Click her for Silverfish Harp Mic_Sound Sample
Hi, my name is Kenny Boag and I have been playing harp since I was 17 years of age that means I have been playing for …….. well a long time! For a large part I have played in electric bands covering a range of genres including blues, rockabilly, folk and even pop! However I have mainly played in blues bands and my first and abiding love is still big, fat Chicago blues! This has required me to immerse myself in the quest to find and develop that iconic Chicago amplified tone. It has been a long and expensive journey where my many mistakes and preconceptions have led me down blind alleys and involved hasty and ill-advised expenditure. In all of this I have learned a number of key lessons:
Little Walter sounds like little Walter because he was Little Walter!
About 80% of what makes his sound is down to his acoustic style, the way he mixes tongue blocking and lip pursing – his ability to move between single notes and chords and octaves, the size of his hands and the shape of his mouth. The remaining 20% is down to the microphone and amplifier or in his case the tube driven PA he used to play through. Unfortunately many will think the opposite, like I did, and neglect the fundamentals and think they can buy that sound with a combination of expensive mics and big amplifiers. WRONG! Get you acoustic playing and fundamental sound and style right and your gear will add the finishing touches not the other way round. Look at James Cotton – basic vocal mic straight into the PA and what a sound!
Set a budget
I have spent well over £2000 pounds in my quest for amplified sound. I have bought over 10 different mics, pre-amps, noise gates, feedback suppressors, effects pedals, vacuum tubes and amplifiers and lost a fortune on them all. Now some of that is linked with the above and some of that is simply that I fell for all the sales nonsense and hollow promises given. If you are going to buy, go and speak to other harp players. We have all made these mistakes to a greater or lesser extent and we are a collegiate bunch in the main that are happy to share our views and experiences. But like anything there is a Rolls Royce option and a mini metro option – you will need to be realistic and pick what is you and what you can afford but more importantly what it is you need. For example – if you are going to play in your living room then you do not need anything more than a small 5 watt amp and a half decent mic that cups easily. If you are going to play small pub type gigs then you have a variety of options ranging from a small 15 watt amp to a pre-amp that plugs into the PA – getting slightly bigger you may need a line out on your amp to the PA (depends if your guitarist thinks he is Eddie Van Halen).
I play regularly – I play mostly in medium to large venues and I have a couple of original Astatic JT-30 mics and I play through a customised Fender Blues Deville 4X10 60 watt amp. That is far too much for a small pub gig and on the odd occasion I do play smaller venues I have a custom built preamp that I plug straight into the PA. So, its horses for courses and you should pick what suits and make the best of it.
Decide what you want to sound like
We all have harp heroes that we want to aspire to sound like. Mine are original guys like Little Walter, Sonny Boy, James Cotton and Paul Butterfield but I also love more modern players such as Rick Estrin, Andy Just, James Harman and Lester Butler. But if your boat is floated by Sonny Terry then you don’t need a big rig. Be careful and chose what suits.
Silverfish Harp Mic
So – following the above are essential. I have recently acquired one of Rick Park’s most excellent Silverfish Harp Mics. When it arrived I was firstly struck by its shape and size. I am 6’5″ tall and I have big hands but even I struggle to cup a big bullet mic solidly for 2-3 hours of playing in a hot and sweaty venue. This beauty is easy to cup and easy to get a good seal on – one of THE most important aspects of great amplified tone. In addition it has probably the best placed and easiest to use volume pots that I have ever come across. That makes varying tone and volume very easy and as well as managing the harp layer’s nemesis, feedback, much more achievable. As far as tone – this baby barks really well at the bass end and covers the mids to high tones with little or no break up or squeal. Its range is terrific and its versatility a joy. I will be shortly be recording a Youtube video where I will demonstrate this in a bit more detail.
In short I really like the Silverfish Harp Mic and it is now firmly a feature in my gigging back-line. I would have to be honest and say that it would not replace my vintage mics as first choice for playing with an electric Chicago Blues band. But you should bear in mind that at less than a third of the price the trade off in tone is well worth the price and on that basis I would recommend this mic for those of you that don’t have the where-with-all to shell out £300 on a vintage bullet mic but still want excellent performance and a great sound. I have started playing as part of an acoustic duo and the Silverfish Mic gives me great service in that format as it allows me to blend an acoustic and amplified sound to great effect. I have received numerous enquiries from fellow players and I suspect they may soon be beating a path to Rick’s door or visiting his website:
I hope this helps and if you want to chat more then I can be contacted through the good offices of my mate and harp expert Rick Park of Silverfish Harmonicas!
Kenny Boag of the Blues Devils