Header Graphic
beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > "Hissing" when using a mic
"Hissing" when using a mic
Login  |  Register
Page: 1

40 posts
Sep 13, 2020
8:22 AM
I just started practicing with a Green Bullet and my Vibrochamp, and I find that I hear a hissing sound even with a good cup. it seems to be worse on the higher notes. The sound is good and overdriven.Is this a technique thing, or is the harp leaky? Any tips on starting with miking would be most appreciated.
6809 posts
Sep 14, 2020
4:09 PM
I’m not sure what you mean.
Do you only hear it when actively playing? I assume that is what you’re saying, and it’s not an interaction of the mic and amp.

I am reading between the lines a bit, but I expect it’s just your breathing being picked up by the mic. I mean, that portion of your breath which is excess to making the reeds move.

I definitely experienced something like that when I began playing amplified.
Mostly, the fix lies in awareness of the breath, and taking control of it.

I may be totally misreading the situation though.
41 posts
Sep 14, 2020
5:47 PM
SuperBee, that is exactly the case. The mic is silent when I’m not playing, and it is mainly on the blow notes. I think it is excess breath, but I wasn’t sure if it is me or a leaky harmonica. I’ve only played with my Rocket in C. I guess I’m playing too hard?
6810 posts
Sep 14, 2020
11:37 PM
If you are letting the air go as you have the mic in 'play' position, the mic will pick it up.

Its definitely something to work on. I think a good topic to raise which is common but not often mentioned.

Breath force and volume is part of the story. If you play with comparatively less force, thus less air movement, the breathing will be easier to control, you will be able to play longer passages before reaching capacity and needing to let a big breath go.

Find the opportunities to breath. This is like a singer finding the places to breath in. Usually on the harp, cross harp at least, you will be needing to find places to breath out, but the idea is similar. You can consider whether 3 blow can be used instead of 2 draw which might extend the time you can go without needing a big exhalation.

if its happening more on higher notes that is probably an indication that you are working a bit harder there than necessary. That is fairly common i think. It takes a while to get the hang of the higher notes.

Smaller reeds, smaller slots, just can't process the air at the same rate as the lower notes. Sometimes though, it seems they wont play unless you feed them at higher pressure. I had that going on for the longest time.

So, the specific problem of hissing sounds picked up by the mic seems to me most probably about that.

The stuff i discussed above, about opportunities to breath and getting back off the mic when you need to is still valid but maybe not the specific issue in this case.

i think my prescription would be to get some songs or licks and exercises which take you to that part of the harp and have you spending enough time there to really get a good feel for it.

i was going to say that for me it was probably about learning to play 1st position blues like Bright Lights Big City, but actually it may have been more like 'Americana' tunes like Turkey in the straw, red river valley, my old kentucky home, and those kind of martial things like yellow rose of texas, dixie, the caissons go rolling along, marines hymn, and things like that, but there are lots of things.
even just playing on higher key harps and focussing on getting the fullest, roundest sound with the least amount of air would probably help.

i saw one member here not so long ago talking about blow bending his F harp. i don't think you really need to go that far but that's probably the ultimate in subtle breath control. (i am ok with the 8 and not too bad on the 9 blow bend of my F but the 10 doesn't like what i'm doing to it)

oh, and breathing out through the nose, shielding the mic from the breath, is good if you have clear airways
Wailing ptarmigan
44 posts
Jan 10, 2024
5:07 PM
Reviving an old thread here.
Great ideas above.
I have found that playing amplified (Bulletini through a clean keyboard amp with Joyo american Sound pedal for eq/grit/drive/etc) definitely picks up more of my breath sounds. Even teeth clunking on harp, licking lips , harp clunking on mic etc. I've tried tweaking my pedal and found that less drive seems to equate with less extraneous sounds being picked up (drive=gain?).
It's a challenge for sure getting a slightly dirty sound without picking unwanted noise.
Is it just a fact of life that you have to use waaaay less air and basically play quieter when you start playing amplified? Would be nice to get some of the grit without the "mouth noise"

Last Edited by Wailing ptarmigan on Jan 10, 2024 4:59 PM

Post a Message

(8192 Characters Left)

Modern Blues Harmonica supports

§The Jazz Foundation of America


§The Innocence Project




ADAM GUSSOW is an official endorser for HOHNER HARMONICAS