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Great performance, distorted recording: “So Sweet” with Brian Maw, Nov 16 2012

The quality of the recording attached to this post is not very high, but the performance is killer. This is me playing a Special 20 C harp through my Audix Fireball mic into my Digitech RP355 running a Champ amp model patch, and from there straight to the PA. The harmonica part was improvised, and I had never played the piece in this way, with this sound and laidback feel. In my head I heard really simple lines with lots of emotion (meaning lots of attention to dynamics and vibrato), and I played it pretty much that way. (It’s easy to play what you hear when you slow things down–you can get very intentional when you’re not playing catch-up with a fast stream of ideas.) The sound is pure amped blues, and through the PA it’s big, with plenty of detail in every sound, no matter how intimate or broad. (I played the same song with a rotary speaker patch the very next night, and it didn’t sound anywhere near as emotionally intense.) The piece was recorded at a gig with The Maw Band at the Timberline, Victor, ID, on Nov. 16 2012, and of course the composition is by Brian Maw (and is copyrighted, all rights reserved).

“So Sweet” by Brian Maw LIVE 20121116 160 kbps

I posted this piece, warts and all, to make the point that the RP all by itself produces big, beautiful amped blues sounds. And this is indeed a beautiful sound, good enough for most players to consider using it all night long. (But why do that when you’ve got an RP full of great sounds?) If you want to make these sounds yourself, check out my patch set for Digitech RP.


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Audio of the Day August 28 2012: Hunter/Maw/Preston, “7 Nation Army”

Left to right: Richard, Eli, Brian

This is a live recording of a performanceof Jack White’s song “7 Nation Army” at a private party on August 10, 2012 in Tetonia, Idaho. The performance features me on harmonica, Brian Maw on acoustic guitar and vocals, and Eli Preston on djembe. I recorded it using the 1/4″ inputs on my Zoom H4 fed by the monitor outputs on the PA.

I love this performance. With only three pieces, and only one of those electrified, we make a hell of a racket with a lot of vib on this tune. There’s no harp on the original recording, but I think harp sounds great on this, and the interplay between Brian, Eli, and me is strong. Okay, enough bragging. The harmonica is a standard tuning (I forget which key, sounds like an A or G from the timbre) played through an Audix Fireball mic into an RP355. I forget what patch I was running on the RP355, but it could have been the Dark Blue Champ. It was some kind of straight-up amped blues patch for sure. The RP355 went straight to the PA.

I’m leaving Idaho in a week, and I’ll be back throughout the fall and winter for gigs with this group. Stay tuned. In the meantime, dig.

Hunter-Maw-Preston “7 Nation Army” LIVE 10 AUG 2012

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Waka Waka Waka Waka: Sunset Sam

“Cruisin’ (Sunset Sam)” was written by Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, who also wrote “Mary Mary,” which Paul Butterfield covered on his amazing record “East/West” in the late 1960s. The piece has a head-bobbing groove that I’ve loved since I first saw the video in the early 1980s.

The lyrics to “Sunset Sam” (and the Nesmith video) have a surreal quality to them, which I’ve reflected in both the harp sounds and the vocal for this performance. The groove is serious, but the story is laughable. Hey, so what? Shake yer money maker, man, it’s only words. (Or as a poet friend of mine titled a collection of his works, “Only Worlds.”)

The harmonica is processed through 3 Digitech RP devices. The first is an RP355 running one of my favorite auto-wah patches, which is what provides the guitarish funk between lyrics. The second is an RP350 running two different patches: a high octave double on the signature lick and the first solo section, and a slightly different auto-wah patch on the second solo section. Both devices are run through an RP255 running one of my vibrato patches, and the vocal is coming through an RP250 running one of my new vocal patches (which will be released to subscribers to my patch sets within the week). All of these sounds, of course, are contained in my patch sets for the the Digitech RP 250/255/350/355, which you can learn more about here.

“Sunset Sam” is nutty, funky, and fun. You can hear my recording right here:
Sunset Sam Performed live by Richard Hunter 28 October 2011

For extra laughs, here’s the original Nesmith video that inspired all this loud, funky silliness. Dig.

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Big Noise: Mississippi Queen

“Mississippi Queen” was recorded by Leslie West and Mountain in the 1960s. I always loved the original, and when amp modelers came along to give me all the grunt I could want, I made sure to develop an arrangement for it.

