4 different notes on 6 blow (Overblow Technique)

Hi everyone, this is probably a strange question. But I was noodling around the other day trying to see what limits I can push the harmonica to… Just FYI I’m self-taught and have never taken any lessons.

I seem to be able to get 4 distinct sounds from a 6 blow, in this case on a A harmonica. I edited them together here: Watch 6-blow-a-harmonica | Streamable

Are these distinct notes? Which one is the overblow? And what are the others? Distinct notes or just different articulations? Or something else entirely? :upside_down_face:

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Hey @jago these are 4 distinct notes.

  • The first note is A which is regular hole 6 on an A harmonica.

  • The second note is close to a G# (the major 7th in the key) which I’m able to get on some harmonicas (this is how we get vibrato on a 6 using the “chewing” technique.) The other technique to get this note is a 5 over-blow.The third note is a C#

(I’m gonna skip to the fourth note now:)

  • The fourth note is a C, which is the 6 over-blow

(Now back to the third note:)

  • The third note is C# (actually a bit sharper to my ear) and this is a BENT Over-blow 6. Remember overblows we are bending up verses regular draw/blow bends we are bending down. So when we bend an overblow past it’s “regular” note we are going sharper.

I’m always impressed by @Boaz_Kim_Music’s ability to bend overblows. Hoping he might chime in here about his experience with how far he can bend the 6 over-blow, and how much of that is setup, and how much is technique.

It seems like @jago is bending to the Major 3rd (C#) (the same note as hole -7)almost up to the 4th (D) (the same note as hole 7)

I’ve been listening to Howard Levy’s Slow C Blues which he’s playing in 1st position on a C harmonica. In the 3rd bar it sounds like he’s bending the hole 6 up the same note as hole 7. Here’s the lick I’m talking about:

I’m playing this riff as 6 6o 7 6(o) 6 5(o) -5 4(o)

But it sound like Howard is actually bending the 6 over-blow up to the same note as blow 7. I’m curious about that.

So far on my Joe Spiers Marine Band C harmonica I can bend the 6 over-blow up to a major 3rd, but not a perfect 4th. Not sure if I’m limited by technique or setup.

BTW @jago what kind of harmonica are you playing?


Hey @jago I added “Overblow Technique” to the titles since that’s what’s getting you half of these sounds. :sunglasses:


Thanks so much Luke! I feel really lucky being able to ask questions like these and get such an elaborate and complete answer. :pray: This forum is a godsend.

The chewing makes total sense, I played it as an isolated note this time but the chewing is an effect I use sometimes.

I have to be honest, I didn’t even know you could bend overblows… :upside_down_face: Happy to hear that I’m somewhat capable of doing it, although it will take some more practice to be able to use it in a song and hit it directly and clearly. The level of control people like Howard Levy have of the instrument baffles me. Thanks for the great listening suggestion, hadn’t heard that one.

Nothing fancy on the harmonica part (unfortunately). I’m playing a very old Golden Melody I was able to pick up rather cheap with the stock comb replaced by one of those aluminum alloy combs from China. The harmonica is always in one of my pockets and is pretty beaten up at this point.

I also did some gapping and sanded the draw plate. But I’m really new to tinkering with my harmonicas so definitely didn’t do that properly at all. To give an example, I only had 100 grit sandpaper at hand… :upside_down_face: :man_facepalming:

I have been thinking about buying myself a custom harmonica for a while now. Maybe I should. Is there truly a big difference in how easy it is to “hit” certain bends, overblows et cetera? (With shipping to Europe the price is often quite hefty.)

Thanks so much again @Luke and looking forward to maybe hearing from @Boaz_Kim_Music or any other fellow musicians here. :pray: :raised_hands:


There are various good harp customizers in Europe (Portugal, France, Germany, Sweden, Great Britain and probably more that I don’t know). Where are you located?


Belgium. I have to be honest, I find it very hard to choose one and don’t know where to start… Any suggestions @Slim? I’m not a big Seydel player, love the old golden melody cover plates, but prefer marine band tuning and would enjoy a harmonica that’s highly customized and is set up for overblowing et cetera.


I do, but at the moment guests are arriving for a small “celebration” of my recovery, so I will reply in detail tomorrow.

Please excuse the delay.

– Slim :sunglasses:


I’ve enjoyed reading this thread and the replies regarding overblows and bends. I didn’t know either that overblows could be bent and until recently couldn’t get the blow notes to do anything but go up and down a bit in pitch. When I finally hit one, I got so excited to actually hear an entirely different note.

I’ll chime in on you wanting to buy a new harp. I’ve been building my collection little by little with different harps to test out several makes in different keys.

I have a Golden Melody in C, similar to yours but with standard red comb.

A Special 20 in Db, which I bought by mistake, it was labeled correctly when I bought it as a C#, and I didn’t see the “#”. I call her Oops… :joy:.

A Lee Oskar in A.

