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Recording Harmonica Electric Guitar Amplification
Old 18th December 2006
  #1
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Tapeworm's Avatar
 

Recording Harmonica

Does anyone here have any exp. recording harmonica? I will have to in about two weeks and have never recorded one before.

My questions are:

What types of mics are used (ex dynamic, LDC, ribbon)
How close to the mic (right on top, several inches away)
Compression settings (hard or soft knee, limiting)

Thanks

BTW - this will be in a "dense mix" with lead and slide guitars as well as overlaping vocal lines.
Old 18th December 2006
  #2
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poncival's Avatar
There are different types of "sounds" associated with the harp... Chicago, New Orleans etc... One of the best ways to get a cool sound is to plug a shure green bullet into a pignose amplifier and mic the speaker or take the direct out of the pignose into a direct box. Usually more high end is wrong, you shouldn't need to boost anything in the highs, there will be plenty, even in a dense mix. The hard part is making it sound fat enough, sometimes you can get crazy boosting the lows and it sounds good but if you boost the highs it will sound thin. This applies to rock and blues, if you are using the harp for some soft background stuff you might want it to be kind of thin so it cuts through but most harp soloists want their sound to have "balls" almost like a lead guitar. The cool thing about the pignose is you can overdrive it with the mic and it sounds cool and gritty which gives a pretty distinctive character to the sound. If you just record the harp on a vocal mic usually the sound is too small for a rock mix.
Old 18th December 2006
  #3
yea, I actually use mine for textural stuff so...
otherwise a 57 into an amp of any kind can have good results.
Old 18th December 2006
  #4
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Tapeworm's Avatar
 

Thanks guys. All these years and I've never recorded a harmonica.
I was not sure if using an amp was only for live use.

I'll see if anyone has a pignose to borrow. If not, I think I'll try using my Epiphone Jr. first. It has a bassy, gritty sound and definately does not boost the high end.

The harmonica is going to swell in and out with and between slide and lead (and organ) so it will not be featured as a solo instrument but I definately don't want t to sound too thin or wispy.
Old 18th December 2006
  #5
Gear maniac
 

The Epiphone Jr is going to excell with harmonica! I bought one to use this weekend for a session.....after the session was over two people who were at the session went out & bought one of their own & I am considering buying another one to have as a spare. We tried it with two different speaker cabs, a 60s small Fender 2/12 bassman bottom (which didn't sound spectacular) and a small cab with 4 Jensen C69R speakers (the C69R is a 6x9 speaker rescued from an old Hammon Organ) This combination seriously rocked on Harmonica and Guitar. After we found the right speaker/amp combination it sounded great, no matter what we ran through it. Im sure that the price of these things is going to go up. The sweet spot is around one or two oclock.....This is the answer for screamin anything....especially harmonica!
Old 18th December 2006
  #6
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my band has a harmonica player, and when we rock it out electric style, he plays a shure green bullet through a fender blues jr. good enough sound for that blues/rock style harmonica. mic it like you would a guitar amp--an sm57 or similar micing your Epiphone Valve Jr should get the job done nicely.

at mix time, i've found it's almost always a must to dial in a healthy dose of compression to get it to sit right. likewise, i usually use both high and low pass filters and get rid of everything that's not needed--i don't want the harp amp taking up a lot of sonic realestate.

if you expect swells and such, you will be needing to get acquainted with your DAW's automation to exaggerate them somewhat. or get that fader finger in shape and ready to go!

IMO, with a harmonica amp, you need to get the sound right at the amp first and foremost--more so than you need to do with a guitar. YMMV, but it seems to me that guitars have a little more "wiggle room".

i've also had decent results with the harmonica player playing straight into an sm58/vocal mic, and driving (overdriving?) the preamp a little/lot. it's an entirely different sound--more immediate and "direct" sounding (and can get brittle if you don't watch out)......but one that may work depending on what the song/production calls for.

sometimes i put up a room mic a foot or two from the harp player's mouth (much like a vocal mic) in addition to micing the amp. in the end, you need to try a number of things and go with the one that works best for the song.


cheers,
wade
Old 18th December 2006
  #7
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Benmrx's Avatar
 

I had pretty good luck a couple weeks ago using an AKG D112.

