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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.

Enjoy.

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

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Live with Michael G. Batdorf at Pendl’s Cafe, August 24 2014

I spent August 8 through August 26 in Idaho this summer, and I sat in with Michael G. Batdorf, notable singer/songwriter, twice at Pendl’s cafe in Driggs during that period. (On a third occasion I showed up to play and found that Michael was held up behind 600 bicyclists conducting a road trip from Jackson Wyoming to Victor Idaho, so I ended up playing the gig solo.) I recorded the entire two hours on the morning of August 24, and this piece, which I think is titled “Beyond My Eyes,” is one of my favorites from the set.

Michael G. Batdorf in studio
Michael G. Batdorf in studio

The piece is a beautiful ballad in Eb minor; I heard it for the first time during this performance. The only harp I had in my kit that could manage that key was a Hohner CX12 chromatic in the key of E, which meant that I played it in the equivalent of B minor on a C chromatic. That wouldn’t necessarily have been my first choice, but it turned out that the low chromatic harp (a minor 6th below a 12-hole chromatic in C) worked very well on the piece.

The performance here is entirely improvised. As always when I sit in, I tried to create an arrangement for the piece, not just play licks, and this arrangement has a beautiful, yearning feel to it, with variations on the basic line that include octaves and various chords. I recorded the performance live with a Zoom H4 positioned about 20 feet from the stage, and while there’s some crowd and ambient noise, the overall quality is thoroughly listenable. The gear I used in this performance includes a Digitech RP360XP running my DIRROOM patch (direct amp model with room reverb) from my latest patch set, an Audix Fireball mic, and a Peavey KB2 amp. It all sums to loud and clear, which works for this music.

The harmonica is relatively restrained until about half way through the piece, roughly at the two minute mark, when the intensity of both the harmonica and the guitar increases dramatically. The harmonica in effect becomes a voice, taking center stage while the guitar strums a ferocious accompaniment.

The music goes to some pretty unusual places, far beyond the stylistic boundaries of the typical guitar/harmonica duo. There’s only two ways to get music like this: you compose it note-for-note and get great people to play it, or you get together with somebody great and improvise it on the spot. The latter was the approach this time. It grabbed the audience by the throat, not to mention the musicians. I’m glad I had the recorder running.

Beyond My Eyes by Michael G. Batdorf, harmonica by Richard Hunter

I have more recordings from the gigs I did in Idaho on this trip, including some good takes from a show with Derrik and the Dynamos. Stay tuned.

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Funking it up with the RP360XP Looper

I’ve been in Idaho for a couple of weeks with only my RP360XP for a looping device. The 360XP has a usable but limited looper: 40 seconds maximum loop time, can’t have more than one loop in memory at a time, can’t remove the latest layer of a loop (as you can with the JamMan Stereo and Solo XT), can’t save a loop for later use. So it’s really a live-only looper, and its usefulness there is hampered by the fact that you have to step on it twice in rapid succession to turn a loop off, which makes timing an ending pretty difficult. But for simple loops, it’s functional enough, and it records audio through whatever patch is running on the RP at the time. So it’s ideal for showing off what kinds of sounds you can make, and roles you can play, with the RP360XP.

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Jamming in Driggs, RP360XP vs. RP355

I arrived in Tetonia, Idaho on Friday last week, and on Sunday morning I headed to Pendl’s, my favorite bakery in Driggs or anywhere else, to sit in with my friend Michael Batdorf, who plays acoustic guitar and sings lots of his own songs and some by other people. His basic style is Americana, and he takes the chord progressions farther than you’d expect in that genre. Michael greeted me warmly, and I was set up in time to start the first set at 9 AM.

I guess I haven’t spelled it out before, so here’s what it takes me to set up my basic road kit with amp. If I’m running straight to the PA, I skip step 3. But I do prefer to take the amp when I can. I just like the sound of air moving.

This complete procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much flexibility I have in terms of where stuff gets positioned.

  • Unpack the gear–harps, mics, cables, power strip, etc.

  • Plug in the power strip.
  • Position the amp and plug it in to the power strip.
  • Position the RP360XP and plug it into the power strip.
  • Plug the lo-hi-z converter into the mic cable.
  • Plug the mic cable into the mic and the RP.
  • Run a line out from the RP360XP to the amp
  • Place the harps where I want them onstage so I can quickly and easily get to the harp I want.

