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In the Studio: Keepers of the Streak

I did a session earlier this week with Brian Keane, a composer/producer I’ve worked with on a number of occasions, for a TV movie titled “Keepers of the Streak”, which is about four photographers in their 70s/80s who’ve photographed every Superbowl from the start. (The premise is basically an excuse to run a Superbowl greatest-hits highlight reel for 90 minutes.) The basic style of the music is modern country, which means country twang with a lot of rock influence, and the harmonica work for this session accordingly had a lot of amped-up blues-rock stuff in it.

I brought my Digitech RP360XP to this session along with 4 mics: the Audix Fireball, Shure 545SD with Greg Heumann Bulletizer on it, Bottle o’ Blues, and Shaker Madcat. The sound I ran on the RP360XP for everything (except the stuff that went through one of the studio’s large diaphragm condensor mics straight to the board for an acoustic sound) was my GA40 patch from my latest patch set for the Digitech RP360/360XP, which features a Gibson GA40 amp model paired with a 12″ GA40 cabinet model plus a slapback delay. This patch, which sounds like a Champ amp with more hair on its chest, has become my go-to patch for amped-up performances.

Left to right: Shure 545SD with Bulletizer, Fireball with inline volume control, Bottle o' Blues

Left to right: Shure 545SD with Bulletizer, Fireball with inline volume control, Bottle o’ Blues

We tried all of the mics I brought with me and quickly settled on the 545SD, which gave us a big tone with a lot of room for articulation. (The BoB was just too hairy, and the Fireball just a little too polite.) Most of the harp parts were in B minor, and I used an E dorian minor harmonica (3 and 7 draw reeds tuned down 1/2 step) on most of the material. One or two of the harp parts were in Bb minor, and the producer wanted to hear them in a lower range, so I used a low Eb harp, bending the draw 3 reed down a half-step, to play those. I also used a G harp in 5th position (tonic note = blow 2) when the producer wanted a low range for the B minor material. (I wished I’d brought a low E with me, but I didn’t, so there you go. That’s why I bring tons of harps to every session; it always seems like there’s something on the agenda that needs a harp I haven’t used in 10 years.)

The session was a lot of fun, and when the movie comes out you can check out the harp work, which is prominent throughout. In the meantime, let me note again that the RP devices work just fine with plenty of different mics. Different mics make different sounds with an RP, just as they would with a tube amp. And that’s fine, because changing the mic is a relatively inexpensive way to get a different sound. All four of the mics I brought to this session put together cost less than $450; at that rate, it’s a lot cheaper to change out the mic than to get another amp. (Easier to carry to a session, too.)

Blog, Discography, CDs, Projects, Info, Notes, Hunter's Music

Harp Keys and Tunings for My Recorded Solo Repertoire

I’ve had a few requests recently for the harmonica keys and tunings that I used to record the pieces on my CDs “The Act of Being Free in One Act” and “The Second Act of Free Being.” So here, for your pondering pleasure, is a download PDF that lays it all out.
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Blog, Hunter's Music

The Gartner Symposium/ITXpo CIO Harmonica Orchestra, October 2014

Some of my readers know that I have a career as an analyst at Gartner, Inc., the world’s largest IT advisory services company. We just held our flagship conference, Symposium/IT Expo, in Orlando, FL, where I delivered the keynote presentation to an audience of about 12,500, live and via broadcast.

I was asked at this conference to deliver a 1/2 hour harmonica performance to an audience of Chief Information officers (CIOs). I did so on Wednesday, where I performed a short (20 minutes) set of solo compositions and arrangements that included Little Walter’s “Too late,” Ben Tucker’s “Comin’ Home Baby”, the traditional american cowboy song “Billy the Kid,” and my own compositions “Big 17,” “New Country Stomp,” and “Widow’s Walk,” all of which are included in my solo CDs “The Act of Being Free in One Act” and “The Second Act of Free Being”.

In the last third of this performance, I used something that I heard at Sacramento SPAH a few years ago, when someone handed out harmonicas to a crowd of kids; I remember to this day the amazing sound, like a giant, organic pipe organ, that the kids produced just by breathing in and out on their instruments more or less together. Gartner’s Events team bought about 50 harmonicas (Suzuki Folkmasters) in the key of C, and we handed them out to the CIOs at the performance. I told them to breathe in and out (and bend their knees so as not to fall over when their systems oxygenated), and then I played a simple line over the top. It sounded as expected–big and cool–and the CIOs loved it. I ended the show by signing everyone’s new harmonicas with a Sharpie. The whole thing was filmed, and I’ll advise if and when video is available for viewing.

Images from Richard Hunter solo harmonica performance plus ensemble performance with CIOs at Gartner Symposium/ITXpo, Orlando, FL, October 2014

Images from Richard Hunter solo harmonica performance plus ensemble performance with CIOs at Gartner Symposium/ITXpo, Orlando, FL, October 2014

We’re repeating this performance at our Gartner Symposium events in Brazil (late October) and Barcelona (early November), so any CIOs reading this attending either of those events should be sure to show up, ready to listen and play. I expect the Brazilian CIOs in particular to tear it up, given the general (high) level of musicality in Brazil. And, of course, I hope to connect with Wim Dijkgraaf, the terrific harmonica player and composer, in Sao Paolo. (It occurs to me that we might even be able to arrange for a duet during the performance there–wouldn’t that be something to remember! I better get on the phone to Wim right now…)

Blog, Hunter's Effects, Recommended Gear

So When Will Digitech Fix Nexus, not to mention the rest of their software?

