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A Mysterious Piece of “The Lucky One”: Deeper

“Deeper” has been in my repertoire for years. I recorded a version of this piece for my subscription list, a decade or so ago. The original had a few harmonica parts and a lot of cool synth sounds, many of them courtesy of the hard-edged synth Pentagon.

This version was recorded straight through by me and the band in the studio with me playing the lead on a Seydel Chromatic Deluxe into the Digitech RP500 running a Tweed Deluxe amp model–a nice clean, full sound–with a triggered flanger on it. Very smooth and electronic. In the second half of the piece, the lead harp is augmented by a patch that pairs an octave down with a wah wah for some very cool articulations, and by a patch that runs the Audix Fireball mic through an iStomp running Swingshift to drop the pitch an octave before it hits the triggered flanger in the RP500. Like the title says: Deeper.

Check out 30 seconds of “Deeper”:

“Deeper” copyright 2016 R. Hunter/Turtlehill Productions/ASCAP, all rights reserved.

And contribute to our Indiegogo campaign to fund this record here.

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A hard-rockin’ piece of “The Lucky One”: Double Lucky

The basic structure of Double Lucky, one of the hardest-rocking tunes on my record “The Lucky One,” is a double blues: 24 bars, with 8-bar vamp sections between each 24-bar form. There are variations in the turnaround in each 12-bar section. Bar 12 ends on an Eb chord; bar 24 ends on an Ab chord. The piece is in C, and includes F snd G chords as well. If the piece wasn’t played as a dead-serious blues-rock raveup, the changes would make it sound like Steely Dan.

I wrote the rhythm harp vamp part–the second half of this clip–while I was sitting in traffic or something, and recorded it on my iPhone so I wouldn’t forget it. The demo I sent the band didn’t have that part on it, so I gave them the part in the studio and made a few comments about the feel, we rehearsed it, and we ran it down for the recorder in real time together, the way we did every basic track for this record. (I love those guys.) This clip is the rough mix of that live performance, with the harp solo added via overdub.

The rest of this post is mainly of interest to harmonica players, so if you’re not one of those you might want to just click on the link above and go hear the clip. If you like this music and want to make sure you get to hear the whole thing soon by helping us fund the project (and also get cool perks like a digital download of the music, a CD, a copy of the Digitech RP500 patch set I’m using for these songs, and more), check out Our Indiegogo campaign.

21st Century Harmonica

Playing rhythm on this piece demands all the chords you’d get from an F harp plus the ones you’d get from an Ab harp. Most amped harmonica players use bullet mics of one sort or another, which is fine for big, heavy single note tones (like you need for traditional Chicago blues), not so great if you want to use a lot of chords. I wanted the harmonica to play a strong rhythm role in this piece, so I used an Audix Fireball V to record these parts, and on the Digitech RP500 I used a Champ amp model coupled with a pitch shift of a minor 3rd up to make the missing chords and put some heavy crunch on them. The rig is 21st century harmonica gear. (And all Huntersounds RP500 patch set licensees who signed up on or after September 2015 will get the set for free when this record is released.) The pitch shifting approach is 21st century too; I don’t have to use multiple harmonicas to get a wider range of chords, I just have to shift the pitch, which I can do in real time under foot control. The Low F harmonica also isn’t much older than the 21st century, and its use in this context is brand new.

Digitech RP500: Can't do "Double Lucky" without it

Digitech RP500: Can’t do “Double Lucky” without it

How I Played It

I used a Manji low F harp for all the rhythm parts. I played F and G on the turnarounds as octaves, which gave them a horn-like sound. I played the Eb as a full chord by shifting the C chord (draw 2-3-4) up a minor 3rd, and I did the same with the Ab by shifting the F chord (blow 1-2-3-4) up a minor 3rd. I used a Lee Oskar C Natural Minor (equivalent in register to a standard F harp) for the lead part, which I played with the same patch I used for the rhythm parts, with the pitch shifter disengaged. The Lee Oskar C natural Minor is pitched an octave higher than the Low F, so it contrasts very nicely with the rhythm harps.

This stuff is red hot. Dig. And like I said: check out Our Indiegogo campaign.

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

A Glimpse of “The Lucky One”: Orphan Jam

This clip of “Orphan Jam” from the sessions for my record “The Lucky One” is based on a simple chord progression: G major and Eb major. The lap steel sets an appropriately grand and spooky tone, and the harmonica comes in like some kind of alien singing. The piece as you hear it here was recorded in one pass live in the studio with no overdubs. The band, with Mark Schreiber on drums, John Cunningham on bass, and Mike Brenner on lap steel, rocks hard.

