Re: Equipment prices

<What's a good, cheap amp?>

With summer coming up, I'd recommend looking at garage sales.  I've seen 
some surprisingly nice amps for next to nothing.  While tube amps produce 
nicer distortion, there's no reason you can't get good tone from solid 
state amps.  I frequently run my rig through the PA system (solid state).

While there are other differences, the biggest advantage to tube amps 
over solid state is when you run the amplifier into distortion.

<Mic recommendations?>

I like Green Bullets and JT-30's, but these are by no means the Holy Grail
of harp sound.  If you have good tone, any microphone that can be tightly
cupped and sealed inside your hands along with the harmonica will work. 
In this regard, you might want to look in the direction of a smaller
microphone, especially if you're a harp newbie.  I have an electret
lavolier (tie clip) microphone that is easy to hold (just stick its cable
betwen your little fingers) and has a really nice, fat sound.  (Of course,
I've been playing 40 years and have good resonance, which helps a lot, but
I honestly think this mic would be easy for anyone to use.)

I've seen some cheap ($10) "tape recorder replacement" type microphones that 
would work similarly.

For cupped harmonica, omnidirectional microphones are cost efficient. 
Dollar for dollar, you get a better quality mic with omnidirectional (all
direction pickup) than with directional microphones.  The directionality
of cardioid directional mics is lost once you cup the mic in your hands. 

If you want a larger microphone, my opinion is that one with a "straight" 
head design is easier to cup than a "ball" end.

<What effects?>

I think the one effect you definitely want is reverb.  Fortunately, most 
guitar amps come with reverb, so you're probably set there.

You might also want to look at some type of "echo delay" effect.  This 
gives you a distinct "echo" rather than the "mushy" reverb effect.  The 
old Echoplex tape echo is nice, but you'll pay through the snout for 
these.  They're also prone to failure and wear.  A digital or analog 
delay unit will give you pretty much the same effect, and for a LOT less 
money.  I use a Digitech 2 second "sampler" pedal, in "echo" mode, with a 
single echo of around 100 to 200 mSec.

I use many different effects on my harp.  In order of relative 
importance, I'd list them:

digital delay (for slapback echo)
octave divider or harmonizer
envelope follower (volume actuated wah-wah effect)
chorus, vibrato
distortion/overdrive/fuzz (I prefer getting this from my amp, but in 
    certain cases, a distortion pedal can be used to good advantage)

Other nifty devices for harmonica (but you probably don't want these if 
you're on a budget) are noise gates, graphic and parametric EQ's

One effect I don't like on harmonica is flange.  To my ear, the harmonic 
content of harp just doesn't fit this effect well.  However, try it - you 
might like it.

Hope this helps.

 -- mike

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