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"ridin' bare back"

Back to the Gear Room

Nov 19, 2009 5:28 AM GMT

Hi All:

Hit the jam last night after spending a good part of the weekend tweaking my pedal train (harp commander, echo park, sonic maximizer) and playing with tube swaps (12AT7 instead of the 12AU7) and playing along to "Stand Back!", vintage Charlie. Even shuffled my gear cases to give all the crap (transformers, cables, power bars, etc.) a place to live with the harps and mic.

Was 'geared' up to go but between hitting the head and chatting some old friends (the place was packed!) I missed setup time and it was 'wanna play some harp? Now?' so I powered up my amp and went "bare back", mic straight in, no pedals.

I was pleasently suprised. Playin' old school again! Grit, tone. Nice! Had to be careful about feedback (needed volume with multi guitars,bass,snare) with where I held the mic but with an in-line volume control I could dial back when not playing. Got lots of positive feedback from the crowd and other players. Felt good.

Got me wondering about the whole gear thing. Back to basics was working, in spades. At least for a jam situation. At home in the woodshed I still like the toys.


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Comments (11)

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Nov 19, 2009 7:51 AM GMT
OrthodoxBlues Replied:

Moose --

I play guitar and harmonica. I've noticed that many of the guitarists go through a stage of fiddling a lot with pedals and then get to a place where they play with a very small number or just straight into the amp. At my stage of guitar playing, I love pedals but I realize that, while they can be serious sonic tools, they are also my grown-up toys. I adore getting another one in the mail! I'm a little less pedal crazed with harmonica, although a great delay is fantastic. I think it is great to play straight into the amp sometimes, to realize that the pedals are optional.

Nov 19, 2009 12:06 PM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

for me just getting and keeping up with what we need in the duo- wife's guitars, cables, amps, p.a., my maps, mics, all the details- is plenty of stuff to herd around. when i go out to a jam thses days i seldom take an amp since the one jam has a harp rig there. the other one- a monthly jam at best- i do bring out the bassman. and of course when i sub in or sit in with a band i bring amp and harp mics.

i am old school i guess. i know the various pedals and stuff could give me some latitude i don't have but to me there's nothing like a mic straight into an amp. in fact i pine for the days pre-solid state, when p.a.'s were all tube amps. i'd love to step up to any mic any place and have the warmth of tube amplification staring back at me. it would be much simpler.

i very occasionally will just play through the p.a. depending on song and players i'm with. sometimes the song just calls for that. since we've taken up the duo thing and busking, no amps at all, my hand effects and breathing dynamics have improved vastly. part of the charm of doing live music to is, all i need is a harp or two and a guitar partner who isn't lugging everything but the kitchen sink along.

we played a competiton a bit more than a year ago as a duo. the back line was there already but we brought our amps and used their p.a. but guess who forgot his harp mic, and we were the first act? no harp buddies around to bum a mic off of. no time to go get mine sitting at the house. so i played into the same mic i was singing into. we didn't win but i doubt a harp mic would have turned the tide. and even so, we played one of our best sets ever that night. sometimes ya just run what ya brung and go for it.

my hat is off to guys who can afford all that other stuff and keep up with it, keep it powered and running and all. but i just don't need it toget what i want out of music. raw, real, and live.

Nov 19, 2009 5:29 PM GMT
BlueMoose Replied:

JAwbone said: " but i just don't need it to get what i want out of music. raw, real, and live."

Amen! One of the best perfomances I've seen was from this guy just playing guitar solo, he didn't have that great a voice and wasn't even a great guitar player but the show was like he was rippin' his heart out right in front of you with a worn out screwdriver and then watching it slide in a pool of blood off the stage and onto the floor.

Nov 20, 2009 6:17 PM GMT
ron a Replied:

yep..even micing straight into the PA is awesome. I use a beta57 as a vocal mic and can play harp with it too. no chicago dirt though. My cutdown samson r21 will do it though...or close enough to make a difference over the beta. I'm all for jam night rig is just a pedal and mic and harps and di box. It all fits in my briefcase.

Nov 21, 2009 1:07 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

I think the success ofplaying direct into a PA is definately dependent on how experienced and Harmonica cynical the sound guy is.

Direct into an amp? Good for the soul. When there is non feed back that is.

' he was rippin' his heart out right in front of you with a worn out screwdriver and then 'watching it slide in a pool of blood off the stage and onto the floor.

Was that Ozzy Osbourne?

Nov 21, 2009 6:03 AM GMT
OrthodoxBlues Replied:

I'm in no danger of getting rid of my many fun pedals, but truth be told, my favorite sound for either guitar or harmonica is straight into my old Champ. Thanks for reminding me!

By the way, anybody got a mop, somebody got blood all over the floor, and left a filthy screwdriver. I heard he was a fantastic player, though.

Nov 21, 2009 6:23 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

I have a number of pedals but find that I keep coming back to just a mic straight into the amp. Usually I'll use my Boss DM-2 with most rigs. However I'm finding that since I got the Princeton Reverb I'm tending to use no pedals at all, I don't even use the amps reverb. I just play it dry and is has a killer sound.

Although I won't be selling off my pedals just in case.

Nov 22, 2009 2:59 AM GMT
Joe L Replied:

I've got some pedals, but most of the time, I don't use them outside of the house. I'm good with playing amplified through an amp or a PA. Either one works for me.

Jan 10, 2010 9:02 AM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

Yeah I'm on the fence about overdoing it with gear. Here in Denver there's a fella with a great reputation as one of the hottest players (has albums out, etc.), and I had been hearing all this buzz. Then one night he showed up at my favorite jam spot. He was like the fourth harp player to take the stage and he had a mess of pedals goin on and it ended up squashing his tone. His sound was getting lost in the mix and burried by the band and what I could occasionally hear sounded synthetic and computerized. I'm sure his licks were stellar; probably blew most of the other players (of all instruments) out of the water but unfortunately his $4,000 worth of gear made his monster licks difficult to hear or appreciate. Moral: sometimes less is more :)

Jan 10, 2010 9:10 AM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

Disclaimer about my previous comment: I don't mean to step on anyone's toes or take anything away from players who prefer a lot of gear. There is plent of fine equiptment, gear-makers, and players who are rather adept at working with copious pedals and extravigant amp/pa setups. It's just important to remember to each his or her own and to really take notice about what eachadditional pedalor what not is actually doing to your overall sound in context.

Jan 26, 2010 7:18 PM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

Every gear work for particular musical aims. It's not as good if you play traditional jazz swing tune with double bass, brushes and piano with gritty tone with oktave splitter, maximizer, delay, phaser and heavy overdrive. You have to play clean or very slightly overdriven.

In the other hand if you play clean rock-funky tune with overdriven guitar, wurtulizer keyboards, slap bass, sequencer, hip-hop and drum'n'bass drumming your clean playing can be slightly off the song and you need more modern tone.

More stuff needs much time to connect all together and much time at the soundcheck.

If I go to jam I bring harps only and play straight to vocal microphone. If I have my own performance in my city I take with me SM57, wireless, set of pedals plugged to amp plus Fireball through some pedals to di-box to PA plus my own vocal mike for acoustic playing (3 basic tones effects!)

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