A slightly weird jam: am I too old for this s—?

I went to a jam session in Driggs ID on Sunday.  The players included a couple of people I’ve seen performing locally, plus a couple of outright amateurs. 

It was a weird session, partly because of the mix of levels.  One of the players, a woman I’ve seen performing locally twice, was baffled when I proposed a song that included a B major chord in it.  It never occurred to me that a performing musician–especially one who plays guitar–wouldn’t know how to play a B chord.  But there it was.

The weirdest thing for me, though, was the nearly complete lack of response from the other musicians after I played.  I play with plenty of respected musicians, and I generally get a very positive response from them and the audience when I do.  This time, I threw down on a few songs, and–nothing.  Not even a smile.

I’ve wondered what that lack of response might be about.  I don’t think it’s because I suddenly suck on harmonica.  When I listen to the recordings from the show at Alpine Wines, I like what I hear.  So what is it then?

I can think of two things.  One is that some people–including plenty of modern artists–just don’t know or care about the difference between executing well and not.  There’s a sense out there that the idea is all that matters, as opposed to the execution of the idea.  I’m obviously not in that camp–I’m of the school that says virtuosity matters.  (You’d think it would matter in a place like Driggs, where everybody talks about bluegrass, a style whose practitioners obviously know their ways around the necks of stringed instruments.  But maybe not.)

The second thing is a little scarier.  I was the oldest person at that jam, by 2-3 decades at least.  I wonder if I just looked to them like the old guy playing the harp?

Scary to think that might be the case.  But so what?  I’m not going to be thirty again anytime soon.  In the meantime, I’m just going to keep playing the best s— I know how to play.  We can let history sort it out.  We’re all young compared to the age of a rock.

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Electric stuff from the Alpine Wines gig

At my gig at Alpine Wines in Driggs ID on August 4, I did a few pieces with the looper.  It was a new and different experience.  The main thing I like about those pieces is the cool sounds that result from layering the harps with the Digitech RP355 and the looper. 

I discovered on listening to the live recordings from that night that, unfortunately for the recording quality, singing close to the vocal mic caused the Zoom H4’s inputs to overload.  So my vocal performances really degraded the overall recording quality.  I still have stuff to sort out where the balance between instruments and setup for the recording gear is concerned.  In the meantime, I’m selecting excerpts from pieces where the recording quality is acceptable. 

Here’s an excerpt from “Key to the Highway”. The looper is repeating a bass line played on Bb harp (maybe an A?) in second position through a Fireball V mic into the Digitech RP355, which is running a patch that uses a 59 Bassman amp model plus a two-octave down pitch shift.  The lead harmonica is running a Blackface Deluxe amp model. 

Here’s an excerpt from “Lo Rider”.  The looper has two layers: a beatboxed percussion lick and the same double-octave down RP355 patch.  The lead harp is playing through the RP355, with a Bassman amp model and a rotary speaker effect. 

I think these are some cool sounds, and it’s amazing how big the sound is with only two layers of harmonica. 

Stay tuned for more. 

Audio/Video Blog Hunter's Music Recommended Artists & Recordings Recorded Performances (live and otherwise)

A couple of recordings from the Alpine Wines gig

I’ve been listening to the recordings from the Alpine Wines gig in Driggs ID on August 4, and I’ve decided to share some of the pieces.  The recording quality, as usual for a live gig, is good but not great.  It’s a live gig; there is crowd noise.  But it was a good sounding room, and the performances are pretty cool.  I’ll post links to a range of pieces, including some of my acoustic solo repertoire and some of my new electric sounds, over the next few days. 

Today, you can check out my performances of “Billy the Kid” and “The Longing”.  I’ve recorded “Billy the Kid” on several occasions; this performance is played on a Lee Oskar Country-tuned harp in Db, and it’s strong.  “The Longing” is played on a Lee Oskar Natural Minor in A (2nd position is A); this is only the second time I have recorded the piece, the first being the sessions for my CD “The Act of Being Free in One Act.”  This performance is miles ahead of the one I recorded in 1994.  

Both pieces were played into a Shure SM58 mic running through a Digitech RP250 with a slapback delay on it.  The RP250 was plugged into a Peavey KB2, and I recorded with a Zoom H4 sitting just below the front of the amp. 

More to come.  Stay tuned. 

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The solo gig at Alpine Wines on Aug 4 was killer

I played two solo sets at Alpine Wines in Driggs ID last night.  I’ve done solo gigs before, but this was my first 2-hour solo gig, and the first on which I sang, used the looper, and used my amp modelers.  Overall it was a great show, one of my favorites.

The room Alpine Wines occupies is long and rectangular, with lots of right angles and hard surfaces, and I thought the acoustics would suck.  It turned out to be a very nice sounding room.  I ran 3 amp modelers on the floor–one for harp, one for vocals/acoustic harp, and one for my Firestick (3-stringed instrument)–and it worked very well, I think, with a caveat. 