I’ve said before that every time I drag my complete harmonica rig out to a session, there turns out to be one song where I need an instrument from deep in my case that I haven’t used in ten years. This is that song for this session. The harmonica I used on this piece is a Lee Oskar that I set up years ago, dropped in my case, and completely forgot about. It has a unique pairing of reed plates, which is something you can do pretty easily with Lee Oskar harps. The draw reed plate is a standard C harp draw plate, which makes a G7+9 chord, and the blow plate is the blow plate from a Lee Oskar G Natural Minor, which makes a C minor triad. So G7 on the draw and C minor, relative minor of Eb, on the blow, and all the right scale tones are in place. There’s no Bb built into this diatonic tuning, which is not tops when you consider that one of the two chords is an Eb major, but you can get that Bb in the bottom octave with an easy bend on the draw 3 reed, and in the middle register with an overblow on the blow 6 reed. I used both on this piece. (That approach works for single notes, but of course it doesn’t work for chords. I used a chromatic harmonica in C to give me partial G and Eb chords.)

The harmonica is played through an Audix Fireball V mic into a Digitech RP500 running a patch I set up myself that includes a big distortion, an octave up pitch shift, and a long digital delay set low in the mix.

John, Mark, and Richard

John in the moment

Mike closeup

We’re definitely in the 21st century now. If you like this music and want to make sure you get to hear the whole thing soon by helping us fund the project (and also get cool perks like a digital download of the music, a CD, a copy of the Digitech RP500 patch set I’m using for these songs, and more), check out Our Indiegogo campaign.

Blog, Hunter's Effects, Hunter's Music, Recommended Gear, The Lucky One

Huntersounds RP500 Licensees: Get Ready for the “Lucky One” patchset

I put together a lot of customized sounds for the Digitech RP500 for my upcoming record “The Lucky One.” A number of those sounds are specifically designed to work together in a loop, i.e. they’ve been engineered to fill in the audio spectrum without clashing. Other sounds were just set up to be as striking as possible–the kind of sounds that make people turn their heads to see what the hell is making that racket on stage.

These sounds will be made available at no charge once the record is released to any Huntersounds RP500 licensee who purchased the patchset license on or after September 2015, which is the vast majority of licensees. Any licensees who purchased prior to that date can get the “Lucky One” patchset for $15.

Digitech RP500: The patches we made for "The Lucky One" come with every license we're selling until the record is released

Digitech RP500: The patches we made for “The Lucky One” come with every license we’re selling until the record is released

If you’re considering buying the RP500 patchset now, please note that anyone who buys a license for my RP500 patchset between now and the date the record is released will get a copy of the “Lucky One” set too. If you’d like to get a download of the record with those sounds, I’m offering an mp3 download along with the patchset as one of the perks for contributors to the Indiegogo project for this record; check it out here.
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As always, thanks to all Huntersounds licensees for contributing to the development of these sounds, which (if I may say so) are a treasure trove for harmonica players on stage and in studio. I’ll talk to my producer about putting a few clips from the “Lucky One” sessions up on my site by way of illustration.

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The band sessions for “The Lucky One” were killer–now for the overdubs

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.

img_6749-ph-3-splatter-blue-cut-out-winner-half-size

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.

Cutting Stone Castle--Richard working the wahwah

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.

Digitech RP500: If yer not usin' one of these, you ain't gettin' the sounds I'm gettin'

Digitech RP500: If yer not usin’ one of these, you ain’t gettin’ the sounds I’m gettin’

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.

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

An Outtake from “The Lucky One”: Waka Blues

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.

Dig.

“Waka Blues’ by Richard Hunter. Copyright 2016 R. Hunter/Turtle Hill productions, all rights reserved.

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Another day, another (country) session

I took some time off this week from working on the songs and arrangements for my upcoming record, “The Lucky One,” which is set for recording in the third week of September in Philadelphia, to record harmonica parts for Austin TX producer Bobby Flores. (Congratulations Bobby on winning the 2015 Ameripolitan Male Western Swing Award! That’s the style Bobby was playing when I met and jammed with his band years ago in Austin, and it sure was fun.)

