overblows & "traditional" harp
There's no reason one can't play "traditional" styles AND use overblows or
valved bends on diatonic. The only way this would be a valid objection is
if you're trying to COPY old stuff.
A style is a style. Whether you use four notes, five notes, or all twelve
per octave, it's the STYLE that makes the music, not the absolute notes.
Let's take blues as an example. A good 80 percent of all blues harp is
played on 2 thru 5 draw - four reeds out of twenty. Why? Partly because
these notes tend to be "sweeter", partly because of the wonderful bends, and
partly because of the chords and double stops. (There's more, of course,
but let's run with these for the moment). Basically, we have I, III, V, and
VII. With bends, we have a lot more, and the better players make very good
use of these available bends.
Still, it's only about an octave. The diatonic spans three octaves.
And of course - so does the better player! Some of the most exciting blues
harmonica work is done on the 8-10 blow reeds.
Still, there are some "desert" areas on blues diatonic. Overblows allow us
a lot more flexibility - not in playing nontraditionally, but in playing
TRADITIONAL licks in these normally untouched regions.
There's one harmonica player who might have taken exception (perhaps in the
form of a punch) if you criticised him for playing extremely nontraditional
(at that time anyway) blues. His name was Walter Jacobs, Little Walter.
Back in the late 1940's, when harmonica was still an acoustic instrument, he
found a way to electrify it and drastically CHANGE the sound into something
I'm sure greatly upset the purists and old folks (who we don't hear about
these days). His technique and licks were unique as well. He copped a lot
of licks, not from other harpers, but from popular horn players of his day.
If Little Walter Jacobs were coming up today, would he use overblows?
Considering that he was at the cutting edge of harmonica back then, I really
don't see how it could be otherwise (although all we can do is speculate, of
Of course, there are those of us who use chromatic-diatonic techniques
because we want to do something out of the ordinary on harmonica. But my
point here is that new techniques can be used to play any type of music. I
do some old time traditional delta and Chicago blues on my valved diatonic.
In the truest tradition of blues, I do it "my way". What makes it blues is
BTW some LIVE tunes by The IronMan Curtis BonTemps Blues Band:
(and - hint hint - we're looking to tour)
Health care for blues musicians? Sign the petition!
- -IronMan Mike Curtis http://www.ironmancurtis.com *Southland Blues Magazine
http://www.SouthlandBlues.com TU 8pm jam Starboard Attitude, Redondo pier
Every Sun, 2pm Stagger Inn, 9018 Alondra, Bellflower, except:
Last SUN, LARHA HarpJam, Tia Juanas, Irvine
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