[Harp-L] Overbending

Winslow Yerxa winslowyerxa@xxxxx
Fri Aug 25 18:25:34 EDT 2017

Actually, Will Scarlett was using the term "overblow" when I met him in 1974, which I believe was before Howard discovered the technique.

Using the term is an intuitive thing, because playing an overblow on a harmonica feels a bit like when you overblow a wind instrument at the octave. Only a harmonica overblow doesn't go up an octave, it goes up a semitone higher than the closing reed, and a harmonica overblow happens for a different reason than the overblow you get on a flute or saxophone.

I would never say Overblow 9 as described by Michael Rubin, because it causes confusion.

Many players believe that the high blow bends in Holes 7, 8, 9, and 10 are "overblows." So when you say "Overblow 9" when referring to Over*draw* 9, at least part of your audience will think you're referring to the blow bend in Hole 9. Besides, you don't blow to produce it anyway. It's no harder to say "draw" than "blow," so there's nothing to be gained by using a confusing term.

When referring to voerblows, overdraws, and overbends, here's what I do:

If I'm referring to a specific overbend, I'll use the correct breath direction: Overblow 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6, and Overdraw 7, 8, 9, or 10. That way there's no doubt.

If I'm referring the the entire class of isolated opening-reed bends (which is what overblows and overdraws are), then I'll speak of overbends.
Winslow Yerxa
Producer, the Harmonica Collective
Author, Harmonica For Dummies, Second Edition: ISBN 978-1-118-88076-0
            Harmonica Basics For Dummies, ASIN B005KIYPFS
            Blues Harmonica For Dummies, ISBN 978-1-1182-5269-7
Resident Expert, bluesharmonica.com
Instructor, Jazzschool Community Music School
President emeritus, SPAH, the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica

From: Gary Lehmann <gnarlyheman at xxxxx>
To: Leonard Schwartzberg <Leonard1 at xxxxx> 
Cc: harp-l <harp-l at xxxxx>
Sent: Friday, August 25, 2017 8:02 AM
Subject: [Harp-L] Overbending

Howard Levy coined the term overblows, and he wishes he had called it

something else.

Let's take a look at how the reeds respond to breath.

Normal action is blow and draw, that's what the instrument was designed

for. I call these notes "given" notes--you don't have to do anything but


Next come bent notes--draw on 1-6, blow on 7-10. 5 and 7 are dicey, I

personally don't bend them and they can be easily broken with bad technique.

Now come the other bends, and these are created when you choke the sounding

reed and play the opposite breath direction reed. So, say, 6 blow on a C is

G--if you choke that reed, you can play the draw reed and it produces a Bb,

a half step higher than the normal tone (that's an A note on draw 6).

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