Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sorta Popper-Like Set-Up Via a Line 6 POD HD500

***I ditched the POD HD as it was getting to tricky to set up several months after posting this.

These are screen shots of the set-up that I use for rock shows.  It is not intended to be a clone of JP's rig, but there are some similarities.  I use the HD500 in the footswitch mode that lets you control four separate patches with the switches on the bottom row.  On the top row, I place the effects - meaning I generally have four effects that can be turned on/off with each preset.

I use the same Bassman amp model for everything right now.  Honestly, when the 2.0 update comes out, I plan on using the Ampeg Bass Amp model to run all my effects through and then use the Bassman for clean tones.  I like the sound of effects through clean rigs best.

FS5 is my Lead Harmonica Patch seen in the first pic.  The comp and delay are always on and not assigned to a footswitch.  The Dynamic Delay is controlled via expression pedal.  The other effects can be stomped on and off like regular pedals.

FS6 is my Dirty Harmonica Patch.  It is a dual amp model with the exact same Bassman and a Supro Pre used for dirt.  The same delay and comp from FS5 are left always on.

FS7 is the rest of my lesser used effects.  The only effect sound I am really after that JP uses is his pitch shifted delays.  The best I could get was splitting my signal to stereo and creating a wet pitch shifted signal running into an Octo Reverb.  Not perfect, but close.  I am not crazy about flangers, but I love using the Ring Modulator and Dynamic Delay together.

FS8 is just the Bassman with a Rotary Drum and Horn.  Of all the modelled effects on the L6 stuff, this is my least favorite.  Eventually, a dedicated rotary pedal like the Styrom Lex would be ideal for as much as I use it.  The expression pedal controls the speed of the effect.

I am new to the POD HD500, but had a M13 for a long time before that.  I am very accustom to the pedals and using them for gigging.  The amp modelling is the new part for me.  I used to just run into a HarpGear HG50 or a Tech 21 Sans Amp Bass Driver DI.  The POD lets me do the same thing with less gear to tweak.

The cons of the L6 stuff are the monophonic tracking of the synths, pitch shifters, and bass octavers.  They sound glitchy if you don't play clean single notes, hence, I don't use them much.  The POG pedals by EHX are the best for tracking polyphonic playing using lower or higher octaves.  They also make some way cool synths.

Other effects not shown that I LOVE and have used many times at gigs are the Sweep Echo, Growler, Reverse Delay, Particle Verb, and Ping Pong Delay.  What I love about the POD stuff (which you can often do with any of the multi-fx units like the DigiTech and Zoom stuff) is the ability to create a ton of scenes and access hundreds of new sounds for VERY cheap.

My POD HD500 cost me the trade of my M13 (which I got for $275) plus $50.  I typically sing and own my own PA and monitors, so there was no additional cost in "amping" the board for live use.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Popper-Like Rigs on a Budget

If you priced out John Popper's rig from circa 2002, you're looking at well over $10,000 in gear.  Chances are, most players wanting to get similar sounds have nowhere near the budget for it!

John's rig has undergone changes over the years, most noticeably in the amp department.  From various sources, the core of the amped sounds have come from essentially a four amp set-up.  This includes an amp for clean and distorted tones, one for effects, one for feedback, and one that functions as a Leslie (I believe this is the first I've mentioned him using a Motion Sound amp for his Leslie tones).

Nowadays, there is a lone combo amp on stage and a second feedback amp.  I have not clue if he is using four amps still, but that might not be important.

If you look at his basic needs, he needs a clean sound, dirty sound, something that works with effects, and something to give the Leslie sounds.  With current technology, you can easily replicate this four amp set-up any number of ways.  I will suggest the use of a clean bass/keyboard/powered speaker paired with a multi-fx unit.

Units like the Line 6 POD HD500 and Digitech RP1000 let you set up separate amp "patches" and tones to work with.  You can then hit a foot switch to bounce from tone to tone.  Using a SM58 like John, for example, and an impedence transformer, you can plug right into the digital modelling unit and take an output to your sound source.

These units also come with great effects.  In fact, either unit covers all the pedals listed as part of John's rig circa 2002.  On these units, you can assign different effects to each patch, etc, and use footswitches to control them.

John's preamp rack effects aren't really needed for this rig.  The Harmonizers and Quadraverb are multi-fx units to begin with, so again, the HD500 or RP1000 have you covered, even for Leslie tones.

Assuming you look for good deals, you can have a similar rig to JP for under $1,000.  If you want to spend a little more, you can add the use of some other effects pedals like the Eventide stompboxes, a higher quality Leslie, and even a harmonica specific overdrive pedal from someone like the Lone Wolf Blues Company. 

