Kenny Boag of the “Blues Devils” reviews the Silverfish Harmonica Mic and advises on achieving that Chicago blues sound!

Kenny Boag

Kenny Boag - Blues Devils

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:

www.silverfish-harmonicas.com

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

 

 

Silverfish harp mics are Guaranteed!

Custom Bamboo Comb

Silverfish harp mics are Guaranteed!

Its worth rembering that if you buy one of my custom mics you are also getting a guarantee as

“all harmonica microphones are supplied with a 12 months warranty”

The Silverfish Harp Mics are incredibly robust and are precision built for reliable quality. They are very durable and should last a life-time. However in the event of a problem with any of the components all harmonica microphones are supplied with a 12 months warranty. This comprises a no quibble 12 months parts and labour warranty.

The guarantee excludes damage to the housing through dropping or miss-use and the guarantee is void if the microphone has been dismantled. The guarantee includes the cost of returning the microphone to you; however excludes covering your return postage costs. If you give me a shout I’ll give you details of the return address.

Just to let you know that customisated harmonicas are not covered by this guarantee. This is because the harmonica reeds and plates are made by one of the mainstream manufacturers (such as Hohner) and I have no control over the quality of their harps. Reed plates do vary! None the less ; although all reasonable concerns will be addressed relating to the customisation and comb – so no need for concerns. You’d be getting a quality harp that you will definitely be happy with – and eventually if the reed plate gives up the ghost, the customised work can be easily transfered to a new replacement harp or a new comb can be relatively easily exchanged.

Cheers Rick
www.silverfish-harmonicas.com

Silverfish Harmonica Microphone II

Silverfish Harmonica Microphone II

The Silverfish Harmonica Mic II is a speciality precision built custom mic for blues harp players with a superb ceramic element that provides a classic “blues” sound with rich sound textures with plenty of potential for distortion. The ceramic elements use the same old technology as the original crystal microphones from the 50’s but with the benefit of durability. It’s a fairly clean sound with a reasonable amout of headroom, so there is plenty of potential for playing with the sound – which sounds great straight into a valve or solid state amp – especially with a passive input socket.  Its size and shape provides an equally durable design which is smaller than a Marine Band and fits neatly in your pocket. Most importantly it is a perfect size for getting a really good seal for amplified harp playing. 

The mic fits comfortably in your hand and is easy to hold with a harmonica while performing. The volume control is also perfectly placed underneath for access while playing providing excellent control of the powerful sound output and alowing you to boost your output or control feedback.

The mic connects easily to a guitar amplifier or other high impedance input with a standard cable with 1/4″ jack plugs (not provided).

The mic is extremely light weight and its shape and grip enables you to create and hold an airtight chamber with ease. The hardwood cover is custom designed and protects the back of the harp from mic damage. It also looks brilliant with a nice flame to the wood grain. (By the way if you fancy a custom harp then I have provided a matching wood set so that the harp and the mic have the same bamboo – characteristic with a superb golden coloured flame to the wood – just let me know if you are interested!)

This is a superb professional quality mic with excellent tone. The component specification is the same as the Silverfish Harmonica Mic which is acoustically the same mic – the only differene is the housing.

You may like to know that the Silverfish Harmonica Mic II now comes in black or all silver alloy – which looks amazing. If you want one of these just add a note to me at the time of purchase. 

Cheers Rick

 

Silverfish Customised Harmonicas

Customised harmonicas

These are high quality precision – hand made customisations mostly using bamboo. This produces a hamonica with a comb that is as hard as nails (and highly resilliant to moisture), looks absolutely superb  but most importantly feels comfortable in your hand and mouth.

If you are interested see photos on this site or at my facebook page: (www.facebook.com/customharmonicasandmics)

Styles vary from oversized and rounded – fitting your hand like a glove – to a neat squared off comb that replaces the existing one producing a quality and unique instrument with a comfy feel and good looks.

The benefit of customisation goes beyond looks in that the harp is a LOT more comfortable to play with the holes slighted edged off and the rounded wood in your hand.

A range of colour tones – from natural through to very dark coffee coloured allows you to differentiate between your different keys through colour and style of the custom harps. In other words – it’s an excellent idea to have a range of different custom harps for different keys within your set! Although obvoiusly this would cost a bit so you may like to stick the ones you play most!