A Baby Fat in Bb

A Easttop 008k in Bb with a blown 4 blow.

A Hohner Rocket :rocket: in Ab

A Conjurer in G.

While I’ve yet to try a customized harmonica, all of the above seem to do the trick. The less expensive ones, the 008k and the Conjurer, don’t seem to sound as full and deep as the more expensive harps, but for my playing ability work fine. The Baby Fat is probably a bit better on sound of the cheaper harps but limits to 7 notes, which work for many of the songs I play, but not all, so I team her up with my 008k with a busted 4 blow.

The Conjurer was on sale for $10, the Baby Fat came in at $20, the 008k at about $20, and the Hohner’s and Lee Oskar in the $40 to $50 range.

I like them all! The more expensive harps definitely sound richer and fuller to my ear. My favorite is probably Oops, since she sounds great and bends well across the board.

A specialized harp set up to do over blows more easily would be awesome but I imagine you up the ante a bit on price, but probably we’ll worth it if you use them a lot.

Enjoy the ride and let us know what you get and how it works out :wink:


Hi @jago

Since you live in Belgium and also do not like Seydel harps, I guess the following people would be good for you to contact and discuss what it is you are looking for in terms of tuning, your playing style (“aggressive” or “easy blower”; whether you play mostly melodic lines or chordal), what it is that you wish to do (overblows, overdraws, or both), type of comb and cover plates, etc. – any good customizer will go over these choices with you before you place an order.

  • Thomas Hanke Harmonicas (Germany): he seems to only work with Hohner harps.

  • Brodur Custom Harmonicas (France): quite expensive but with many Hohner-based harps.

  • Harmo’nickel (France): works on Hohner, Suzuki, Seydel and others.

  • AGC Custom Harmonicas (Portugal): works mainly with Hohner harps. If you work with him, please relay my greetings to him.

  • J. A. Harmonicas (Sweden): another Hohner specialist.

  • Arkia Harmonica (France): not really a customizer, but a small harmonica builder company that has a limited product line based on Hohner reed plates, but the harps are excellent.

Happy shopping!

– Slim :sunglasses:


Thanks so much @Slim, I guess I know where my next paycheck is going :grin: :grinning: :smile:


Yeah 6 over blow is the easiest in my experience, and the easiest to bend. 5 is the second easiest, and 4 is the third, and 1 overblow is the most difficult to achieve and to bend. That’s my experience.

The 6 over blow is also one of the most helpful in that it’s the same note as -3’ so it’s really nice for playing blues above the 6 in 2nd position.

The most helpful overdraws to me are -7 and -10 which are the same note as -4’ and so are really helpful for playing 2nd position bluesy stuff in the top octave. (Note: -10 extends the range of the harmonica a half-step higher than we can otherwise go.)

Similarly, when playin in 3rd position, the -9 overdraw is helpful because it’s that same bluesy note as the -6’. For me, the -9 is a bit more challenging than -7 and -10.

Also, Todd Parrott brought it to my attention that the -8 over draw can be helpful, even though it’s the same note as -9 because you can bend it a bit and give it more flavor.


Regarding overblows, the ease really depends on the specific key harmonica/pitch that you’re playing just like regular bends. It feels way different to try and bend the 6 overblow on a (high) F compared to a C harmonica, much like bending a 3 draw half step bend accurately on both keys of harmonicas. On just about any quality harmonica out of the box, regardless of key, I can get the 6 overblow and sustain it. Usually on a key of C or nearby keys, I can bend it upwards of just a half step at least briefly - no reed work at all. There might be a squeal, and the tone will probably really thin out especially as I bend it just a half step. Any more than that and it’s just luck of the draw with the factory set up, but it will never equal a customized harmonica.

On my high level customs, the goal is for me to have equal response to overblows that can bend, bends, and “natural” blow and draw notes within each hole across the range. Referencing a key of C harmonica, I usually set the 6 overblow it so I can bend and sustain it with control and good tone up to at least up two half steps (same note as 7 blow). I can usually push it up briefly up another half step (same note as the 7od) which I find both useful in licks.

It’s possible for me to set the bending range a little further than that maybe by another half step or two, but I usually find it sacrificing the response of other notes too much if you want to play with a dynamic range.

@jago Could you demonstrate those 4 notes again without clipping the recording so much? I think the 3rd note you’re playing may actually be a bent 7 blow instead of using the 6 hole for just that one. It’s a little hard to tell just from how it’s all clipped.


@Boaz_Kim_Music Thanks so much for your reply! Yeah, I’ve never really heard you play licks with overblows, but just in your demo’s showing your harps I feel like you bend OB’s higher than any one else I’ve heard, and your response here confirms what I’ve been thinking I’m hearing form you.

That’s crazy man, and also confirms my suspicion that in the 3rd bar of Slow Blues in C, Howard Levy is in fact bending the 6ob up to the same pitch as 7 rather than playing hole 7. It just sounds like a bend in the recording.

