Re: amps/tone

From: "Bob Maglinte" <bbqbob917@xxxxxxxxxxx>

> And, HELLO!!!!!!! I am one of those who do! If someone with tone spare
> Big Walter Horton got GREAT tone on the "Fine Cuts," recording, playing
> straight into board, or when I saw the late, great Howling Wolf, who IMHO,
> had the NASTIEST harp tone of any blues harmonica player, bar none, and he
> ALWAYS played thru the PA, it says right upfront that all you guys that
> so damned hung up on gear should really be HONING your chops, because
> crazy about gear is nothing short of being an extremely POOR excuse for
> honing your chops!!!!!

Bob's absolutely right.  While a '59 Bassman is a great amp, the gear is
responsible for maybe 20% of your sound, at best.  I actually think there's
a valid argument that it's even less.

When I use an amp, it's usually my silverface Fender Champ.  I prefer lower
volume playing, and for me this amp is the "Holy Grail".  While it
overdrives easily, I usually run it so it's just slightly overdriven at
average volume, and overdrives when I play loud.  It sounds great when I
play through it, and when other pro harmonica players with great acoustic
tone play through it.  But when I let a beginner use my mic and amp, well,
guess what they sound like?  TONE WISE they sound like a beginner.  It's
thin, wimpy, brittle, and not NEARLY as loud.

I've played through the PA, and get great tone.  And likewise, every other
harmonica player I know has done likewise, with great results.  In fact, for
REALLY loud volume gigs (i.e. Marshall stacks cranked to "11" in a medium
size room), my preferred setup is an SM-57 or JT-30 through the PA (and a
pair of REALLY good ear plugs).

If you have great tone, it really doesn't matter what you play through.
You're going to sound great.  And reciprocally, if you have lousy tone, you
will always sound lousy - just a little less lousy on some gear than others.

I've often told the tales - but - we used to have a showcase called "Harp
Attack", featuring the best amateur and pro harpers in LA.  The sponsor
always brought a great amp, mic, and reverb or delay.  The amateurs went
first, and there was CONSTANT problems with volume and feedback.  Using the
VERY same gear, the pro's went next.  Of course by now the band was playing
much louder.  Not a HINT of feedback, and we were blowing the band off stage
with our LOUD volume.  and of course the TONE was MUCH better.

I've had beginners sit in with me and use my rig.  They'd feed back and
sound thin.  A few actually accused me of tweaking the tone controls to make
them sound bad.  I'd take the mic from them and without touching a thing
would play a couple of notes.  They'd be fat and full - and LOUD.  (I always
had to turn the rig down.)

In all fairness, the PAs of Howlin' Wolfs day were small tube amps and had
great overdriven sound.  He also was notable for overdriving the PA with his

There are a lot of folks out there spending their time working overtime to
buy the greatest amps and mics, when their time would be much better spent
in the woodshed.

Oh - and BTW I don't own a '59 Bassman.  I probably never will.  These days
I play through a Digitech RP-100, into the PA.  Of all the amp emulators
I've tried, the RP-100 is the worst, by far.  But it has some very good
effects, including the best pitch shifter (for octaves) I've ever tried.

- -IronMan Mike Curtis Band *Southland Blues
Magazine TU 8pm Starboard Attitude/Redondo
Santa Monica 3rd St Promenade, various times - email my cellphone (2 lines

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