HARMONICA MIC, AMP & REVERB:

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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:

Astatic by Hohner JT30 Roadhouse Harmonica Microphone
Astatic by Hohner JT30 Roadhouse Harmonica Microphone

Blues Blaster Microphone - Professional Harp-sound

Hohner1490 Blues Blaster Harmonica, Minor Microphone

Shure Green Bullet 520DX Dynamic Harmonica Microphone

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.

Fenfer Champ Silverface

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_sacat=0&_nkw=vintage+fender+champ+amp

 

The Hohner Hoodoo-Box Harmonica Tube Amp may be easier to find. I’ve never tried this but it gets great reviews. See:

Hohner Hoodoo Box 5W Harmonica Tube Amp

Hohner Hoodoo Box 5W Harmonica Tube Amp

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:

Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Effects PEDAL, Mono

Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Effects PEDAL, Mono

Was this article helpful to you? Please share you comments below.

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,
jp allen

Comments (57)

  • Avatar

    leo

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    Wow. The Hohner Hoodoo amp is a pretty wimpy amp for harp, AND awfully overpriced.

    You’ll do MUCH MUCH better with the $200 VHT Special 6.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Don Werbeck

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    Don’t buy the Hohner amp, not a good sounding amp and expensive!

    Try the little Pignose 7-100 ($80) with a Boss D-3 delay pedal-awesome!

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Thanks Don,

      jp

      Reply

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    norman

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    Hey, Jason is the best you know. I use a Peavey Rage 158 with a $19.00 dynamic mic and with a Lee Oskar C I can blow the doors off.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Hey Norman,

      thanks for your input.

      jp

      Reply

      • Avatar

        randy

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        i have the exact same setup as norm and am thinking about getting a pedal for reverb

        Reply

  • Avatar

    Jim Barbee

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    What mic and amp is Ricci using?

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Hey Jim,
      I think he’s using a sure 57 mic… not sure ….
      I don’t know what amp he’s using…

      jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Jo Barlow

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    JP, Thanks a bunch! Each little bit of info, is beautiful. I enjoy the lessons, and the site with the songs, I can now access.. and play by ear as well.. so it’s been a lot of fun.
    Thanks so much..
    Keep up the good work!
    Jo

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Thanks Jo,
      I appreciate your enthusiasm!

      jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    terrance smith

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    I like my amp and Mic

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Hi Terrance,
      what amp and Mic do you use?

      jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    PA

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    Just letting you guys know that the input from hello harmonica junkies is AWESOME…..your the best and keep feeding more info…..it’s great.

    PA

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Right on PA!

      jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Jim Barbee

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    Hey JP,

    I enjoy your articles and website, very refreshing. I’ve played off and on for over 30 years but pretty serious for the last 3 to 4. When I go out to play people always ask me how to learn. I now refer them to your website. I enjoy the attitude you display and the joy you have from playing harmonica.I’m sure many of us when we play in public can pick out the people that love the harmonica. It does something to many of us when we hear that sound. I’m trying to create the “sound” that I want and trying to avoid buying everything out there to get that good sound. Soon I hope money and opportunity meet to get the system that I want. Take Care

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Edward Brien

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    Hey JP thanks for continuing to give us a place to go for help.
    Hope you and yours are ok there
    God Bless
    Ed Brien

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Edward Brien

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    Hey JP what do you think of the pignose amps and which one is the best with a green bullet, and can a pedal delay be used with one, or is that just silly.
    thanks
    Ed Brien

    Reply

  • Avatar

    swift

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    seriously in need of help on how to order for some of these goodies.Am from Nigeria,how do i go about it Allen!

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Scott

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    I am a new member to this community and this is my 1st blog input;

    I use an EV N/D967 Flat-Top Vocal Mic purchased from Sam Ash for $129 and a CRATE 5 watt Tube Amp that I bought at a Pawn Shop for $60

    I would like to buy some effects, but I just purchased today, a set of 6 Suzuki Bluesmaster’s for $160 from
    RockinRonsMusic4Less @ Amazon.com

    Due to a poor economy, I try to be “thrifty” with my purchases and couldn’t be happier with a mic & amp setup for under $200…

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Stephen

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    Hey. Just out of interest have you ever tried playing through a wah wah pedal?

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Richard

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    I have a question regarding amps. I have been under the impression that it takes a special amp for harmonica’s to get the sound you hear from them. Going through this blog, it seems to be not the case.

    So what is it that gives that sound on the amps.

