Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On December 21, I had a studio session to complete the vocals and harmonica for a couple of songs on a forth coming NiteRail CD (assuming we finish writing it).  I chose to not be at the tracking session for these two cuts and hadn’t really had the chance to listen to them before going in. 

I do not have audio from the session yet.  I did take some pics and vids with my phone, but the quality of the audio was so bad I didn’t save it.  I will post the rough mixes on this blog after Christmas.

I used an Ultimate 57 plugged straight in to my HarpGear Double Trouble.  I chose to not use a delay pedal.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted a short or long delay (or combo) on one of the tracks, so I decided to add it in from the board.  Playing totally live in this particular room was really unforgiving.  No hiding any mistakes here!

I did mike both my speakers, which are not stock.  The condenser is on a Weber Sig Ceramic, and the 57 is on a Weber 8F125.  I felt the playback sounded pretty much identical to what I was hearing in the room at the time. 

For the two tunes, I was able to use quite a few harps.  On one track (“North Wind”), I used an A, B, and E…the other (“Eventually”) was an Ab harp.  The intro is in second position on an A harp.  Then I switch to a B harp to follow a key change during the guitar solo.  “North Wind” has some pretty crazy third position stuff towards the end on an E harp.  Originally I cut the solo to be very melodic and spacey.  The engineer suggested I try a few takes going all out.  In the end, I kept the all out track…it is fast, flashy, and intense, but it fits the tune really well. 

“Eventually” had me jamming over a short, funky vamp and playing back up harp (which is not something I do a lot of).  Typically, I’d play third position for funk, but this song was dying for some low harp.  In my head, I was totally hearing William Clarke, but the solo was so short (and only one chord) that I ended up with jazzier feel by phrasing around the 5th and 7th of the chord…almost like playing third position on the wrong harp!  I guess I ended up with a Carey Bell meets Pat Ramsey sort of thing going, ha!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I was out of state over Thanksgiving, but had a sweet new toy waiting for me when I got back!  I had sent my gig mic, an SM 57, to Greg Heumann at  For $129 he turned it into one of his "Ultimate 57's".  The mic works exactly like a regular SM 57, but besides the difference in appearance, the mic is smaller, lighter, and now has a volume control.

I also have an original volume control from Greg.  Because of the nature of using a 57 and his original design for the volume control, the stand alone unit could never fully turn off the mic.  However, the Ultimate 57 allows me to turn the mic "off".  This took me about one song to get used to.  I play a lot of rhythm parts and had to adjust my use of the knob.  With the other unit, I was able to roll it all the way counter clockwise and have enough signal to comp.  Now, I have to remember to leave it on about 50% or so.

Tone wise, the two set ups sound identical, which sound just like a 57 without the volume control.  I love my new mic!  It looks great, works great, and the difference in size and weight is of great advantage to me.

If it broke and could not be repaired, I'd for sure buy another one from Greg.

This mic is perfect for going wireless - although the wireless strips some of the Double Trouble's punch - just check out the difference in my mic rigs!

The Ultimate with the wireless transmitter is still smaller than just the 57 with a regular volume control.

Here is my "Lightsaber" rig that I hardly used due to the huge size.  If the wireless didn't suck tone (I try and compensate by running the tone control full out, but there is still some spank missing) I'd use it full time.  With amps that have a three band eq and not a "high cut" type knob, you can get the wireless to sound just like a cable, IMO.  I might put a small pedal board together this holiday season and hope that one of the pedals gives me some of the presence back.  The Kinder AFB+ kinda does that.  I'd like to note that I used the mic at one gig wireless into the AFB then amp.  The next night, I went with a cable right into a delay and then into the amp (no feedback problems at all...amp on 7 and tone on 6).

I thought I'd have clips with the new mic and DT for you, but no luck.  I thought we were taping our December shows, but that hasn't been the case.  Hopefully this weekend!  I thought about taping at home, but it is a full band setting that counts!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009


I've been out of state and swamped lately.  I did a gig with the DT this past weekend and it was amazing.  I also got to use my new Ultimate 57 from  I was supposed to record yesterday, but a broken pipe at the engineers house bumped me to later in the week.  I will post a full blog with pics/vids from the studio as soon as we wrap hopefully this weekend.

Friday, November 13, 2009

HarpGear Double Trouble

I put a 8F125 from Ted Weber on the bottom of the DT and a Weber Sig Ceramic on the top.  A couple of years ago, I ordered a Ceramic Sig S, and just last night I realized that the speaker is not the S!  My receipt says I ordered the S, but the speaker is not the S.  Oh well, I love it!  However, I ordered the 8F125 as a beefier Ceramic S.  Thankfully, the 8F125 is darker than I would have thought.  Works for me…but I could have ended up with two feedback prone speakers.

With only 2x8 and 18w, I like the ceramic mix.  The 8F125 has more bottom, but seems to be the same volume as the Sig.  I couldn't get a 8F125 or the like to fit in the top speaker slot…one 8A125 and one 8F125 might have been sweet!

