Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Step Away From the Pedal!

Lately I’ve been hearing this sales pitch from effects pedal makers:  “Change things up!  Give your audience a little variety!”

Blues harp players have been doing exactly that for at least the last 65 years without the need for any trick pedals that make you sound like a kazoo or a kaliope.  

      Loosen up, baby!  Don’t play with a tight cup all the time.  That big tone is best used for effect, not for your constant sound.  Open up on the bullet mic.  Don’t squeeze it in a death grip every time you blow.

      Dynamic Duo!  Change up your volume and attack on the mic.  Use dynamics to be expressive.   Try this on a typical 24 bar solo:  In the first 12 bars play low and slow, staying on the low end of the harp.  Leave lots of space.  As you get to the turn-around move up to the 4 draw, and then the 5 draw to build tension as a transition to the second 12.  Ramp up the intensity for the second 12 bars, playing more of the second octave of the blues scale using the reeds in the middle of the harp.  Finish with a flourish.  Smile and wave at the outburst of applause. 

      Drop the Mic!  Put your bullet mic away and step up to the vocal mic.  Play a few songs acoustically, using all the cool hand effects.   Just get all Sonny Boy with it.

      It’s all about the Chrome!  Pull out that big chromatic harp for a couple songs and blow those big chords, either through your rig or into the vocal mic.  Show it off.

Mix it up.  The audience will love it and you will come off as a harmonica master, not just a pedal user.

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