What This Patch is About

This patch combines a basic Boutique Amp Model setup — one of the most useful “hard” amp models for harmonica on the Digitech RP200 (my favorite), RP100, and RP300 — with an Envelope Filter effect.

The Envelope Filter effect is fairly gentle. It doesn’t produce a pronounced wah-wah sound; instead it provides a noticeable, unusual accent on louder notes, like the sound Jerry Garcia used to get with his DOD FX25 envelope filter and electric guitar.

But harmonica does things a guitar can’t do, and this patch makes some other very interesting and expressive sounds. The filter responds to increasing pressure, and a good harmonica player can easily increase or decrease the pressure on a note over time. That means that this patch can be used to produce harmonica notes that include the sound of a filter opening and closing slowly over time, as well as brief, memorable accents. If you’ve ever wanted to make the harp sound like a synth, or a trumpet or trombone with a plunger mute, here’s your chance.

The GAIN setting on the Boutique Amp Model in this patch is set very low, and in general that’s a good rule for harmonica players to follow with all modeled amp devices. High gain works great with guitars; with microphones, it produces loud, uncontrollable feedback. Keep the gain low enough to avoid feedback and high enough to deliver some crunch, and you’ll be a happy harp player.

The RP series devices — in fact, all Digitech amp modeling FX, if reviews in the various musicians’ magazines can be believed — don’t have very good reverbs. I used the Hall program for this patch, but that’s just the best of a bad lot. You’d be better served by dumping the reverb altogether and dialing in a good reverb from a different device. In the meantime, this will do for live performances.

The RP boxes do have nice delay programs, and I used the MONO delay line for this patch. Feel free to experiment with others; many harmonica players will enjoy the various ANALOG delays in particular.

This patch will sound best when the output goes to a PA system or keyboard amp. Don’t put this through your Bassman ’59 RI and expect it to sound very good. Simulated tube distortion on top of real tube distortion rarely produces enjoyable results.

Finally, the RP100 has no expression pedal, so the settings for the expression pedal aren’t needed with that unit. For the RP200 and RP300, the expression pedal setting used here will allow you to bring the level of the Envelope Filter effect up and down, from zero effect all the way to big wah territory. (This patch is set up for the RP200, and a minor tweak or two may be necessary for the RP300.)

You can hear this patch used on my new electric pieces The Slide Song and Sade Tekno. Click here for details and samples.

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