Getting the overblows!

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. :slight_smile:

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. :slight_smile:

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. :slight_smile:

Next step-Overdraws!


Wow Ashish!

I know Mike Stevens talks about these same things in his Bluegrass Harmonica book; but reading/hearing it here – Makes such a bigger and positive impact! :slight_smile:

Thanks so much for that! Can’t wait until I get there too! :wink:

As far as this though goes on the blow plate:

"Yeah, I know it looks disgusting…

When compared to the draw plate –

Kind of an understatement, don’tcha think there, buddy?! :stuck_out_tongue:

Like WTF? No, really, I mean like WTF!!! :o

Rock on, yo!

Tremendous job :o

I watched your bends on my bendometer software with the overblows when you played it ;D

Nice job, So I guess the bottom line is I’m gonna have to dive inside my harmonica and learn
to do some read gapping.

I may have asked you this already Ashish, but how long have you been playing.

Oh can you right post the tab for that scale starting at 3D

Thanks great POST!!

Harp on!!

When compared to the draw plate --

Kind of an understatement, don’tcha think there, buddy?!

Haha yeah. I guess the blow plate doesn’t dry up as quickly as the draw plate. And that’s probably why the draw reedplate looks much more clean.

Cool!! I used bendometer once…but stopped when it started asking for money. ::slight_smile:

-3 4 4^ 5 5^ 6 6^ -7

That’s the basic scale. And the “^” means an overblow. Well, I guess that’s obvious. :slight_smile:

I started playing 2005, Joe. So, that’s 5 years. Not long. :slight_smile:


I find it really magical how all the missing notes just pop out. I mean, the diatonic harmonica was never meant to play all the notes…but it still somehow manages to do it. I don’t know why the missing notes pop out, and not anything else.

The harmonica is a very mysterious instrument.

Hey Ashish!!!

This is a HUGE CELEBRATION for me.

I remember the days when you were emailing me having trouble with your basic bends.

I love the way your are using the overblows to play the sounds of your native lands of India…

I like the way your ride the bends on those last few notes…and I love all the reverb…it seems to fit the mood of the scale

We’re all waiting on the edge of our seats to see how you take your harmonica playing into the next dimension in the years to come…

It’s a fun ride witnessing your creativity come to fruition…

Bring it on!


Thanks for the kind words, Mr. Allen. :slight_smile: I still have copies of those old letters and recordings I mailed to you. I was reading them a few days ago. There’s a recording in which I play the tune - “Red River Valley”, and I’m bending every single bendable reed I could. It sounds very funny. :smiley: You encouraged me nevertheless…and your only critique was - “there’s some room for improvement in your bends, Ashish”. I remember I thought that you were understating the problem just to make me feel good. I started working on my bends very seriously after that. :slight_smile:

I remember the first time I got the blow bends I thought was overblowing! I got very exciting and mailed you a bunch of recordings. You patiently explained the difference between normal bends and overbends…and told me that the technique I stumbled across was actually just a different type of bending. :slight_smile:

I love the way your are using the overblows to play the sounds of your native lands of India...

That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do these days- exploring the musical ragas of Indian classical music on a harmonica. I need all the notes to do that. So, that’s why I’m learning these techniques. :slight_smile: