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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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“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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Playing in Milan on April 5, Taking the RP360XP

I’m doing a gig in Milan, Italy at Spazio Teatro 89 on April 5 with Ed Abbiatti and his band Lowlands. It’s an all-acoustic show in (I’m told) a big theatre, and it’s going to be recorded and video’d, so there should be some cool stuff to see and hear afterwards (like an “Unplugged” DVD). I’m spending a few more days in Milan after that to record a few more songs with Ed and Lowlands for the next record. I’ve been on just about every record Ed’s made with this group, and it’s cool to be part of that history.

I’m bringing the Digitech RP360XP with me on this trip, not the RP500. I ran the two boxes side by side tonight, comparing identical patch setups, and the RP360XP sounded better overall–the same vivid tones as the 500, which after all is based on the same chip, but bigger and more detailed somehow. Like Bill Clayton at Digitech tech support told me: subtly better.

That wouldn’t be enough to get me off the 500, which has very, very superior performance features compared to the 360XP, except for two things:
1) The 360XP runs on Euro standard wall power as well as US standard, and the 500 doesn’t. So I’d have to drag a transformer to the gig with the 500. Much simpler with the 360XP. Also…
2) With this band, I won’t be doing the rapid tone changes I use on my own stuff–for the most part I’ll stick to one basic sound per song, and use the expression pedal to modulate the sound. So the performance features of the RP500 aren’t so important this time.

And oh, yeah: if you’re flying a long way, every extra pound and cubic inch in your luggage matters. The 360XP is a lot smaller and lighter than the 500, and that makes a difference here. (However, I have to carry a direct box with the 360XP, because there are no XLR outs.)

The other big difference for me is that the RP500 is programmed with all the tailored sounds I use for my own repertoire, as well as the v17 patch set I offer in my store. The RP360XP only has the v17 patch set in it, and even a few of those patches need some tweaking. (Did you wonder why I haven’t released a set for the RP360 yet? That’s why.) However, I don’t think I’ll miss the customized tones on this gig. Most of them are variations on the v17 sounds anyway, with EQ adjustments for the layered arrangements I do in my solo work. So I don’t expect to miss the repertoire-specific sounds, which is a good thing given that I don’t have time to program them into the RP360XP before I get to Milan, either.

The biggest problem I may have is convincing Ed to let me use the RP–it’s an Unplugged gig, after all. But I’ll work on it. Stay tuned for more details on the gig. See you in Milan.

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Live from Alpine Wines, 31 Aug 2013: Have Mercy

Richard Hunter with Lowlands
This performance of Big Walter Horton’s chromatic harp instrumental “Have Mercy” was recorded live at Alpine Wines, Driggs, ID on the night of 31 August, 2013. I use two patches on the Digitech RP355 for this piece: a double-octave-down patch to lay down the bass line on the looper, then a Blackface Deluxe patch with slapback delay for the rhythm and solo lines. This latter patch is included in the Huntersounds v16 RP355 patch set under the name of “BDBlue.”

The harmonica mic is an Audix Fireball with V element, and the harmonica is a Hohner CX12 in the key of C. The piece is played in D minor. The RP355 goes into a Digitech JamMan Stereo looper, and from there to a Peavey KB2 keyboard amplifier. The performance was recorded on a Zoom H4 positioned a few inches from the grill of the KB2.

This piece was written to take advantage of the strengths of the chromatic harp, and does it ever. I’ve been playing this piece since the late 1970s, and I find that on any given night it can bring out anything from jazz to hard blues. This night was on the bluesier side, and I like the groove. I hope you do too.

Have Mercy performed by Richard Hunter, 31 August 2013

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Live from Alpine Wines, 31 Aug 2013: Little Wing

This performance of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” was recorded live at Alpine Wines, Driggs, ID on the night of 31 August, 2013. The vocalist is Sue Berkenfield, with piano and harmonica by me (Richard Hunter, in case you’re confused about whose blog this is).

Sue Berkenfield at Alpine Wines 31 August 2013

Sue Berkenfield at Alpine Wines 31 August 2013

I play the chord structure once on (synthesized) piano, looping as I go; then I do a chorus with (live) piano over (looped) piano, then switch to harmonica, first for an “acoustic” solo through my vocal mic (which is running through the Zoom G3, with a patch designed for vocals with a slight amped edge), then for fills and a solo using a Digitech RP355 patch that includes a Matchless amp model coupled with a pitch shift of a perfect 5th up, and a delay line to add some mystery to the tone. (This patch is not included in the Huntersounds v16 RP355 patch set, but is included in the v16 RP500 set under the name MAPST5.) The harmonica is a Seydel Session Steel in C, played in second position (key of G).

