sound like it does when I sit down with it unamplified. Anything through a tube guitar amp is going to sound not acoustic no matter how you set the dials. I have no interest in a guitar amp used for harp because I have nice condensor mics and tube preamps in my studio, and a nice PA for live gigs. Am I making sense? IIf you go to my soundclick site, you will see a video that explains it. If that doesn't make sense, I guess we should just give up on it :D . Take care. walter

PS: I see you are in sonoma county. I moved out of there a few years ago. I played every saturday at the blue heron in duncan mills. Douglas McKenzie, guitarist for the Pulsators, played bass with me. I first got to Sonoma county in 1979. We hooked up then and backed a lot of the bay area guys - sonny rhodes, cool papa, etc.... I left in 83 to tour scandinavia and moved back in 96 after a dozen years in austin. I miss the beauty of sonoma county, but the quality of life really went down hill compared to when first got there. If you see bill bowker, tell him hi from me.


I checked your site out. Congragulations on making such nice stuff! You know your stuff and obviously are a big fan of amplified harp! I use to hang around with charlie's boyhood friend garath. Garath took me to meet charlie and I also was around him when I played with mark naftlins blue monday show at the sleeping lady in fairfax. but this was in his heavy drinking days so he probably won't remember...
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