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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > When to learn to cup with a mic
When to learn to cup with a mic
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Wannabee Bluesman
6 posts
Jul 14, 2017
2:27 AM
I have found much advice on cupping techniques but I have a specific question that I have not really been able to find answers to. Any advice or opinions would be gratefully digested.

I am just starting out. I intend to play amplified and eventually want the "dirty" sound. I am of the opinion that I should learn without the amp first and concentrate on basics. Wouldn't trouble me to put the mics and amp in a cupboard as a treat for 6 months time when I have got some basic skills.

One of these skills obviously would be how to hold and cup the harp. But then there is a separate skill of cupping a harp and also a mic.

Q1. do people tend to have a favoured cupping technique that means they do it roughly the same with and without a mic? Or do they use two different methods?

Q2 Given that one affects the other, am I better off
A - learning to cup un-miced (that word doesnt read as well as it sounds) and then one day introduce the mic...or...
B - establish which mic shape I like most and develop my cup with a view to the fact that the mic is going to be there.

I suppose this is a question of series or parallel. Learn un-miced and then miced cupping or learn the two techniques alongside each other?
2290 posts
Jul 14, 2017
5:02 AM
This is a difficult area I think! My personal view is that I'm looking for a sound, and that is the driver. The cup is only 'right' if it's producing the sound you want. The logical answer is then: practice with your mic and amp and listen to the results. But I expect there are other views.

I read all the advice and watched all the vids too. Everyone says you get ultimate cup by totally surrounding the mic and harp in an airtight chamber. I'm sure that's true, but I simply don't have enough hand to do that! So I had to compromise by copying those players I see who DON'T make a hermetic seal - and there are plenty of those. They still sound good IMO.

I reckon having big, and fleshy, hands and fingers must be an asset to playing harp. That's just how it is, just as it's useful to have a big span to play the piano.

Oh, Q1. The hand shape is a bit different cupping the mic, so the hold is a bit different too. For instance, holding a stick mic you'd use a couple of LH fingers to curl round the mic, whereas without a mic they'd normally be out straight. But there are various ways to hold the harp beyond the 'standard' grip, so I expect there are ones that are similar with and without a mic.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Jul 14, 2017 5:09 AM
137 posts
Jul 14, 2017
10:20 PM
Yes, get the basics down first. Personally I wouldn't recommend focusing on amp until you feel accomplished with acoustics. It's a different skill, like playing into a mug or handsfree. Although, I don't see any harm in tinkering with the gear if you have it.

Re: Q1, I have the green bullet and a something more like a Bulletini. I use a few different grips (XL hands). I don't feel like I'm using the same grips with a mic in my hands.

Re: Q2, A 1st develop your acoustic griping. Later, when you pickup a mic it won't be that tough to figure out.

And keep it fun.

It's about time I got around to this.
257 posts
Jul 17, 2017
7:16 PM
I'm not sure how this might apply to your two questions but I attended the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland Maine this past weekend where three great harp players performed both amplified and acoustically ( through a vocal mic). I got up close to the stage to observe their cupping, breathing patterns, style, etc..

Jason Ricci was one of only a few performers who got a standing ovation from the entire crowd (all performances were great and included the likes of Shemeika Copeland, Kenny Neal and Walter Trout). He uses an Ultimate 57 from Gregg Heumann. His cup varies and he holds the mic in his left hand with his ring and pinky fingers with his right hand doing the cupping. (He has an excellent video on this album n You Tube)..

Next up was Billy Branch who describes himself as "old school" who was using a stick mic that could have been an EV RE 10. He had a very loose cup, again holding mic and harp in left hand, covering with right.

Last up was Sugar Blue who was using a Greg Heumann custom wood bullet mic. His cup was a cross between left hand hold and what I would call a double hand hold a la Dennis Grunling. I also love the amped sound of a less known harp player named Lauren Williams (CD under L.C. Williams and the Driver). She has small hands and still gets a great cup on a fairly large JT 30 mic.

My point is they all have great sound, held the harp differently when playing into a vocal mic, had developed a hold with a mic that worked for them to produce their sound and all did it differently. Some cups were pretty tight (Sugar Blue and L. C. Williams) and others were pretty loose (Billy Branch) and some were too quick to really tell (Jason).

So perhaps to answer Q2, develop YOUR SOUND with just your harp then try some mics ( see posts a while back on this forum by Killa Hertz who suggests buying several relatively cheap mics to find your preference then maybe invest in an ultimate or a vintage bullet). There's no absolutely right answer, only strong opinions that might show up and you'll find what works for you.
4805 posts
Jul 17, 2017
8:20 PM
My opinion is that that's a pretty strong post! I like it Doc
jason campbell
102 posts
Jul 18, 2017
7:35 AM
Was also at the Maine Festival and was stunned by the tone that L.C. Williams can get, with a larger bullet mic and relatively small hands.
Wannabee Bluesman
7 posts
Jul 19, 2017
3:42 AM
Thanks guys

I don't always get the ability to reply quickly but I'm really grateful for your help.

I'm sure I'll have more questions. It's great to have somewhere where people are so obliging and helpful (and interesting). Thank you.

I have tried a bullet, a stick, a v. small lavalier and a Silverfish compact bullet (ish). I have decided to concentrate on the fish but to spend more time on acoustic cupping. Cheers.
263 posts
Aug 16, 2017
9:36 AM
I had another thought on this. As you're experimenting with cupping the harp without a mic, it might be an easy transition to go to a stick mic first. I recently purchased an EV RE 10 on eBay and I love the sound. I've had recent torn ligament in my left hand which has made holding my JT 30 uncomfortable. The RE10 is like cupping just the harmonica with the mic just held onto with the last two fingers of the left hand. Very comfortable for me.
294 posts
Feb 26, 2018
7:20 PM
Well since my last post on this thread I've had surgery on my hand and still can't hold and cup my JT 30 so I'm selling it. Anybody on the newbie forum looking for a great mic, go to for the for sale page, I posted it there today.

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