Recording harmonica to DAW Software

Has anyone had any experience with recording harmonica to DAW software? I have a basic set up - Windows laptop running Ableton Live 11 Intro and a low price USB microphone by Mackie. I imagine it is a fairly simple process - sit in front of the microphone and play - but any hints and tips would be appreciated.

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@jeffw,
I tested some on the laptop under Windows 10 and 11.
Among those that are partly bought, I like to use Audacity. It’s fairly easy to use, works well for the most part, and it’s free.
With the microphone you have to see what your claim is. I started out with a very inexpensive one and now use the Shure 55H Series II, plus a small Behringer amp.
The short video I posted here the other day was only recorded with my smartphone.
Take the time to research and compare prices is important. Otherwise you buy more than one.

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Thanks. I’m going to stick with what I have at the moment. I have a paid for version of Ableton and want to see how it goes with the Mackie microphone before trying others. To start with I’ll experiment with things like sound and volume levels when recording, how close to have the harmonica to the microphone, trying out multi track recording e.g. I use midi keyboard controllers and a midi wind instrument controller so mixing midi and audio tracks. I’ll probably try recording with my Android phone also.

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You are on the right track @jeffw. That’s exactly how I approached it on the PC.
I use my cell phone depending on what I’m recording for. The quality is of course better on the PC, but the time required is also significantly greater. I don’t know your microphone, in the end you have to be satisfied.
I think the better and safer we play, the greater our demands. :slightly_smiling_face:

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You’re on the right track there. It’s all about experimentation. :ok_hand:t3:

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I recorded some harmonica the other day, it came out well. I just treated it as a vocal, 4 to 6 inches from the mic, with a foam pop filter on the microphone.
I wasn’t using any hand techniques though, and that may change things, I imagine some compression might be needed to maintain an equal volume if you’re using hand wah etc.
I’m using cheap condenser microphones, Neewer 700 and 800s, and got great results.

For that ‘live’ sound, where you’re holding a mic in your hands while playing, a dynamic microphone would be a better choice, but I haven’t tried that yet.

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Just for future reference, playing the style where you treat it as a vocal we call "acoustic"playing and the style where you’re holding a mic in your hand we call “amplified.”

Amplified playing will sound best played through some kind of bullet mic or a Sure SM57 INTO AN AMP, and then mic the amp. Although you could probably achieve an acceptable result plugging a hi gain bullet style mic straight into an interface and using some kind of amp emulation plugin.

For amplified style playing if it’s not a bullet style mic, 57’s are probably the go-to because they’re easy to cup, and getting a really good seal on a mic is part of what makes it break up and give it that dirty sound.

But yes, condenser mics are very common for recording, or ribbon mics are probably even more preferred if you happen to have one.

It’s all about experimentation though. Sometimes the strangest things turn out the coolest results!

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Thank you for the advice. I’m highly unlikely to play “live” so experimenting with recording using my condenser microphone is the way forward for me. I had wondered whether some sort of filter might be a good idea. Anyway I will give it a go when I’m home from the mountains! By the way I brought with me my trusty Lee Oskar and Hohner Rocket but have not treated the local sheep to an acoustic show as yet!

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Two types of pop filter.
I use these most times…
61H59bG7mzL.AC_SX425
…but you might need this type if you’re really playing hard.


I recommend trying a free plugin called TDR Nova. It will even the volume out a bit using it as a compressor (for the easiest use, move the blue line to -3), and by using the high pass filter, you can get rid of any unwanted hum. It can do much more, but just using those two functions will improve the sound, without you hearing any ‘production’ going on, it’s very transparent.

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I don’t use a pop filter when I record harmonica because I’m generally like 2-3 feet away, and even it I were closer I don’t think I’d ever generate enough air pressure to be problematic (like the plosives on a “P” when someone sings.)

But yeah, I’m with you @Dave_Dunn I always put a high pass filter somewhere between 60 and 100 Hz to take away unecessary rumble.

And I’ll sometimes use a compressor to even out a little bit of dynamic range.

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I had also tested in advance with a simple microphone with a filter and was hardly satisfied.

I recorded my last YouTube recording (I’am sailing) with my Shure SH55 Series II. A few weeks ago I tested different distances here, from right in front of my nose to 2 - 3 feet. I stayed at that distance, clean good shot and it doesn’t bother me in front of my face.
Together with the Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD and laptop I am very satisfied.

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Never played for sheep but did play for two highly amused donkeys in France.

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Hi Robert @robertchartrand2104

Sounds like you might enjoy this Jason Ricci video:laughing: :horse:

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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Thanks Slim. Donkeys toiled in the cotton fields and have a natural appreciation of the blues. Should compose a song like “my baby has a nice ass”. :innocent:

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Whenever I record my harmonica or vocals to Reaper (my DAW), I use a Blue Snowball to record. It produces very clear results, if they are a little bit loud for my tastes. If you want that Chicago Blues sound™️, you can use an amp simulator VST like the one from Blue Cat Audio and mess with the presets to your tastes

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Yep I think this is great advice @KeroroRinChou. Do you use an interface? Or does the Blue Snowball connect via USB?

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It’s a USB mic, so I just plug it into the laptop.

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K. Awesome, that’s what I thought! Yeah that’s a great setup for others wanting to dip their toes into home recording to consider: The cheapest DAW you can find and the Blue Snowball will get ya up and running!

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Thanks for all the tips. Plan to make a start soon - too many distractions at the moment! Interesting comment about the Blue Cat Audio amp. I already use that with various VSTs/plugins for guitar, wind controllers and keyboards - plus I also use the Blue Cat flanger, chorus and phaser. I’ll see what results I get from my Mackie microphone.

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