The mic was probably a ft. or less from the player. I actually loved the way it sounded. It was the first time with Harmonica where I didn't find myself EQ'ing like crazy come mix time.
Old 18th December 2006
  #8
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Tapeworm's Avatar
 

Thanks for the replies. I don't own a green bullet but after a search, I saw that they are omnidirectional. I was wondering if a ev 635a might work in a pinch.
Old 18th December 2006
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapeworm View Post
Thanks for the replys. I don't own a green bullet but after a search, I saw that they are omnidirectional. I was wondering if a ev 635a might work in a pinch.
well, the thing about the green bullet is that it's got a 1/4in plug (and an internal impedence switch), so you can plug it straight into a guitar amp (or into a preamp if you flip the switch). it's also small and shaped so it'll fit in the hand behind the harmonica. for $100 it's a decent thing to have on hand--great for lots of things besides harmonica.

the 635 should work fine, i suppose, if the harmonica player is used to holding a "vocal mic" behind the harp while they play. what i would do is run an XLR from the mic, and get one of those Whirlwind IMP impedence transformers ($20?) to genderbend the XLR to proper high-Z 1/4in and plug it into the amp.

does the harmonica player not have a rig he plays through when they play live? if he does, i would get him to bring it and start from there.


cheers,
wade
Old 18th December 2006
  #10
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Tapeworm's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrface2112 View Post
does the harmonica player not have a rig he plays through when they play live? if he does, i would get him to bring it and start from there.


cheers,
wade

I'm going to be the harmonica player on this one....

Actually, I was playing along with the scratch tracks, sitting at the desk - slightly bored, while doing a quick arrangement mix for the drummer. Bad mistake. That'll teach me.

Now I'm going to play on the final tracks in about two weeks and realized that I never, ever recorded a harmonica (and never played one amplified - just over acoustic guitars during informal "jam" sessions after a few shots).

Since I'm also going to be playing and engineering, I want to make this as easy (and good...and quick) as possible without spending any extra money (it's the holidays and money is tight). If this comes out decent, I might be willing to invest a few bucks in case this situation ever happens again or I record a blues band with harp.
Old 18th December 2006
  #11
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gotcha!

in that case, you've got some time to experiment! and that's the best kind! just try a bunch of things and see what works with the songs/production. you might find that a tight, overdriven, bandpassed and compressed amp sound works well with one song, while another song is screaming for more of that "acoustic jam" flavor where you mic it with an LDC from a foot away.

definitely spend the $20 or so on that impedence genderbender and don't worry about a Green Bullet (or an altec saltshaker, etc) just yet. just plug the 635 into the amp and start from there. you might find that you need a mic with more proximity effect than an omni will get you, so try an sm57 or similar if the 635 doesn't get the job done (although the 635 should do just fine).


cheers,
wade
Old 18th December 2006
  #12
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Tapeworm's Avatar
 

Thanks Wade (and everyone else). If I find some time late tonight I'll try to see if I can find a "sound" that works well recorded with the scratch tracks.

I have a bunch of impedance transformers in an old trunk somewhere but I'll have to check what kind I have. I think most of them are 1/4" female to xlr male but one or two may be the other way around.

I think I still have an old widefaced, tubular dynamic microphone that came with a late sixties reel to reel deck I bought many, many years ago (the deck died long ago). The mic had an attached 1/4" plug. From what I remember, it had this oldschool dirty, lo-fi sound to it. It might be mojosonic. It's been at least 10 years since I last saw it but I don't remember thowing it out. Today looks like a good day to clean out the forgotten closet of spare parts, broken cords and electronic projects never to be completed.