I tried 2 AlNiCo, 1 AlNiCo with the Sig and then the 8F125 and then the current combo.  The amp seemed to feedback at the same point regardless of combination.  For each combo I placed the amp in the exact same spot.  I then stood in the same spot with the mic a foot off the grill on one speaker.  I then turned the volume up until the first squeal (tone on 10).  I then did that for the second speaker.  There was the same feedback volume (4) on the dial within a 1-2mm twist of the volume knob for each speaker.  Next I set the volume on 7 and tone on 6.  I then stood about 6 feet away from the amp and played to check tone and feedback.  I switched speakers out and then repeated.  Eventually I added a BBE Two Time in line.  The delay seems to be warmer/darker with this amp than the Fenders I've tried it with.  That is a good thing.  It really sounded excellent…but bare in mind this is all being done in the family room.  I think the room tends to create feedback more than most stages, but the amp will surely sound different at a gig.

I decided against the stock AlNiCo for the simple fact I decided a while back I don't like buzzy speaker distortion (couldn't replicate it with an AlNiCo in a Vibro Champ).  I am not saying that speakers or bad of the DT should come with different ones.  It might seem strange, but for harp, I am not a fan of lots of speaker distortion.  I like compression, but not the sound of an 8” distorting.  I don't think the DT is any louder now, but it does have a bigger bottom end.  Neither ceramic speaker seemed to fart out even with a Low F harp and tone all the way down.

Also, this amp is going to be used at a range of volume levels.  I think the “cleaner” ceramic speakers make the amp more consistent sounding from low to high volume.  Some players are going to prefer the smoother sound of the stock speakers at low volumes and the all out nasty flavor of the speakers when cranked.

I still have JJ 6V6 tubes in there with a GE 12ay7.  I was too lazy to monkey with rolling tubes as I have a limited number of 6v6 and 12ay7 tubes and time on my hands.  This week I'd like to try a Mullard 12at7 and JAN 5751, but I have a strong feeling I'll keep a 12ay7 in there.  The stock tubes may sound the exact same, I don’t know, but I have really liked the JJ’s in my other 6V6 amps.  I use a SM57 and can sometimes use hotter tubes and still be ok.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Amp

I bought a HarpGear Double Trouble this weekend.  Wow.  It was amazing.  I will write a large review soon.  I had a DT a couple of years ago and don't remember it kicking that much tail.  I did a full five-piece gig with the amp on 4...I could turn up to 8 without feedback.  It is easily three times louder than either of my Champs.  In fact, I sold the SF Champ and have the Vibro Champ for sale as well. 

I did the gig with the stock speakers and tubes, but have already subbed in some JJ 6V6 tubes and a GE 12ay7.  I plan on testing some Weber ceramics in the amp too.  The AlNiCo speakers are fine, but with the amp cranked and a low F harp, there was too much speaker distortion for my liking.  However, a lot of harp players enjoy that sort of breakup.  My preference has always been for ceramic.  I think the bottom end is tighter and the sound of the amp has a better spread.  AlNiCo has always seemed beamier to me.

But I am not an expert!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Check out the killer tone!

I was offered a Princeton Reverb Reissue for my Vibro Champ and a bit of cash.  Very tempting after seeing this vid.  The amp in this vid has 1x12 instead of a tempting!  I have some sweet tubes on hand for the Reissue, but would most certainly want a Weber 10F125 over the stock Jensen RI.

My bud Dave is trying to bring a Double Trouble to my gig tomorrow.  I am going to try and A/B the amp with the guitar player's Princeton Reverb.  Volume vs feedback will be the deciding factor.  I wish my Champ was loud enough for all my gigs!  On occassion, even with a good monitor, it won't be enough.


Casually I was asked about the harps I use on a forum today.  I use almost all Golden Melodies.  I have four Suzuki Firebreaths that I use as well.  I have a lot of "backup" harps that are typically GM's, but I also have a set of Suzuki Bluesmasters and Lee Oskars.

I am an overblow player, so the reeds on the GM's are sweet.  I like the out of the box feel of the FB's, but I've found I have to dampen the reeds to OB.  On fast runs, there usually isn't an issue.  If you listen to Leave Your Light On the end of my solo has a 6OB held with a "Chris Michalek" vibrato.  I have a tricky time doing that on a FB without dampening.

I do take time to work on my harps.  Tuning and reed replacement has been tricky, but I am getting better.  I try to tune to 443khz.  Draw reeds tend to flatten as you play, and the 443khz is what most my harps have been stock. I emboss, arc, and gap all the reeds, however, I've typically could get away with just tinkering with a few reeds. 

When I play, I don't blow too many harps last a long time.  I think this has to do with breath control.  I play some fast stuff from time to time and like to have the reeds be quick.  I feel that my tone and playing is much better when I don't breathe with a lot of pressure.  When I did the gig minus guitar, I noticed a huge difference in my technique.  The air pressure I played with was an all time low, and it really made playing a lot smoother and toneful. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I am not going to lie.  I've been through a lot of amps.  I rolled gear like crazy when starting out because I was to naive to realize you could do things like use different tubes and speakers.  I also had awful mic technique and was still trying to dial in my own style.  Then I got a Kinder AFB+ and got really bad because I could plug into just about anything.

