RE: [Harp-L] Acoustic mic technique

ben bouman writes:
> Another great harpplayer that uses some special cupping techniques is Joe
> Filsiko..
> he sometimes closes of the first 6 to 7 holes of the harp completely and
> lets the sound come out the remaining part of the back that is
> left open(1/3
> of the harp).
> This gives you a tremendous,big, almost hollow sound.
> He once toldme that he sometimes closes of the the whole harp and let the
> sound come out of the side vents of the covers of a Marine Band.
> I've done this a few times during studio recordings and this works very
> well.

Hey, Ben.

Yes, I have noticed that JF makes a very small cone-shaped cup with the
fingers of his left hand, such that the cone he forms covers only the first
6-7 holes just as you say (it sometimes seems to cover even fewer holes than
that to me). Then he uses his right hand as a "lid" for the small "cone."
This does indeed leave the upper holes completely uncupped. I've wondered
about this, but when I've had my chance or two to pick Joe's brain, I didn't
get that far down my list.  8^)

To me, the curious thing--that you explained better than I could--are those
holes that Joe leaves open. I've noticed that most of the accomplished
players whom I've studied (who use the finger-cup/lid grip like Joe does,
i.e., not the "drinking water" cup) are careful to hold their right thumb
over those upper holes. In discussing this with a number of players, the
idea I got was that  this is done to keep the sound from escaping
"retrograde" back through the (usually) open upper holes; in other words
they do it to make a perfectly sealed cup around the "business" holes (1-6).
Of course, they make adjustments when they play the higher notes.

I've modelled my own cup after the finger-cup/lid grips I've seen many of my
favorite acoustic players use. After getting an up-close and personal lesson
on hand cupping by a number of the great players at last SPAH's blues jam
circles, I've really been concentrating on improving my own cupping, happily
with noticeable progress. Yes, I also hold my right thumb over those higher
holes, and yes, I can get a *very* positive seal this way. So I'm stumped by
the apparently opposite technique that Joe Filisko has developed. By
opposite, I mean that he uses the *open* upper holes to purposefully let
sound escape, where the other players I've described cover the upper holes
up to keep the sound trapped inside their cup so as to exert better control
over its escape via hand motion.

Both techniques seem to work well in the right hands (no pun intended  ;^).
It's just that when Filisko arrives at something as significant as his
unusual hand grip, I know he's studied it to death and has durned good
reasons for doing it "his" way.

One more note on hand cupping. I've noticed that tone monster Dennis
Gruenling often appears to be playing out one side of his mouth or the
other. Again, this is one of the questions that I don't get around to when I
have a rare chance to pick Dennis' brain. But in working at my own cupping,
I think I've discovered why this is. I think it that he moves the cupped
hard around to assure that he has the best possible seal of the harp and
fingers against his lips and cheeks. When he demonstrated his cup at SPAH,
he showed me how good his seal is. I don't quite know how to describe how
positive his seal is, but I can say that he's spent hours upon hours finding
the best cupping technique for him. Clearly, that's what we all need to do
if we are to improve our own cupping technique.

I think acoustic cupping gets overlooked a lot. I know I failed to give it
the right amount of attention leading up to SPAH. Never again!   8^)  I
think it's right up there with acoustic tone in terms of its importance in
the grand scheme. A prerequisite, if you will, to good mic' cupping


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