I still have a few 58's as well in case this thing sounds like garbage or I did actually toss it.

I'll try that heavy compression idea as well.

I usually hate playing on someone else's project while engineering but this may be fun. It's good to get outside of the box once in a while. Thanks everyone.
Old 19th December 2006
  #13


If it sounded good at the desk, why not just put a neutral condenser about a foot away in the control room and go for it?



-tINY

Old 19th December 2006
  #14
Gear Head
 
Ted Perlman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapeworm View Post
Does anyone here have any exp. recording harmonica?
I've had Tommy Morgan in here. Tommy is probably the most recorded harmonica player in the music business. I've also had the late Dave McKelvey in here. He was another legendary oft-recorded player. He used a Shure Bullet mic into my A-Designs REDDI box into the A-Designs Pacifica preamp. Dave said it was the best sound he EVER got in the studio. You can actually see a picture of Dave playing at A-Designs' website. The REDDI box was the key element in getting the hamonica to sound so friggin' good.
Old 19th December 2006
  #15
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Tapeworm's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY View Post


If it sounded good at the desk, why not just put a neutral condenser about a foot away in the control room and go for it?



-tINY


That was kinda what I was wondering when I first posted. Seems like everyone runs it through an amp and then mics the amplified signal. Maybe the amp gives it "color" or "grit" that helps it sit well in a mix and not seem too sterile. Maybe the direct mic will make it sound "less bluesy" if you will.

I don't know.

I didn't get home until late last night so I didn't have a chance to run it through but I will today.

edit - that reddi box is over $700.00!! If they want it...they can buy it.
Old 19th December 2006
  #16
Gear maniac
 
NOCCA's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Benmrx View Post
I had pretty good luck a couple weeks ago using an AKG D112.

The mic was probably a ft. or less from the player. I actually loved the way it sounded. It was the first time with Harmonica where I didn't find myself EQ'ing like crazy come mix time.

I did this a couple months ago. Sounded great.

Who says a D112 has to be used for kick?
Old 19th December 2006
  #17
Little Labs
 
littlelabs's Avatar
 

If you aren't using a Hiz mic (the green bullet) try a 57 into the female xlr in of the Little Labs Redeye in re-amp mode and take the re-amp out into your amp, in my case a fender pro junior and it sounds freaking great. I also used that same set up for a PA for our annual Mardi Gras dog parade and it worked fine for a crowd of 200, I was surprised!
Jonathan
Old 1st September 2011
  #18
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Dayl's Avatar
Hi Guys,

Time for a thread resurrection.

I'm recording some blues harp next week and have the following equipment available to me .

Mics:

Blue Bluebird
Shure SM57
Behringer ECM 3000 (room measurment mic lol)

Preamp:

Stock - Allen & Heath System 8


I also have Guitar Rig and a few other plugs for contorting the signal to make it scream.


I've never recorded Harmonica before.

I wont be using an amp and will be going straight into the preamps on the A & H.

I'm thinking of using the SM57 and the Bluebird for the room?

Any comments tips? I heard someone mention a mic made out of an old telephone speaker.
Old 1st September 2011
  #19
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euphoria89's Avatar
 

Saturate your preamp
Add some EQ at tracking
Use 57 for less transient and lower freq response

Then add some distortion and (sometimes) a bit of short delay can work really well, especially for lead lines.
Old 2nd September 2011
  #20

It depends on what you are after. The high-energy guitar-amp blues you get at the nightclub are best mic'd at the guitar amp speaker...

Unless you have a pre-amp that you've overdriven with a harp before (and liked), I'd shy away from overdriving a recording preamp with a mic. You probably will tweak it for hours and may still not like it. Set up the the Bluebird 8-12 inches from the harp. You can always use an amp simulator or even re-amp it later if you want that sound. If you overdrive a pre-amp in the recording chain, you are stuck with it.



-tINY

Old 2nd September 2011
  #21
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Dayl's Avatar
Great, thanks for that. I guess I can give both a shot? one of the luxuries of working from home and not on studio time.