  • I was a little worried during setup because I was standing–and placing my gear on–damp grass. I was concerned about the potential for electric shock,but no problems there. Anyway, the music just got better and better. I played a few too many of my big licks in the first few songs, but then I caught myself and began playing what I thought of as “arrangements” for the songs–signature (repeated) melodies from the harp, with different approaches to different sections of a song. It was pretty clear that something very good was happening, and to my dismay, my Zoom H4 chose that very time to run out of space on the SD card. So no recording. I’ve cleared the SD card, so I’ll get a recording next week.

    By the time the gig was halfway over, the crew included local stalwarts Greg Creamer and Brian Maw, the latter of which I of course played plenty of gigs with a couple of summers ago. The jams were surprisingly cohesive, with one hilarious episode involving “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” in which everyone fumbled the structure, and we eventually coalesced on performing the song as an E blues. I had to modify the rhythm of the licks to make the words fit, but it solved what could have been a train wreck.

    The RP360XP: a very nice device, and the host of my latest patch set

    The RP360XP: a very nice device, and the host of my latest patch set

    I used the Digitech RP360XP and a Peavey KB2 amp for this gig. The rig sounded great, of course, but I learned something about playing with FX at low volume. Did I mention that the volume was VERY low? The amp was positioned ahead of me and to my left, and the volume was set so low that I had trouble hearing what the FX were really doing. The audience could hear it easily; everyone in the place went bananas when I started soloing through my new tenor-sax-with-wahwah patch (which I’ll distribute to my patch set licensees soon). But what I heard mostly was the harp in my hands, not the amp. Lesson learned: for very low volume gigs, put the amp behind me, not in front. It’s not like feedback is an issue under those circumstances, and it’s a lot easier to hear what you sound like than to imagine what you sound like.

    The tenor sax wah patch aside, mostly I was pretty conservative with my amp and FX choices. I used my DIRROOM and DIRHALL patches, direct signal from the mic with room and hall reverb respectively, on a lot of stuff; acoustic harp with reverb works with acoustic guitar, duh. I also used the TW_SLP patch, Twin Reverb amp with slapback delay, on a few tunes; it’s a clean sound with a lot of power and cut. I used my BASROTON patch–Bassman amp model with rotary speaker on/off under footpedal control–on a lot of stuff, especially the rockers where I wanted to sound like an organ on the accompaniments and like an amped-up harp on the leads. And I used a few octave and double octave down patches for various bass and low-saxish stuff. When I wanted Chicago in the sound, I used a range of patches based on the Gibson GA40 and Fender Champ with various cabinets. I especially like the sound of the Champ amp model with the Tweed Deluxe 1×12 cabinet model, the patch I call CHAMPD in my patch sets for the RP360XP, 500, and 1000.

    RP355 in the middle of the red board: it's great, but the RP360XP is great-er

    RP355 in the middle of the red board: it’s great, but the RP360XP is great-er

    I keep an RP355 at my place in Tetonia just in case, and I had the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison with the RP360XP. No surprises there: the RP360XP sounds better. The 355 sounds great–just check out “Me and the Devil,” the new release by Ed Abbiatti and Chris Cacavas–but the 360XP is noticeably more articulate and vivid. From this point on, the 360XP is the default device for most of my gigs, with the RP500 the leading choice for my solo looping gigs.

    I’ll post some samples of the latest RP360XP sounds soon. Stay tuned for those. In the meantime, if you’re planning to be near the Teton Valley anytime soon, I’ll be sitting in with Michael again on Sunday 17 August, with Brian Maw’s band at the Knotty Pine in Victor on Saturday 23 August, and with Phil Round’s band at the Stagecoach in Jackson on either Sunday 17 August or Sunday 24 August. Fun fun fun…

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    “Me and the Devil” is a Tip on the Euro Americana Chart!