There are cons to this approach.  Not all the multi-fx units do exactly the same effects in exactly the same way.  For example, dialing in JP's synth sounds is tricky.  I also haven't nailed his pitch shifted delays. 

Harmonica Lessons with John Popper

What Key of Harp Do I Use? from

What Key Of Harp Do I Use?

This page was originally written by Blues Traveler fan and harmonica player Zack Scott. At the same time, fellow fan and harp player Rob Lowe was maintaining his own list of corrections and updates to Zack's list. Zack maintained the page on his site for years, but upon the closing of his site, we borrowed his information, combined it with Rob's, and made it available here. Many thanks to Zack and Rob for their hard work! Thanks also to Dean Heuke for getting the keys for North Hollywood Shootout from John via Twitter. All keys given are for playing in second position.

Official Releases

Blues Traveler
Travelers & Thieves
  • The Tiding: A
  • Onslaught: A>D>A>D>A>D
  • Ivory Tusk: G>D>G>D>A>G>D>G>A>G
  • What's For Breakfast: G>D>G>D>A
  • I Have My Moments: G
  • Optimistic Thought: D>E
  • The Best Part: F
  • All In The Groove: Eb
  • Support Your Local Emperor: F>A>F
  • Bagheera: F
  • Mountain Cry: F
Save His Soul
  • Trina Magna: Eb>Ab>Eb>Ab>Eb>Ab>B>F#
  • Love & Greed: B
  • Letter From A Friend: C
  • Believe Me: G
  • Go Outside & Drive: C
  • Defense & Desire: G
  • Whoops: D
  • Manhattan Bridge: C
  • Love Of My Life: G
  • NY Prophesie: C
  • Save His Soul: D
  • Bullshitter's Lament: D
  • Conquer Me: D>A>D
  • Fledgling: F>Eb
  • Run-Around: C
  • Stand: D>Ab>D>Ab>D>Ab>D
  • Look Around: F (no harp part)
  • Fallible: B
  • The Mountains Win Again: C>D>C
  • Freedom: G
  • Crash Burn: D
  • Price To Pay: A
  • Hook: D
  • The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: A>D>A>D>A (can also use E)
  • Just Wait: D (no harp part, can also use 3rd position on a G)
  • Brother John: A>C>A>C>A
Run-Around CD-5 (only lists songs not on other albums)
Live From The Fall (only lists songs not on other albums)
  • Closing Down The Park: E
  • Imagine: F>C>F
Straight On Till Morning
  • Carolina Blues: A
  • Felicia: D
  • Justify The Thrill: D>G>D
  • Canadian Rose: E
  • Business As Usual: A
  • Yours: C
  • Psycho Joe: F
  • Great Big World: C
  • Battle Of Someone: F
  • Most Precarious: A
  • The Gunfighter: C
  • Last Night I Dreamed: D
  • Make My Way: Bb
Canadian Rose CD-5 (only lists songs not on other albums)
  • Diner: E>A>E>D>A>E
  • Just For Me: Db
  • Back In The Day: D
  • You Reach me: G>E
  • All Hands: C
  • The Way: C
  • Sadly A Fiction: A
  • You Lost Me There: F
  • Girl Inside My Head: E (?)
Truth Be Told
  • Unable To Get Free: D
  • Eventually: A
  • Sweet & Broken: Bb
  • My Blessed Pain: E
  • Let Her & Let Go: A
  • Thinnest Of Air: Ab
  • Can't See Why: Low E(?)>E
  • Stumble & Fall: C
  • This Ache: A
  • Mt. Normal: C
  • The One: D
  • Partner In Crime: A>D>A
North Hollywood Shootout
  • Forever Owed: Bb
  • You, Me & Everything: G
  • Love Does: F
  • Borrowed Time: E
  • The Beacons: G
  • Orange In The Sun: G#
  • What Remains: F
  • How You Remember It: D
  • The Queen Of Sarajevo: A
  • Free Willis: E / G
  • Miserable Bastard: Eb
  • Growing In Dirt: D
  • Tip The Domino: Eb
  • Love For Free: C
  • Evil In My Chair: B
  • Lunatic: E
  • Open Letter: Ab
  • I Wanna Take You Higher: D
  • Pattern: A
  • The Path: F


  • And So It Goes: D
  • Circle: D
  • Jabberwock: A
  • Maybe I'm Wrong: C
  • Mother Funker: G
  • Chan's Groove: G
  • Come Together: G
  • Five To One: D
  • Gloria: A
  • Johnny B. Goode: E>F>F#
  • Miss You: D
  • Rock Me Baby: E
  • Should I Stay Or Should I Go: C
  • The Star-Spangled Banner: varies
  • The Devil Went Down To Georgia: C>D>C
  • No Woman, No Cry: F

Popper's Blues Traveler Rig for 2012 Straight from JP

Popper's Mesa Boogie Lonestar Settings from Rob Lowe (2011)

Popper's Duskray Troubadour Rig Shot from (2011)

John used a Mesa Boogie Lonestar while playing with his band, Duskray Troubadours.  The small Guyatone amp is still used for feedback.