Digitech’s RP360 and RP360XP have been on the market for about six months now. The box still sounds great, and the software still sucks.
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Blog, Recommended Artists & Recordings

Hendrik Meurkens’s “Junity” is in the top 15 on the jazz charts!

Hendrik Meurkens is one of our favorite jazz harmonica players, so we were delighted when we got this message from him:

My new CD JUNITY, an album very different from the previous Brazilian-tinged releases, has been out for a couple of months and received great reviews and very strong airplay. JUNITY is a duo-project with the Russian-born, New York-based pianist, composer and arranger Misha Tsiganov.

The album features two settings – duo (harmonica/piano) and quartet (plus bass & drums, played by Oleg Osenkov and Willard Dyson). Arranged by Misha, the repertoire includes two Beatles songs, a Monk tune, some originals, a Jobim tune, an Etude by Scriabin, and more. The music is best described as Modern Chamber Music, and here the lyrical side of the harmonica comes to full shine. But we also feature some up-tempo tunes, most notably Misha’s arrangement of Pent-up House.

Hey! We’re in. Look for the album on iTunes and CD Baby.

Here’s a video to keep you busy while you’re checking out the stores.

Audio/Video, Blog, Hunter's Effects, Recommended Artists & Recordings, Recommended Gear

“Me and the Devil” by Ed Abbiatti/Chris Cacavas rated 5 stars by R2!

I was informed this morning that the UK-based mag Rock n’ Reel (R2 for short) has rated “Me and the Devil” by Chris Cacavas (formerly of Green on Red) and Ed Abbiatti 5 stars, and called it “a work of genius.”

For those who haven’t checked it out yet, I’m playing on two tracks, including the title track, where the harp is playing heavily effected lead and accompaniment (FX courtesy of the Digitech RP355).

You can check out the review here:

And check out the record here:
or here:

Blog, Hunter's Effects, Recommended Gear

The latest RP360/360XP patch set is up and running!

We’ve updated our version 18 patch set for the Digitech RP360XP to include a few new patches and some needed adjustments to the existing patches. Does it sound great? Sheesh. It sounds great.

The RP360XP: now with new and improved patches from us

The RP360XP: now with new and improved patches from us

We’ve been delighted recently by the comments we’ve received on this set. One guitarist/harmonica player told us that he’s using our patches with his guitar as well as the harp, and he loves them. We’re glad to hear it! We always thought that the Digitech factory patches were 1) too loaded in the FX chains–do you really need all that stuff between the instrument and the output?– and 2) too heavily oriented towards heavy metal, with not enough stuff for the guitarist who likes a little crunch and some smooth FX in their sound. So it’s delightful to hear that our perception coincides with guitarist realities.

The v18 update has been distributed to all current customers, and will be the default set for new RP360/360XP patch set customers going forward. If you want these sounds in your kit, visit our store.

By the way, we haven’t forgotten our RP500 and RP1000 licensees. We’ll be making the same updates to those patch sets, in that order, in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Audio/Video, Blog, Hunter's Effects, Hunter's Music, Recommended Artists & Recordings, Recommended Gear, Recorded Performances (live and otherwise)

Live with Derrik and the Dynamos, Wilson, WY, August 2014

I had the opportunity to perform with Derrik Huffsmith and his band Derrik & the Dynamos at a gig near Wilson, Wyoming this August. The band included Phil Round on bass and vocals, Ed Domer on drums, and Don Christenson, who I’d never met before, on keys. We played a lot of covers at this gig; this performance, of Dylan’s “Ill Be Your Baby Tonight,” is one of my favorites from the gig.

Derrik is singing lead on this piece, Phil harmonies. The harmonica solos at about 2:41, after the piano, by which time the song has built significantly, and maintains a prominent presence from that point on. The emotion in the entire performance is very strong throughout.

I played the gig with my Audix Fireball mic, Digitech RP360XP, and Peavey KB2, as usual, and it took about 5 minutes to set up, as usual. Derrik didn’t have a spare XLR cable, and neither did I, so we ran a 1/4″ cable from the Peavey’s FX send to the PA, and I used the Peavey as on onstage monitor, also per usual. I don’t recall what patch I was using on the RP, though I know it’s one of the standard ones from my patch set for RP360XP. It’s a clean sound with just a touch of reverb or slapback on it; it could be a patch based on a Twin Reverb amp model, a direct amp model, or something else. I think it’s probably either my direct + room reverb (DIRROOM) or direct + hall reverb (DIRHALL) patch–I can hear that the reverb is under footpedal control. Anyway, it does the job here, which is allow the harp to cut through the band without grating on single notes, chords, and octaves, all of which are in use in this arrangement. Lots of clean gain in this patch. The harp is an orchestral element on this piece, and the clarity in the sound helps make the changes in tones and textures come through clearly.

The harmonica is a Seydel Session Steel in A, played in second position. I like Session Steels–they play hard and stay in tune, two qualities on the top of my list for harmonicas. I took to the A and Bb Session Steels right away; for some reason it took me longer to love my C and D, but I do now.

The piece was recorded via the internal mics on the Zoom H4, with the Zoom hanging at one side of the stage, near the edge of the outdoor tent that surrounded the dance floor, and its mics facing the band from about 20 feet away and a height of about 6 feet. The recorded sound is surprisingly good, largely because there was a clear line of sight from the Zoom to one of the band’s PA stacks, though of course the crowd makes noise.


“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” performed by Derrik & the Dynamos with Richard Hunter, harmonica, August 2014

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