Hello and welcome to this week’s harmonica lesson where I will be showing you how to hold a harmonica microphone in order to get a decent amplified harmonica tone. I will be looking at both Bullet-style and Stick-style microphones. There are other ways to hold a harp mic but I am just going to show you how I do it.
Holding a harmonica micophone
The key to good “electric” harmonica tone starts with good “acoustic” harmonica tone. This means that you need to be able to get a good tight cup round a harmonica before you even start playing with a microphone.
Once you can comfortably get a deep tone acoustically on the harmonica you can try a microphone. The principal is the same as normal cupping except you now have to deal with an extra piece of kit.
There are two main types of harmonica microphone – “Bullet” microphones and “Stick” microphones.
One of the most common bullet microphones is the Shure 520DX otherwise known as a “Green Bullet”.
They plug into an electric guitar amplifier no problem and in the right hands will give you a great and an instantly recognisable blues tone.
However, there are some downsides that you need to bear in mind; they are heavy and quite large which makes them quite hard to cup if you have small hands. Furthermore the cable is hard-wired which leads to tangling nightmares!!
Click here to buy a Green Bullet from Amazon (I get a small commission if you do this)
There are a number of amazingly crafted custom bullet microphones out there. You can get exactly what you want if you have the budget for them.
One of my personal favourites is the BlowsMeAway Wood Bullet Microphone. They look fantastic but the main thing for me is that they are light weight and very comfortable to hold and cup. This means GREAT TONE!
Click here to find out more about BlowsMeAway Bullet Microphones
Small Bullet style microphones
There are a variety of smaller bullet-shaped microphones which are much easier to cup and get a decent sound with.
Silverfish Dynamic Bullet
Silverfish microphones are an excellent place to start if you have never used a microphone before. They are small, light-weight but solid and an absolute bargain!
I will be doing an in-depth review of these microphones very soon so don’t miss that!
Click here for more info (this will take you to Silverfish’s website)
Shaker Retro Rocket
The Shaker Retro Rocket is really small and comfortable to hold. You can get a really tight cup which makes for a thick overdriven sound.
I personally use a Retro Rocket quite a lot of the time. I especially like it for that thick honky sounding blues tone!
Click here for more info (this will take you to Shaker’s website)
Stick microphones have normally been designed for vocals or other instruments but don’t let that put you off. They normally have a smaller diameter than the bullet-style microphones which makes them easier to cup. I also find them easier to get a great “acoustic-style” tone when I’m not cupping tight.
This is the industry-standard microphone for electric guitar amplifiers which means that you can get hold of one absolutely everywhere – great for trying.
They are easy to cup and distort really nicely. However they are quite long/heavy and take some practice to keep a hold of.
That said, in my opinion they are one of the best places to start and worth taking the time getting to grips with.
Click here to buy an SM57 on Amazon (I get a small commission if you do)
If you are just starting out with electric playing I would recommend you get something small, cheap and light so that you get used to extra difficulty of holding a microphone. Plus, like with settling on a harmonica brand, you are probably going to want to try a bunch of different microphones before you settle.
If you want more info Greg Heumann has put together an amazing resource about things to consider when choosing a harmonica microphone. You can download this by clicking here.