I have 9 high level custom harps, and I can’t push any of my 6 ob’s higher than a half-step (to the note of -7) and that’s if I’m lucky. Any hints on how to practice this?

How I’m trying to do it is moving where the back of my tongue is up in the Kk zone forward to raise pitch, and pull back to lower pitch. Once I get passed a half-step, it always snap back to regular unbent sound (in a rather ugly fashion, to boot, lol.)

I’m also curious about how far you can typically push your 4ob and 5ob?


Great questions. I’m pretty sure you’re moving your tongue way too far back in your mouth to adjust for these higher pitches. So it needs to adjust towards your front teeth and the area right behind there. Sustain your overblows and slowly bend it upwards up a half step and sustain that new pitch. It’ll probably feel like it takes effort. After some consistent reps of that, do it again and instead of holding a half step bend, try and go further. At least those higher level custom harmonicas should be able to handle it.

Howard’s lick: I’m not 100% sure but I think he actually doesn’t bend the the 6OB up based on the attack I hear. He just slides over to the regular 7B just like you wrote in the tabs.

Generally I like to make sure my normal ranged harmonicas at least be able to do a sustained whole step bend on 4, 5, and 6 overblows, usually reaching a little further than that by at least another half step. Usually about a minor or major 3rd of total bending range. Try it on a G or A harmonica first. Then gradually work up the higher keys just like adding more weight on the barbells.

Here’s me demoing one of my customized Special 20’s in C. I’m playing licks and demonstrate strong half step bends on the 4OB, 5OB, and 7OD. I also do a few whole step bends on 6OB (same note as 7B).


Hey @Boaz_Kim_Music thanks for your reply. Wow yeah I hear that 6ob bending all the way up to the pitch of 7 at :18 and it sounds great! Very cool.

By the way your licks :23 with the melodic jumps of 6ths sounds very Hawaiian!

OK wow thanks so much for your perspective on this. It’s so fast and smooth, it seems impossible to me, lol. I guess I just need loads of practice!!! Learning new techniques is always so humbling.

Ok this is interesting. From your earlier post I thought maybe it’s easier to bend up the 6 over-blow on a C harp than on a G or an A. But I guess it’s kinda like the -3 bends - it requires bigger mouth movements and less finesse on the lower keys?

Thanks for your reply and for the vid! :sunglasses:


Thanks, Luke!

With the practicing of bending the 6 hole overblow, I think trying it on a lower keyed harmonica like the G or A is likely to be easier than the C for most people due to the pitch level of that note for the technique. It’s a little bit less strenuous on the embouchure besides needing less fine movements kind of like how it’s (usually) easier for people to play the 10 blow half step bend in tune on a G harmonica (to get a F#) compared to a C harmonica (to get a B).

That said, the C harmonica isn’t too high of a key where things might get a bit difficult to control like an F harmonica would.

Give it a try and let me know if it’s consistent for you. You should at least notice it’s easier to bend that 6ob at least a half step easier than on the C on the slightly lower keys.


Right on @Boaz_Kim_Music! So appreciate all your time with this.

I appreciate your insight that I was probably focusing too far back in my mouth while working on bending up the ob’s.

I tried focusing more toward the front of my mouth while working on trying to bend up the 6ob to the same pitch as 7 on a custom Bb harmonica last night (before I read your post here) and I was able to finally hear that pitch BUT with a whole bunch of 6 in there as well - it sounded TERRIBLE. :rofl:But STILL the fact that I could at least hear that pitch inspires me to keep working at it. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

And, even if I never get there, just by trying it’s already improving my expressiveness with the ob’s.

It’s worth mentioning that we can also bend down the pitch of OB’s a little, in the case of the 6ob, not all the way to the note of a -6, but maybe halfway there (aka 25 cents or a 1/4 tone.)

That’s why Todd Parrott talks about you can’t play exactly -3’ -3" -2 an octave higher bending the 6ob to 6. But you can get a bit sharp of that Minor 3rd and then bend it down to a bit flat of the Minor 3rd and kind of “trick the ear” into hearing that same -3’ -3" -2 lick up an octave with the 6 overblow (and TP does it really nicely / smoothly / soulfully.)

Finally, I was reflecting more on bar 3 of Howard Levy’s Slow Blues in C and I was thinking you probably didn’t slow down the audio. I was transcribing the first 12-bars to memory, and when you’ve got it slowed down you can hear the glissando in and out of that note so continuously, which is what lead me to question if he was just bending it up all the way.

It’s true you can get a little bend in and out of a 7 (even more so on most of my harps since I’ve taken to the Parrott-tuning) but even considering that, the smoothness of the glissando - I just don’t hear another hole ever get articulated, if you know what I mean?

Hope to see you again at SPAH this year. Just decided I’m definitely going. Probably gonna start making travel plans this week.


Yo super cool! I’ll see you at SPAH!