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weird gear...

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ron a
May 28, 2010 7:25 PM GMT

Does anybody else here use weird gear?

Last night I took a 12 inch alnico speaker in a milk crate, an 8 inch guitar speaker in another milk crate and my valve junior to the jam. Out front, it sounded great, but it got buried when the guitar guys cranked their tube amps later (the inevitable). The overall volume out front put me too low in the mix, so i switched back to my digitech -DI-pa setup. I also played straight into a beta 57 via the PA. I fugure, the biggest amp in the house is the PA...why not take advantage of it?

From now's back to the rig in a need to lug speakers and amp to the jam. I'm taking the harp case and my percussion toys..that's it..maybe some bongos.

In the quest for tone, I have found it matters less than being able to hear myself play. The audience loves my valve junior, until things get too loud..then they are screaming "turn up the harp." Then they love it through the difference. I could mic it..but why bother? To them, hearing it is more important than what tone it is. Now, the digitech unit does produce smokin' tone through the PA.....but the beta57 is mostly a clean harmonica sound...they love that too.

I envy the guys who buy boutique amps just for harp..or for guitar for that matter. I am forced financially to make do with what i have already for guitar. Maybe my approach is just a modern version of the old classic masters. Play through stuff not designed for harp...just play. I won't pretend I don't try to get "those sounds" with my gear. Of course I do. My gear gets close enough for me and for the audience, judging by their reactions. My wife told me people were yelling and cheering last night at the jam during my solos. I couldn't hear them, but I can see a smile in the crowd and the place was full of them. The dance floor tells a tale too.

For a mic, I use a cut down vocal variety samson with the mesh ball flattened to get within 3/8 inch of the element. I have a singing machine wireless unit..yes the karaoke people...i have modified to terminate in an xlr connector for my vocal mic. I also sing with the pedal on bypass..or even on an amp model for variety.

So...cutdown vocal mic-singing machine wireless-digitech pedal-active DI box-PA. That's my jam rig of choice. For gigs, i will go to the trouble of micing the valve junior on a single 12 inch alnico speaker....unless the sound guy can't figure it out..then it's back to the jam rig. Worst case scenario...beta 57 i sing into used as harp rig too. It's a no-lose situation. Harp rocks no matter what you play it through.

Jam rig in a briefcase

I use weird gear. i know it. It's all I can afford anyway. Tell of your weird gear success stories and failures. Maybe we can all learn something.

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Comments (17)

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May 29, 2010 12:32 AM GMT
Joe L Replied:

For a really long time, I used a 50 watt solid state Yamaha amp to practice and to take out to jams. Sometimes, I wish I had that amp. I worked my ass off trying to get the sounds of the harp players that I heard to come out of that thing. I had varying degrees of success.

The funny thing is when I started using a tube amp, I found out that I had made progress.

I believe that if a person has the desire to play within themselves and they work at it, they can get usable sounds out of any equipment.

Now, I have some really nice equipment, but lately I find myself playing through a vocal mic and the PA. If Junior Wells and James Cotton could do it and sound good, why shouldn't I be able to do it, too? All it should take is practice and time.

Remember boutique harp amps are a phenomenon that have only popped up in the past 20 years. A lot of great music was made before that. They did it without all of that new stuff.

May 29, 2010 3:41 PM GMT
Kingley Replied:

I used to use a Boss GE-7 with a JT30 (MC151) straight into the PA. Great sound very portable and very cheap. I had many harp players inquire as to what amp I was using. When I pointed to the GE-7 they were amazed that you could get an amped tone out of one.

May 29, 2010 5:18 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

What it all comes down to is a single, simple, but often a brutally truthful fact, that the real sound does NOT come from the gear, but from the player, and I do have a few amps, but it frankly doesn't bother me to go thru the PA because if you've got the tone, chops, and resonance without the gear, it won't matter what it is you play thru, it will ALWAYS shine thru, and those who don't have that happening WITHOUT thegear, mistakenly believeing gear makes you sound or play better, the truth is that all of that will only expose you.

May 31, 2010 2:19 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

My Name is Chris Canning -- pause--- and I admit it. I use weird gear!

Much for the same resons you do Ron. Plus because I play a few differnt istruments. I try to make/use/match gear that has more than I application.Always scouring the second hand shops for something different.

May 31, 2010 4:17 AM GMT
ron a Replied:

Thanks for sharing Chris. Welcome to weird gear anonymous. Today I was experimenting with the 40 db attenuator on my active DI box...right off the 8 ohm output of the valve junior into my PA...with the speaker load on the link output as you would do if you ran your bass into the di to the PA and link to the amp.

It works like a champ and preserves the overdriven amp tone. The speaker breakup is still there on stage for the enjoyment of the player, if not for the crowd.

May 31, 2010 6:40 AM GMT
Not a Replied:

Hey Ron, I recently finished coppying your cut-off vocal mic comboed with a digitech. I also dented in the grill. I really like it. It's the easiest cupping, easiest to hold mic I've got now. I used a no-name, but reasonalble quality vocal mic (ATR brand). It's not quite as hot as the Audio-Technica vocal element I uwed in my DIY Bullet, but actually, I'm finding that that is a GOOD thing when playing through a digitech. I only finished the mic last week, so I'm still feeling it out, but I think this is going to be my main set-up now...



