PreSonus Blog

Friday Tips—Blues Harmonica FX Chain

If you’ve heard blues harmonica greats like Junior Wells, James Cotton, Jimmy Reed, and Paul Butterfield, you know there’s nothing quite like that big, brash sound. They all manage to transform the harmonica’s reedy timbre into something that seems more like a member of the horn family.

To find out more about the techniques of blues harmonica, check out the article Rediscovering Blues Harmonica. It covers why you don’t play blues harp in its default key (e.g., you typically use a harmonica in the key of A for songs in E), how to mic a harmonica, and more. However, the secret to that big sound is playing through the distortion provided by an amp, or in our software-based world, an amp sim. I don’t really find the Ampire amps suitable for this application, but we can put together an FX Chain that does the job.

Check out the demo to hear the desired goal. The first 12 bars are unprocessed harmonica (other than limiting). The second 12 bars use the FX Chain described in this week’s tip, and which you can download for your own use.

The chain starts with a Limiter to provide a more sustained, consistent sound.


Next up: A Pro EQ to take out all the lows and highs, which tightens up the sound and reduces intermodulation distortion. (When using an amp sim, blues harmonica is also a good candidate for multiband processing, as described in the February 1 Friday Tip.)


Now it’s time for the Redlight Dist to provide the distortion. For the cabinet, this FX Chain uses the Ampire solely for its 4 x 10 American cabinet—no amp or stomps.


After the distortion/cabinet combo, a little midrange “honk” makes the harmonica stand out more in the mix.


For a final touch, blues harp often plays through an amp with reverb—so a good spring reverb effect adds a vintage vibe.

You can download the Blues Harp.multipreset and use it as it, but I encourage playing around with it—try different types of distortion and amps, mess with the EQ a bit, and so on. For an example of a finished song with amp sim blues harmonica in context, check out I’ll Take You Higher on YouTube.


Click here to download the multipreset!



  • Leo Bercoff

    Ji Craig! I used your multipreset on a small chromatic harmonica solo. I just extended EQ ranges both sides, and lowerd distortion drive from 6 to 4. I like it! Thanks a lot!

  • Reda Shaheen

    yes I did refresh FX chains and get blues harp multi preset after downloaded ,Thanks

  • Chris Hughes

    The FX chain downloads windows 10 but how do I acess it I saved it as file its sitting in down load but I cant access from Studio One v4

  • Claudio F

    I believe I was blinded. I was there but didn’t find them. Thank you so much for your help!!!!

  • Anderton

    These are standard PreSonus effects that ship with the program:

  • Claudio F

    Where do I find Redlight Dist and Ampire cabinet said in the text below? I use Windows 10.

    “Now it’s time for the Redlight Dist to provide the distortion. For the cabinet, this FX Chain uses the Ampire solely for its 4 x 10 American cabinet—no amp or stomps.”


  • Anderton

    Let us know how it works for you. No reason it shouldn’t work, but I use Marine Bands and don’t live in the Chromatic world 🙂 Maybe I should!!

  • Anderton
  • Tifosi Fratello

    C:Users”User”DocumentsStudio OnePresetsPreSonusFX Chains

  • Bert Swiderski

    Where do I put this preset? I use windows 8.1

  • Tifosi Fratello

    So, where do I get the YouLean Loudness Meter 2?

  • Leo Bercoff

    🙂 I’ll check it out for my chromatic harmonica, too! Thanks!