This version is played and sung live with looper accompaniment, recorded live in stereo. It’s a good example of the rock-oriented material I’m working on now, and of how the Digitech RPs make the big sounds that make it work. The looper is running drums, bass, and a harmonica part played on one of my patches for the Digitech RP350, a Matchless amp model with a Digitech FX25 envelope filter model. I love the FX25 model on harp–it’s easier to control than the original, and it gives the harp a totally different character, like a wah wah guitar. Since there’s only one live and one recorded harp part, this music could be played live with only two harp players, which is something I’d like to try sometime.

The live harmonica parts include the same FX25 patch running on the RP355, side by side with an RP350 running the Dark Blue Champ patch. I really like the way an autowah exaggerates every expressive move on the harp, and the Dark Blue Champ beefs it up. At the end of the chain, a Whammy patch on the RP255 shifts everything a whole step down under footpedal control. That’s how I get the slide guitar effect on the chords. I’m singing through an RP250 running one of my new vocal patches with a slapback delay. So that’s four RPs on the floor, three dedicated to harp, one to vocals. All of these sounds, of course, are found in my patch sets for the Digitech RP 250/255/350/355.

Everything is amped through Peavey KB2 and Peavey KB/A100 keyboard amps. The latter has a lot more bass than the former, and the stereo amps make the modulation FX in particular come alive. I recorded live through a Zoom H4 positioned to point a mic at each of the keyboard amps from less than a foot away. I compressed and EQed the live recording to make it louder and clearer. Otherwise, there’s no editing.

Mississippi Queen performed by Richard Hunter

Just for extra fun, here’s a live video recording of Leslie West, Felix Pappalardi, and Corky Laing (a/k/a Mountain) playing this tune at Randall’s Island in 1970. The music starts at about 1:30. Rock n’ roll!

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SBS365: an original solo piece

I improvised this piece in my kitchen, recording live into the Zoom H4 from a couple of feet away. The recording quality is surprisingly good, and the piece hangs together well enough, with a couple of themes and a little bit of development. It’s always nice to have a recorder around for those moments when you’re ready to play, and I love my Zoom H4. I bet you could make a solo recording worthy of commercial release with one of these things in a good-sounding room.

Back to the piece. It’s played on an SBS-tuned Hohner model 365 in G–essentially a regular G harp with bottom-octave tuning in the second octave, and an extended high range. The basic motif is a simple, hale-and-hearty-American line that might have appeared in an early 1800s folk song–it’s definitely got a Stephen Foster vib to it. The cool thing about this harp is that you can move that line all over the place and surround it with some cool bluesy stuff wherever you are. Groove is important to any solo piece, and this harp lets you play the groove in different octaves, which lets you take it to new places.

Hohner Model 365 SBS

Hohner Model 365 SBS 14 hole diatonic

Lotsa fun. Enjoy.

SBS365 by Richard Hunter Copyright 2011 by Richard Hunter, all rights reserved. Commercial use without permission is prohibited by international law.

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In Peace

“In Peace” is a simple song with a beautiful sound: two Melody Maker harmonicas overlaid via loop recording, both played through a Fireball V mic into a Digitech RP355 running my FBAROT patch, which consists of a Bassman amp model with a rotating speaker effect. I recorded the parts on the Digitech JamMan Solo looper, exported the loop to a WAV file, and brought the WAV file into Cakewalk Sonar for editing. I added EQ and reverb in the editing process, because by then I had decided that I was going for a beautiful composition, not a literal performance.

Digitech RP355
DigiTech RP355 Guitar Multi-Effects Pedal with USB

I think this piece, short and simple as it is, reveals an aspect of the Digitech RPs that’s easy to miss: they can make very beautiful sounds as well as tough, bluesy sounds and weird sounds. It’s really nice to have a piece of gear that can make so many sounds, especially when it’s small, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive.

“In Peace” by Richard Hunter

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Lo Rider Solo (with Looper and 3 Digitech RPs)

I recorded this Lee Oskar song, one of my favorite jam platforms, live into my Zoom H4 at the same rehearsal where I recorded It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry. All the parts except the percussion loop are played with the same Seydel 1847 G harp, running through an Audix Fireball V into a setup that includes a Digitech RP255, 355, and 350, with the first RP at the end of the chain and the RP350 and 355 running in parallel.

Richard Hunter with Lowlands

The piece begins with the harp playing a bass line over a pre-recorded percussion loop, using a low double octave patch I created for the Digitech RP355. That’s followed by an organ-ish lead, again played through the RP355, then a looped organ chord sequence. Next up is an autowah patch playing a rhythm guitar-ish lick through the RP350. The last part is a combination of the RP255 and the RP350, with the RP350 running the autowah and the RP255 bringing the pitch up an octave. (I just realized, writing this, that I could do this all with two RPs instead of three by adding the patch I’m using on the 350 to the 355. Less gear for the same sound = good.) By the way, at 2:15, just after the combined RP350/RP255 sound makes its entrance, the contrary motion in the harmonica part is played by me, not the effects devices.