    I’ve picked up harmonica’s from time to time, but over the past year have been playing and practicing on a regular (daily) basis and feel ready to add an amp to the mix. I recently picked up a Shure 275s Ceramic harmonica mic.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Hey Richard, I’m thinking you’re talking about that dirty blues type of sound that you get from tube amps. Check out the Hohner Hoodoo Box, it’s a tube amp which gives it that distorted sound that so many harmonica players like.
      jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Norman

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    At a musicians swap meet the other day I picked up for $25.00 a Roland DAC-15XD amplifier. It has four 3 or 4″ speakers with gain and digital effects. Delay, chorus, flanger. I was trying my different accoustic and electric guitars through it I thought it was pretty cool for the price. So let me try the harp. For me it was awe inspiring. With a little gain and delay reverb it had sound I’d never heard through my other amps. I dont have a delay pedal. Anyway what a deal I found and what a great harp amp this is. Thanks JP

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Awesome Norman! I’m glad it’s working for you.
      jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    John Fields

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    I have been playing harp on and off (mostly off) for about 30 years now. I have never really practiced but just play whenever I get a chance, like open mic nights. It is something I have just been able to pick up naturally but have not progressed much in the last few years. I would like to get more serious about playing and get some suitable equipment, but do not have much money right now. I recently traded in an old 50 watt Ampeg that I bought at a police auction many years ago. It was way too heavy to carry around and needed some work done on it. I traded it for a Fender Campion 300 because I thought a solid state amp would be less maintenance because I would not have to replace any tubes on it. I know nothing about anything electronic or musical for that matter. I have a Sure bullet mic that I used with my harmonica to test out the Fender amp but could not get the volume up to 2 before it began to screetch. I have reconsidered trading it in on a small tube amp but cannot go over $200. The use instrument store where I bought the Fender has a Vox 4 watt tube amp for $180. Does this sound like a resonable trade? I think they also have a Crate, Peavey, and Pignose amp in the same price range. I’m still leary about having to replace tubes. Is that a legitimate concern? I’m also concerned that it wil not be loud enough to play in an open mic setting. Let me know what you think. Thanks JF

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Hey JF,

      Without trying the amps at the used store I couldn’t be sure but… no I wouldn’t be concerned about tubes. You may need to replace them now and then but it’s easy.

      If you can splurge a bit more the Hohner Amp works well for the price. (Hohner Hoodoo Box Tube Harmonica Amp HHB5T. The Hoodoo Box is a 5W, Class A, hand-wired tube amp combo designed especially for harmonica players). I think it’s worth the extra cash but if you need to stay under $200 The Gretsch Electromatic is a pretty nice amp for harmonica (Gretsch 230-1030-000 G5222 Electromatic(R) Tube Guitar Amplifier).

      You can find out a bit more at my blog: https://www.harmonica.com/blog/2958-harmonica-mic-amp.html

      jp

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Armando Martinez

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      Just go out to Guitar Center and get you a Fender Excelsior,it will solve all your problems,it has the perfect sound for harmonicas right out of the box,you will not be disappointed.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    norman

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    John, at a musician swap meet recently I picked up an Epiphone valve jr. 5 watt tube amp for $75.00. keep looking.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Right Norman, it’s worth the search. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Steve hall

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    This might sound like sour grapes but i went the harmonica route purely to not have to plug the instrument in or have any accessories in order to play it, i.e. power leads etc. Having such a small item you can just drop in ya top pocket and go sit at the top of “Everest” if ya want and play away. Having said all that i do love the sound going through an amp and of course much needed for live bands etc so don’t flame me LOL.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      I’m with you Steve…that’s the very thing that attracted me to this little instrument also, the simplicity of it..that I could sit up in a tree and play. But there is always a time for plugging in.

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Michael labriola

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      Muddy waters said he picked up the harmonica cause he couldnt afford a stella guitar as a kid.
      Same reason as many a poor kid like me!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Stef

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    Hello JP and all!

    What power (i.e. number of watts) would you recommend as sufficient to jam between friends (supposing it can be miked if required in a live/band set-up)?

    Also, did anyone tried using a DI box for the harmonica mic? What were the results?

    Thanks all!

