Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

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Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby John95683 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:02 pm

I am a beginner blues harp player, and I'm looking a decent, inexpensive amp and mic. Recommendations, anyone? Hoping for a Chicago blues sound. Thanks

John
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby jeffl » Sat Aug 28, 2010 2:25 pm

You can go with a 5-watt Class A tube powered Epiphone Valve Junior amp for about $160 new, and a Hohner Blues Blaster mic or a Shure 520D Green Bullet mic for a little over $100. Some of the cheap solid state amps will work for you ( like the Fender 15 Frontman ) for less money, but you're better off with tube power in general for the sound you want. The Chicago sound comes from a combination of sources: driving a tube amp hard until it "breaks up", your embrochure with your mouth and throat, a good tight cup with your hands around the mic... those are key elements. Personally, I think bigger speaker cabinets than the 5-watt tube amps generally have will add low end response to your tone, but they're more money. If that's too inexpensive, there's alotta possibilities out there for ya'. Happy harpin'.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby jbone1 » Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:54 pm

that warm sweet chicago tone is very attractive once one has the chops to use it well. jeff is right about the e-p valve jr, good little amp. i would go for a true high impedance mic element whatever brand i got. a controlled magnetic element is a very good one for blues harp with a bullet mic.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby John95683 » Sat Aug 28, 2010 4:42 pm

What do you all think of the Fender 25R? I can get a used done on Craigslist for around $50 to $75? I like the idea of being able to connect my iPod to play backing tracks. Thanks.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby jeffl » Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:06 pm

The 25r is jus' the big brother of the frontman 15 isn't it...? That would be a solid state amp, and it'll "do the job" for you, but it's gonna have a more sterile sound than the tube amps. The other thing with solid state amps (especially the modelling amps) is that some of the voice choices will just not work at all with harp mics; you'll get feedback and/or crappy tones, especially with crystal mic elements. Personally, I seem to have had more feedback issues with solid state amps for harp, but that's occurred when I've gigged with them, which I hardly ever do. Also, you'll likely discover that a 5-watt Class A tube amp will be just as loud as a 15- or 25-watt solid state amp.

If you have a good music store close to you, I'd first buy a mic (I'd recommend the Shure 520D for starters, NOT the Blues Blaster) , 'cuz you're gonna need one anyway, and then I'd haul the mic and some harps to a music store that has a "tryout" room or area, preferably away from the general sales floor. Most good stores will have a good choice of small combo amps for consideration. Tube amps are preferable for harp. Some places have practice rooms that work great-- otherwise the storage room works. If the amp you are trying has bass/mid/treble controls, eq the bass mostly all the way up and the treble and mids almost zeroed if not completely zeroed (depending on the amp, to taste). If it just has a tone control, then tune it completely to the bass side first. You gotta play through 'em at nearly full volume--above at least 6-- to see how they'll sound when pushed, hence the need for privacy. Also, a tube amp needs to warm up for at least a few minutes to get its best tone.

Some of the little hybrid amps have two circuits-- one straight tube and the other with a digital effects loop with different voices. Try them both ways, but be aware that the voices are usually changes in gain and as you go up you will invite feedback on the digital side. You'll most likely not ever use the digital circuitry, unless the reverb's on that side. Try little cabinets and bigger cabinets on the 5-watt tube amps and note the difference in bottom end presence.

I'd try out some amps before I bought anything online. You can probably test drive a 25R in a store for that matter.

If you buy the right 5-watt tube amp, you'll be able to use it for most small jams and small club gigs. If you mic it into the mains you'll be able to use it for all but loud club gigs. I've even gigged outdoors with a 5-watt Epi Valve Standard at moderate volumes. It depends on whom you play with.

To hell with it, I'm gonna give you a straight recommendation: if you can find a Epiphone Valve Standard (discontinued) to try at a reasonable price, play through it. It's a 5-watter with eq knobs and a cabinet the size of a 30-watt Peavey. The sound difference between that an the Epi Junior or Standard, or any other little amps will amaze you. Downside is that it's a heavy little prick and not as portable.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby John95683 » Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:39 pm

Hi Bubba:

Thanks very much for your thoughtful and knowledgeable reply. I am far from ready to play in public, but I'd like to try practicing with a mic and amp. I will be trying to find your recommendations, but meanwhile,what do you think of the Pignose 7-100 portable practice amp? It's more in my price range ($75), and probably more suited to my limited ability. Again, thanks for taking the time to help a newbie.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby jeffl » Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:56 pm

