Harmonica Gear

From “Harmonica World” Apr-May 2014

A single ten hole harmonica provides a lifetime of music. Nothing else required.

True. For some. Not me. Over the years I’ve bought a fair bit of gear. Here’s a tour.

Starting with the hunt. Something you need. Or think you do. Different brand harmonicas. A new mic, or amp, or case, or pedal, or… You see it in a store, on stage, or in a blog somewhere. You read some online reviews. You don’t have the money. You really don’t. Then some magic happens. Funds for something else get diverted. It happens fast. Then you have “it”. Then you start again.

Sounds familiar?

I’ve been at this for 35 years now, and have kept most of the gear. Here’s a tour.

My harmonica bag: 11 custom diatonics (Neil Graham), 17 premium diatonics (Crossover/Manji), 6 premium tremolos (Tombo), 4 Seydel Saxonys (Octave tuned), 3 low Seydels, a Huang Chordet. Why so many? I use different tunings.

That’s the bag. I’m planning to add some Hohner Thunderbird low harmonicas. Now for the upstairs cupboards.

About 10 years ago I started using custom diatonics, then the premium models came out. So, my previous collection was retired, it includes:

20 Lee Oskars, 16 Special 20s, 7 Hohner Pros, 4 Big Rivers, 4 Tombos, 3 Suzukis

I run a harmonica site in China, and have researched Chinese diatonics. The upstairs cupboard has around 60 of them. There are also 3 chromatics and another 7 tremolos.

That’s it for the harmonicas. Now the other gear.

For some years I’ve been using an Audix Fireball V mic, with the Audix impedance converter. So, the Green Bullet and SM58 lie unused. In the early 80s a street performer in Washington DC gave me an original Astatic mic. I used it for a decade, then lost it somehow.

In 2010 I met Brendan Power at the Singapore Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival. I was intrigued by his rig. It’s a Korg Pandora PX5D multi effects box, which sits easily on one hand, runs all day on two AA batteries, and has the standard amp modelling/delay/reverb components. You program your own sounds (not too hard), then recall them via front panel buttons. I’ve been using it for three years. It hasn’t missed a beat, and has essentially replaced my other pedals.

So. Upstairs, in plastic boxes, I have the following: Fender Bassman pedal, 80s Ibanez Digital Delay, 80s Ibanez AD9 pink analog delay pedal (the classic, on loan to a friend), three Digitech RPs, Behringer reverb, acoustic pre-amp, graphic eq, switching pedals. a Boss Loop Station, two ART pre amps, and cables to connect them all together.

I do some recording with a Focusrite 2i2, and have two small mixing desks and a SoundKing 300 watt powered speaker for live work. Along with mic stands, cables etc.

Amps. Upstairs (again), I have a 1960s “Manaazi Manager” valve amp. About the size of a twin reverb, with a massive fat Chicgo sound. Also a 1970s Fender Champ on loan, in exchange for my venerable 1980s Peavey Studio Pro.

That’s about it for the harmonica stuff. But not the gear. I play recorder in a professional baroque ensemble, and have two handmade instruments, each around 20 years old, each worth around $1000. I also own half of the harpsichord and have a two metre wide music collection.

About three years ago I started button accordion. I love it, and play every day. I have 9 accordions.

I hold on to stuff, so the above is a fair indication of what I’ve acquired over the years (notwithstanding old PA gear which bit the dust along the way). Excessive? Perhaps. However each major purchase has addressed an immediate need, the gear has been used. I don’t buy stuff just to look at it. Technology advances account for much of the unused gear (and harmonicas).

My brother is a music professional, and owns a studio. Last year he downsized, his storeroom had 30 years of accumulated gear, all of it had to go. I sent my son over to help, within hours much of it had been moved via Gumtree. Perhaps I should send my son upstairs…

Anyway, enough about gear. I’m off to play my 1955 Gibson F hole acoustic guitar.