Field Report from Live Performances

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    Hi Melodicians,

    I have been playing a lot of live performances over the last six months in different types of settings and here is a summary of experiences:

    —I played at an all day blues jam (big electric thing with horns, two drummers, harp players, etc.). Soundman did not have me loud enough in the monitors. My Vox AC10 was not putting out enough volume on the stage. I ended up not really being heard. (I recorded the jam and could hardly be heard in the recording.) I blew too hard just to try and hear myself and I damaged one of my best keyboard harmonicas. (Spent $100 dollars to have Hohner tune it up several months ago, now it sounds like (bleep). Lesson learned (for the about 3rd time): don’t play in an electric environment unless the soundman understands your needs. Insists the soundman sets things up so you can hear yourself CLEARLY while play at normal volumes so you can have expressiveness and dynamic range. You will also save you melodica.

    —Whenever I am playing in a purely acoustic environment with just a few other instruments (acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, percussionists), I get the most joy and expressiveness from my instrument. In this arrangement, you can hear everything clearly. Every note counts and minimalism rules the day. Heaven. Just find a nice sounding space to play in.

    —I still enjoy playing my keyboard harmonicas through an SM57 or Shure Green Bullet mic directly into my Vox AC10 and using the onboard reverb. Soft or loud, dirty or clean, just add an acoustic guitarist playing some blues music and it is the best.

    —The other signal processing that can be useful are delay to thicken the sound and compression to remove the wide fluctuations in volume that can occur when playing free in front of a mic. It is very easy to play to loud by accident as you try to use mic technique. I must develop better mic technique. I would rather not use compression if possible as it does take away some dynamics, but on the other hand using compression helps you get a smoother, more polished professional sound.


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