You’ll be automatically redirected to our gallery in a moment, otherwise click here.
The band’s performances for “The Lucky One” are completed, and great performances they are, done at speed and loaded with cool. I started recording vocals last night, and that’s the hardest part for me.
I went into these sessions confident about the music, the lyrics, the band, and my own harmonica playing. Singing has always been a self-conscious thing for me, and it still is, recent months of training notwithstanding. I’m told that every singer gets anxious when it’s time to record, so I suppose it’s no surprise if I do. But man, what a test of will.
All of that said, I got good performances on four of the nine vocal tracks on the record last night. With luck, tonight I get all or most of the next five. I’m going to take it easy today and do my best to take it easy tonight when I go to the studio. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to think good thoughts and remember to breathe.
From Friday to yesterday I recorded the rhythm section, guitar, and some harmonica tracks for my upcoming rock record “The Lucky One.” At this point we have twelve such tracks in the bag, meaning that in the 27+ hours of recording starting Friday we’ve averaged 2 hours and 15 minutes per keeper take.
We recorded these tracks the old fashioned way: four musicians playing the material together in real time in the same space, without headphones. It was challenging–with that kind of setup there’s enough bleed between tracks to make it difficult to, say, redo the harmonica solo without colliding with bleed from the previous solo take on the drum overheads–but oh so gratifying to hear and feel the drive you get from people playing together. As Mark Ronson, who produced “Uptown Funk” for Bruno Mars, said: a bunch of dudes playing the s— out of some material in a room will never go out of date.
I’ve used the Digitech RP500 exclusively to record the tracks so far, and it’s working out very, very well. One of the songs on the CD is my composition “Double Lucky”, which started life as a blues but became a 24-bar double blues structure that includes C, F minor, G, Eb, and Ab chords. I took one of my RP500 amped blues patches and programmed in a pitch shifter that takes the pitch up a minor 3rd. With that I was able to play every one of those chords (except the G, which I played as an octave); I engaged the pitch shifter to take the C up to an Eb, and again to take the F up to an Ab. I used a low F harp for the rhythm tracks and a C Natural Minor for the solo, which let me stop worrying about hitting the Eb note right on the money on a standard F harp (and also took the solo into a register an octave higher than the Low F, eliminating any conflicts on that score). The RP tracked the chords perfectly; you’d never know that the Eb and Ab chords weren’t played on an instrument tuned to them.
For a jam on the “Orphan Black” TV show theme, I used a Lee Oskar harp with a special tuning that I made by combining a C minor blow reed plate with a standard C harp draw plate. That produced a tuning that in second position basically produces a G7/9 chord on the draw and C minor on the blow, just right for “Orphan Black,” which consists entirely of two chords, G and Eb major. It’s one of the harps that I carry around in my case and use maybe once every ten years; but hey, better to have it when you need it than to leave it home and make do with something less perfect for the tune. I coupled that with an RP500 patch that includes a big distortion effect and an octave up pitch shift. Did someone say “psychedelic”?
We start the vocal and harmonica overdubs, in that order, for this project tonight. If we keep up the pace and quality we’ve achieved so far, this is gonna be one killer record. Stay tuned, and if you’re in the mood, check out this project on indiegogo.
And about time.
Recording sessions for this project begin in one week in Philadelphia, on September 16. So it’s not a day too soon to get the IndieGoGo campaign to fund this project going.
Next Friday we’ll set up in the studio, get some levels, and start playing through the repertoire. We’ll take some time for a jams or two just to get loose and feel each other out. We may record some keeper tracks–that would be nice–but the main goal is to get everything ready for performance and recording the next day.
Saturday and Sunday we track the band plus lead harp as we play through the songs.
Monday and Tuesday nights we do overdubs. This is where vocals, lap steel, and additional harmonica layers come in.
And that’s the schedule.
