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Playing through the PA, miking up a small amp or what?

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Aug 20, 2009 8:11 PM GMT

I've been using an all-tube Epiphone Valve Junior which gives a great tone (with a Green Bullet) and is very loud for a 5-watt(!) amp, but when playing live, you can only hear the thing if you stand directly in front of it. I've always preferred playing through the PA as I sing too, but if you want purist Chicago tone (if such exists - did they ever play this loud?), do you who play bigger venues find it better to mike up your small/vintage amp, or just use something more powerful?

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Aug 20, 2009 8:56 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

I have two different amps depending on the size of the venue, one is a 15 watt Fender Pro Junior for low volume gigs and for those with more volume, my real '59 Bassman. There are times you may still need to have the amp miked up thru the PA, but if you do, unless you get unbelievably lucky with a sound guy who knows harp for real (and trust me, from 30+ years of pro playing experience, I can count the numberof those on one hand, literally), avoid having it fed into the monitors unless you're a total glutton for punishment in regards to feedback problems.

Acoustics in every room is always different.Some rooms may be big, yet a big amp may be too loud, as some small rooms may need a larger amp. Whenever I'm booked into aroom I've never playedbefore, I take both with me and use the lower volume one first set to see what's needed.

There is also the Harp Commander which is designed to get an amped sound thru the PA, and also amp simulator units like the POD or the Behringer V-Amp, which were originally used to record straight into the board can also be used as well into the PA.

Aug 21, 2009 4:41 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

I agree with Bob's comments. There is a lower limit to amp size when the rest of the band is loud. Sure, you can mic it, but you won't be able to hear it on stage - and you can't bring it up enough in the monitors before feedback becomes a nightmare. I play my Kalamazoo for small acoustic gigs. I can line it out into the PA for a little added punch. But when we play amplified at a larger club, I bring out the Sonny Jr.

Aug 21, 2009 10:16 AM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

silvertone 1482 for small gigs- about 12 watts, single 12". replica '59 bassman for big rooms. nothing like 4 10's and 45 watts or so to get it done with a louder band in a big hall.

the problem i've always had with p.a. and harp is, my voice needs just about the opposite of what a harp needs setting-wise on a typical p.a. true there are times and situations and songs where i like the dry aspect of a ss p.a., for a given song, but over all i want a tube amp to put the harp through, and one or the other above amps does the heavy lifting for me while keeping good tone as much as an amp and bullet will do that.

the valve jr is a pretty good little room rig. if i had my way i'd have one, but finances dictate that i stick with the silvertone. which is also a great little amp.

Aug 21, 2009 1:43 PM GMT
walterharp Replied:

I second bob, if you play through the PA, then at least use a DI and a seperate channel so you can roll off treble and add a bit of delay to the harp channel. And you need to trust the sound guy and be willing to play without hearing yourself well. If this is a regular issue and you love the amp, not sure if it has a line out, or you can get an amp tech to create a line out and send part of your amp signal right to the PA, then you still have your tone and your on-stage monitor. Another alternative, if you have access to another small amp, is to do what Gussow does and put in a Y and run two amps in the bigger room. A problem with a bigger amp is that if you cannot open it up on volume, the tone generally suffers, so if it is too much amp for the room, then you are stuck. This is probably part of why Bob brings both.

Aug 21, 2009 4:53 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

Lol! Pretty unanimous comments, totally my experience, specially with sound guys - and do they hate miking up harp amps... I kind of had a feeling that the 'loud' threshold was around 50W too. The 50W Vox VT50 I have has a power output rolloff from 5W-50W that is supposed to preserve the tone, but I'm still trying to find that warm, wet sound from it that the Epiphone does OOTB.

Aug 21, 2009 8:12 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

About the only harp amps ever made that won't feedback at any volume are the Harp King amps made, but I understand that right now, John Kinder is just making the AFB (anti-feedback box) units that are included in those amps, and they can have distortion dialed in at any volume, and the first one he came outwith, Rod Piazza uses, which is a 6-10 100 watt monster that won't feedback at all and you can compete with a Marshall stack with that (if you don't mind going deaf from this bad boy). I saw rod in 1998 at The Call in Providence, RI, just after I got thru with a gig about 3 miles away, and I could hear him blasting over the band for about a good city block. When I got in, I saw a sound guy I knew and he told me Rod was louder than the band (and this is NO small room at all) and he wasn't even on the house mix!!

