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Harmonica troubles...

I have a few tracks with an acoustic folk player I've done lately. Everything sounds ok except certain passages where she hits the harmonica. These were all tracked live with her playing acoustic guitar, singing and occasional harmonica all at once. I mic'd the acoustic guitar with a small condensor, and the vocals and harmonica (by default) went through an LDC. All mics and preamps were cheap to ok at best. I'm not charging for this...solely a learning experience for all involved. Sorry! MXL and low-end AT mics, DMP3 preamp mostly, and a Mackie VLZ in addition. Anyway! The vocal mic/harmonica mic went into an ART Pro VLA compressor (Sorry again!). Problem is I get the vocal sounding nice, then the harmonica comes in and blows my head off...not all the time, just on certain passages. The only solution I can see is to cut the harmonica passages out and adjust the volume of those sections independently of the rest of the track. Since this was all done "live", there's some bleed through of harmonica on the guitar mic, etc. I've tried various EQ and plug-in compression solutions to this problem of heavy harmonica hits, but short of getting these folks to re-cut an otherwise great take, are there any ways to mitigate the harmonica dynamics other than chopping up the track? I don't see any other answer.I'm guessing it would be time to bust a$$ and ask her to re-take this with better, more concious mic technique...unless anyone has any ideas, of course! Thanks! ANDY


zemlin Tue, 09/05/2006 - 03:28
I'd put a copy of the VOX/Harp recording on another track and use automation envelopes (depending on your software) to swap mics when the harp fires up.

I just recorded a show - all acoustic, female performer with guitar, harp, and vocals. There is some discussion of that gig [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.recordin…"]here[/]="http://www.recordin…"]here[/] including mic setup and preamp used. I suspect one big difference between my recording and yours is distance. Performer was about 3' from the mics for this recording.

I didn't post any harp in that thread, so here's a clip with harp. The harp is in a rack, so there are no hands at work here. On this track there are no adjustments made for the harp - I did not need to separate harp and VOX. She plays Lee Oscar harps, FWIW.

If you don't want to listen to her chit-chat, the song starts about a third of the way into the sample.

BobRogers Tue, 09/05/2006 - 05:20
At this point I'd try duplicating the track, cut the harmonica out of the vocal copy and cut the vocals out of the harmonica copy. Two different instruments, you want to treat them seperately. Yes, you can probably do the same thing with automation, but this seems more straightforward. If you decide to track again you can try Karls setup (the inverse square law can be your friend), or if you want to stay with close mics, have her use different mics for the vocals and the harp. (Maybe a dynamic mic for the harp?)

Boswell Tue, 09/05/2006 - 07:26
At this point I'd try duplicating the track, cut the harmonica out of the vocal copy and cut the vocals out of the harmonica copy.
I've used a similar technique in the past, but with a modification to minimise the audible effects at the joins.

Duplicate the track, and zero out everything except the harmonica on the duplicated track. Apply fade-ins and fade-outs to the harmonica solos. Then multiply this track by -0.5 (if you want 6dB reduction in the final mix) and mix in with the original. The harmonica solos will be partially cancelled and the joins sound natural.