Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dan "Murph" Malyszko Debuts

My blues harp student, Dan Malyszko, debuts on stage with Pet Motel.

He's playing into his Fender Blues Junior amp, slightly modified with a 5751 preamp tube and the unbalanced 12DW7 phase inverter tube. Even with the stock speaker the tone of this amp is vastly improved. And Dan sounds pretty dang good with it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Losing Some Weight

Now that my acoustic blues duo – the Scott Davis Project – is gigging regularly, I’m playing out 10+ times per month. I decided I didn’t want to lug my harp amp around to all the gigs with the duo because, well, it’s supposed to be “acoustic,” and I’m happy to take less gear to those gigs. It shortens the loads and eases the pains.

For the first few duo gigs I played harp into a Shure SM57 mic on a mic stand, plugged straight into the PA board with just a little ‘verb from the board. After a while I wanted a little more tone and texture on my harp, but I didn’t want it bad enough to start carrying the 5F2H amp to every acoustic gig. So I decided to check out multi-effects processors.

Richard Hunter is a well-known harp guy on Harp-L who strongly supports the use of effects boxes, particularly the Digitech RP series. I contacted him and he recommended the new RP350 or RP250. Those are cool products with lots of gadgets, but I decided I’d probably seldom use most of their features. I settled on the Digitech RP150. Musicians Friend had it on sale for only $79.95 including a cool gig bag.

One of the main features it lacks when compared to the 250 and 350 is the expression pedal, but it has a plug for an external pedal if I want to borrow one from my guitar player and try it. It also has the USB connector. I think you can combine fewer effects with the 150, and it may lack some effects like Envelope Filter. That’s okay… All I’m really looking for are a few amp models, delay, reverb, maybe a little compression. Maybe chorus. I don’t need any fancy looping or space-ship sounds.

So far, the RP150 fills the bill. I’ve messed with it at practice and at home, and I’ll gig it out tomorrow night. I’ve come up with a few FX combinations that I think will sound nice, but you never know until you play it in the club through your PA system. I'll update this post with recordings later.

Speaking of PA systems, I’ve taken another step to lose a little more weight: I sold my heavy (but excellent) Yamaha S115IV speaker cabs. Those suckers weigh a ton, and our weekly acoustic duo gig is in a smaller club that is down a long flight of stairs. Lugging those monsters up at the end of the night was a literal pain, even with a dolly. Plus, the Yamahas were serious overkill in terms of volume and size. They took up too much of our scarce stage space.

So, I took the money from selling the Yamaha speakers and bought a pair of Mackie C200 speakers. I’ve owned Mackie SRM450 speakers in the past and they were fantastic. The C200 speakers are the unpowered version the Mackie SRM350, a wonderful 10-inch 2-way cab. But get this: The C200 speakers weigh only 26 lbs each! They are not big and awkward like the Yamahas. One Mackie in each hand and the speaker load-out is done.

One of my bandmates in Roadhouse Joe owns identical Yamaha cabs, and another has big Peavey cabs, so mine were just sitting. Also, the Mackie C200 cabs can be used as monitors for the big blues band.

Here's a pic of the Digitech RP150. It is sitting in the gig bag, with the power supply and Audix in-line impedance matching transformer on the right.

The complete acoustic gig rig: Digitech RP150 and harp case. I'll leave the amp they are sitting on at home.

SJ 410 SS Amp

My friend Tony Smith works out his SJ 410 SS amp at a blues jam. Check out the great tone and musicianship.

He is using his Sonny Jr. "Super Sonny" 410 amp and a Chuck Gurney custom bullet mic with a Shure Black Label element. There are no pedals or effects, and no editing on the recording. It was recorded with a Zoom H2 hand-held digital recorder and this is the way it sounded in the room. Suh-WEET!

Sounds like a really fun jam; wish I woulda been there.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I finally did it...

I paid $100 for a blues harmonica; a Seydel 1847 Silver, the harp with the stainless steel reeds and white plastic comb. The out-the-door price at Guitar Center was $97.55.

Last night I blew out the 5 draw reed in my all time favorite A harp, a Hohner Marine Band Deluxe. It was the second time I'd blown the same reed in that harp; I had Victor Creazzi replace the reed once before. Fifty bucks to buy the MBD harp and another fifty to repair it, so I had a hundred into that harp already.

The Seydel sounds great, but not as great as the loud, singing Marine Band Deluxe. But since it has the stainless steel reeds my hope is it will stay in service longer.

The weird thing is, I blew the reed last night playing a gig with my acoustic blues duo. That is mostly low intensity playing into a Shure SM57 on a mic stand, plugged straight into the PA board. I'll try futzing with the reed, but I'm pretty sure I'll be giving Victor another call and another $50.

Since I have a gig tonight at the Mile Hi Blues Festival KickOff Party, I wanted a really good harp, and nobody sells the MBD harp over the counter around Denver. So, this was an excuse to try the Seydel 1847. I hope I don't blow it out in the first set tonight. That would depress me.

UPDATE: Well, I didn't blow out the Seydel 1875 Silver the night I wrote this article. It didn't happen until last night, Sept 3, during a gig with my acoustic blues duo. The 4-draw reed went flat, a reed I usually do not abuse. The harp lasted less than a month. I gigged it nine times.

The reed failure may well have been my fault; I might have overbent the 4-draw. Regardless, Rupert Oysler -- head of Seydel USA --generously offered to repair the harp as a courtesy. I have known him to do this for other players as well. The reeds technically are not under warranty. If it happens again I will be happy to pay for the repair.

After playing the harp for a month I can tell you it is and exceptionally good harp. The tone and action are beautiful right out of the box. It has a nice loud sound without being jangly. The harp has a polished feel in your mouth.

When I get it back (Rupert promised a quick turn-around) I'll break it in more gently and take better care of it. it is a very fine instrument.