Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > How to set the pa for acoustic harp
How to set the pa for acoustic harp
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158 posts
Dec 02, 2018
6:16 PM
I have a gig this week that’s all acoustic, very similar stuff to what Jason has been doing with JJ. Doing a lot of cupping.
Tips on eq?
Should I use my lone wolf verb and MXR Delay?
2766 posts
Dec 02, 2018
7:44 PM
I don't know about your gadgets. If there is a sound guy at the gig he'd be the one to get with. Just in case, I'd bring my stuff. I would definitely show up early and check things out. To me a dedicated sound guy who deals with harp players is best but that does not happen real often in my experience.
Generally speaking, depending on what mic you use, the settings can vary. A rule of thumb I use is to drop the gain down, drop the highs, bring up the bass and mids a bit and go from there.

What mic are you planning to use? Very possibly Jason has a low z mic specific for his harp work. I like an SM57 in the p.a. While it's low z it does allow for good compression with a tight cup. I like mine in a stand so I don't have to hold it and cup as well as hold a harp. I got a Shaker a few months ago, one of the original dynamic style mics. I found out it's a mid range impedance. Pretty hot in a p.a. and with an IMT it does well in a tube amp as well.

I say good luck and get it done!
Music and travel destroy prejudice.



The Iceman
3721 posts
Dec 03, 2018
8:33 AM
Here's a suggestion to help you keep a little more control over your sound in this situation...bring the mic you want to use along with it's cable (hopefully a long one) and also invest in a DI box. This way, you can have the the option of low or hi z output to run to that PA board. (I always carried an extra low z mic cable and an extra guitar cable in case the situation or sound guy didn't have what was needed to run signal from the DI box to his mixer).

You say all acoustic gig and usually that means playing the harmonica acoustically towards a microphone - not usually cupping that mic. Then you can work that hand shaping of your acoustic sound to be ultimately picked up by the microphone. Lots of variables here to discuss, apparently.
The Iceman
1110 posts
Dec 05, 2018
12:45 PM
Some good advice above. I am also assuming you are playing in front of, not cupping, the mic.

I'd leave my boxes at home for that type of gig, make friends with the sound man and and get a decent sound check in before the show. If not possible, roll off highs and boost bass a bit. Likely the house system has reverb, most do. Dial that in, or turn it up 20-30% for a starting point (season to taste).

As with any PA gig, your monitor sound and the audience sound are not the same. You want it to sound good to you on stage. Hopefully that will translate on the 'main's' to the audience - but you can't control that.

Ideally the level would be set so you can vary volume with your own playing intensity - and by moving closer and further from the mic. You want to be picked up well when you are cupping, muting, wha wha-ing the harp with your hands, but not blow everyone out or get feedback if you get a little closer and louder. If you have a vocal mic you like - sure, bring it. If not, get used to playing through a Sure sm58 . 98% of house systems will have those. If not, other mic's can be eq'd and will work just fine when dialed in.

If you are nice to the sound person, it should be cool to ask for adjustments during a performance between songs - or with hand signals during a song. I point at the monitor then show thumb up or thumb down for more or less of 'me' in the mix. EQ and reverb adjustments can be requested between songs. on most gigs you can politely give that request over the PA.

Something to know about the sm58 and most mics -( if you don't already), - is the 'proximity effect'. That simply refers to the fact that you get more bass emphasis the closer you are to the mic.

I play both purely acoustic gigs and electric gigs through vintage tube amps with a hot mic. Different animals but good tone will come through either way. There is a different type of finesse available- as well as more clarity and definition available, playing acoustic in front of a good mic set up.

It's good experience to get comfortable with both. Knock em dead.
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Last Edited by bonedog569 on Dec 05, 2018 1:04 PM

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