I unloaded a totally awesome HarpGear Double Trouble and Bassman Ltd a while back.  NiteRail went on hiatus and I wasn't really gigging beyond really small rooms with my own band.  I ended up with a Vibro Champ and an Allen Old Flame, which is a fantastic 2x10 blackface inspired amp.  However, it has a master volume which isn't always great for harp or the Kinder.  I just sold it.

So now I have two Champs that will end up being underpowered for some gigs.  I need at least a medium amp.  I am thinking of trying to pick up a used Double Trouble.  I can't think of anything else around the volume.  I don't want to lug a 4x10 around.  Really, I am not that tone obsessed.  For me, it is always a matter of being able to hear myself over the drums and guitar.  Ok, almost always the guitar.

I LOVE the sound of a SF or BF Champ, but they can't always cut it at a gig no matter what the set up.  The only amp my guitarist plays is a Princeton Reverb now.  That's all I got to go up against.  And I have no problem using an amp stand or having the amp tilted up in front of me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Down in the Hole

Down in the Hole

I have most of my CDs stored in boxes and haven't even come close to ripping them all onto my home computer.  Somewhere tucked away in my basement is a store of Sugar Blue related disks.  Recently I added him as a friend on Facebook, and ever since, I haven't been able to get enough of his work with the Rolling Stones.  Down in the Hole is probably my favorite.  While the tune Miss You was the first song I tried to learn note for note (took a loooong time), this tune is all about tone.

Sugar has a very distinct tone and phrasing that is 100% Sugar....his use of the upper octave without overblowing creates a floating feel and creates a rollercoaster ride for listeners.  But on this tune, he shows the world that he can do it all.  This song is all huge, fat, menacing tone.  The amped tone is perfect for the tune and he adds a layer that the dueling guitar leads can't touch.  While reserved mostly to fill and a very short interlude, Dr. Blue makes this song one to remember.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gig Gear

Here is a list of gear I typically gig with. I plan on getting more specific with this and creating regular posts on how using a small amp(s) is going.

SM 57

Greg Heumann volume control

Gepco XLR cable

Peavy 1/4" transformer

1971 Silverface Fender Champ
(RCA 12ax7-A, RCA blackplate 5y3, RCA blackplate 6v6, Weber Sig Ceramic S)

1980ish SF Fender Vibro Champ w/ blackface cosmetics
(JJ 12ax7, RCA 5v4, JJ 6v6, Weber 8F125)

Most of the time, I use both amps at the same time. I do this using a Kinder AFB+ as a "boost" and running a Y cable out of that. If I use delay, which is less and less, I use a BBE Two Timer.

I also have a pedal board which includes a Samson Wireless, Micro POG, and DLS Rotosim that also house the delay and Kinder.

If you visit NiteRail's MySpace page, the first few studio tracks are the Vibro Champ with the Weber Sig installed. I am also using the Two Timer. There are two different sounds. On some, I have the amp on 4 with the bass cranked and on the others I have the volume on 6 and bass and treble around 4.

No guitar? No problem!

NiteRail's guitar player, Korey Hicks , is down with the flu. We had a gig October 23, and I found out the night before that he wouldn't be making it.

To say I was freaking out would be an understatement. The venue, Savoy's in Mankato, had been heavily promoting the show, and we did not want to let them down. Rather than find another guitar player, we decided to do the show as a four piece (harps/vocals, bass, drums, keyboards). With no time to rehearse, I tried my best to create a setlist that would let us get by without guitar.

The show ended up going extremely well. As a matter of fact, the new faces at the club didn't seem to notice that a guitar player was missing! I wouldn't want to do NiteRail shows without Korey on any sort of regular basis, but it felt good knowing the show could go on without him...and not sound like

Lenny at Savoy's was kind enough to let us play 45min sets rather than our typical 1hr+ sets. Below is the setlist we used...note all the blues...we also had our regular sub on the drums, and I wanted to keep things as straight forward as possible.







Blogging for Harmonica Players

My name is Mike Fugazzi and I am a harmonica player.  I started playing the harmonica in 2003 while I was in college.  After graduating, I moved to Southern Minnesota and began taking lessons with Clint Hoover.  My style tends to lean towards the contemporary side.  Some of my largest influences have been Jason Ricci, Chris Michalek, Adam Gussow, and of course, Clint Hoover.  For a harp player, I have a strong background in music theory and I play in various positions and liberally use overblows.

Currently, I play in the Minneapolis, MN, based roots-rock band NiteRail.  You can visit the band at  Several new studio tracks are available at, and we have some videos at

I created this blog to share some of my harmonica ramblings and hope to create resources for those taking a different path with the instrument.  In my experience, I have found tons of websites dedicated to blues harmonica from a mostly traditional stand point.  I would like to explore a more modern approach to blues harmonica, and the crossover of harmonica into other genres.  Hopefully I can share experiences that are unique to this blog.

Feel free to contact me via this blog as I love to talk all things harp!