More Overblow Basics

Some more overblowing guidelines.

Asian harps in general, such as the Lee Oskars, and especially
the Huangs mentioned by Todd Huss, are not the best candidates
for overblowing, due to the thin, wide reed dimensions. This also
holds true for Chinese-produced Hohners, such as the Hot Metal,
the Big River, and other harps in the new modular series.

Wooden bodied harps can be leaky and the reeds are often set too
high for good overblow response. Golden Melody harps are no
guarantee either. For straight out-of-the box overblowing ease (a
relative term), I would suggest a Special 20 in either C or D.
Start on Hole 6, then try 4 and 5.

As far as the exploding head problem, Todd, you're trying to make
up with force what you haven't yet gained in finesse. The dying
animal sound is part of the same problem.

The range of tongue positions necessary to set up an overblow is
much narrower than with bending. This means it's harder to find
and hold, and also means that you'll get two reeds sounding at
once becuase you haven't yet found the tongue position that gives
the proper resonant frequency to produce the overblow.

Two suggestions.

First, take the top cover off your harp. Do the Draw 6/Draw 6
BEND/Hold bend position/Overblow sequence again, but this time
cover the 6 blow reed slot with your finger. The overblow note is
produced not by the blow reed, but by the draw reed. By removing
the blow reed from action, you can direct all the airflow to the
draw reed. This should help you get the feel of the overblow.

Second, set the reed action lower. This is important, and all the
good overblow players do it. The reed juts up from the reedplate
at an angle. The higher the action (also called offset), the
harder you can play the reed, but the more difficult overblowing
becomes. Set both the blow and the draw reed for the hole

If you set the reed lower, it may choke up if you hit it too
hard, but it will respond better to softer playing, and to
overblowing. The trick is to find the optimal setup where "too
hard" for the harp isn't too hard for you, and still allows
good overblowing response.

At first set the reed extremely low, and don't worry about "normal"
response. Conentrate on getting the overblow to come in cleanly
and without excessive pressure - you should be able to play an
overblow as softly as a regular note. As you get better at this,
keep moving the action higher and higher until it's close to
normal height (use another harp in the same key for comparison).

The way you set the action is to flex the reed gently in the
direction you want the action to go. You don't want to "crease"
the reed by yanking it down - it will soon break off along the
crease. Be very careful with this until you get the hang of it.
Use a junk harp for practice, and always do too little and not
too much.

Let me know how this works out.

Winslow Yerxa
Harmonica Information Press

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