Overblowing Hole 1

Dick Anderson writes:

      #1 overblow is probably one of the most difficult overblows
      and one of the least useful. Howard Levy teaches that it is
      not possible to sustain the note and the best way to make
      it work is to make a "Whhhht" with your mouth where you are
      forcing air from your mouth with the tongue, but not using
      air from your lungs.

I agree that Hole 1 overblow is the most difficult, but disagree
with everything else. Howard - pardon my saying so - is WRONG
that it is not possible to sustain a Hole 1 overblow. I cab do it
and so can several other people. Just becuase Howard can't do it
doesn't make it impossible.

I've met several people who have tried to make the bridge from
the "WHHHT" exercise - expelling air from your mouth without
using the resipratory tract - to sustained overblow, and this is
a dead end. To make it work, you have to go at it with full
breathing, and open your vocal cavity as much as possible. I use
th hot potato exercise - imagine you have a hot potato in your
mouth. You don;t want to touch it, so you open your mouth,
throat, and everything else as much as possible to avoid it. This
has worked for some people.

The reason the "WHHHT" exercise is a dead end is that it sets up
a condition that is immediately destroyed when you start
breathing. When you are expelling air from your mouth in this
fashion, your entire breathing tract is closed off, effectively
shortening the air column. As soon as you open the air column,
the resonant cavity is lenghtened by seven or eight times. Also,
I suspect, closing the air column creates an effect like having a
springboard at the back. When you open the column, the
springboard and its dynamic effect are gone.

As to its usefulness, Howard found it quite necessary in "The
Sinister Minister." It's also a frequent topic among overblow
mavens, and not just because it's difficult. It's extremely
useful for blues in first and twelfth (first flat) positions;
it's necessary for minor scales in first and second position and
for seven of the tweve major scales (fifth - E on a C harp, sixth
- B on a C harp, seventh - F# on a C harp, eighth - Db on a C
harp, ninth - Ab on a C harp, tenth - Eb on a C harp, eleventh -
Bb on a C harp). Even if you never venture beyond the fringes of
this group - E and Bb, or if you just play a little first
position blues, the note is valuable.

The advice on first bending high blow notes is very good.

I used to advise players to start on a low harp like a G, but
this doens't work for everyone. Some people find the G too
intractable and have better luck with something like a D harp -
upper midrange, and others fare best on high harps, like an F. On
the high harps, you might also try overblowing Hole 4. It's
probably best to experiment over a range of keys and find out
where your point of first access happens to lie, then widen your
technique from that point.

Bart DeBoer writes:

       But by adjusting the action of the reeds, you mean
       adjusting the action of the _blow_ reeds? I have been
       adjusting the #3 draw reed as an experiment, but that
       didn't seem to work...

You should adjust both reeds a bit lower. Remember, the draw reed
is doing the work in an overblow, and it's being pushed outwards
- backwards from its normal direction. By lowering the offset,
you're bringing it in a little closer, and making it more
accessible so it will begin vibrating more easily when being
pushed open. Also the tighter opening means the air passing
through will more efficiently set it to vibrating. Setting the
blow reed lower also means that less air will escape by that
route. I also suspect - I don't actually know this - that the
lower offset on the blow reed will make it balk a little more
readily, thus clearing the way for the draw reed to sound.

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