by JP Allen:
Three Simple Components for Creating A Ripping Chicago Blues Tone
If you want create a powerful amplified blues harmonica tone, there are many ways to accomplish this goal. If I had to name the three components that are most important to me, here is what they would be:
—1. a harmonica mic
—2. an amplifier with a thin speaker
—3. delay or reverb
1. A mic with volume control – Why do I prefer a mic with volume control? So I can walk to the amp with volume off and thus create no feedback. Once I walk away from the amp I position my body between the mic and the amp to cut feedback. Then, I slowly turn up the volume, so I can play at the MAX with no feedback! When I’m done with my solo, I can lower the volume so I don’t irritate anyone with feedback.
Here are the microphones I like:
Many harp players love the classic Sure Green Bullet Microphone (I generally prefer the Astatic JT 30 with the crystal element)
2. A small harmonica amp: I like an small amp with a thin speaker that I can crank up to the max so I can get that Chicago Blues distortion without overpowering my band members –- or thrashing my ears! If I need more juice/volume, like if I’m playing in a loud band with a drummer, I place the Sure 57 mic in front of my amp and amplify it through the PA.
I particularly like the old Fender Champs. The pre-1958 tweed Fender Champ is my quintessential harmonica amp but I also love the “silver-faced” post-CBS Fender Champ amps and they are much easier to come by. As a harmonica player it may be important to find a silver faced champ with the original speaker because they tend have a thinner speaker.
The Hohner Hoodoo-Box Harmonica Tube Amp may be easier to find. I’ve never tried this but it gets great reviews. See:
3. A digital delay pedal for “slapback reverb”: To create slap back reverb you’ll want quick decay, so you only hear a couple of repeats before the fade-out. In some instances, I try to match the tempo of the delay with the tempo of the song –- and it should be pretty fast.
There are many great option for achieving slap back reverb. One fairly solid and easy to acquire solution is Boss DD-3 digital delay pedal:
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Also, if you know a bit about harmonica amplification feel free to share what you know. I’m always excited to learn new things and you’ll also help thousands of people in our harmonica community. Keep playing!
Your harmonica buddy,