How to play overblows with blues harmonica | Easyharp Tips

blues harmonica lessons

Hello blues harmonica friends, today I try to give you some basic tips about playing overblows with your blues harp.

First of all: why should we play overblows? You know, blues harmonica masters didn’t know that they could play these special notes, but tons of great albums were done and if you like to play Chicago Blues probably you can do without overblows. But if you like to play some modern blues harmonica or a little jazz with your diatonic harp probably it’s time to learn how to play overblows (or overdraws in the upper part of the harmonica).

A lot of great harmonica players nowadays are using this technique in their recordings and live performances developing a new interesting phrasing approach and probably, before getting frustrated trying to get your overblow notes, it’s better to know some basic music theory to understand the meaning of these new notes; anyway, I’m trying to give you a practical approach to start using your first overblow.

Most used overblow, playing blues in cross harp, is the six hole overblow, the same note obtained bending half step third hole draw, but an upper octave, that is always a flat third degree note (a blue note, that you find for example in the blues scale). Ok, but how can we overblow?

I give you this suggestion: stop thinking about overblows for a moment, take your C harmonica and try to obtain a clear and stable 10 hole blow note half step bent, half step only. So, before overblowing, or before trying to get an effective overblow note, you need a very good control of your bending technique, even drawing than blowing, with a good control of the pitch of bent notes; in particular, before trying to get your first stable 6 hole overblow, you need to be able to get a stable and correctly tuned 10 hole blow half step bend with a C harmonica, that is not so simple if you have a poor bending technique.

Than it’s better if you use a good quality harmonica, an overblow friendly harmonica, but fortunately nowadays a lot of good harps are available on the market. I’m a Seydel harmonicas endorser and I love 1847 Silver harmonicas, a very good “out of the box” overblow friendly harmonica; you can also try to set up your harmonica if you want your harp to be more responsive to overblow technique, but be careful not to damage it! Focus on the gap of the reeds in the hole you want to overblow: less gap is better, but do not exaggerate.

So, a good harmonica and a very good bending technique, you don’t need anything else :) Remember how to bend half step tenth hole blow? Do it again. Than go to sixth hole blow and try to make the same thing. You are blowing: concentrate on the air flow direction and on the tongue position, think about bending half step the 10 hole blow… Another little tip: blow in the 6 hole, than draw and than overblow: it can be easier if you do it in this order.

Blowing 6 hole means getting your root note (playing in cross harp) in the upper octave. Overblowing 6 hole means getting a flat third above the 6 hole blow, you are always blowing, but you are getting an higher pitched note!

Try and try again and don’t get frustrated if you can’t overblow immediately, but as soon as you can do it try to play a stable overblow note, dig in this new technique and get more control of your tongue and mouth muscles to play stable notes.

I hope these suggestions can help you playing your first overblow note.

And remember to have fun playing your blues harmonica.


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