The missing notes on a harmonica have always bothered me. However, I never really tried to get them by overblowing. It always seemed like a very difficult thing to do…and I also had this misconception that you need a really expensive (or custom) harmonica to get them. Since I couldn’t afford those, I thought there’s no point trying to get them on my (relatively) cheap harmonicas.
A few days ago I was trying to play a tune which required an F# in the middle register. I couldn’t get that note because it required an overblow on hole 5. I got really frustrated. I felt as if I was playing an incomplete instrument. I said to myself - “enough is enough…it’s time to get those overblows!” I watched a bunch of videos of Howard Levy…and that inspired me to take this giant leap.
I took my harmonica apart and regapped the reeds on hole 4 and 5 (both blow and draw). My basic approach was that I reduce the gap on the blow reed until it becomes unplayable. Then, I would gradually increase the gap until it starts playing again. This makes the reed both playable and “overblowable”. Then, I would do the same for the draw reed. After a lot of trial and error, here’s the result!:
I’m playing an Arabian scale in 6th position…starting on the 3 draw of a Golden Melody “C” harmonica. This scale requires overblows on holes 4, 5 and 6, so it’s good for practicing. Can you tell which notes I’m overblowing? I hope not! I’ve been trying to disguise my overblows to make them sound like normal notes.
You’ll also notice that I bend one of the overblows at the end of the recording. The overbent notes are very bendable. Some of them can be bent 1-2 full tones. Overblows also have a tendency to be slightly flat, so it takes some practice to play them in tune.
Here are some pictures of my reedplates:
Blow reeds (Yeah, I know it looks disgusting ;D):
And here are the draw reeds:
Notice how closely gapped reeds 4, 5 and 6 are compared to the rest.
With all these new notes (and an overblow on hole 1), I can play any note in the chromatic scale. Well, at least in the first two octaves.