Re: [Harp-L] Re: Recording Harmonica

Great post, Richard. I've only done a limited amount of professional studio
work but it clarified a lot of the questions I had regarding basic
engineering for recording harp.

Something funny I just remembered was doing a recording in high school in
my parent's basement. We had a simple real-to-real tape machine and  single
vocal mic in the room which was stuck between two seat cushions on a big,
overstuffed couch on the opposite side of the basement. I recently listened
to that tape again (after yearrrrrrs of basement storage) and was actually
surprised at the quality (of the sound...not my playing ;-)). Maybe
professional studios should always have a big, smelly, overstuffed couch
available for harmonica recording? LOL

On Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 8:06 AM, Richard Hunter <turtlehill@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>

> David Pearce wrote:
> < I found this excellent article on recording harmonica in the studio.
>  When
> recording acoustic harp one <thing that's always bothered me when recording
> through condenser mics is that the mic is so sensitive that the difference
> between cupped and open hands is greatly <exaggerated by the mic.  I wanted
> to know if other players have the same problem and if so, what strategy do
> they use to prevent this from happening.  I have a nice <Joe Meek
> compressor/preamp and am going to experiment with using compression to
> smooth out the levels.
> I'm familiar with that SOS article. The first thing to say is that it was
> written for Sound on Sound's audience, which is professional recording
> engineers.  The reason that matters is that engineers typically work in
> recording studios that have been professionally treated to produce an
> optimum recording environment.  Most home studios don't get that kind of
> treatment; the biggest issue in most home studios is not the mic, preamp,
> etc., but the quality of the room.  Untreated rooms produce huge frequency
> bumps and gaps, which can't be overcome by a mic or any other piece of gear
> in the recording chain.
> There are a few ways to address that basic issue:
> 1) Use an Audix fireball and hand-hold it.  That's how I record acoustic
> harp, and the sound is beautiful, detailed, and clear. (You can hear
> samples at  However, this may not work for you if you
> use a lot of hand articulations, because a handheld Audix doesn't reveal
> those as clearly as some other mics.
> 2) Use a portable soundbooth--a foam enclosure that largely excludes the
> sound of the room. These cost in the neighborhood of $100-200, and they're
> really great for recording into an open mic in an untreated room.
> 3) treat the room with baffles, bass traps, etc.  This is pricey (usually
> between $1000-1500 for a typical home room), but certainly effective when
> done right.
> All that said, regarding the issue with exaggerated differences between
> open and closed hand sounds: try working the mic from a little farther
> back. In Larry Adler's day, harmonica was typically recorded with a mic
> positioned several feet or more from the player.  That'll smooth out the
> differences for sure.  However, if you take this approach, the sound of the
> room will REALLY matter.  The fact is that I use a handheld Audix not just
> because it sounds good, but because it keeps all the bad stuff generated by
> the rooms I record in out of the recording. That's not an issue if you're
> already recording in a treated space, but otherwise, watch out.
> Hope this is useful.
> Regards, Richard Hunter

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