Layers of sound

Last night I was discussing with several high level players the idea that if you listen to recordings of the great classics, you will hear tons of techniques and layers of sound being used but the most interesting and complex recordings are the ones that are not amplified. The consensus was that the more nuanced sounds can be heard on studio recordings when the player did not use a bullet mic and amp but played into the studio microphone. Less distortion resulted in being able to hear much more. What do you think? Do amps take away from some of the special tone and sound the harmonica is capable of?


Hi @davidkachalon

In my opinion, this is somewhat similar to acoustic guitar vs electric guitar – or basically any traditional acoustic instrument vs an amplified and distorted (or modified) version of the same instrument.

Distortion is not a “normal” sound of any acoustic instrument. Less or no distortion can result in hearing things that are otherwise … well … not distorted! On the other and, amplification and distortion permit the sound produced to be something that cannot otherwise usually be done.

So I see this as being like comparing “apples” and “oranges” – you might prefer one over the other or you might like both equally. But in the end: apples are not oranges and oranges are not apples!

– Slim :sunglasses:


I agree…and I do like both! My belief is that certain sounds can definitely be heard better with amplification (such as ghost chording.) That was the main thrust of the conversation. How some sounds are heard better and how others are distorted or might disappear.


Yeah ghost chording sometimes comes through more in the amplified sound, but I agree generally unamplified it’s easier to hear all the details.

Though some of it might also be recording technology. A lot of the most popular amplified stuff was recorded so long ago.


Even now when playing through an amp vs a vocal mic, I hear so much different contrasts between the two. Happens when I sent the amp with little to no distortion.