Little Wing performed by Richard Hunter and Sue Berkenfield, 31 August 2013

The piano sound is created by a Roland JV1010 synth module, an aged but still effective device that includes a number of cool pianos. The harmonica mic for the RP setup is an Audix Fireball with V element. Everything, including instruments and vocals, is running through a Peavey KB2 keyboard amp, and is recorded by a Zoom H4 sitting a few inches in front of the amp grill. That’s about it for the gear.

A few notes on the harmonica blocked on the second solo; somehow I got them unblocked again. I think the sound and conception are cool enough to carry it through stuff like that, but there you go. We’re still living in a material world…

This is obviously a very cool song, and I love that it works so well with such sparse instrumentation, including an acoustic harmonica sound. Placed side by side with the heavily effected harp, the acoustic harp sounds every bit as otherwordly. The ending is a little abrupt, but up till then it’s very effective.

Dig.

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Figuring out the Loop Layers for “Mellow Down Easy”

I’m back in my home studio, working on my looping, getting the songs and the related sounds together. I love big low-frequency layers, because it’s a new sound for the harp with a lot of power, so I’m making lots of stuff that sounds like Morphine would have if Morphine had played harps through Digitech RP355s.

Here’s a cool sound: just a drum loop (that somehow put me in a Little Walter “Mellow Down Easy” frame of mind) with my CH-VIB patch from the v16 Huntersounds patch set. This patch is heavily distorted, with a vibrato to add even more movement, and it fills a lot of space all by itself:

Mellow Down Easy Jam RP355 CH_VIB

Here’s another version of the loop, this time with a low bass riff that’s played with a double-octave down patch on the RP355, reinforced with a Zoom G3 patch that includes a low octave double, a vibrato, and an autowah, in that order. The lead is the TW_8DW patch from my v16 Huntersounds patches; this patch has a Twin Reverb amp model with a low octave double and a wah wah.

Mellow Down Easy Jam–RP355 TW_8DW TAKE 2

These samples were recorded with my Zoom H4 a few inches from the grill on my Peavey KB2, and presented without edits. Stay tuned for more as a I continue to develop the solo electroharp repertoire.

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A blast from my past, courtesy of Randy Singer

Randy Singer is one of the best-known harmonica players in Miami and thereabouts, and we’ve known each other since roughly 1980. Randy just unearthed the clip below and sent it to me, and I was glad to get it. It’s a solo I played on a live recording of a performance of Phil Gentile’s song “Hey Brother (Come On In)”, an uptempo tune in a gospel-ish style. The harmonica performance is flat-out all the way; nobody likes athleticism better than a young musician, and I was in my mid-twenties when I recorded this.
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Recording “Copper” Episode 19: An RP255 and a Fireball V Does It

As I noted in a previous post, I got a call Friday night from Brian Keane, a composer and producer that I’ve done a number of sessions for. Brian wanted me to record acoustic harmonica for a scene in a BBC series he’s scoring called “Copper”, which is directed by Barry Levinson. I went over to Brian’s studio that night to get the concept right, and we set a studio date for today (Monday April 22, if you’re keeping track). Over the weekend I recorded three takes in my kitchen using an Audix Fireball V mic, a Digitech RP255 (connected to the computer via USB) for the audio interface, and my laptop computer, which is running Cakewalk Sonar 8.5. I exported the takes from Sonar and emailed them to Brian, and when I went to the studio today to do a few more takes on parts of the cue, I found that he’d already put together a composite track with the best bits from the tracks I recorded in my kitchen.
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Getting all Emotional for “Copper”

I got a call last night from Brian Keane, a producer I’ve worked with on a number of projects. Brian is scoring this season of “Copper”, a BBC series about a detective in New York City in 1864, directed by Barry Levinson. The episode Brian is working on now (episode 19, in case you’re counting) has a scene with some VERY big emotions in it, and he’s decided to use harmonica as the lead instrument for the cue. Normally strings would do the job, but as Brian said to me once, in emotional terms, harmonica is the street version of a violin.
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