I started the day at SPAH by participating in a panel featuring players who play both chromatic and diatonic harps.  It was a good session, with lots of people in attendance.  One thing that became very clear is that one reason the panelists could play both diatonic and chromatic harps is that they spend a lot more time than the average guy practicing their instruments.  So I focused a lot of my comments on how you can pick up chromatic without spending 2 hours a day on it (e.g. pick a 5 note phrase that you like and practice it in all 12 keys).  I learned a few things about practicing, like a nifty little scale exercise Allen Holmes described for diatonic.  And I heard some cool harp, especially from Michael Peloquin, whose playing I’m really enjoying at this show.

Randy Singer and I hosted our session on electronic effects in the afternoon, and it was less heavily attended, which surprised me but shouldn’t have.  I mean, harp players just do not use a lot of gear.  If you ask the typical guitar player how many effects pedals he or she has, the guitarist runs out of fingers at least, and maybe toes, counting them up.  When we asked the harp players in the room how many effects they had, 3 (out of about 20) owned a delay pedal, 3 more owned a reverb, and one owned a distortion pedal.  This is not a crowd that digs hardware.

Anyway, I went through my Effects 101 story (the mic is the first thing in your chain, the amp is the last; put your effects in the order of compression, amp modeling, pitch based effects, time based modulation effects, delay, and reverb; yada yada), and Randy demonstrated some of his effects, plus the change in the sound that occurs when you switch mics (from his Fireball to a hot rodded Turner blues mic).  The audience seemed to like it.   I don’t know how many of them are going to buy an effects stack next week.

Right after my session, I went to hear Charlie Musselwhite talk about his life and music. The way he told it, he basically fell into his career; he started hanging around with musicians, then he started playing with them, then he made a record, and things went on from there.  Very unusual in this era of careers scripted from age 9, but then Charlie’s a musician, not a pop star.

After that, I hung out with Jason Ricci for a little while and talked harp (and gear–Jason DOES use effects).  Learned some cool things about playing fast (like when and when not to breathe from the chest), and heard some very enlightening harp licks. 

The day’s not over–I have a brief performance with Randy, and a jam to go to tonight.  But first some work for my day gig.  Then more later.