Just remember, even if you get one of those AFB units, a 5 watt amp can only get so loud to a point. Also bear in mind acoustics can play some serious tricks with your hearing, as I've found this out on more than a few occasions, where I felt like I was drowned out on the bandsand, but when I hooked up my wireless unit and walked about 40 feet away, to my surprise, I was easily 3 times louder than the rest of the band.

On the other hand, if the sound guy hates harp players, he'll try to bury you no matter what (tho not with either the Harp King amps or the AFB box).

Aug 22, 2009 6:42 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

I learned to not freak out about not hearing myself from a great blues piano player, Dave Maxwell, and he said that's something that they have to learn to deal with, and that's not hearing yourself and avoiding going into Mr. Macho Hardhead of trying to bang the keys really hard because at the other end, it usually sounds like crap and you wreck the keyboard really bad, and so the very same thing applies to harmonica as well.

Aug 26, 2009 3:44 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

Bob said "About the only harp amps ever made that won't feedback at any volume are the Harp King amps "....

I know they have the AFB built in, but the statement may be misleading unless we really literally interpret "any" volume." A good harp amp develops very reasonable, if not downright loud volumes before feedback. My Sonny Jr amps have always been loud enough and don't give me any feedback problems. The HarpGear 50 is the same.


Sep 04, 2009 6:04 PM GMT
Joe L Replied:

I lived in Chicago during the 1980's and saw lots of harp players. A lot of guys played very, very loud. It wasn't uncommon to see guys playing blowing amplified harmonica through Super Reverbs or even Twin Reverbs at very loud volumes. The smallest amp I ever saw was a Deluxe Reverb and it was cranked and mic'ed.

I've seen Billy Branch play through a Twin Reverb in a small club. I've seen him play through a 130W solid state Peavey amp, which is very toneful and very loud. Sugar Blue used to blow through a Mesa Boogie at skull splitting volumes and sounded great doing it. For a lot of players at the time, the Super Reverb was the standard. Mojo Buford (in the Muddy Waters days) play through an old Silvertone amp with a tower of speakers that was pretty damn loud. Some players like James Cotton, Junior Wells and a few others just transitioned to the PA.

It wasn't until I moved to California that I ever saw anyone play through a tweed amp. Come to think of it, until I moved to California I don't think I ever saw an amplifier covered in tweed.

If you want to hear how loud guys like Little Walter played in the mid 50's, get an old 50's PA or amp and start blowing. It won't be skull splitting loud. Don't forget guitar players used the same size gear. The problem is that technology changed in 50 years. When the rest of the band moved to bigger gear, harp players were forced to follow or be left in the dust.

A lot of the people that were playing in Chicago in the 50's that made it to the 80's were using bigger black tolex Fender amps and they were almost always loud. There were some people that deviated from this and my memory isn't what it used to be.

Sep 08, 2009 6:21 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

Very informative, Joe. As for feedback, the volume pot on the Green Bullet is perfect for nipping that in the bud. Best mic I've used. Ever seen that picture of Little Walter with his speaker right up on the wall, over the bands' heads?

Sep 09, 2009 3:53 PM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

Blogward wrote:"As for feedback, the volume pot on the Green Bullet is perfect for nipping that in the bud."

Volume controls ARE great for killing feedback when it happens, which is why I make and sell volume controls. They do not, however, change the volume at which feedback occurs. Different mics and amps will, however.

Now, as for the 520DX being the best mic you've ever used..... Everyone is different and its great if you're happy with that mic. However MOST players agree that the earlier Green Bullets (which had a completely different element design) have a better sound. I certainly think so. I also object to the 520Dx because it is the biggest around (harder to cup well) and the heaviest mic around. So I'm curious what you're comparing it to!

Sep 09, 2009 7:53 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

Frankly I'd rather not have to amplify at all! I've no doubt an early Green Bullet (which I haven't tried) is better than a new one, but to me it's much more about the chops - chasing the ideal amplified sound is something I let guitarists obsess about. And I have big hands:)

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