I have not played through the Pignose, but there have been nothing but good reviews on them here at this forum when the topic has come up (you might be able to search the archives for those). I probably wouldn't be afraid to take a flyer on one.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby jbone1 » Sun Aug 29, 2010 2:28 pm

the pig 7-100 is decent but you have to get the right mic for it. a green bullet will allow only very low volume since it's a high z mic and the amp is low z. a cheap low z mic might work better. but for value and usefulness these guys are right about the epi valve jr. for the $ to me it's among the best value and function for a harp guy. high z harp mic, amp, and maybe a conversion kit all together will run under $300, not bad for a complete harp-friendly rig that sounds great and has potential for playing out live later.
one very important thing to realize is that a ss amp usually takes a low z mic, a tube amp takes a high z mic. the frequency response is important to get right for good sound and tone without feedback. i used denelectro's now-discontinued dirty 30 amp for harp for a while out of necessity. it's a solid state amp and i used a cheap sm58 knockoff mic with it. could not crank it up much at all and i had to drape a towel over the front to cut some of the highs out but it worked ok. as soon as i could i went to a tube amp and put the dano out to pasture as a spare guitar amp. another ss amp you might consider is the roland micro cube. about $100. again it would need a low z mic. small and portable and i think one model is a rechargeable.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby John95683 » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:22 pm

thanks for the tip about the Roland Micro Cube. it looks like a very good starter amp for me. could you recommend a specific mic to go with it, please?
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby MakaInOz » Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:43 am

It all gets down to what you need the amp and mic for. There are just so many options, from portable to simple guitar amps to boutique harp amps - and its the same for mics.

If all you want to do at this stage is learn to play amplified (and I think that's a great place to start) I'd recommend a small investment initially. Have a look at
http://cgi.ebay.com/Bottle-O-Blues-Harm ... 43a14e676b
That will will get you started with amplified harp technique without investing lots of money in something you may not need or want in the future. Once you know what you're doing, you can look at the huge range of mics (that range well into the $$ hundreds) and amps (that range into the $$ thousands) with a much better idea of the sound you're after.

So many toys..... but I think starting simple and cheap is not a bad idea
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby too2tall » Mon Aug 30, 2010 8:01 am

Personally I advise any beginner to get a decent harp such as Special 20, Lee Oscar, Suzuki Bluesman but when it comes to Mic and Amp I say go cheap. Buy used or radio shack..lol. Why invest to much money until you know you will stick with it for the long haul. My first set up was a $10 radio shack mic and a beat up old yamaha solid state I got for 15 dollars. After a couple of years playing I even sat in with a band using that rig and you know it wasn't all that bad. Now 40 years later I use Suzuki Promaster harps and a modified Peavey 4x10 bluesman 50 with a Shure 545.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby jbone1 » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:08 am

i've had and tried a couple of dozen harp amps. or guitar amps. both actually. and i've also had a lot of different mics. currently i use a silvertone 1482 for small joints and a hand built '59 bassman replica with 4 10's for bigger venues. typically i will have a crystal mic and a controlled magnetic element mic with me.

until i left mics and amps alone and got halfway sorted out on acoustic tone, it didn't matter what i was playing through, i was not happy until i found my "inner tone".
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby TC6969 » Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:16 pm

until i left mics and amps alone and got halfway sorted out on acoustic tone, it didn't matter what i was playing through, i was not happy until i found my "inner tone".


This is the best advice you've received so far!

Until you learn to pull a note down into your soul, you are going to sound like feces no matter what rig you're using.

YOU are the instrument!

The mic and amp are just amplification.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby jbone1 » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:30 am

in case nobody has mentioned, there are page after website, book/cd/dvd instructionals available for a new guy all the way to intermediate and beyond. covering everything from holding the harp to breathing, bending, stuff i never even thought of, all the way to mics, amps, anything you'd want to know about the tin sandwich.
until i encountered both the internet and also some compassionate but stern teachers i made very little real progress harp-wise. once a certain point is reached in the woodshed, the only way i know to really make progress is by getting out with other musicians live and learning how a harp fits in with live music. even then a p.a. mic is a good way to go since more cupping and hand effect technique is available. i went through a period where i wouldn't play without my own rig, and i actually suffered for it at jams. often the house band would have a harp guy and i would lug my gear out only to be told i had to use what was there already.
but more importantly in my case, i began discovering that guys like sbwII and junior wells and others, usually played through the p.a. i am half of an acoustic duo these days and many of our outings are total acoustic. i can't stress how much this format has challenged me to learn the nuance of playing harp. this experience has improved my chops with amp and mic and full band tremendously.
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Re: Amp and mic for a newbie harp player?

Postby jeffl » Mon Oct 04, 2010 1:21 pm

I'm with you on that one jbone. Most of the time I've sat in with bands I've had to play straight through 58's eq'd for vocals. I'm talkin' about when you go to listen to a band and they spot you and you end up playin' a significant stretch, and sometimes the rest of the night. The cup is sometimes different, depending on the mic and other factors, but if you do it often enough you don't even look at it as a handicap anymore. If you don't get accustomed to that kind of playing, you miss out on alotta fun with the best musicians.

However, I wouldn't diminish the need to find an amp/mic rig that suits even a beginner. Anybody who's ever tried to plug a bullet into a SS Squier 15-watt amp knows what I mean. Some amps are un-useable with many mics.

I feel fortunate that when I started playin' alotta harp back in the late 60's acoustic country blues was more common that it is today. We were just coming outa the folk scene and acoustic guitars and acoustic style harp were the norm.
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