How to get the overdriven harp sound

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

Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby thebluesbox » Wed Mar 12, 2008 6:36 pm

Mike you ask for suggestions here is my plug.

http://www.bluesboxamps.com - check out the AMPS, and gallary sections.

http://community.webshots.com/user/thebluesbox
sound sample http://members.cox.net/thebluesbox/images/Gbbdelay.mp3

Image

Image

I have never played or heard an amp that sounded as good as these, thats why I build them, and thats why I play them. They are the perfect harp and blues guitar rigs hands down!!!! They are the perfect size, the perfect wattage, and big fat sound.
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby Foghorn Fish » Wed Jun 11, 2008 12:37 pm

Sorry to hijack this thread. but i;m having similar problems

i am too tight to fork out for a green bullet. There are mics going for £15 in ASDA (!). will cheapy mics be any good? I've had great results with cheap gear on the guitar so was wondering if i could cut corners on mics too.

Does anyone know how much sm58's go for? also, where can i buy a low to high impendance transformer and roughly how much do they cost? Please help. thanks.
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby JakeyVimto » Wed Jun 11, 2008 3:05 pm

For £15? They are bound to be good for something, I have a couple of really terrible cheap mikes, they are really useful now and again. Give a different edge to the sound than the good mikes. Minimal investment, plus they may turn out to be really low grade and scuzzy! All good!

Scuse me, I'm off down to Asda...
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby jeffl » Wed Jun 11, 2008 3:25 pm

If you're gonna go cheap, any old dynamic mic will work. You can always spend more on a better mic later. I'd look for one that you can grip easily while maintaining a tight cup on the mic. The tight cup is a big contributor to the "overdriven" sound. You should be able to find cheap old mics built by the likes of electrovoice and turner, to name a couple. Nothing will sound like the old crystal mics, however. Also, if you're playing into a solid state amp rather than a tubed amp, in my experience, some of the crystal mics don't reproduce as well through solid state amps..you may need to target just dynamic mics.
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby mike932 » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:12 pm

I just purchased and egg shaker from e-bay, $20.00. I use it for a backup and also when I have to be close to my amp, they weigh nothing and work really good. I also have a cheap Radio Shack 58 knock off, with a switch. I carry my own Shure 57 and mic stand in case I need to plug into the mix. E-bay is a great source for mics. Keep an eye on the the want adds for Church yard sales, some churches have Yard sales and they get rid of old tube PA systems and mics. God bless em.
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby bottleneck » Wed Jun 11, 2008 9:33 pm

i have several hundred pounds of harmonica mics.early ebay,luck.
i can tell you my favorites are still the jt-30,sshure 520,EV 630 etc. that i had before i started ebaying.
there's no magic bullet,although some mics sound better than others,the sound really comes from you.


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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby jbone1 » Sat Jun 28, 2008 3:04 pm

most all harp players go through the G.A.S. thing. some of us don't get over it! i have played through a lot of amps and used quite a few mics as well, and owned plenty of both. my current amp choice is a silvertone 1482. single 12, 6L6's, 12au7 pre amp tube. works very well for lower volume electric gigs. there's one on ebay for a little over $200 right now but expect it to go up to around $300 by the end of bidding. i like it's size and weight cpupled with a 12" speaker with a hint of tremolo, it's a decent rig and the price was right when i got mine some 6 years ago.
i use either an OLD shure bullet with a 99b86(?) controlled magnetic element, or a custom crystal element mic with this amp.

the quest is maddening early on. especially when we start it while we're still learning how to work a harp. at one point about 10 years ago i was mucking around trying to decide which amp to throw money at when i heard the most incredible harp work through a house p.a.! i paid attention to that. and even today i will step up to a p.a. mic and make it sound pretty dam good.

all that being said, i am about to get a REPLICA '59 bassman from steve clark at sligo amps. this is not a fender reissue but a purpose-built, hand-wired, hand-picked components, with a good mix of speakers for both high and low volume breakup. goodbye economic stimulus check!! hello good tone at volume!

we just bought a danelectro nifty fifty off ebay for my wife's jazz body guitar and it sounds even better than the dirty thirty we got last year. a side benefit is i can use a cheep radio shack condenser mic to blow harp through it as well. smartass sound but not a lot of depth except what i can put in it from my lips back down to my toes.

here's my list of mics and amps i've used and my humble opinions of them:

first, a lavalier mic through a crate II amp from the 70's (solid state), with a digital delay pedal to wet it up some. not a great rig really.

