How to start playing overblows on harmonica

Sep 21, 2016 | Advanced Intermediate Harmonica Lessons, Harmonica Gear

This week’s harmonica is an introduction to overblows. You will need a harmonica in the key of Bb.

There are some things you need to have down before you even start trying to overblow




1) Can you draw bend holes 1 – 6?

Are you confident with all your draw bends between holes 1 and 6? If yes, move on to the next step. If no, get all your bends sounding good then move on to the next step.

2) Can you blow bend hole 7 – 10?

Are you confident with all your blow bends between holes 7 and 10? If yes, move on to the next step. If no, get all your blow bends sounding good then move on to the next step.

3) Do you have a real harmonica?

You don’t need a super fancy custom harmonica. But you do need something that is not a toy. You are looking for something that is reasonably airtight (this is the most important part). Leaky harmonicas are hard to play.

I suggest a Bb harmonica to start with – they are easier to overblow on.

Some harmonicas that are really airtight from the beginning

Hohner Crossover
Suzuki Manji and Olive

Harmonicas that work fine

Hohner SP20 and Marine Band
Suzuki Promaster

Harmonicas that are really hard to overblow on

Lee Oskar

(These are all harmonicas that I have personally tried. I’m sure there are others that are great as well :-))

N.B. Harmonicas that are good quality but a little leaky can be fixed (more on this in a later lesson).

4) Don’t play too hard

Overblows are not achieved through “over” blowing. In fact, they require very little air pressure.

Before we start playing, what is an overblow?

An overblow is when you bend a draw reed up while you are blowing. To do this you need to mute the blow reed and then pull the draw reed up while blowing.

As against bends, overblows raise the pitch of the note.

You are ready to get started

Now you are ready to get started. Here are some ideas to get you started overblowing hole number 6 on a Bb harmonica.

1) Try blow bending the 8 hole

Play a blow-bend on the 8 hole and then move down to the 6 hole with the same mouth position. Try saying “hee” as you blow the 6 hole with this mouth position.

2) Try draw bending the 6 hole

Play a draw bend on the 6 hole, then reverse the air direction and say “hee”

3)Take the harmonica apart and isolate the reeds

I like to start people off by taking the cover plates off the harmonica and isolating the blow reed. To do this you need to mute the draw reed with your thumb (see video)

Now blow bend the blow reed until it mutes. Practice doing this with as little effort as possible.

Once you have that nailed, move on to isolating the draw reed.

Isolate the draw reed by muting the 6 blow with your index finger (see video)

Try the mouth shape you have just been practicing and say “hee”. If you get a horrible sound, you are on the right track.

Keep persevering!

Overblowing takes a long time to start doing and even longer to master so patience is required.

I will be doing a lesson on reed adjustment soon but please don’t rush to jump inside the harmonica and tweak your reeds until you have spent time doing everything I have suggested in this lesson.

Thank You

Happy harping!

Thank you so much for taking part in this lesson. I hope it was useful for you. If you enjoyed this lesson, please share it with your friends.

See you again for the next harmonica video!

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