Q: What amplifier should I buy if I want to get that Little Walter Chicago sound ?

A: A small vintage tweed or Blackface Fender (e.g.., Champ, Princeton, Bassman, Bandmaster, Concert, Pro, Super or Deluxe Reverb) or Gibson (e.g.. Gibsonette, any of the Les Paul GA-XX series) amplifiers seem to be the rage among blues harpers since their simple design and low power allow them to be turned up to a level high enough to obtain the ~dirty~ sound associated with ~harmonic(a) distortion~. Many harpers on list are using less expensive low power vintage amps and miking them to the PA and using monitors. Some have fashioned a direct box connection from the speaker or external speaker jacks (resistor network). There is a commercially available ~pickle plug~ that does this also

(FMI: "'Feedback' on Pickle Plug" 27 mar 95 JS)
(FMI: "Re: Feedback on Pickle Plug" 29 Mar 95 MC/HA)
(FMI: "Re: mic&" 13 Jan 95 MC)

Many amp gurus favor simple designs in lieu of multi-gain stages fearing losses between stages robbing tone. This is an extremely subjective subject and beyond the scope of this FAQ.

(FMI: Tube Amp Mini-FAQ

This latter faq mentions several books devoted to the subject of amplifiers from an electric guitarists perspective. Nonetheless, this information can be valuable and it would be wise to consult with such musicians and repair technicians/designers if you are at all interested in this.

(FMI: http://www.hpsource.com/vintageguitar/magazine.html)
(FMI: http://www.fender.com/)
(FMI: http://www.gibson.com/)
(FMI: http://www.emedia.net/sovtek/)

Two other booklets specifically aimed at this subject area, but are not mentioned above:

1. "The Quest for Tone in Amplified Blues Harp" by Pete Sheridan, originally a 3-part series published free in Kevin's Harps catalog, but now in which reprints are available for a nominal charge.

Potential Publications
23 School Street
Brunswick, Maine 04011
(207) 725-5839 Kevin D. Hagerty $7.95,

(Original editor of Mississippi Saxophone_, now edited by harp-l's own Tim Moody timm at sp-eug .d.com)

It is available from any catalog house in the US selling harmonica books (see suppliers above)


Buy the Book!

I cleaned up my tab for Sonny Boy's Help Me and made it into a short book. There's a Kindle version for 99 cents, and if you buy the paperback you get the Kindle free.

Playing "Help-Me" In the Style of Sonny Boy Williamson II: A step by step, note for note analysis of some of Sonny Boy's Signature Riffs

I also write Science Fiction, so you can sample some of my best stories. Also available in Kindle format.

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The JT30 Page Popular links

I began collecting data about the microphones used by blue harp players before there was an internet. I began organizing it into JT30.com in the late 1990s. I accumulated more stuff than I remember. This is some of it.

Street Theory

A Harp Player’s Guide to Music Theory

Learning Harp

Picking Up Blues Harp

A guide to learning to play Blues Harp

Microphone Information

Usenet Articles

Harp Amps

I've been collecting Harp Amps for a while. This is the old Harpamps.com website. There is lots of information here. Here a coupld of links.

Harp Tab

A collection of songs and riffs that I’ve worked out over the years, plus some libraries of stuff I’ve converted to tablature. I’ve included most of the notes and instructions that helped me when I was learning to play blues harmonica.

Basic Riffs Simple harp tabs for songs Blues riffs and phrases.

Harp-L Archives 1992 to 2002


Harp Frequently Asked Questions