Arian Stevens' Sweet Rig Shot (2011)

Here is a nice pic of John’s mic and how he has his harps laid out.  Note the tape used in the case to mark the key of each harp.  In the background is a Mesa Boogie Lonestar combo amp and his Guyatone tweed amp.

Popper's Downsized Rig from howsmyliving (2010)

This is the earliest pic I’ve found of John moving to a combo amp rather than using a 4x12 speaker cabinet.  It is a Mesa Boogie Lonestar.

Amp Pic from robert_rex_jackson (2009)

This is the last picture I could find of John using a 4x12 cab.  I am not sure if he is using a Heartbreaker head or something else to drive it.  The Guyatone tweed he uses for feedback is on top.

Pic of Popper's Mic from Ctd 500 (2006)

John Popper Uses an Eventide H8000A (2005)

Blues Traveler's John Popper recently upgraded his traveling rig from the iconic Eventide H3000 to the new H8000A Ultra-Harmonizer® effects processor. The H8000A delivers unprecedented processing power and expanded analog I/O, ideal for the true road warrior conditions of heavy touring acts like Blues Traveler.

Few bands log as many miles year-in and year-out as Blues Traveler. The rigorous tour schedule is as demanding on the gear as it is on the band and crew. So, when Popper asked stage manager and tech Fisher Essenfeld to update his rig and make it more reliable for shows without compromising any of his decades-old signature settings, Fisher turned to Eventide for a solution.

"John had been using an Eventide H3000 for years as a staple of rig," said Fisher. "It was so trusted he used it as his go-to patch - old #9 - was his default. The rig was piled together over the years and he wanted to rework it and make it more intuitive and seaworthy for live shows. That's when I looked at ways to upgrade the gear but still maintain the basics of his sounds," Fisher added. "John doesn't necessarily know how it's all patched together but he sure knows how to use it. Now he has a greater sense of control and the sound is better than ever."

Greater control is indeed what the H8000A was able to deliver. Fisher has constructed the rig so that the patches can be controlled both on stage by Popper and by offstage controls as well. The top-of-the-line Ultra-Harmonizer processor was so successful on a recent string of overseas dates that Fisher plans to build a second touring rack with another H8000A as the centerpiece.

The level of control is truly amazing," said Fisher. "When John pulls off the mic he is able to create completely new tones adding to the already overwhelming soundscape. John is very happy with the outcome so far, and we are just scratching the surface of possibilities.

Rob Lowe Share's Notes and PICS of Popper's Stage Rig (circa 2001)

The following information and pics all come from Rob Lowe.  You should check him out at  He has links of his playing with Blues Traveler as well as a great write-up about the experiences!

Ok, JP's mic:

btw, I wish I had this memorized well enough to use it.  A few years
ago, I sat in on Business as Usual and he let me use his mic.  If the
buttons were 2nd nature, I could have really had some fun!  But it was
cool.  I asked him to change some sounds and he started having fun
putting delays, dirt, octaves on it.  And then I requested the
feedback.  It was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The buttons correspond to Amp1 (which is what he uses most of the
time), and Amp2 (auto wah and octave go through that one), Amp3
(feedback...the little yellow (Guyatone?) amp), Clean/Dirty (which I
assume really only corresponds to Amp1 and there is another button for
leslie slow/fast. The knob is for Leslie speaker volume so he can mix
that in with whatever other patch he's using.

Here are some notes that I took back in 2002.  Bo was super cool with
answering my questions, letting me run around on stage, too.  So
here's some more info about what he used to use:

Shure SM-58=>
Behringer Ultragain Pre-Amp=>

Mesa Switcher=>
Amp1: Heartbreaker Clean
   Clean EQ: 2 o'clock, 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock
Heartbreaker Dirty:
   Dirty EQ: Treble: 10 o'clock, Mid 7 o'clock, Bass 11 o'clock
Amp2: Pedal effects
Amp3: Feedback

Slave out of the head (that would be the Heartbreaker, right?) goes to
the Leslie

Digital/Midi FX

His Rack looked like this:

Furman Power Conditioner
Mesa Switcher
Mesa Tri-Axis
Behringer Pre-Amp
Digitech Harmonizer
Even Tide Harmonizer

harp mic had 4 buttons, the knob, and the toggle switch.

