I did a session earlier this week with Brian Keane, a composer/producer I’ve worked with on a number of occasions, for a TV movie titled “Keepers of the Streak”, which is about four photographers in their 70s/80s who’ve photographed every Superbowl from the start. (The premise is basically an excuse to run a Superbowl greatest-hits highlight reel for 90 minutes.) The basic style of the music is modern country, which means country twang with a lot of rock influence, and the harmonica work for this session accordingly had a lot of amped-up blues-rock stuff in it.

I brought my Digitech RP360XP to this session along with 4 mics: the Audix Fireball, Shure 545SD with Greg Heumann Bulletizer on it, Bottle o’ Blues, and Shaker Madcat. The sound I ran on the RP360XP for everything (except the stuff that went through one of the studio’s large diaphragm condensor mics straight to the board for an acoustic sound) was my GA40 patch from my latest patch set for the Digitech RP360/360XP, which features a Gibson GA40 amp model paired with a 12″ GA40 cabinet model plus a slapback delay. This patch, which sounds like a Champ amp with more hair on its chest, has become my go-to patch for amped-up performances.

Left to right: Shure 545SD with Bulletizer, Fireball with inline volume control, Bottle o' Blues
Left to right: Shure 545SD with Bulletizer, Fireball with inline volume control, Bottle o’ Blues

We tried three of the mics I brought with me and quickly settled on the 545SD, which gave us a big tone with a lot of room for articulation. (The BoB was just too hairy, and the Fireball just a little too polite.) Most of the harp parts were in B minor, and I used an E dorian minor harmonica (3 and 7 draw reeds tuned down 1/2 step) on most of the material. One or two of the harp parts were in Bb minor, and the producer wanted to hear them in a lower range, so I used a low Eb harp, bending the draw 3 reed down a half-step, to play those. I also used a G harp in 5th position (tonic note = blow 2) when the producer wanted a low range for the B minor material. (I wished I’d brought a low E with me, but I didn’t, so there you go. That’s why I bring tons of harps to every session; it always seems like there’s something on the agenda that needs a harp I haven’t used in 10 years.)

The session was a lot of fun, and when the movie comes out you can check out the harp work, which is prominent throughout. In the meantime, let me note again that the RP devices work just fine with plenty of different mics. Different mics make different sounds with an RP, just as they would with a tube amp. And that’s fine, because changing the mic is a relatively inexpensive way to get a different sound. All four of the mics I brought to this session put together cost less than $450; at that rate, it’s a lot cheaper to change out the mic than to get another amp. (Easier to carry to a session, too.)