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over blow instruction

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rodney w
Mar 28, 2010 6:20 AM GMT

hello, my name is rod wilkerson,i am 49 yrs. old, i have been playing the harp since i was 15 yrs. old.i'm pretty damn good at at playing my harps,and i've jammed with a lot of different bands at lots of different clubs.but as embarassed as i am to admit it,after all these years of playing,i can not produce an over blow. its driving me crazy. if anybody out there can help me out with any info. or instruction on how to accomplish this feat,i would surely be forever greatful.thank you very much,take care,and keep on harpin'...

Rod Wilkerson

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Comments (9)

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Mar 28, 2010 10:22 PM GMT
Not a Replied:

Winslow Yerxa's "Harmonica For Dummies" has the best written instruction I've ever seen on the subject. However, it takes the removal of a mental block (ie. the idea that OB's are difficult) for you to be able to actually do it. A properly set up harp helps too (Winslow details OB setup in his book). Basically, you need to set the gaps on the blow AND draw reeds of 4, 5, and 6 fairly low. On a properly set up harp, OB'ing is no harder to learn than is standard bending. I would start with the 6 OB on an A harp. It seems to be the easiest first OB for most people.

Mar 29, 2010 1:32 AM GMT
walterharp Replied:

it is expensive, but getting a properly set up custom harp will take any question from your mind that it is how you are setting up your harps. people that can overblow well can get it out of any harp, but most need to set up the harp right to get it good, and it is way easier when harps are set up right.

Mar 30, 2010 8:13 PM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

It's worth it to learn overblows and overdraws. You can try (yes that actually exists) and you can listen to Jason Ricci and Adam Gussow explain it on various youtube videos. You can do what I did and give yourself a headache trying different things and being patient til you just "stuble onto it" and you can also throw some extra money at the project and get one of those pro custom harps that are set up for overblows(Joe Spiers is one guy. There are others whose names I'm forgetting) or even try setting up a harp for overblows on your own.

When you try the trial and error, "stumble onto it" method I recommend starting on the 4-hole of a lower harp (G-C). Blow.... then draw... then fire right into the overblow. It'll magically happen one of these tries. Might sound ugly at first but you can refine it.

If you try setting up a harp for overblows, do this by lowering both the draw reeds and the blow reeds closer to the reed plate. Go for almost no gap but make sure the notes still sound. Then dont blow or draw too hard but keep playing with embrechure (spelling problem here im sure) until the overblow starts sneaking out. I hope this helps.

Mar 31, 2010 8:35 PM GMT
HarpMan Freeman Replied:

Jason shared at SPAH the following...

First do a draw bend on the 6 hole. While your mouth,tongueand throat is positioned to create the bend,freeze them in that position and reverse the airflow to blow.

In other words, the shape of your mouth during a draw bend is the same shape you use to overblow.

For what its worth...

YouTube Search Results for Overblow

Mar 31, 2010 11:37 PM GMT
HarpMan Freeman Replied:

On this video by Jason, starting at 4:40 he explains what I just described above.

Apr 01, 2010 3:35 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

As a sax player I definately can see where the overblow notes could be used. I think the great masters of the past would have used them if they whereknown. But dont stress they will come but It may take a while. You probably have a long time where they sound like rusty gates. I know I did/do. Learning about harp setup is useful. Or as pointed out a custom harp would be great. Remember that Overblow is just a name, that does not describe the process. It does not take any more breath than any other note. Just different control. There are many different discriptions out there. This one helped me.

Apr 05, 2010 6:33 PM GMT
Chris C Replied:

Hey Rodney, How are you going with it? If you still have not got one to sound try taking off your cover plates and put your finger over the 6 Blow reed. Then blow into the 6 hole. You may just get a sound produced by the draw reed. This is the overblow. It helps to know what they sound like.

Apr 11, 2010 2:48 PM GMT
Jim f Replied:

I've been playing harmonica for a long time and never felt the need to use overblows. However as a fan of players such as Jason Ricci and Howard Levy I have recently tried to expand my technique to include them. It is slow going, but I feel it is worth it. At this point I can offer two bits of advice. The type of harmonica is very important. For me it is very difficult to overblow an out of the box Marine Band, but Special 20's are pretty easy; that's one of the reasons hohner has made the crossover Marine Band which overblow nicely. And of course custom harps work great as well.

The more important question to me is how are you going to use overblows? My approach is always song oriented, and so I started with Howard Levy's version of Star of The County Down from The Bela Fleck Album " Flight of the cosmic Hippo". It's a good simple melody which features the 6 blow overblow and is not too fast. Well I am still working on it but it's coming along...

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