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Stuart" boy " Holland

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    Hi. Great info on this site !!!ive been playing 44 years now and am in my 60s (a 1960/70s survivor)!! Love Sonny Boys 1and 2 right thru to John Mayall (lived close to my home in the 60s)!!! Ive played acoustic until recently but now have Peavey Rage 158 plus delay and waiting for reverb to arrive (Behringer same as delay pedal ) i am enthused all over again and its like a Blues Baptism or rebirth for me !!!! Plug in the waves are great !!!!:)

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Glad to hear your enthusiasm Stuart…ride the wave!! jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Stuart" boy " Holland

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    I just thought that i would mention that for many years i was trying to sound like my hero Bluesmen (Big John Wrencher was a special sound itried to emulate)!i now realise the best person to sound like is YOURSELF!!!revel in the knowledge that you are an individual musician ! Also in wanting to play Blues so bad take care not to play them badly!!! (stolen from a comment by Sonny Boy 2 quote after being backed by The Animals ,”he was a mean old man but he could blow his horn “!!! Harp players are like good wine …..they improve with age !!!!!peace Stuart

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Classic tips…thanks for the laugh Stuart. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Stuart" boy " Holland

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    Hi again just wondered if you could advise on a decent but low priced Octave pedal , i have tried a Joyo Voodoo Octave but sound is very weak and tinny !! Cheers Stuart

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Sorry Stuart, I don’t know enough to advise you on pedals. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Ronald

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    This just keeps getting better and better, do you ever sleep! To you and yours I wish you all, what you deserve, the best of everything. Ron……..You can bet I’m on the hunt NOW! I’ll let you know what I come up with on both Mic and Amp. Out of all discussed today, your technique is the most important of all three items. You have no technique, the best mic and amp in the world is going to take you to nowhere man’s land. As always I do it the hard way, have had many teachers. Not necessary to mention names on line, there people too. I go to the stage, on what ever mic and amp set-up the band of that evening provides. Not only blow the bands minds, but the audience as well. Why Technique! Thank you JP, would not have the sound today inwhich all enjoy. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! …..P S: I would have not put my money on a middle of the road Harmonica, but the Hohner Specail 20, is to me the best bending in the world. Best reguards Ron

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Thanks for your enthusiasm Ron. I’m glad you’re stoked on the Special 20. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Wayne

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    Nice work Jp

    Need to go back and fix some of the links though

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Max

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    Hi JP,
    Hohner blue blaster mic is very very heavy and solid but looks like not designed to be on a stand. Do you think so? How do they find a stand for it?
    Thanks
    Max

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Jack

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    Aloha Mr. Allen I have been looking at a lot of teachers for the harmonic. There is a lot of them and they teach in various ways so far I have narrowed it down to you and this other gentlemen who teaches harmonica he does steps and he grades your ability by the recordings you soon then I am also curious about this tongue blocking I’m not sure about it wouldn’t be a bad habit or is there a better way to do it I can said I am just starting out you might say I been playing on harmonica for since I was a kid but not seriously play a little old McDonnell or something like that not real fancy he has the same approach with the angled harmonica. The tongue blocking is my question would it be a bad habit? Thank you very much Jack Rogers. Aloha

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      There are some applications where tongue blocking works well, but when it comes to bends and speed, it is a dead end street…I really encourage my method of The deep Relaxed Mouth Position. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Tom Stevens

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    Yoe, JP!!! How the heck are you?! Been some time since Austin HOOT days. I’ve been in Boise since 2006, loving it, thinking about starting harp club here, having big fun. Going mobile with a 17ft Casita travel trailer and need a compact harp amp for good fun and reasonable sound. I like the idea of this Hohner, I will likely give it a shot. keep those reeds vibrating, Tom

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Right on Tom! Sounds like a blast. Keep on. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Crmd

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    Hey don’t know much about amps but just got the shaker madcat mic and play it through a pevey 110. Sounds good but really don’t know the settings yet. Working on it. Get good sounds but sometimes I get breath sounds. Think it in the settings. The mic is great fits in your fingers allows you to really cup and wsh wa. Well any ideas on settings would be welcome. Thanks

    Reply

  • Avatar

    mike coates

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    Hi JP

    Here’s a tip for someone. You can get a pretty good tuner on a smart phone for almost nothing. I’ve got “g strings” on my Galaxy S and I use it to check that I’m hitting the right notes when trying to been. Also use it to check that your harp is still in tune on all holes.

    By-the-way, JP I put my tuner on you when you did bending lessons on “Blues from the Vault” and it looks like on your really deep bends on hole three (c harp) you are actually getting right down and playing g!

    All the best.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Rodney

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    So dose any one like the Honer Hoodoo hand wireless harmonica mike

    Reply

  • Avatar

    STEVE

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    I am a guitar player & despite watching nearly all your videos I can’t get any good tone while using a harmonica holder. Your tips about angling the harp is just not possible, and it’s hard also to extend the lower lip. Those wailing soulful harp solos by Neil Young in concert is what I’m after!!

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Yes using a harmonica holder is definitely more challenging to get your mouth at the proper angles, but it’s do-able with practice and making minor adjustments. jp

      Reply

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