Please note: that custom harps are sometimes defined as those with reeds different than the standard manufacturer’s production harps. These harps have not been adjusted or re-tuned/gapped as it is extremely difficult to provide a modified reedplate that suits everyone. You can probably appreciate that these would produce both advantages and disadvantages – compared to the factory (out of the box) harps – so I’ve decided not to go down that route!

Anyway – if you are interested in envesting in either customising oneh of you much loved harps or getting a new one – then let me know and we can discuss details.  The shop on this website also alows you to buy a new custom marine band of a key of your choice (selected at the time of purchase).

£130 isn’t a lot when you conisder how long a hand crafted precision harp takes to build… roughly two days! If you are mad about harmonicas then it’s worth it!

 

Kenny Boag and the Blues Devils – playing a Silverfish Harp Mic

Kenny Boag

Kenny Boag and the Blues Devils are doing a gig on the evening of the 12th October in the “Ferry” in Glasgow. This is a charity gig with a great line-up including three other well known bands – promising a brilliant evening of cool blues music and some great harmonica playing from Kenny – using his “silverfish harmonica mic”! Kenny has been playing harp for nearly 30 years and is a self proclaimed gear and tone junkie – owning several vintage microphones and a silverfish harm mic (II) as well as a much loved and specially customised Fender Blues Deville amp.

Kenny has been playing the harp for nearly 30 years and started playing with bands in his early twenties, initially with a folk band before moving into a relatively successful rockabilly/blues band “Bluesville Express”. Gigging mostly in and around the central belt of Scotland, Kenny enjoying a minor renaissance at the time and the band did pretty well.
Kenny then joined a more traditional blues band “Bogus Bob” and played throughout Scotland before moving to the “Blues Devils”. It was one of those perfect and fortuitous situations bringing together four outstanding musicians with a passion for the blues; who also become close personal friends.

The Blues Devils now enjoy success and notoriety playing at blues festivals and venues throughout the UK which has included several appearances at the Great British Blues, Burnley, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Appleby Blues festivals. The band plays both cover versions of blues classics as well as their own material – featured on compilation CDs, most notably “Jocks Juke Joint Volume 3”. This album has won several awards and received rave reviews and air play across Europe, North America and here in the UK. Kenny has also written articles for blues magazines and websites on amplified harp tone and on building your own harp rig.
Why not drop in to the Ferry on Saturday night to hear Kenny perform some of his amazing blues! His performance is going to be recorded mind, and the plan is to post a link to some of his tracks performed on the night on https://www.silverfish-harmonicas.com soon after. So in case you can’t make it to the gig take a look on the website which will also give you a chance to hear the silverfish harp mic in action in the hands of a really cool harp player!
Rick

Welcome to the Silverfish-harmonicas Web Site

Custom Hohner Marine Band

Silverfish Harmonica Mic v2I’m Rick Park and welcome to my custom harmonica and mic web-site and store! I hope you like my custom harps and mics and find time to leave a comment – not just about the site and my stuff, but anything about harmonicas. Please help me get this site going – whether or not you fancy buying any of my harp gear!

I thought I’d start by explaining how I started my love affair with the harmonica.. it kicked off when I was ten (back in 1971) when my dad gave me my first harmonica – a diatonic honer harmonica in G – and taught me to play ”home on the range”. It was such a cool sound and that was before I discovered the blues! I’ve loved the soulful sound of the harp ever since then although I’ve still got a long way to go in all the instruments I play – harmonica, banjo and violin; especially the harmonica.

My coolest moment with a harmonica was during my travels on a motorcycle around Australia, a couple of years after finishing my marine biology degree (that’s my trade). As free as a bird I was traveling with my girlfriend and living in a tent; hardly any cash, wild camping and cooking meals in the open – living under the stars. It was good – really good! I had with me my Hohner Chromonica which I’d bought at uni, and I’d often pull a few tunes in the evening – enjoying the moment and passing lazy times.

I was in Queensland in a really remote spot, at the end of miles of dirt road, not far from a wooded creek which was lush with tropical growth and there was plenty of wildlife kicking about. It was another fabulous night – hot and humid with a sky full of stars. It was late and I was playing a few tunes when the wild dingo dogs joined in! If that doesn’t qualify as cool what came next definitely does. Excited and enjoying my wild accompaniment I was taken aback when suddenly a squeeze box joined in and skilfully played along! Now we were really remote so this was quite a surprise – but kept playing a while; ending in cheers, distant clapping and laughter! Another couple, German I seemed to recall, traveling and living their dream.

I’d love to hear what it is about the harp that does it for you, and some of the good times you’ve had playing along. Cheers – Rick