[Harp-L] Acoustic mic technique

Jim McBride wrote:
>   ...I went to see Cephas and Wiggins play last night and I was
> blown away by the deep, full, acoustic tone produced by Phil
> Wiggins playing into the vocal mic straight into the PA. I also
> mostly play this way, and have been working on my mic technique
> and tone, but he really impressed me. One thing I picked up on
> was the way he placed the mic and used it. He put the mic on a
> boom stand and had the boom lower than his head, with the mic
> pointing upward. Not straight up, but upward at an angle. Then he
> cupped the harp tightly and played on top of the mic. He would
> shape the sound with his hands, and make a small hole in the
> bottom of his cup to let it get out to the mic. He also got great
> wah-wah hand effects  this way.
>   I usually use a straight mic stand with the mic pointing at me,
> like a singer would. I had a gig tonight and I tried placing the
> mic his way and cupping the harp like he did and WOW did it make
> a huge difference! I was able to get much deeper and fuller tone
> with my hands and still get lots of volume into the mic. And I
> got much better hand effects. I was trying to do these things
> before with the mic my usual way (cupping the harp, etc...) but
> it was so much easier and more effective his way. Best harmonica
> lesson I've had in a long time and it only cost me $35 for the show :-)

Nice description of a key discovery, Jim. Interestingly, I've noticed that
our own inimitable P.T. Gazell uses the very same mic'/hand cup technique.
Two things I would add to your description and reaction.  One is that I was
amazed, watching both of these modern masters, at how little hand motion
they need to get a very pronounced and pleasing wah-wah effect.  These guys
have learned to achieve the kind of "economy in motion" in their playing
that only decades of experience can bring.

Also, the pro's I've seen who play acoustically really never fully "uncup"
their harps. I used to think that I could be heard better at acoustic open
mic's, jams and gigs by playing with my cup wide open. I have since learned
through teachings of and discussions with Douglas Tate and by studying
masters like Phil and P.T., that you can play *louder* by playing with a
partially open cup. Give it a try if you haven't already.  I think playing
with a partal cup also helps cut some of the higher overtones that give the
harp a reputation as an annoyingly sqeaky little toy instrument.

Thanks for sharing the very practical and useable information, Jim.


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