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Harmonica Master Boris Plotnikov is Teaching in Denver on June 15!

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 ploboris@gmail.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.

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“The Lucky One” video is up on Kickstarter!

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!

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“The Lucky One” Quote of the Day: Jean-Paul Sartre

To celebrate the Kickstarter campaign to fund “The Lucky One”, I’m going to run a quote about luck on this site every day until the campaign ends on July 1. I figure we’ll all know a lot more about luck when July 1 rolls around.

Ed Abbiati, my producer, strumming while I'm humming.  Photo by Chiara Meatelli

Ed Abbiati, my producer, strumming while I’m humming. Photo by Chiara Meatelli

Today’s quote by Jean-Paul Sartre, whose essay “The Portrait of the Anti-Semite” (pre-translation title “Pensees sur la Question Juif”) offers a convincing explanation of the intractability of bigotry; he basically argues that bigotry is not an attitude, but the fundamental worldview whose repudiation would remove the foundation beneath the bigot’s life. (I admire the certainty about his position that the first word in that title implies.) I’m also a big fan of Sartre’s “I Discovered Jazz in America,” a very funny piece in which he describes adultery, burglary, and jazz as the respective national pastimes of France, Italy, and America.

Thanks Jean-Paul! Today’s quote:
“There are two types of poor people, those who are poor together and those who are poor alone. The first are the true poor, the others are rich people out of luck.”

Dig. Check out our Kickstarter campaign if you haven’t already. If you’ve already checked it out, thanks! If you’ve contributed, BIG thanks! Stay tuned for more quotes about luck.

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The Kickstarter Campaign for “The Lucky One” is underway!

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.

Help this man make an incredible record!

Help this man make an incredible record!

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!

Digitech RP500: I'm offering one of these loaded with the sounds for the record as one of the rewards for contributors to my Kickstarter project

Digitech RP500: I’m offering one of these loaded with the sounds for the record as one of the rewards for contributors to my Kickstarter project

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!

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The Kickstarter Campaign for “The Lucky One” starts in a few days

As I work my way through writing and recording demos for my upcoming record project, “The Lucky One,” I keep in mind that making a record takes money as well as talent and dedication. On that score, within the next couple of days I’ll be launching a Kickstarter project to raise the money I need for this project. Stay tuned for the URL, coming soon to a browser near you…

Digitech RP500: I'm offering one of these loaded with the sounds for the record as one of the rewards for contributors to my Kickstarter project

Digitech RP500: I’m offering one of these loaded with the sounds for the record as one of the rewards for contributors to my Kickstarter project

Part of a Kickstarter project is the rewards I put together for contributors. In addition to the usual stuff–downloads, CDs, etc.–I’m offering one reward that includes a new Digitech RP500 fully loaded with 1) the patch set I’m using to record the record, and 2) the standard Huntersounds RP500 patch set. I’m going to autograph that RP before I load it and ship it, so it’ll be the closest thing you can get–actually, functionally identical, just with fewer scratches and dents–to the one I’m going to use in the recording sessions for this record.

Like I said, stay tuned.

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Recording for the “The Lucky One” is Set for September in Philly

I’ve been hard at work writing songs and recording demos for the upcoming record sessions. The tentative title for this project is “The Lucky One.” We’ve set the date for the sessions in late September, and we’ve got guitarist Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, who I’ve played with on several of Ed Abbiatti’s records, and some of his favorite rhythm section buddies lined up to handle that end.

In addition to playing harp in various amped and un-amped configurations, I plan to sing and play keys on this record too. Keys are entering the picture now because I’m finding that there are just some things that I express better with an electric piano than with a harmonica. Go figure. (Perhaps one of those things is a desire to be perfectly in tune…)

This record is going to be dark, rocking and jammy. The touch points are Morphine, Little Walter, and the White Stripes. My strategy for these sessions is to rely on the players to create an organic sound with lots of personality, because this is not one of those sessions where there are going to be 1000 tracks going into the mix. This is one of those sessions where the people in the room define the sound. As Mark Ronson said in a recent interview, “A bunch of dudes in a room playing the shit out of something will never date.”

The KickStarter campaign will start before long. In the meantime, here are the lyrics for the title piece. These are copyright 2016 Richard Hunter, all rights reserved. Enjoy.

The Lucky One

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

1. My father was a winner
Who thought he was a loser
Anything that wore a skirt
Walked by and he’d pursue her
I guess he had his reasons
For doing what he done
One thing I know, he didn’t show
A father to his sons

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

2. My father’s lies became his truth
He hollowed out inside
Embraced the dark side of his life
And that is where he died
One brother fled to Mexico
One went to Paris France
I went through lots of places
Till I found out who I am

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

3.
You came along and saved my life
Long before I saved yours
I know that I been lucky
Maybe more than I deserved
I wasn’t taught to be a man
To raise a family
I didn’t know what love was
Till you showered it on me

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

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Digitech’s Software and Firmware Troubles with the RP360 Continue; We Recommend the RP500 Instead

It’s been about 2 years since Digitech released the RP360 and RP360XP, two great-sounding devices. Unfortunately, in that time Digitech hasn’t seen fit to address the terrifically daunting software issues they’ve laid on unsuspecting RP360 owners. Those issues begin with a firmware update that consistently fails, leaving RP360 owners with a device that won’t work and forcing them to repeat the update procedure, over and over, until it decides to take. The Nexus application, which is the ONLY software support for backing up and reloading an RP360, apparently won’t run under Windows 10 (at least if our customers are to believed), and even when it works it doesn’t work as well as the Xedit application that supports every other RP from the 150 to the 1000.