If all goes well, we have great recordings in the can by Sep. 21. I think we will. I’ve done a lot of prep for this record, we have a bunch of good players, and we have a pretty good idea of what the thing should sound like. I want a rhythm section that’s deep and dark, with various harmonica sounds-2 to 3 per song–filling the low midrange and punching through in the upper mids. My go-to harp combination for this record includes an amped sound with a low octave double, a modulated sound like a vibrato or rotary speaker, and an amped blues or direct (clean) tone with or without delay, reverb, and/or distortion. That’s a weighty combination with a lot of movement in the sounds.
If this all sounds great to you, go check out the IndieGoGo campaign and reserve a digital download, a physical CD, or some other perk for a very reasonable contribution. Thanks!
The sessions for my upcoming record “The Lucky One” are taking place in Philadelphia in the third week of September, and preparations are feverishly underway. My producer, Ed Abbiatti, passed on this piece, a basic blues driven by an auto-wah harmonica part. If we’re not going to put it on the record, we might as well give you a glimpse into the kinds of sounds we’ll be putting down in September.
So here’s “Waka Blues.” The demo you hear in this clip consists on a programmed bass line, drums courtesy of EZDrummer, and me playing harmonica. It’s a pretty traditional harmonica line with the auto-wah (delivered via a Digitech RP500 running my patch set) adding plenty of juice. If I were to record this for “The Lucky One,” I’d add another couple of harmonica parts, and Mike “SloMo” Brenner would put in some lap steel magic. So you can imagine all those things when you listen to this, or just enjoy the big sound of the auto-wahed harp.
“Waka Blues’ by Richard Hunter. Copyright 2016 R. Hunter/Turtle Hill productions, all rights reserved.
We saw a post recently on harp-L about Boris Plotnikov teaching a harmonica master class in Denver on June 15. Boris originally hails from Yekaterinburg, Russia, and it’s pretty rare that he sets foot in the USA, so this is a great opportunity for anyone willing to go to Denver to get some hands-on instruction from this master of modern harmonica.
We’ve highlighted Boris in our blog on several occasions. Boris seems to be able to play just about anything convincingly–his skills and his conception are wide-screen and technicolor. He’s one of the most in demand harmonica players and teachers in Russia. He’s won prizes at two international contests: the World Harmonica Festival 2013 (Trossingen, Germany), and the MasterJam Fest 2013 (Odessa, Ukraine). A cursory listen to his videos shows just how much ground he covers with his work.
June 15 is the day before Boris plays a gig with Mikhail Bashakov in Denver, so catch that too if you’re still in the neighborhood. The harmonica master class is taking place at Art Gallery 975, Lincoln Street, Denver, CO. Start time is 7 PM, and it’ll end around 9 PM. The main topic is “How to play faster”, but Boris says he’s ready to discuss any other questions on demand. (You can email him at email@example.com if you have some specific questions to discuss.) The donation is $25, cash only.
You need to go to this thing if you live within 100 miles of Denver. while you’re thinking it over, here’s Boris playing with Mikhail Bashakov. Dig.
I’ve just loaded up a video on Kickstarter that talks about “The Lucky One,” complete with a demonstration of several of the sounds I’m planning to use on the record! If you want to hear what kind of voodoo is going to be in the mix on this record, drop by Kickstarter and take a listen!
Thanks for your support on this project!
The Kickstarter campaign to fund my upcoming record “The Lucky One” has officially launched! To contribute to this groundbreaking electric harmonica record, just click here.
We’ve put together a great set of rewards for this campaign, including digital downloads of the record, autographed copies of the CD, patchsets for Digitech RPs and Zoom G3, harmonica lessons with me (Richard Hunter, in case you wondered), my services as harmonica player on your recording session, a new Digitech RP500 loaded with the patches I use on this record and autographed by yours truly, and live performances by me and the band. Lots of choices, lots of ways to contribute, lots of cool!
I want to make a special shout-out here to the many people who’re using my patchsets in their Digitech RPs and Zoom G3s who’ve told me that they’re behind me on this project. I really appreciate that support, folks, and it moves me to know that my sounds have meant something to you, too. THANK YOU.
I’ve been building up to this record for a while, and every day I’m getting more excited about it. When the sessions begin in Philadelphia this September, we’ll be blowing down the walls. Be a part of it. Thanks!