“Disconnected Blues” is one of the pieces I recorded for my upcoming record “Blue Future”. I’ve included two clips: the first 12 bars of the piece, and the first 12 bars or so of a 36-bar solo. These are sections from a very rough mix, but both do a good job of showing off the various sounds I’ve put into this arrangement.

The setup for recording “Blue Future” harmonica overdubs. Fender Mustang 3 at right, Digitech RP500 left, Zoom G3 in the middle.

The harmonica parts are all recorded on standard-tuned diatonic harps. In the first clip, all the parts are played in 2nd position with an Audix Fireball V mic into a Digitech RP500 running my patch set for Digitech RP. Those parts include:

  • an auto-wah sound that doubles the guitar line;
  • pitch-shifted sounds that take the harmonica down an octave and two octaves respectively to create a horn section. These sounds use a 100% wet FX mix. When you mix a shifted pitch with the original pitch, it sounds synth-ish; if you make the mix 100% wet, it sounds like a tenor or Bari sax, depending on whether you shift it one or two octaves down. It’s exhilarating to have all that power in the low end;
  • a sound that uses a Champ amp model and a rotating speaker (Leslie) effect to mimic an organ. I think it’s remarkable how well it works.

    The FX most important to taking new roles within traditional blues band instrumentation–the roles typically played by horns, organ, autowah and wah wah rhythmic filter sounds–are of course 1) pitch shifter, 2) rotating speaker, 3) autowah, and 4) wah wah, and all these FX are implemented brilliantly on the RP. The RP is indispensable for this approach, because it can produce so many radically different sounds in one package.

    The result, coupled with Mike Brenner’s lap steel, Mark Schreiber’s drums, and John Cunningham’s bass, is a very convincing full band sound with harmonica taking over a range of traditional roles.

    The second clip is the first of three harmonica solo choruses. All the harmonicas from the first clip are still in the picture. I originally recorded a solo using the autowah sound live in the studio with the band. After listening to it a few times and thinking about it, I replaced that solo with a harmonica in 3rd position playing an improvised lead through a Shure SM58 mic into my Fender Mustang 3 running my patch set for Fender Mustang amps (of course). I really like the Mustang for Chicago style harp sounds, which is what I ultimately felt was called for here–the power of a full-throated amp roaring at high volume. It’s a voice that commands attention. The Mustang lead doesn’t so much cut through as power through the big harmonica background. I finished the job by re-recording the autowah part for those 36 bars as a chunky rhythm part with a lot of squelchy filter quacks to juice it up.

    The different harmonica tones and registers help keep the mix from getting all jammed up in the middle, which is exactly what would otherwise happen with 5 harmonicas vying for the same sonic space at once.

    I’m very happy with the way this piece is shaping up, and it’s certainly something from a Blue Future. Enjoy.

    “Disconnected Blues” copyright 2018 Richard Hunter/Turtle Hill Productions, all rights reserved
    Clip 1: first 12 bars

    Clip 2: first 12 bars of harmonica solo