Overblows - Further Guidance

TO: internet:harp-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
SUBJ: Overblows _ Further Guidance

Spider Schaumberg enthuses about overblows. I'll try to answer
some of his questions.

Yes, overblows can be bent up. However, as you raise the pitch,
the reed gets closer and closer to the reedplate and eventually
chokes off (a small gap between reed and plate is needed for the
reed to vibrate). So after about a semitone, you have to breathe
fairly lightly. But you do have to bend them up a certain amount
just to get them in tune.

As for being powerful in the middle register, do you mean loud?
They can be played loudly, but also softly. To me, however, they
have a richness when sustained that is more saxophone-like than
anything else on a harmonica. I don't know how powerful you're
trying to make them, or the ideal that's in your head, but yeah,
they can definitely make a big, rich sound.

You shouldn't need to swallow the harp. The gag muscles are, as
you guess, involved in modulating the airflow to produce one of
the many possible kinds of vibrato on a harmonica (tongue and
hand vibrato are two others. But beware, there's a lot of polite
contention on the list as to what constitutes vibrato and what is
merely tremolo - check last month's archive for some background.)
This has nothing to do with tongue blocking per se. You can get
it with any embouchure (the others being pucker and the U-block).

Volume by tongue blocking? Again, it doesn't matter. Volume is a
matter of resonance - making the sound resonate through your
entire breathing tract and opening up your mouth and throat
cavities. As long as the tongue doesn't interfere with any of
this, and doesn't cause air leakage through your embouchure it
doesn't really play a part in how loud you can play.

Practical uses for overblowing in frequently usef blues positions
include, as you noted, the Bb overblow in Hole 6 one a C harp,
giving you the blue minor third in cross harp. The F# overblow
in Hole 5 is also very useful. It gives you the MAJOR third of
the D chord, which is otherwise not available in the middle
octave. Of course D is the V chord in G (2nd position) and the I
chord in D (third position). If you;re playing in first
(straight) position, the 4, 5 and 6 overblows give you the minor
3rd, flat fifth and minor seventh - all important blue notes. And
if you can bend them up . . . .

Winslow Yerxa
Harmonica Information Press

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