Cheers
Old 2nd September 2011
  #22
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BudgetMC's Avatar
I spend a lot of time tracking harps, and make a point of mic'ing the harp acoustically (usually with a condenser -- love my Jolymod 319 on harp) and also on the amp. Blending the two signals helps provide meat and cut... though the mix can vary considerably depending on the song.

And, at the risk of sounding like a true slut, I've also found that the SM7 works great on acoustic harp. The harmonic player can really get up on it (I keep the foam windsceen on for harp) and blow hard without distortion, in part because it's such a low output mic. This can help make for a very hefty acoustic tone.
Old 2nd September 2011
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
dbluefield's Avatar
 

I find the harmonica very forgiving - I hold the 57 up the the harp (eat it) and play away. Compression and plugs work great on it - especially some of the amp simulations,

Mack
Old 2nd September 2011
  #24
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sonic dogg's Avatar
As was said earlier, the style of the harp part will determine whether its going to sit in the mix. A lot of a harmonica players technique and tone comes from the hands besides, of course, the actually playing . So having a mic they can 'cup' may be what you need. I'm surprised that a blues harpist isnt going to bring their own thing to the party. Most are loathe to play through anything else than their stage rigs, and most have their own mic and amp that they trust.

If this isnt the case, then the 57 is your ONLY choice. Unless you rent a Bullett and find a Fender Champ or something like that to mic up.

I do a LOT of blues harmonicas.
Old 3rd September 2011
  #25
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Dayl's Avatar
Ha, I a going to enjoy this. Learning curves are always fun.

Hmm, no cup mic as such... unless I DIY something but I hope the 57 will do it.

Whats this 'hand play' people mention in terms of recording?


Thanks
Old 15th September 2011
  #26
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guitarboy94's Avatar
 

I'm surprised this even being discussed. The harmonica is one of the easiest instruments in the world to mic. You could probably use one of the cheapest mics on the face of the planet and still get a decent recording. Stay away from bright condensers and you should be fine.
Old 16th September 2011
  #27
Taking Down your Network
 
Boschen's Avatar
 

Hand technique can be a big part of the harmonica's sound. If you use a mic that the player can cup in their hand, it sounds totally different than a condenser set up feet away. The hand mic will catch every breath and nuance of the harp, as well as the effect that cupping the mic achieves, plus effects like warbles and vibrato. Some folks don't want this sound, but I like it when the harp is the featured instrument. The effects from cupping the mic can also be great for rhythm parts.

I use an EV627C held in the hands. It's a dual Z dynamic cardioid that I got on ebay for 35$. Sounds great direct, even better with an amp.
Old 16th September 2011
  #28
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Silent Sound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BudgetMC View Post
I spend a lot of time tracking harps, and make a point of mic'ing the harp acoustically (usually with a condenser -- love my Jolymod 319 on harp) and also on the amp. Blending the two signals helps provide meat and cut... though the mix can vary considerably depending on the song.

And, at the risk of sounding like a true slut, I've also found that the SM7 works great on acoustic harp. The harmonic player can really get up on it (I keep the foam windsceen on for harp) and blow hard without distortion, in part because it's such a low output mic. This can help make for a very hefty acoustic tone.
I've recorded several harmonicas over the years and the first time I did it I threw up a modded MK-319 and really liked the sound! Since then, I've never tried anything else. No need to. It's worked every time! Just treat it like a vocal performance, using good mic techniques, and you should be golden! Now if you want a gritty, bluesy tone, then I'd run it through a small guitar amp. Get it right at the source, as they say. But if you want the sound of the harmonica itself, the 319 set up just like a vocal mic is the way to go, in my book!
Old 29th March 2014
  #29
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NoPro's Avatar
 

This works great for me through a small tube amp mic w 57 /pre. Definitely gritty spooky. I'm trying to figure out how Neil young got his sound though...
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