Switch: Clean/Dirty
Knob:  Leslie volume
Button1: Amp1
Button2: Amp2
Button3: Amp3
Button4: leslie slow/fast

Midi Controller: Digital FX

FOH Bob Mahoney on Popper's Rig (2002)

That Travelin' Sound
Mar 1, 2002 12:00 PM, BY CANDACE HORGAN

Though Popper's harmonicas are probably the least-expensive instruments to start with, the setup that Popper uses to get his amazing tonal coloration is anything but. “I split John's signal to five different places,” explains Mahoney. “He plays into a modified Shure SM58 microphone. The mic goes into a Behringer stereo mic preamp, just to split the signal and change the level from mic to line. John considers himself to be like a guitarist, so the Behringer lets me switch the impedance. One side from the Behringer I take a direct out into the Midas at FOH via an XLR. Then the ¼-inch output of that side of the pre goes into a Mesa Boogie amp switcher. From there, I send the first input to John's main two Mesa Boogie Heartbreaker 100-watt heads, the second input to the effects pedals Heartbreaker head, and I have a third send that goes to the little amp onstage he uses for feedback effects. John can play one and flip to the other. Out of the first main head, I go slave and that drives John's offstage Leslie cabinet, which I mike with a Shure SM57. That signal is brought back into his monitors. He has a volume knob on his mic so he can turn the send to that Leslie up or down, and he controls the speed of the Leslie from the mic as well. The other side of the Behringer goes into a rack of effects that we run offstage; he controls it with MIDI pedals and that goes back into his monitors. That way, I'm not stuck with one sound. He can have whatever he wants onstage, since everything is separate. The units he uses offstage are Mesa Boogie Tri/Axis models, which are MIDI-programmable preamps. I use that to control levels of each of his effect's sounds. He uses an Alesis Quadraverb, a DigiTech IP33 harmonizer and an Eventide H3000 harmonizer. I use the pre to control the effects there. From there, I take a stereo left-right to FOH, and I send those to John's monitors.”

Clone EH 4600 Full Chorus
Boss Fuzz FZ-3
Boss Octave OC-2
Guyatone WR-2 Wah Rocker
Boss Flanger BF-2
Boss Super Phaser PH-2
Electro-Harmonix Frequency Analyzer Ring Modulator EH 5000
Electro-Harmonix Micro-Synth
Two (2) Boss Digital Delay DD-3

Rack Effects:
Mesa Boogie Tri-Axis Pre-Amp
Behringer Ultragain Microphone Pre-Amp
Digitech IPS 33B Super Harmonizer
Alesis Quadraverb
Eventide H-3000 Ultra-Harmonizer

Two(2) Mesa Boogie Heartbreakers (harmonica)
Soldano (guitar)

Speaker Cabinets:
Mesa Boogie 4x12 (harmonica)
Mesa Boogie 1x12 or 4x12 (guitar)
Goff Leslie Cabinet (harmonica)

“I've got a panel on the back of his effects rack that
  splits all the inputs for his microphone, but for a while, I used to
  stand on the side of the stage and have an ulcer hoping it all would
  work! So it's a little more reliable than it used to be.
  I send the SM58 into a Behringer Dual preamp which I split and goes to
  an amplifier - like a regular guitar setup - a Mesa Boogie
  Tri-Rectifyer that goes into four 4x12's. One of the switches on the
  mic changes the channels in the head - there's a clean channel, a
  dirty channel... He's got a split from the preamp that goes to his
  effects rack that we send to the monitor console and it comes back
  into his monitors, which are controlled thru a MIDI controller.
  There's also a slave out of the head that goes to a Mini Goff Leslie
  cabinet that I run offstage. And he's got a volume pot which sends to
  the Leslie, is miked and returns to the monitor so he can control how
  much Leslie there is. I have another switch on the mic which is the
  speed switch for the Leslie, too!
  As far as harmonicas, John uses Hohner Special 20 Blues Harps - it's
  the only harp he feels comfortable with.
  Other miscellaneous stuff: D'Addario strings, Monster Cable, and a
  Modulus graphite gutiar and Taylor acoustic guitar 12-string that he
  uses on a few tunes.”
  -Bob Mahoney, FOH engineer and backline tech

“With effects pedals it seems to me that if the pedal,
especially the Twah. Isn't seeing enough signal it
won't react the way you want it. Also, you have dual
preamp., you could use both sides.With Johns stuff, I
separate His pedal effects and his mutli-effects
processing. this way it gives you more control over
the sound. It also give me at Front of house more
control. For Johns setup I also separate his pedal
effects, he has three amps., one with effects and one
with effects, and then three direct lines. One clean
from the preamp., stereo from his multi-effects
processor. I mike amp. 1(clean) and amp.2(with
effects), and amp.3(he just uses that for feedback)
and don't forget his Leslie. For a grand total of 7
harp inputs. So, If you feel like driving your local
sound guy crazy, well their you go. I hope this helps
some. Let me know and I'll talk to soon. And Good