RE: airtight diatonic cup

Scorcher wrote:
> Wait. Before you go any further, my original post was referring to a
> LITERALLY AIRTIGHT cup around a chromatic harmonica and mic  - no air in,
> air out (OK, maybe a TEENSY bit). This technique is only used by most
> diatonic players intermittently (for dramatic effect) with a mic. The rest
> of the time, some _modification_ of this effect is applied, for tonal
> variation. The more "open" the brighter the tone. The more "closed"
> (air-tight) the darker & more distorted, compressed effect.
> When we're talking acoustic, the more "closed", the more MUTED one's sound
> is. This can make your playing hard for your audience to hear.

Yup.  Ya need the right mic/amp or PA setup to get away with it on stage.

> > Michelle:
> > Like you mentioned with your taped chrom', Scorch, I
> > can feel the pressure change inside my cup from blow to draw.  The
> > dramatically improved cup allows me a far greater range of tone
> > than I ever before possessed.
> Scorcher:
> YES. That's why I'm trying so hard to get it with a chromatic - for a
> greater RANGE of tone. The muted/compressed effect is only ONE end of the
> spectrum. BTW, I mostly play Golden Melodies when I play diatonics - the
> cover design make them INFINITELY easier to get a tight cup on. And yes, I
> DO use these techniques when playing "acoustically" (mic'ed to the PA),
> again, like ALL the techniques I try to apply, I use them sparingly. (I
> don't play a whole song muted, for example, or "open"). In fact, I like
> muting effect for chording in an "acoustic" environment, because the
> harmonica tends to "cut through" -sometimes too much - when we use a
> unidirectional mic.

Musta misunnerstood your meaning, Scorch.

> > Michelle:
> > Scorcher, you and the other harp-ler's might be surprised at the kind of
> > tonal fruit you can harvest by only slightly altering your harp
> > grip to make it airtight, guided by Phil Wiggins' wisdom.
> Scorcher:
> I think we're saying basically the same thing, Michelle. But since you
> me up, I'll go a little further with of the points I've been
> trying to make on the list for the last several months is that the shape &
> configuration of the covers of one's harmonica DO have some effect on
> tone, or, to put it another way, "overall sound".

I would especially agree wichya about 1896 Marine Bands with the holes in
the sides of the covers and Turbo Lids...

 I learned about a tight
> cup while trying to deal with a mic & "tame the beast". And then I learned
> that it also works acoustically.

Yes!  That was the point I thought you had missed.

> I hear a LOT of players say they prefer 1896 Marine Bands because of their
> "tone". The point I think most people miss is that the way the PLAYER
> experiences the sound coming out of a MB is VERY different from the way
> the listener hears it - especially playing with a relatively "open" hand
> position. This is mostly because the "vents" on the ends of a Marine Band
> cover let some of the sound come back to the player & diminish some of the
> airflow inside the covers (lookout, here comes Vern!)- they're made for
> PLAYER'S ears, to put it another way.

It seems like a model with covers that don't have any holes in the sides of
the covers would sound more different to the player than a model that does.
Seems like those holes would "leak" more of the sound back to the player
than, say a Turbo Lid, which directs ~all~ of the sound away from the

> In fact, if you think about it (although I have no idea what model
> he plays) I bet Phill Wiggins' grip comes from trying to deal with exactly
> this "problem". He wraps his hand around the WHOLE harp & gets a tight
> to his FACE with his HANDS so that sound/air pressure that would normally
> "escape" out the sides doesn't. He has, in effect, made Turbo-lids of his
> hands!

Phil uses 1896 Marine Bands, untweaked.  My take on his grip is that he
completely envelopes the entire instrument so that ~no~ sound escapes, holes
in the sides of the cover or not.

> (Digression: no amount of persuasion will get me to put my thumb over ANY
> the holes - I'm not willing to limit my mobility - hey, we've only got 10
> freakin' holes - let's use 'em! I do, however, use my cherubic cheek to
> seal things up!)

I've gotten used to holding my thumb there and can move it out of the way to
access the upper holes as needed.  It's just that in most of my play, I
don't need 'em a good fraction of the time.  I worked on this because Phil
makes the point that sound can escape ~backwards~ through the holes not
covered by your mouth.  This isn't possible with his grip because, as I
said, the instrument is completly enveloped inside his sizeable mitts.

> But wait, Michelle, there's more...
> Then, Phill Wiggins takes it a step further...he SHAPES the insides of his
> hands to resonate with each note. Douglas Tate does this, too, I
> You can add a TREMENDOUS dimension to your sound by opening up this tight
> grip and SHAPING your hands around the notes you play.

My understanding of Douglas' cupping technique has to do with resonance and
loudness as well as tonal shaping.  He experiments with th esize of his cup
for ~each~ note.  He tunes the size of his grip to each note to maximize
resonance so that he can "play loudly, softly" to use his words.  When he
achieves the proper sized grip for a specific note, he can execute a vibrato
by moving just one finger, and then only slightly.

Please tell me more about this shaping of the insides of player's hands.

> And it all starts (IMO) with holding the harmonica tight. -Not a
> that fatigues your hands, just one that's tight enough so you could drink
> water from it.
> - -Scorcher

Yup.  We are on the same page, Scorch.  Except that if you drink from your
cup without blocking the holes not covered by your mouth, you'll get all wet
when the water spills back through them.  ;^)

Thanks, Michelle

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