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Harmonica Session

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Stabb, Apr 25, 2004.

  1. Stabb

    Stabb Active Member

    Hi People!
    I'll be recording harmonica for the first time today.
    I'm going for a sweet sound as opposed to dirty blues.
    Would any kind soul share some tips w/ me?

    Mic choices -

    Mic pres -
    Grace 101
    Peavey VMP-2

    Compressors -

    Recording to Tascam MX-2424 HD recorder.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member


    If you have any Audix D1/D2/D3 drum mics try these too...The D1 is especially good for a complete clean harmonica sound
  3. I would go with the Grace as opposed to the VMP- cleaner. Also try a near mic in addition to the close mic: the 414 18" back and smoothed out with a comp like an RNC or a DBX 160 xt. David
  4. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Exactly why I didnt suggest the Grace...Its way too clean even for melodic harmonica.....Clean is GREAT BTW!.....Most harmonica players ,even those who dont play blues, cup the harp in their hands and use it to produce many different tones....Thus the 57.The other mics are not mics you're gonna want to cup with your hands whilst blowing a harp into it. As for a room mic, I would put up the TLM through the Grace for your ambience.
  5. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Before I even read what the DaDog suggested, I came to the exact same choices and conclusion of the SM57-->VMP-2-->Distressor path. I'd likely pick the 414 and dbx for the room combo though.
  6. Stabb

    Stabb Active Member

    Hi Guys,
    Thanks for the posts!
    Of course I didn't think of posting my question until the day of the session so I didn't get the replies 'til after.

    I used the TLM103>VMP-2>Distressor.
    I always feel pressure to get the sound right quickly and the chain sounded pretty good so I didn't experiment.
    I did leave the fabric pop/windscreen up so no spit would land on my Neumann.

    I thought about using the SM57 but the TLM103 is my best mic, right?

    Until recently, my only compressor was my old dbx160 which I really like, but I must say I am really happy with the Distressor.

    I think I will have the harmonica player back in future so I will have a chance to experiment w/ a room mic.
    I once read that Al Schmitt used room mics by setting the room mic first then bringing up the close mic.
    What do you guys think?
    I should say that my studio is 2 bedrooms in my house so my rooms aren't big. Does that nix the room mic idea?
    In the studio I have ASC's 'Quick Sound Field' (8 standing tubular traps) and 2 of Ethan's Mini Traps.

    Thanks again for your insight!
  7. cruisemates

    cruisemates Active Member

    Strangely enough, in my days in Hollywood I worked with some of the top session harmonica players in town, one guy used to do stuff for Hanna Barbera cartoons and Loonytoons. He also did the "Sesame Street" theme song.

    I also worked with one of the "Harmonicats" quite a bit. This guy could do the William Tell Overture on his chromatic harmonica.

    I treated it pretty much like a vocal with a large diaphragm condensor mic and an 1176 compressor. I used a tube U-47.

    It sounded fantastic. You don't want ANY distortion or overdrive, IMHO. In fact, you want to make it sound as sonorous as possible, like a vocal.

    One of the easiest things to record, actually. Just my 2 cents.
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Would that be Toot's Thielman? That guy is a great harmonica player. he plays a bunch of other instruments as well, virtuoso guitar for one.. He is a "fine" jazz player, to use one of Carol Kayes definitions ...
  9. cruisemates

    cruisemates Active Member

    It has been 20 years, but the name "Toots" certainly does sound familiar. I would bet a dollar it was the same guy.
  10. cruisemates

    cruisemates Active Member

    This was all back in about 1976. I also had the honor of working with Carol Kaye once. I was also a bass player and we talked about the Barny Miller theme. I mentioned to her that I admired her thumping technique and how she was the only female bass=player at the time I had met who could do it.

    Soon after that I had a black gentleman in my little demo studio, and I told him he was the best thumper I had seen yet. He said "thanks, I invented it." Turns out it was the original player on hundreds of Motown records, Jamie Jamerson (sp?).

    My life is like a running episode of Letterman's "brushes with fame."
  11. Stabb

    Stabb Active Member

    Too many years ago when I was touring with a famous Hawaiian act as a guitar player, I had the pleasure of seeing Toots w/ a trio in a club in Chicago.
    Musically, a very sweet evening.
    He also played some guitar and could whistle melodies in unison w/ his guitar.

    I remember him playing and whistling 'Bluesette' (his tune) on guitar.

    In my session, luckily I approached the harmonica recording like a vocal.
    Cruise, you must be right about it being easy to record, because my tracks turned out pretty well.

    Here's one 'Brush with Fame'
    In the early 80's I was in a rock band playing at a club at Hickam AFB.
    Jerry Lee Lewis was booked to play the adjacent showroom.
    I walked in a dressing room where we stored some of our gear and I saw a Fender guitar case on the table with 'James Burton' on the name tag.
    I thought, "Hmm that sounds familiar."
    And just as I'm thinking that, in walks a really nice fella with his hand extended to me saying, "Hi, I'm James Burton."

    And then I realized that it was the James Burton who played with Ricky Nelson in the early days of Rock and Roll and then later played w/ Elvis.
    (with the Paisley Telecaster)

    I think he still plays w/ Jerry Lee Lewis.

    Thanks guys.

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