Greg Jones at 1623 harmonicas alerted me to this Youtube vid of a track I played on last year for producer Bobby Flores, whose studio is based in Austin TX. I recorded the harmonica in my home studio, playing similar takes on two different harmonicas, low and high Fs. (I think both were Manjis.) Bobby did some really nice things building the arrangement with those parts. I tried recording first with a handheld Audix Fireball, and the tracks sounded okay, but the parts really lit up in the high midrange and up when I recorded through an Audio-Technica AT4050 CM5 large diaphragm condenser into the Focusrite Saffire 2i2.
I wasn’t given a lot of instruction on how to approach the parts, and in the end I listened to the words and focused on “painting” them in sound. (Hard to go too far wrong when you start with the lyric.) There are a wide range of harmonica techniques on display in this piece, but about zero fast flashy stuff. The emotions are conveyed through tone and texture more than line. One other really cool thing about this piece is that piano, harmonica, and guitar all have their places to shine–taking the lead in the accompaniment mix–without using up run time on solos. The instrumentation doesn’t change, but the instrument that frames the vocal does. The sound is evolving constantly. Like I said: very cool.
It all musta worked, because Bobby put the harp in lots of places in the mix, including the end, where a long harmonica chord with hand vibrato finishes the piece. I’m glad to have played on it–it’s a cool song based on an unusual idea, and everyone in the band clearly knows what they’re doing.
Check out these records by Richard Hunter!
the 21st century blues harmonica manifesto in sound
the rock harmonica masterpiece
the solo acoustic harmonica masterpiece