SPAH has announced that part of its program for SPAH 2014 will be the Harmonica Band reboot, in which attendees will have the opportunity to perform with a harmonica band featuring bass, chord, and diatonic or chromatic lead harps. I don’t have much desire to perform with a harmonica trio–its artistic appeal aside, it’s a format that excites little public interest in 2014, and I don’t see why that’s going to change–but the announcement made me think about some of the loops I’ve done lately in which the harmonica fills all the roles of a modern rock band except drums.
When you’re armed with a Digitech RP and one of my patch sets, you’ve got all the essentials for a basic rock or blues band. You’ve got bass sounds, sax sounds, organ sounds, chunky sounds for guitar-type chording, traditional amped harp sounds, and modern, exaggerated synth-y sounds. You can lay down multiple layers in a loop that fill out the sound spectrum from top to bottom. In other words, you’ve got a band.
The loops that follow all illustrate this principle in practice. They were recorded with a Digitech RP360XP into a Digitech JamMan Stereo looper. Both of them feature a bass line played on a harp that’s pitch-shifted down two octaves; one or more low-midrange harps, courtesy of the same pitch shifter set to an octave down; and a lead line played with an amped tone. There’s a “slide guitar” sound on the second piece, too. I did some crude beatboxing on the first piece.
These are rough performances, not polished pieces, and they’re intended to make a simple point: the range of sounds available in a Digitech RP with my patch set loaded is plenty enough to support a harp player who wants to create a full band sound. There’s no post-recording processing except for fades in and out. If you’ve got my patch set loaded on your RP, get a looper going and give it a try.
“Big Horns” This piece features one harp layer with my MA4D patch, which adds a perfect 4th down to the original tone, and another layer with an octave-down patch; the combination makes a power chord of root-5th-root. The harps jump out like a horn section.
“Quartet” The groove is a slow blues shuffle; the harp tones are dark blue. There’s a double-octave down patch for the bass, an octave down for low chords, a “slide guitar” sound and an amped blues patch for the lead.