Been going to a monthly blues jam. Well established session, really nice supportive folk. Relatively few harp players though. I think the reason might be how the PA is being managed.
The usual set up for harp is an SM58 into the PA. Nothing in the monitors, to avoid feedback I guess. With this rig I can't hear myself unless I use earplugs and I have no idea what I sound like out front. Sitting in the audience I can't really hear the harp player.
I have small harp amps etc at home so the poor harp tone is a bit frustrating.
Last night they had a go at setting up some sort of harp mic for another guy. It started to sound interesting then the feedback happened and it all got turned down again. Couldn't hear him after that.
It feels to me like the Sound Guy doesn't understand putting harps through the PA. However, neither do I really and I am the new guy. So no change in the near future. Each little jam session is only up for two songs and the set up is well established so taking time to experiment with kit etc seems unlikely to happen.
On the drive home, two possible solutions occurred: Find (or get someone to create) some sort of info sheet for the Sound Guy. Buy some sort of anti feedback box and ask him to plug it in and hope it works.
I read on this forum that this is not an uncommon issue. I would love to get in there and just start fiddling about with stuff to understand how to make it work. But I do want to tread very lightly on the political front.
It's an ongoing struggle. Part of the cause is, harmonica itself is a difficult frequency to amplify when volume goes high or even medium. Then you run into this: The sound guy has you play a bit into the mic with no other input and sets the p.a. Then 2 things happen, the band kicks in and that right there can wipe out the initial settings on the harp channel. As the set goes on and the night progresses, the drummer gets louder and the other instruments get turned up as well. Then since you can no longer hear yourself, you both step into the mic closer and play LOUDER. Feedback guaranteed.
Personally on the rare occasions when I am at a big jam, I stay back from the mic especially if I'm singing too. My amplification needs for voice are very different than those for harp. Makes it pretty hard. I can get by with vocals sounding good and then MAYBE harp sounding ok, if I'm careful. Mostly these days I'd rather go total acoustic, or just do the duo thing and run my own p.a. in a small to medium room. I want to play and sing and sound good to great. The struggle is not so worth it if the end is I'm not happy with my sound due to volume and sound guy issues.
But that's just me! ---------- Music and travel destroy prejudice.
I live in a small town with a weekly blues jam that I don't go to. It's too loud. Plenty of people agree and don't go. Why can't they fix it? I really don't know. But guitar players often need to grow up a little or just generally STFU. Ok, venting. it suspect you're dealing with a situation that's really loud and scenes like that are notoriously difficult for harp. It's an arms race that requires a 6-10 Harp King and solid technique to win - on your own. If you have a sympathetic PA situation you have other options but it's still tricky territory. I have a pedal board and a wireless mic setup that can manage most situations. But, like I said at the outset, I'm not interested in the battle. And neither are the customers.
At loud jams, going directly into a vocal mic solves so many problems, but one must have that "no doubt confidence" in what they are playing and not rely on "that amp crunch sound" to get across - instead, play interesting ideas...
I usually tell sound man to turn the highs to about 9 o'clock, leave mids at 12 and the lows at 3 o'clock...also, I usually play into the vocal mic as opposed to grabbing/cupping, but have cupped at times - then tell sound man to watch the volume and be aware of monitor sound - keep an eye on the stage for that universal "pointing at monitors and then pointing down" to have him turn them down if needed...a few seconds before the band starts to try out the sound and adjust with sound man helps, too. ---------- The Iceman
I have the same problem at the jam session where I play. Don't point the microphone at the PA speakers. Sometimes putting your body between microphone and speaker reduces feedback. Pointing the microphone upward towards the ceiling may reduce feedback.
They *have to* put you in the monitor. If they don’t have you in the monitor not only is it a problem for you, none of the other musicians on stage have any idea what you’re doing. You can wear earplugs etc, and get some idea what you’re playing but the drummer and guitarist etc have no chance.
The jam is pretty loud but it’s not outrageous at mid 90s dB.
Difficult as the new chum though. Probably need to get a sympathetic old hand on board with it.
I’d generally set the eq along the lines Iceman noted, the same principles at least, if not exactly the same marks.
But you absolutely need a monitor. What do they do with vocals? It really is not a very different concept. Do they expect vocalist to perform on the loud stage with no monitor? I’ve done both and I know which is easier. If you have a really special room it might be manageable or if you know your voice very well, but usually it’s a tough ask
I fond it best to bring my own amp so I'm in control of the sound. I bring a large amp so I can turn up if needed, but I keep it down as much as possible. Just make sure your rig is not a feedback problem.
---------- Jim McBride Bottle 'O Blues microphones www.bottleoblues.com
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