In short, Digitech has more or less completely dropped the ball on software support for the RP360/360XP. At Huntersounds, we are sick of seeing messsages from our RP360 patchset customers telling us how much time and effort they have to put into getting these basics to work. I mean, for God’s sake, Digitech can’t make a f—ing firmware update work? That’s Comp Sci 101. Who the hell writes the code at Digitech, and why don’t they know how to make their own gear work?

Digitech RP500: buy this instead of the RP360/360XP

Digitech RP500: buy this instead of the RP360/360XP

At this point, we can no longer recommend to RP buyers that they go with the RP360 or 360XP. Fortunately, there’s an excellent alternative available. RP500s are still widely available new and used, and they now sell at the same price point as the RP360XP ($200 new, around $150 used in good to great condition). The RP500 is larger and heavier than the 360XP, but it sounds almost exactly the same, and the Xedit application that supports it is a perfectly viable piece of software that does its job without messing with your head. (In some ways the increased size and weight of the 500 are advantages, because they’re the result of a greatly expanded set of real-time performance features.)

In short, until Digitech fixes the software issues that should never have been present in the first place, and which they have failed to address for 2 years, we strongly recommend that anyone considering an RP360 or 360XP pick up an RP500 instead. Better is better, and at this point in time, taking all factors into account, the RP500 is simply better value for money. And if you’re planning to pick up one of our patchsets to go with your RP, rest assured that the patches we’ve created for the RP500 are the best we’ve done for ANY Digitech device, mainly because they take advantage of every single one of the footswitches in the 500’s expanded footswitch array.

We’re not happy about this announcement, but our first loyalty is to the people who use our patchsets in their RPs, and those people deserve a hell of a lot better than the crap software Digitech has pushed on them for the last two years with the RP360. We put a lot of time and effort into our patchset for the RP360/360XP, and we look forward eagerly to the day we can announce that Digitech has fixed these issues. In the meantime, buyer beware the RP360/360XP.

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Why Bullet Mics in Home Studios are Not Tops for Recording Harmonica

In a recent post to the Harp-L list, the poster said that he’d found a recording setup that he liked: a Green Bullet mic on a stand, into which he played from over a foot (about half a meter) away. I’m glad the guy got a recorded sound that he likes, but I’m duty-bound to say that I would never record an acoustic (or for that matter, amped) harp this way if I had a choice.

Let’s start with the obvious: recording acoustic harp and amplified harp are two different things, and a Bullet mic is far better for the latter than the former. The Bullet’s frequency range tops out at about 6 kHz, which is in the high midrange. On the plus side, you’re cutting out the high frequencies where recorded harp can be pretty screechy; on the down side, you’re cutting ALL of those frequencies out, so you’re missing the high end gloss and sheen that a harmonica can produce. The reason harp players like bullet mics so much is that they sound good coming through a tube guitar amp, mainly because tube amps tend to top out in the same frequency range as a bullet mic, and bullet mics distort in a very pleasing way when hand-held. (Human ears love distortion, which in itself does a lot to explain the attraction of electric guitars.) I have never, repeat never, heard a great sound from a bullet taken direct to the board, and I’ve heard a lot of guys try, including John Sebastian Jr. on a live broadcast from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where the sound techs generally know what they’re doing.

The Green Bullet: Great for amped blues, not so great into the PA

The Green Bullet: Great for amped blues, not so great into the PA

It’s true that this setup avoids a proximity effect–a big boost in the low frequencies–but that’s not due to the mic. You have to be close enough to kiss the mic to get a proximity effect. If you record into an open mic from 18 inches away, you won’t get a proximity effect no matter what mic is on the stand. Anyway, a proximity effect isn’t much of a problem in recording harmonica. Proximity effects show up only in the low frequencies, and it’s easy to EQ those out of a recorded harmonica track without damaging the rest of the signal. That’s one reason why Toots Thielemans always asks for a Shure SM58 in the studio, which he hand-holds. Yes, he gets a lot of proximity effect that way, but the engineer can easily take the added bass out of the mix.

Beyond that, with an open mic on a stand, you’re inevitably letting a lot of the room sound into the mic. If your room is treated to be neutral-sounding, or it just happens to be a great-sounding room, that’s cool. Most rooms outside of professional recording studios sound like hell, with standing waves producing frequency bumps and dips all over the place. That’s certainly the way it works in my house. I’ve managed to improve the situation in my home studio with a portable enclosure that blocks out sound from the sides and back, but without that I’d never try recording into an open mic in my house again (unless I truly did not care about the quality of the sound, which for a practice session I might not–I’ve used all kinds of junky stuff to record practice sessions).

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. That said, in the end, the sounds you make have to inspire you before they inspire anyone else. If you want to record through a Green Bullet into the board, and you like what you hear, go for it. If you get to the point where your recorded sound isn’t inspiring you anymore, try a hand-held Audix Fireball V (which also exhibits very little proximity effect, even hand-held), or a vocal mic or large diaphragm condenser mic on a stand with an enclosure around it to take the room out of the sound. Either of those solutions is relatively inexpensive, and will give you a wider range of tones to work with in your recordings.

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