My son Dean Hunter-Cutrona, the painter and sculptor (check out his stuff here) was part of a group show at the 506 Gallery on 506 Main Street, Beacon, NY for the last few weeks, and I was asked to play at the last night of the show tonight. This was a solo performance, and I had to decide how to amplify the harp. I eventually decided against bringing an RP200 or RP250 because I didn’t want to haul along my big keyboard amp too, which was all I had available for this gig. (My small keyboard amp is in Idaho.) I decided to use my Fireball V mic into the Yamaha Magicstomp pedal (for reverb) into my Ron Holmes-modified Crate VC508. This is the first time I have ever played a solo harp gig with what amounts to a Chicago blues setup. It turned out to work very well.

I think the key to making this setup work for solo harp was the Fireball mic. If I had used a bullet mic, the chords would have sounded like mush. But the Fireball kept things clear while the amp added a little distortion. I used a medium hall reverb on the Yamaha with a 1.7 second delay, and of course the reverb got some color from the amp too. Finally, the room was basically a box, about 25 feet by 50 feet, with a wooden floor to bounce the sounds around and a bunch of people to absorb all those reflections. The result was a big sound with lots of power and plenty of responsiveness to playing style, all in a package that’s very easy to transport.

I’ve never played any of my solo pieces through this kind of setup, and it was gratifying to hear how nice it sounded and how playable it was. When I play out these days I generally use the RP350, and this was a good reminder that a simple tube amp plus reverb is a nice setup for harp. (The Magicstomp has great tape and analog delay emulations too, but for the solo pieces reverb is better.) I recorded the evening’s performance on a Zoom H4. I’ll audition the pieces tomorrow and maybe post something. I may also post some cuts from a jam session last week where I used the RP350 on a dozen tunes or so with a Behringer small keyboard amp, for comparison’s sake. As it happens, I played “Comin Home Baby” in both sessions, so maybe that would be a good one to post.