    I just learned that “Me and the Devil” by Chris Cacavas & Ed Abbiatti, the title piece of which features two (count them, two) harmonica parts by me, is a “Tip” on the Euro Americana Chart:
    http://www.euroamericanachart.eu/

    As per my previous comments on this site, I recorded my parts for the title song with a Digitech RP355, using a rotary speaker patch for a backing part and a pitch-shifted sound with an added 4th down (my Ed Abbiatti Devil Sound) for the solo. I used an Audix Fireball V mic for both parts. The parts I sent to Ed were straight off the RP355 into Cakewalk Sonar 8.5.3 via USB connection to the RP, then exported to WAV files, without any additional processing. Both parts are prominent in the mix, so effected harmonica is both a key component of the accompaniment and the lead instrument on this track. Both these patches, of course, are included in my latest patch set for Digitech RP355.

    You can hear the music and buy if you like at iTunes or CDBaby.

    Me and the Devil: red-hot Americana

    Me and the Devil: red-hot Americana

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    The 21st Century Harmonica Band: One Harp, One Looper, and My Patch Set

    SPAH has announced that part of its program for SPAH 2014 will be the Harmonica Band reboot, in which attendees will have the opportunity to perform with a harmonica band featuring bass, chord, and diatonic or chromatic lead harps. I don’t have much desire to perform with a harmonica trio–its artistic appeal aside, it’s a format that excites little public interest in 2014, and I don’t see why that’s going to change–but the announcement made me think about some of the loops I’ve done lately in which the harmonica fills all the roles of a modern rock band except drums.
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    12 July 2014: Kicking out the Jams in Jackson

    I spent the weekend in Jackson, Wyoming, where I had a gig with the cream of the local rock scene: Derrik and the Dynamos, Derrik Hufsmith’s stellar band that on this occasion included Phil Round on bass and backup vocals and Ed Domer on drums along with Derrik on guitar and lead vocals and yours truly on harp and keys. The occasion was a wedding, and the groom had specifically requested a harp player for the wedding band. How often does that happen? Not often enough…
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    The Huntersounds patch set for Digitech RP360/360XP is available NOW!

    It’s official: our patch set for Digitech RP360/360XP is available for sale at our store. You can get it now for $50. It includes 50 great patches, all of which make the most of the RP360’s performance features and its huge palette of great amp models and FX.

    The RP360XP: a very nice device, and the host of our latest patch set

    The RP360XP: a very nice device, and the host of our latest patch set

    We’ve carefully balanced the output levels of the patches in this set to ensure smooth volume transitions between patches, too. All in all, this is our best set to date, and that’s sayin’ somethin’.

    On a related subject, we’ve updated our RP500 patch set to v18. This version includes a few new patches, as well as the same balancing on patch levels that we put into the v18 RP360/360XP set. It makes a very good thing even better.

    All current licencees for our RP500 patch set will be updated to v18 for free. We expect both the RP360/360XP set and the updated RP500 set to be available for sale at Rockin’ Ron’s within a week.

    We’re delighted to offer these terrific sounds to harp players everywhere. Get yours now!

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    The G3’s First Public Appearence: Mixed Results

    I used the Zoom G3 onstage with two different sets of players at the Monday night jam at Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues in London this week, and the results were mixed.

    The setup I used for the jam at ANBTB on Monday 9 June: Zoom G3, Shaker Dynamic mic, 2 cables

    The setup I used for the jam at ANBTB on Monday 9 June: Zoom G3, Shaker Dynamic mic, 2 cables

    Good stuff first: the basic sound of this setup was very nice for blues. Plenty of guts, gratifying shifts in tone as my playing went from soft to loud.

    On the not so good side, I couldn’t seem to get the setup loud enough to compete with two guitars effectively. I had feedback issues from the start. I was able to reduce the feedback by turning off the graphic EQ and delay FX in my patch setup (a basic Fender Bassman patch), but I was never able to get the setup as loud as I can get one of my Digitech RPs.

    The situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that I was using the Shaker Dynamic mic for the first time at this jam. When there are two moving parts in the picture, it’s tough to know which is the main culprit. I hereby remind myself not to test more than one piece of gear at a time going forward.

    Anyway, the G3 needs more testing and adjustments before I release this patch set. As an interim step, I’ve asked several people who’ve expressed interest in this set to do a little beta testing, which should take around a month. Stay tuned for more information on revised release dates.

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