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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…

    Blog, Hunter's Effects, Recommended Artists & Recordings, Recorded Performances (live and otherwise)

    “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

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

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

    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!

    Blog, Hunter's Effects

    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.

    Blog, Hunter's Effects, Recommended Artists & Recordings

    Me and the Devil

    Ed Abbiatti and Chris Cacavas have just released their latest CD, “Me and the Devil,” a tough rock record with plenty of classic rock and Americana in it. I’m playing harp on two of the tracks, including the title track, where I contributed two parts recorded through the Digitech RP355: an organ-like rhythm track recorded with a Bassman amp model and a rotary speaker effect, and a lead line recorded with my “devil sound,” a Matchless amp model with a pitch-shifted line a perfect 4th below the original tone.

    I recorded all my parts for this record using the RP355 as the audio interface, direct via USB into Cakewalk Sonar 8.5. The recording was done in my kitchen in Idaho last summer. (Kitchens work well as recording studios with this setup.) The mic on these tracks is an Audix Fireball. That’s the gear list.

    You can find out more about this release at http://www.harboursong.co.uk/artists, where you can buy it too if you’re so inclined.

    Me and the Devil: red-hot Americana

    Me and the Devil: red-hot Americana

    Blog, Hunter's Effects, Recommended Gear

    London with the Zoom G3

    I arrived in London this morning (Sunday 8 June), and I plan to visit the Monday night jam at Ain’t Nothin But the Blues. When I do, I’ll be packing the Zoom G3, as opposed to the Tech 21 Blonde pedal that’s been my go-to jam session box for a while.

    Zoom G3, Shaker dynamic, two cables

    Zoom G3, Shaker dynamic, two cables–just add harps and you’re ready to rock

    There’s nothing wrong with the Blonde. It just doesn’t do everything that a Zoom G3 can do. Like the Blonde, the G3 runs on batteries, which means that the road kit can be stripped down to the G3, a mic, and two 1/4″ cables, one to connect the mic to the G3, the other to connect the G3 to the PA.

    For this trip I brought the Shaker dynamic mic that’s been in my kit for years, during which period I’ve barely used it. I’ve discovered recently that this mic sounds very good with amp modelers in general, and its very light weight and handy ergonomics make it a good choice for a road trip.

    This’ll be the first onstage test of my new patches for the G3, which I expect to release within days of my return. Stay tuned–I may get audio or video of this jam.

    Blog, Hunter's Effects, Recommended Gear

    Coming Soon: the Huntersounds Patch Set for Zoom G3

    It’s been a long time coming, and it’s almost here. I will offer my first patch set for a non-Digitech device within the next few weeks: my ultra-cool setup for the Zoom G3.

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