OLD- older than the mid-80's- green bullet, with the 99b86 cm element. EXCELLENT mic. with the right amp it can go clean to totally muddy depending on what you are going for.

hohner blues blaster- i did not appreciate this mic which was GIVEN to me, and i gave it away in turn. wish i'd kept it and put a different element in it, these are great mics. i was just too green to know what i had at the time.

military issue NOS electrovoice 630 mic, the one i had was brand new and was bought off ebay. it had been sitting in its original packaging for 40-odd years. it needed a weird cable, which i made, and an impedance transformer, but it was so seriously hot it's all i used for a couple of years.

electrovoice 630. don't even know what element was in it but to me it had no good response for harp.

shure bros 707a brown bullet. had a vintage crystal in it, which i ruined trying to solder a longer lead onto. HEAT SINK WHEN YOU SOLDER ELEMENTS! replaced with a 99b86 cm element and i swear by this mic.

ruskin custom crystal powered mic. this is a shure mc127 element i think, and it's excellent. not so much low end but great warm reproduction of sound, with plenty of depth. it can be made to break up well with a good cup and the right amp set with lots of bass.

shure sm57. i've used, and still use occasionally, this mic for harp into a ss p.a. or with an impedance converter into a tube amp. it's a good work horse mic. even for vocals occasionally.

shure sm58. the work horse mic for vocals. also not bad for harp if one has some good chops to add to the mix. john popper uses the sm58 element in a green bullet body i think. i saw one dropped in a pitcher of beer one night and by the last set it was dried out, plugged in, and working! not to mention the times i've seen them dropped on the floor and picked back up and used nonstop.

shure 545s "butterfield" mic. i have one and occasionally play and sing through it in a p.a. it can be made to put out better with a rewire job, but i have not tried to "hot" mine up. as is in a tube amp, the jury is out. with my next amp i plan to put it through the paces. stay tuned.

amps



my first was a crate II solid state, which i liked the look of. i had someone urging me to get an early 60's fender champ but it looked so beat up! little did i know.... the crate may be a great little guitar amp but it had no soul for harp work imho.

pignose 7-100 "shoebox" amp. can be made to work, but the possibilities are limited. this little amp will feed back easily with a cm bullet!

pignose g40v- this was sold to me in my early days as a "perfect" harp amp. i beg to differ! 40 watts, even with a 12au7 gaincutter tube in the pre amp section, it just did not work out at volume. feedback city. the 10" speaker it came with was not well suited for harp either.

peavey classic 30- fair at lower volumes, not terrible with a 4x10 speaker cabinet, but prone also to feedback.

peavey classic 50- also fair for harp but tyhe rectifier is solid state so could not be changed. stock speakers didn't break up the way i wanted. somewhat harsh sound and prone to feedback at mid to high volume.

peavey delta blues 210- to me a really GOOD harp amp! tremolo and reverb, high, mid, and low controls, with a 12au7 pre amp tube it could actually be turned up to a decent level for bigger rooms. i plugged it into a 4x8 cabinet and it sounded even better. wish i had kept it!

fender princeton from about 1961- wonderful low volume amp. single 10" speaker, no speaker out jack, so it wasn't great for big rooms, but nice for recording and jams and small gigs. nice tremolo circuit. another one i wish i still had.

silvertone 1482- much like the princeton above but with 2 channels and a 12" speaker. puts out pretty well but will not keep up with "the big boys" at only about 12 watts. i run it with a 12au7 pre amp tube as well. mine has a line out but i have yet to put it into a p.a. to see how it does. i am very used to this amp and plan to keep it always.