I’m singing through a Digitech Vocalist, which adds a low octave under the voice. As Hendrix said at Monterey while playing “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Yeah, I messed up the words. So what?” I’ll make it better next time fer sher…

This piece shows that you can produce a very, very rich rhythm and lead sound with a single harp, a looper, and a Digitech RP or two. Enjoy.

Richard Hunter/Lo Rider LIVE/Aug 15 2011

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It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

I record myself practicing as a matter of habit, and the piece linked below is the first thing I play on stage and in practice: Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.” This arrangement is mine, and is designed to showcase some of my own techniques for harmonica, such as the 10th/11th/12th splits you hear on the introduction and after each verse. I set up the backing track, which consists of bass, drums, and one harp, and loaded it into my Digitech JamMan Solo looper pedal; once the JamMan is running, everything else is live.

Photo by Chiara Meatelli

The harmonica is a Hohner MB Deluxe in the key of A, played in second position. It’s played into an Audix Fireball V mic, which is input to my Digitech RP355 running a Bassman amp model with rotary speaker effect. (In my v14 patch set for the Digitech RP355, this patch is named FBAROT. I’m renaming it for the next version of the patch set.) I set the RP355 up in stompbox mode so I can go from full off on the FX to full on with a footpress. I think this patch has a big, tough sound, not extremely distorted but loud and full, with plenty of body and a convincing tone both with and without the rotary speaker effect. I think the overall arrangement works very well with nothing but drums, bass, and harp.

The singing is my own, and I don’t think it sounds a lot worse than Bob’s. (Whatever. I’m working on it.)


Richard Hunter/It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry LIVE 20110815

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Richard Hunter with One Ton Pig: “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down”

I played last night (August 2 2011) with One Ton Pig, my bluegrass friends (actually, they refer to what they do as “Chicken-Fried-Prison-Music,” but bluegrass is easier to place in context for most people) at the Silver Dollar in Jackson, Wyoming. I recorded the first set on my Zoom H4, and these are the first of several clips from that set that I’m posting to my website, with more to follow.

I played this set with a Fireball mic straight into the PA, as opposed to my usual setup with a Digitech RP355. That wasn’t my original intention; when I arrived at the Silver Dollar, I found that my space on the stage was very limited (as in less than 2 feet by 2 feet), and it was going to be pretty inconvenient to set up the RP. I would have liked to use the RP for some detune and rotary speaker FX in particular–as opposed to the big amped sounds, which really do not work very well for bluegrass, duh–but there you go. When all is said and done, an unadorned harmonica is one of the best choices for this kind of stuff. (I joked to one of the band members that I was sad I wouldn’t get to use my ring modulator, and his answer was “What’s a ring modulator?” Geez, dude, don’t you bluegrass guys listen to Fatboy Slim?) Fortunately the Fireball is one of the best mics you can get for a great sound straight into the PA. With a little bit of treble cut on the PA, and a touch of reverb, I was ready to go.

The clips I’m loading up today are my first and second solos from the band’s rendition of Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down.” This song has a very simple chord structure: each verse starts in D, goes to A, and returns to D. The obvious harp choice is a D harp, so you can play first position on the D sections and 2nd position on the A sections. I used a Suzuki Manji, which in my opinion is an ideal harp for this kind of stuff–fast, responsive, and loud.

I knew when I was playing these solos that I was playing licks I’ve never played before. When the band is as good as One Ton Pig, it’s pretty inspiring to everyone in the room. Their rhythm section is killer, and all the soloists were nailing it that night. I used a wide range of techniques on these solos, including overblows and intervals ranging from octaves to 6ths and 10ths, and I used every bit of the 3-octave range on the harmonica. The high lonesome lick I used to start my first solo was in my head long before I started playing–I just knew I wanted to hear that sound right away, and it helped set the mood for everything that followed.

There’s a fair amount of crowd noise on the recording–the H4 was sitting on a table on the other side of the dance floor from the band–but the harp comes through loud and clear.

Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down SOLO 1

Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down SOLO 2

One Ton Pig is playing the Sweet Pea festival in Boseman Montana this Sunday, August 7. (I won’t be with them.) If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s a pretty good bet for a good time.

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