Shot of stage showing RP and amp setup

Richard Hunter solo stage setup August 2010. Left to right: RP355 (harp); RP250 (vocals); RP200 (Firestick). Boss RC-2 looper to right of vocal mic. Peavey KB2 amp at far right.

The caveat is that my recording of the show has distortion on the vocal mic, and I’m not sure whether the distortion was in the recording device, the amp, the amp modeler, or the looper.  (I had the looper running in the FX loop on the amp, so I could run any of the elements of the sound through the looper.)  My guess is that it was the recording device, because I don’t remember hearing the distortion in the room while I was performing, and the distortion sounds like a digital overload.  But the RP250 that I was using on the vocal mic wasn’t intended for vocals, so the problem may be there. 

This show was a big experiment for me, and it was successful.  The electronics and vocals helped me carry a 2-hour show solo and keep it interesting all the way through.  One thing I learned is that the looper is an instrument in its own right, and you need to be very sharp with your timing to make it work.  Another thing I learned is that  beatboxing coming through an amp modeler sounds really, really phat.

Both sets had plenty of good stuff, and I’ve already put some MP3s up on this site. 

And I’m looking for more solo gigs.


Got the new amp, phew

Okay, so I have this gig on August 4 in Driggs.  And I need an amp to play it: something that will allow me to project harp and vocals in a room with 50-80 people, all of them drinking.  (It’s a wine tasting.)  I have the gear in Connecticut, but I’m out in Idaho, don’t know a lot of folks, and there are not a lot of places to buy amps, believe me.

I ordered a Peavey KB2 keyboard amp from one online dealer, who not-so-helpfully listed the amp as in-stock, but neglected to say that the amp was on backorder with delivery expected around August 9.  Once I found that out, I started looking around all the online dealers.  Know what? Practically nobody had a KB2.  What, did everybody in the world decide they needed a KB2 at the same time?  Must be one hell of an amp, man.  Too bad I can’t get one…

I started to get desperate.  I had figured on buying a relatively small amp to perform in relatively small rooms, but it looked like I was going to have to double down on the cost and get something much bigger.  And a lot of the extra cost was the cost of delivery overnight.  

Finally, I found a dealer in Idaho Falls, about 75 miles away.  What do you know–he had a KB2, and he was willing to sell it for the online price.  And I could get it delivered overnight for another $20.  (Idaho to Idaho, no plane involved.)  Mike’s Music in Idaho Falls is my new favorite gear dealer.

So I got lucky.  But the real moral of the story is: don’t wait until 3 days before the gig to find out whether you have an amp.

Tomorrow night I set up the bass loops for all the tunes I’m playing with accompaniment.  Stay tuned for that story.  I’ve already listed out every tune I can play solo, with and without the looper engaged–the total was 37 pieces.  Should be enough for a 2-hour gig, even if I play them all fast, huh?

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Practicing with the looper

I started working with my Boss RC-2 looper today, prepping for the gig at Alpine Wines.  I find that it’s very effective to set up a simple 1 to 2 bar chord vamp for accompaniments.  I’ve had as many as 4 layers going at once.  I thought maybe it sounded a little too gimmicky, but my wife says it’s a good sound.  So many layers it is, at least until I hear the recordings from the gig. 

Ultimately I need my patch changes side by side on the RP355, just as I do for my setups with whyNow.  That’ll take a little work, but I really need it.  It’s way too slow to go patch by patch looking for the next one in a layer you’re building.   In the meantime, an interim strategy is to use the side by side patches I set up for different amp models.  The only problem there is that every layer in a patch will have the same amp model, probably not tops for separating the layers. 

I’m excited about this approach to solo harmonica, and I can see it’s gonna take work to make it happen on stage.  I love it.  I will do it.


Great blues radio and internet broadcast coming Monday

Our friend Tom Ball just sent the following email:
Dear music

Playing Alpine Wines in Driggs on Wed. August 4

I’m playing a solo harmonica show at Alpine Wines on Main Street in Driggs ID from 7-9 PM local time on Wednesday August 4.  Admission is free.  This will be the first solo show I’ve done in a while.  I plan to start out acoustic and then bring on the electronics.  I’ll sing a few tunes too. 

Originally I figured I’d get an accompanist, but my two top choices are otherwise occupied, and when I thought it over I decided that I can do this gig solo.  Two hours is a lot, but I have a lot of material to draw on, and I can improvise too.  I’m also going to practice up with the looper.

I’ll record this show and make it available for download.  Stay tuned. 


"delayed" won’t work…

Can’t name the harp power trio “delayed” because it’s already taken. 

Anybody got any ideas for naming a brand-new-never-heard-before-harmonica-power-trio?


Rehearsal with WhyNow July 20 2010

Rehearsed with the band tonight, great stuff!  Recorded our arrangement of my piece “Pull of the Moon,” stay tuned for the mp3.

Thinking of changing the band’s name to “Delayed”.  What do you think?

We’ll spend the next month writing new material.  Stay tuned for new music in September.