danelectro dirty thirty. one of the ONLY solid state amps i've liked for low-volume harp. it puts out a lot of sound for a 5 inch speaker and has a distort knob to boot. with a cheep lil condenser mic i had a lot of fun with it at little gigs last year.

danelectro nifty fifty. dirty thirty's big brother, with a couple more knobs and an 8" speaker. we just got it but initial experiments suggest it would be a decent harp amp.

fender hot rod deluxe. i bought one at my guitarist's insistence that it had the power i needed for high volume many years ago. for me despite a gaincutter pre amp tube, it was a feedback nightmare when the band cranked up much at all.

sligo '59 bassman, modded for harp. stay tuned, i'm getting this one next week. it will have a mix of speakers for low and high end breakup. i think it's 50 watts. no reverb or extra bells and whistles, but i think it may be a helluva amp. all hand built with "the good stuff" component-wise.

whew. i didn't mention that i have been honored to blow harp through both an original '59 bassman- way nice- and a sonny jr II which is the holy grail of harp ams. the original bassman had tone to spare and nice headroom volume-wise, but the sonny jr just rang like a bell. very horn-like tones thanks to the speaker combo. i also tried out a '57 princeton at one point, which also sounded great but with one 10" speaker it just wouldn't move enough air to go high volume, and the price- ouch!

i see a sonny jr 6x8 amp on ebay right now for about $1k. probably not a bad buy. personally i like a bigger speaker to move more bass.

now- i said all that because i'm long winded and i think there may be some value to someone out there. but-

just like barbeque bob said-

your ACOUSTIC chops are the very first hurdle you must achieve. no amp at all. just you and a harp and the air you put through it. listen to sonny terry, james cotton, junior wells, mickey rafeal to name a few. they used no amp, just a p.a. when needed. and if i had 10% of their chops i'd die happy. still, i keep trying. 36 years of messing with these dam things and i have much yet left to learn. but i do ok.
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby ricochet » Sat Jun 28, 2008 6:22 pm

The problem with that Pignose G40V is too much preamp gain for harp. They took the general tweed Bassman circuit and stacked the two input stages together in series. (Making it basically the same as the Marshall JCM 800 2204.) Swapping tubes won't fix that. The original Bassman used a 12AY7 with an amplification factor of 40. Each channel just went through one half of the 12AY7. The Pignose has TWO stages of 12AX7 in series, with an AF of 100 in each. 100 X 100 = 10,000. Even when you swap in a 12AU7, 18 X 18 is a whole bunch more than 40. Rewiring it to put the two input tube stages in parallel would basically fix it. Might need some more gain reducing tweaks if you wanted to stick with the still-produced, commonly available 12AX7.
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby jeffl » Sat Jun 28, 2008 7:25 pm

Two of the better low output harp amps I've ever played thru were: 1963 Ampeg ReverbRocket, and and an early 60s Gretsch 6120, both about 18 watts. Both of 'em had the "cool look" factor too, which is possibly over-rated. The Ampeg had an accordian input that did harp really well. I shoulda bought the Ampeg (for $425), but I snoozed a hair too long on it. I appreciate the different tone styles of different players though. I like guys with the big vibratos, and I like the straight tone guys. I even like the thin, nasally tones, if they're strong. But, tone is only one of the elements of the instrument. I've enjoyed exploring the elements of rhythm,phrasing,melody,pitch, and ideas/concept. You can have great tone, but no ideas; great rhythm, but no ability to phrase; great ideas, but no ability to carry them out. There's plenty to work at.
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby bottleneck » Sat Jun 28, 2008 7:36 pm

ricochet,thanks for the info about the pignose.i was just about to buy one.i think i'll skip it now.

i have about nine tube amps ,mostly old danelectros that i collect.i also have a few fenders including a bassman RI and a pro junior.

the pro junior is as good an amp as any.i've had a victoria bassman clone right next to my bassman RI.sounded about the same.

i have a $50 solid state 15w aria amp i like nearly as much as the tube amps .i use it more than any amp because it is consistent and motorcycle friendly.

