[Harp-L] Sugar Blue

Richard Hunter rhunter377@xxxxx
Thu May 4 16:15:58 EDT 2017

Jef Gat wrote:

> good compressor pedal

Robert Hale replied:
<No need for a new pedal purchase if you already use a multi effects
<processor pedal. It's one of many choices within.

Robert is correct, of course. However, I'd like to note that I don't
usually use the compressor in the Digitech RPs or Zoom G3 when I create my
patches.  The main reason is that a tube amp--or a model based on one in a
multi-FX unit--already compresses any signal that comes into it. Further
compressing the signal can easily squash the life out of a harmonica,
giving the player a very narrow dynamic range to work with.

The exceptions in the sounds I design are usually those that involve pitch
shifts of an octave or (especially) two octaves down.  Big fluctuations in
the signal level in those low registers can produce undesirable results for
the entire band.  So I put on enough compression with those patches to nail
the levels to where I want them and keep them there.

Regarding Sugar Blue and his super fast playing: I had the pleasure of
meeting Sugar Blue and listening to him talk about his work at one of the
Monday night sessions Joe Filisko chairs at the Old School in Chicago. He
blew my mind when he told the audience that the big influences on him were
Chicago players like Little Walter.  When I asked him how he got from the
kind of thing Walter did to the kinds of things Sugar was doing on pieces
like "I Live In a War Zone," from 1976, where he sprayed notes from the
harp as quickly as anyone had ever done to that point in time, he replied
that in the early 70s he was listening to, and occasionally playing with,
free jazzers in the Coltrane mode, and he had to keep up.

In other words, Sugar Blue can play really fast, whether there's a
compressor in the FX chain or not.  And he's not the only one.  (Did
someone say "John Popper"?  "Howard Levy"?)  Speed is the result of lots
and lots of practice and a solid understanding of where the notes on the
harmonica lie.  Compressors are optional.

Regards, Richard Hunter

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