May 31, 2010 4:38 PM GMT
ron a Replied:

Very cool! Amazing what can be done on the cheap, isn't it? BTW, my wife wasn't home when i used the 3 pound sledge on the dining room table to flatten the mic ball. Important safety tip.

May 31, 2010 4:50 PM GMT
eric h Replied:

i am finding i gotta play thru the pa more often due to circumstances and being lazy.

i think it might be time to break out with my digitech, too.

May 31, 2010 5:30 PM GMT
ron a Replied:

a little delay and the volume controlled by the pedal is what I use the most. Occasionally I will kick it into an amp model i have that really gets dirty, but not as often as clean with a little delay. The mic and how I cup it makes almost as much difference as the amp model...with both, it really gets a good chicago dirty sound. Without the amp model, it's more trumpet to sax tones...flute up high. The high gain amp models are REALLY high gain and need to be carefully tweaked with eq and gain settings to avoid feedback. The lower gain settings work best for me.

May 31, 2010 7:05 PM GMT
ron a Replied:

I wanted to add a couple of personal thoughts. My primary instrument for years was trumpet. Nothing except licks, tone and style transfers from this instrument to harp.

For several years i focused on the guitar, mostly southern rock lead guitar. I own a 100 watt solid state modeling amp with twin 12 inch speakers and the digitech pedal for line into a PA.

For several more years, i studied and focused on percussion, specifically latin percussion. Some world percussion of various styles as well. During that time I studied and experimented with microphones. My goal was lightweight crystal clear sound that could cover as many instruments as possible. I made electret headset and instrument mics that easily cover vocals, mandolin and percussion with minimal equipment. I also learned and purchased sound reinforcement equipment and began running sound for local bands.

I also play bass, and a little keyboard, both of which I play into a 300 watt keyboard amp. This is the equipment I had available when I began to learn harmonica. I never really bought into the tube amp vs ss argument until I tried to amplify my harp with my 100 watt ss amp. As good as the modeler in it is for guitar, I was dissappointed with it for harp.

The digitech pedal is another story altogether. It works...both into a PA and into the valve junior I bought specifically for harp. The valve junior does, in fact, put me squarely in the tube camp for guitar, finally. Who knew? Even so, I never had the money for a tube amp and only got this one because it's so cheap and i had speakers available to try with it for harp.

I am a minimalist..I own one les paul copy, one strat and one epiphone dot studio. These three cover every tonal variation I care about. Once I got the valve junior, i found more that I cared about and they are there I have one acoutic guitar for around the campfire/house and one acoustic/electric.

I have one cheap a-model mandolin and one custom handmade one from a friend who made it and surprised me with it one christmas. bet. But i have made $75 dollars accompanying a wedding singer on one original song in the ceremony on guitar. I make a few bucks providing sound here and there and playing in a band. If I could make a living at music, i'd have better stuff. For what I do, nobody i play for seems to

Jun 01, 2010 11:12 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

I used a Pod 2.0 for a while and got some good results but in the end was unsatisfied. Line 6 make a little amd called a Microspider with amp emulation which was great but I havent used it for a while mainly because I am now using a Art Tube pre amp with cheap delay and EQ pedals and that is working well at the moment either into my 100W Keyboard amp or direct into the PA. The only down side is that the signal out of the preampusing the balanced out is so hot thatsome PAs with out a PAD on the MIc INs dont like it.

Jun 02, 2010 12:29 AM GMT
walterharp Replied:

a train whistle to start mystery train :-)

Jun 02, 2010 12:34 AM GMT
walterharp Replied:

hey bob not fair, you own an original 59 bassman.....

most of my gear is pretty standard.. a wine glass for a whah sometimes, crowd likes that.

Jun 03, 2010 9:45 PM GMT
Reed Triller Replied:

Well,,,not yet but i`m working on a couple of home made mics that are like nothing I have ever seen. If they come out ok I might offer them for sale.

Jun 10, 2010 2:12 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

Hey Ray I just made a mic out of a pefectly dimensioned Paprika tin. Hot Smoked Paprika of course. It sound fantastic with a Sure CM element in it. But there is a bit too much handling noise. Perhaps I have not sealed the element wellenough.

Jun 15, 2010 2:58 PM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

For some rehearsals I use small cheap crappy solid state bass amp Kustom KBA10x. It sounds unexpectable great and loud, especially with delay and harpattack.

I also really love how LoneWolf HarpAttack work with big solid state amps. Much better for my taste, than some tube amps.

Jun 23, 2010 4:53 AM GMT
Maka M Replied:

I like weird gear too.

Last gig (small room) I used an iMic with VC (from the planetharmonica site- I made it from a roll-on deodorant bottle with a telephone earpiece as the element) into my RP350 (via a rat tail impedence transformer), into a 3 channel 35W Realistic solid state PA into a 4 x 8" bass cab. Total cost of the gear was just over $300 (inc cables) - and $200 of that was the RP350.

Didn't take the 520DX or the CAD50VC or the SM58 or the tube amp. They're for a different day/mood/venue

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