Bobby contacted me late last week and sent a couple of mp3s. The music was very interesting: country with more than a touch of rock and roll, and some unusual chord changes for this genre. (When you’re going from F major changes on the verses to C major changes on the chorus to a solo in Bb major in the same song, it’s a little unusual for country.) Bobby told me he was going to send the changes, but he never got around to it. Oh well; that’s why we make the big bucks…

As per usual for this time of year, I’m out in Tetonia, Idaho, far from my home studio in Monroe CT. Not to worry. The laptop Jim Rosenberry built for me is portable and powerful, and it goes where I go. Add a Digitech RP–in this case my RP500, loaded with my patchset for Digitech RP–for an audio interface, plus an Audix Fireball V, and I have everything I need to make great harmonica tracks. The Fireball V is crucial, because it’s the only mic I know of that can produce beautiful acoustic harmonica tracks when it’s hand-held, which is REALLY important when you’re recording in totally crappy rooms like the one I use for recording in Idaho. (The place is essentially a long rectangle with no sound treatment, and it sounds like a cave. There is no way I’m going to let that room sound into a recording.)

Digitech RP500: pretty much all the recording rig I need

Digitech RP500: pretty much all the recording rig I need

FX? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ FX

All those chord changes notwithstanding, country music demands pretty simple harmonica sounds. To put it another way, the first thing I think of in terms of harp sounds for the genre is never a patch with an octave down pitch shift followed by an envelope filter or a flanger. The first thing I did with the RP500 was dial up one of my Direct amp model patches. The Direct amp model basically takes whatever’s at the RP’s input, adds or subtracts gain to the signal, and sends it to the output. When coupled with the Audix Fireball V, the resulting sound is clean, clear, and full–a great harp sound to send to any producer. (Hey, if they decide they hate clean and they want to f— it up, they’ve got all the FX they need on their own computers.) I have no doubt that Bobby is going to add whatever ambience he wants to my sound, so before I recorded I used the RP500’s dedicated footswitches to turn off the reverb and delay, so the only effect running on the RP was the amp modeling.

I set up a new project in Cakewalk Sonar, my DAW, and loaded in the mp3s Bobby sent to me. Then I set up three harp tracks for each of the songs (we’ll call them “Texas” and “Tennessee,” which happen to be the first words in their respective titles) and started recording.

I did three takes on “Texas”, two with an acoustic sound and one with a patch based on a GA40 amp model for a little more grit. The GA40 patch had a LOT of gain dialed in, so I dropped the gain level on the patch down to a much more moderate 34 (as opposed to the original setting of close to 60, which is some pretty crunchy gain) to smooth it out a little. (I did mention that this is country music, right?) Of course, I took off all the FX except amp modeling before I recorded with this patch. For all the takes on “Texas” I used a Manji in C played in second position. I like Manjis for country music; they play fast and sweet, and they’re just the thing for those quick Country lines. The first harp I tried was a Seydel Session Steel in C, but I just couldn’t get the chords to sound sweet enough, so bye bye Session Steel, hello Manji.

Let the Producer Choose

My favorite of those tracks was the second acoustic take, which featured a rippin’ solo, but I sent Bobby separate rough mixes with the acoustic and amped-up takes, and one with both, because I liked the way the rhythm licks sounded when both tracks played together. I used the same Direct model setup to record two acoustic tracks for “Tennessee,” of which I sent Bobby the second. “Tennessee” is the song with all those chord changes, and I ended up using a Manji in F, played in first and second positions, for the verse and chorus, and a Manji in Bb, played in first position, for the solo section.

It took more time to record two takes for “Tennessee” than to record three for “Texas,” because all those chord changes on “Tennessee” demanded a lot of extra attention. But that’s part of the fun, innit? Taking a beast of a song and making it behave?

Get Paid and Wrap it Up

Bobby checked out the rough mixes and liked them. He paid me via Paypal, and I sent a RAR (compressed) archive file containing all the harp tracks, soloed, in the form of 24-bit 44.1 kHz WAV files–a nice high-resolution format that happens to be the RP500’s highest-quality recording mode.

So there you go: another session conducted over the Internet, with the participants separated by a thousand miles or so, collaborating on their own schedules. Of course it would be absolutely tops to be in the room with the producer when the tracks are cut, so we can get double the brain and emotional power working on the song in real time. But I’m still knocked out by the fact that I can collaborate with musicians all over the world, no matter where they, or I, happen to be. How cool is that? And if you take all that for granted, lemme tell you, you weren’t recording in the 1980s, when a basic recording setup with overdubbing capability cost thousands of dollars, and sending a track to a producer the second you finished it was a wishful and seemingly impossible fantasy. (It takes time to box a tape and take it to the post office, and more time for that tape to make its way halfway across the country.) How delightful to live in an era when those fantasies come true.

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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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