Electrified Harmonica Tone

A friend emailed me a series of questions about getting great amplified harmonica tone. There’s a whole lot of good stuff online about this, but here is essentially, how I answered himAs for electrified harmonica, there are several issues re. sound, all of which I won’t addres here. Here are the main issues as I see (hear!) ’em. Certainly “a start”:Small tube amp, ala Fender Champ or Princeton- or a no-name but like, 15-20 watts, could have an 8 or 10 or even 12 inch speaker. I prefer 12 for fuller sound (low end).Some mics (that you blow harp into) are better than others but any you can plug directly into said amp will work.A good harp (my pref. are Hohner Special 20s or Lee Oskar).Crank the amp just before bad feedback… set the tone mostly or all the way to low end (heavy on bass and lot of midrange, light or no treble). Best as you’re able, fully cup hands around harp and where it meets the mic. Enclosing the space much as you can.All of this leans towards a rather “honk” and overdriven tone and sound. How the amp then gets mic’ed and the tone set by the engineer and via p.a. is important but it isn’t the core deal.Lastly, IF you aren’t yet getting what you like from all this and have tried various amps, mics, harps and techniques, you can try a touch of Ibanez Tube Screamer or other overdrive, compression or distortion pedal like that. It’s a last resort and can get quite artificial-sounding but might work if all else doesn’t bring you the sound you’re looking for.You plug harp mic into pedal, pedal into harp amp. It’s a “cheat” that sometimes works. Hope this helps answer your questions. -Glenn

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2 thoughts on “Electrified Harmonica Tone

  1. hey Glenn! Ever since Mr Cameron blew harp on "Skyline" (first Resurrection band stuiff I heard) I was intrigued with harp for Rock. Not long after, Darrell Mansfiled played at my High School for Lunch. With all of his vintage Fender tone!A few years later I actually acquired a 58 Tweed Champ from Darrell, and got myself a Astatic JT-30 with a crystal element….TONE THROUGH THE WALL!Now I occasionally like to mess with some effects, but for the most part it was pretty monster straight up. I like to add some reverb, but not too wet.I also have a Turner Mic and a Shure Green Bullet… Bottom line, there is no sweet tone for bad playing, so any player should make sure they got it in their mouth and hands, ‘cuz if it ain’t there, it won’t be in the amp.My tweed is my favorite piece of equipment. I still uise it after nearly 20 years!If you want to hear my playing, let me know where I can send you a sample mp3!God bless!Joe

  2. Hello GlennOur harp player uses a shure bullet mic into one of two amps: a Marshall 5 watt and another very old no name build up amp with a nice dark and dirty tone. At our normal gigs we get his volume just fine without feedback.However, we had a gig with Ray Fuller (from Columbus Ohio) with a bigger audience and sound rig. We had a big struggle getting his harp through the monitors without inducing feedback. What do you do in situatios like this?

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