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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby ricochet » Sat Jun 28, 2008 7:49 pm

I like the G40V as a guitar amp. For the price it's hard to beat. But mine came (in 2001) with a crappy speaker that made fuzzy scratching sounds after the first time I played it cranked, and with a power transformer probably intended for 100V Japanese power, that put 7.5V on the tube heaters. I had to splice in a pair of 5W 1.8 ohm resistors to drop the voltage to 6.0V. And it does hum more than I'd like, due to the high gain and crowding of the chassis.
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby MakaInOz » Mon Jun 30, 2008 3:25 am

Amps and mics seem to 'appear' at my place. With two bass players, a guitarist and a harp player in the place, and a variety of practice, gigging and 'seemed like a good idea on the day' amps there's a fair old spread of technologies and vintages. A bunch of vocal mics add to the harp mic collection. I've also been lucky enough to have the occassional pro harp player run workshops here, so I've seen a fair bit of gear.

It all depends on your budget and your technical ability, but my 2c is to get a purpose built harp amp from a reputable harp amp builder good mic to match it from a reputable harp mic builder. Sonny Jr (Cruncher) and Harpgear (Double Trouble) amps would be top of my list. Chasing the 'cheap' option on eBay is getting too competitive, and I don't have the technical ability to fix up decrepit vintage amps or stuffed mic elements.

As everyone has said, if you ain't got the acoustic chops you're not going to be able to 'buy' amplified chops. However, the tools to get the Chicago tone are available, and from harp folks who do it as much for the love as the money. If that's what you're after, I reckon you can save a lot of years of buying and selling and stuffing around and go straight to the end game. It might take an investment of a couple of grand for an amp and a few hundred for a mic, but compare that to some of the guitarist wannabees who by a signature guitar for (tens of) thousands and a Marshall stack for even more.

Of course, there's plenty of folks who enjoy buying and selling and stuffing around. We're fortunate to have the choice to go straight to the right tools if we want that Chicago sound.

YMMV
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby Foghorn Fish » Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:47 pm

When i saw these i nearly wet myself

i'll gan doon te maplins at tha metty tha neet. gan get meesell a mic!!!

http://www.maplin.co.uk/module.aspx?ModuleNo=30117&doy=30m6

http://www.maplin.co.uk/Search.aspx?criteria=PT84F&DOY=30m6
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby Fishfeathersmacteeth » Mon Jun 30, 2008 1:56 pm

...buy two...you're going to stand on that fixed lead first time out and break it for sure.... :)
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Re: How to get the overdriven harp sound

Postby Foghorn Fish » Tue Jul 08, 2008 12:57 pm

i've bought a dynamic mic from maplin's on saturday for £12.99. with free lead..... but detachable. (thank you very much for advising me about leads, the plot will thicken later). also had to buy a low to high impedence converter for £6.99 as i plan to use with guitar equipment like pods, effects and amps.
however... realised when i got home that the freebie lead was xlr to jack. converter is xlr to jack also. so i couldn't plug the lead into the converter and use my line 6 pod. a complete and utter bugger spoiling my weekend. i could have cried!
so, i tried the harp strait into the jack input my small mixer, very good reproduction of the accoustic sound. other than eq though, nothing else. no compression, no gate, no reverb, no overdrive. also the lead was utter, utter turd; slightly loose, and went snap, crackle and pop.
bit the bullet (forgive the pun) on sunday and invested in a very pretty blue xlr to xlr cable. can you believe they want £9.99? nonsense.
anyway tried it with my pod. used the 59 bassman, with overdrive and reverb, gated and with compression. awesome. also used the tweed dulux models and marshall plexi (quite good actually, think robert plant on when the levee breaks, verrrry dirty!). The cable is secure, gives a great signal and is a good length. i am glad i invested in this cable and the converter as i plan to purchase more mic's over the years.
so on the whole, £13 for a good mic, £10 for xlr cable, £7 for converter. £30 in total.
one final note. is it ok to cup the mic around the lower half of the bulbous head? also will the mic get damaged if the harp is blown touching the mic head? is it too close?
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