I’ve been playing harmonica for quite a while, but never really live, because mainly as a solo performer I couldn’t figure out a way to hold the damn thing.
The harmonica racks like Bob Dylan uses and a lot of the folk guys use; they work as far as holding it, but they usually give out when you really need them, and they will push away from your mouth. So, you don’t have the tension which you need. Your mouth has to be on the harmonica pretty tightly. When using a rack, you can’t really get that tightness. There are a few guys, like John Hammond, who can really get it going, but I never really gave it that much time. It usually just aggravated me, so I was really excited when I came across the idea of a beer cozy harmonica holder.
I first saw my buddy, Gerry Hundt, using this device, and not wanting to scare him or make him think he was letting go of any secrets, I went and looked at this device when he was offstage or on break. I was checking it out and seeing what it really was. Then he described it to me more in detail, and then I made my own. Jerry saw a guy somewhere, maybe in Colorado, using this item. He might have been the inventor, I don’t know; but this thing has been going around.
It’s basically a very cheap way to hold the harmonica with a microphone in a stable position on a mic stand. There’s no better way, it’s not going to go anywhere. And, you have tension against your mouth when you push on it because the mic stand’s holding it – there’s your leverage.
The device is really easy to build. You just have to buy two beer cozies – it doesn’t matter what kind or what brand, but make sure the foam on it is stiff and not too soft. You take one beer cozy and then you cut up the other one, depending on what you like…you’re basically filling one beer cozy with foam from the other one. So, you wrap it around in there until it has tension so that a microphone can be slid into it and it will hold itself on the microphone.
Now there are different types of microphones that harmonic players like. Not all of them are going to work on this beer cozy idea. The one I’m using in the picture is an EV-RE10. I believe it’s a great harmonica mic, but it’s also very thin, so it works well with this beer cozy idea. You can also use something as simple and as readily available as a Shure sm57 – every club that you’re going to play in is going to have one of these. You can use them too because they’re pretty thin, they don’t have a weird shape, and you can slide them down into the cozy pretty easily.
This is going to benefit all harmonica players that want to play their guitar at the same time they play their harp. [pullquote]I know a lot of blues harmonica players that play guitar at the same time and have never liked the rack. [/pullquote]Guys like Jimmy Reed can pull it off; and like I mentioned before, John Hammond and Paul Geremia get a great sound. There’s just one thing missing from their playing – they’re not plugged in to a microphone. They’re not blowing the sound into a microphone, except for the vocal mic which is going to be a very clean, equalized sound. I want to sound like Little Walter or the electric guys. When they started using amplifiers for harmonicas, that’s when the sound really started kickin’ some ass. So this way, the harp can be plugged into any amplifier, and you can get that over driven sound…that distortion you need for certain songs. That’s one of the great things about this. And, the beer cozy wraps around nicely so that you’re getting this sound, almost like your hands would be around it. You’re muffling unwanted noise, and you’re getting a tighter more focused sound.
You only need one mic for this. The choice of mic definitely depends on it fitting into the beer cozy. It’s got to fit and not over extend or over stretch this thing out.[pullquote]The cost is basically just the cost of your microphone and the beer cozies. [/pullquote]I got mine for like a buck-fifty each. I screwed up the first couple so I bought like five cozies at one stop. I knew I might screw it up.
Although it has its up sides, and you can get a great amplified tone out of this, and you have more stability in the mount for the harmonica, this isn’t the perfect solution. The perfect solution would be to have a guitar player play while you play your harmonica because that’s the best sound there is. You can get the hand movements and all the little vibrato and Tremolo stuff with your hands, as well as muting and muffling effects. This is as close as I’ve found to getting that sounds while playing guitar at the same time, and not having my hands free. This is as good as I think it can get.
As far as the life span, I think these will last as long as the foam holds out, and you can keep rotating the actual cozies so that you won’t get a worn spot. They might get worn after a couple of years, but these are so cheap, you can just buy another one.
This is ultimately the best material I’ve ever found for mounting a harmonica so that you can play it and your guitar at the same time. You can do leads with the harmonica while you’re playing your guitar, and go back to the other mic…I forgot to mention that you’re going to need two mic stands as well. One is going to have to be solely for this harmonica beer cozy design, and the other one’s going to be for your vocals. You put the mic stands close together and then switch back and forth. You’re going to be fine, and you’ll have a great night of playing harp, singing, and playing guitar.