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Harmonica Lessons: Overblows: Getting Started

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Hey now we finally arrived at the place
where many of you have
been eagerly waiting for,
is the subject of overblowing or
overbending or
whatever it's called these days.
I stumbled upon this technique in 1969,
1970, the winter of that year.
Cuz I was looking for the notes that
are not here on the diatomic harmonica.
And I had learned how to
draw bend on the bottom and
I had learned how to blow bend on the top.
And since there were still
a bunch of notes missing,
which was very frustrating to me,
being a piano player, I thought,
well, these notes have to be
here on the harmonica somewhere.
So, I'm just gonna try to get it.
I'm just gonna blow in all sorts
of weird ways on this instrument.
I'm this 18 year old college kid.
What did I know?
So I thought,
what happens if I try to blow
on a note that doesn't bend, like one of
the blows on the bottom of the harmonica?
And so I was doing this on a G harp,
it turned out, and
I'll do it on the C right now.
I'm blowing on the sixth hole blow,
which is G here.
And this higher note popped out,
of course not as clearly in 1969,
1970 as it does now.
But it popped out.
At first it was sort of fuzzy,
and was part of the other note,
of another note that I was playing.
It was part of this, I can't even do
it anymore, but part of the lower note.
So, I was a little confused at first.
I thought, wow,
what a great funky sound for the blues.
And then I realized that that note
that pops out of the top was actually
the missing note I was looking for,
which in In cross harp position
is the flatted third up on top.
That saxophone players and
blues guitarist play.
Everyone plays that.
Except diatonic harmonica players couldn't
play it, even though they wanted to.
I was pretty excited by this.
And I'll show you how it works.
The best way to prepare yourself
to learn how to overblow.
I called it overblowing because I
didn't know what I had done, and
I went to a saxophone
player friend of mine.
And I said, what am I doing when I go
[SOUND] and this high note pops out?
He said, well it sounds like
you're overblowing a harmonica.
And since I didn't know anything, I
thought, okay, I'm overblowing a harmonic,
which is not what you're doing at all,
as it turns out.
But that's why I called it overblowing,
and other people call it overbending.
And you could call it what you want.
So, if you know how to bend eight
blow very well,
I went into this,
in the bending section, and
you have to get this thing real smooth.
It's [NOISE] and if you move down to
six blow [SOUND] and
try to do the same thing,
this note just pops out
if you do it right.
[SOUND] But there's a little bit
more of a ku involved [SOUND]
because something different
happens on this reed,
this pair of reeds,
than what happens on a blow bend.
It's like saying [NOISE] [NOISE], and
on a C harmonica, the [NOISE] is
a little further forward in the mouth
than it would be on a B flat harmonica,
an A harmonica or G harmonica.
[NOISE] And I could say, okay,
now all of you just go and
do it, except there's one very
important thing that I will
show in a close up later,
is that the reeds have to really be
adjusted well to make this easy.
I did it on harmonicas where the reeds
were just random right out of the factory,
and many of the older harmonicas
you could do this on.
I showed in my harmonica curiosity section
that I could overblow on the harmonicas
from 1910 and from the 1890s.
I have never touched the insides of these.
It works just fine.
But to make it easier,
you have to know how to adjust the action,
which I'll show in a close up later.
It basically consists of,
pushing the reeds towards the reed plate,
as close as possible.
The draw reed is on the bottom,
and you push it with your thumb.
The blow reed is on the top, it's inside,
you can push it up with a toothpick, or
a screwdriver.
Just to make it very basic and simple.