Steve Baker Special - a HIP harp

Ted Albritton writes:

  >Anybody got advice (love or hate) on the Steve Baker Specials?
  >Although I haven't had the chance to play one, they would seem
  >good for blues, except that I don't think I would often use notes
  >(at least in lower keys like A, G, and even C) a full octave
  >lower than normal. I don't like that slack, lush sound and feel
  >of a really low reed. I might like an F or D in SBS
  >configuration. Any input would be much welcome.

I wrote a review of the SBS in HIP No. 3.

First off, SBS come in 5 keys so far. C is the lowest, ascending
through D, F, and G to A, the highest.

Hole 1 in the C, D, and F harps is an octave lower than on the
10-hole models.

Hole 1 on the G and A models is the same as on the 10-hole models
(although there are some low G and A models floating around. I
have a low G - it's a gas!!)

Even if you don't like the feel of the really low harps, an SBS
can be valuable (by the way, I have a low D Special 20 and a D
SBS, and I find that in the low range, the SBS is a little
brighter and punchier).

Remember that the traditional "lauching pad" centered around 2D
on the 10-hole is located around 5D on the SBS. If you play up
there - treating Hole 4 as if it were hole 1 - you'll have all
the regular range and tuning on the C, D, and F, but you'll also
have lower auxiliary notes when you need them. When playing
crossharp, I fequently find that I want to continue a line down
below the range of the harp. I *could* play it an octave higher,
but it would be too high and bright, and have the wrong timbre,
vibrato, and bending character. The extra range on the SBS means
no compromise. After all, the fourth note of the scale (1B) is a
hell of a cutoff point, as it's unresolved. Even the third would
be welcome, but this gives you a whole extra octave of additional

On the G and A harps, playing from the 5D launching pad will give
you a harp an octave above the regular tuning - extremely bright
and snappy - without sacrificing the more muscular qualities of
the regular range.

Another nice thing about the SBS is that it gives you two full
octaves of a pure major triad on the draw chord, instead of
adding the seventh and ninth in the second octave, which is not
always welcome, like on pure major-key tunes.

Another cool thing about the SBS comes into play when you play
with other harp players. I always hate it when everybody whangs
away in the same octave - it sounds like a bunch of bugs in a
jar. By using the lower range on an SBS, you can play in a lower
range when accompanying, to give more fullness to the sound, and
distinguish the parts from one another. Steve Baker uses the SBS
this way on the new Have Mercy CD, where they sometimes have
several harmonica duos, and even some trios.

Have Mercy is a British jugband, and their CD is new out on
Crosscut records, which is being distributed in the US by Rounder

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