Choking the blow reed
The ease with which a reed can be choked depends on the gap, the distance the reed is from the plate when it is not vibrating. If the gap is low enough the reed will not play at all, it will choke immediately. When the gap is too wide the reed will never choke. One of the difficulties in setting up a harp for overblowing is finding the optimal gap, where the reed will both play and choke well.
When setting up a reed try to get a minimal amount of leakage when it is choked. Any extreme arcing of the reed will interfere with choking the reed because the reed will never close the slot off properly.

In order to develop a good control of the blow reed it is wise to practice choking an isolated reed.
Open up a harmonica and block the draw reed of (e.g. by putting a finger over its slot). Play the blow reed and gently bend it down, if the gap is small enough you will soon reach the point at which the reed chokes.
Bending down the note is done from the H spot at the back of the tongue, not by using the tip of the tongue. The tip of the tongue should remain relaxed, as should the lips and cheeks.

Once you get the reed choked, slowly increase the pressure at which you are blowing and try to keep the reed choked as long as possible.

Choke the isolated blow reed

User Contributed Notes
21-06-2012 21:58
I thank you. After months of intense frustration, I can finally blow low draw reeds. The help was your words that the
breath needed will not blow out a candle. (Plus, a friend giving me a junk harmonica, maybe 10 euros, on which I could learn
embossing reed slots.) I've a long way to go. My hint would be: really listen to the harmonica, more than to the noise in your head.

(My ambition is to play Miles' part on "Pharaoh's Dance" on Bitches Brew. It needs a middle octave Eb.)
30-09-2010 20:23
Sorry to correct my post again but the Suzuki harp you should not get for this type of play is the MR-350V not the MR-350.

30-09-2010 19:06
On my first post that should say 12th position is F on a C Harp not 11th (which is Bb). Sorry, I was thinking diatonically and not chromatically (i.e, the oxtave is the 13th note chromatically and the 8th note diatonically)

30-09-2010 18:50
Until you get the art of harp modification, DO NOT buy a great harp like a Lee Oskar (Although, when you do figure this out, the amzing difference you will feel on some of the $35 harps (low price,good quality harps that most players use because they ALWAYS eventually fail. If you spend $150 on each harp that eventually suffers metal fatigue instead of $35, the cost grows quickly, especially if you go through 20-30 harps a year like I do and need a wide range of keys and tuning styles. Lee Oskar makes a $20 harp tool kit that every harp player should own -but before you think I am a Lee Oskar plant, I want to say that the Suzuki M-350 ($60) and the Hohner XB-40 ($125) were by far my favorite harps because of their unusual manufacturing related bending abilty, followed by Lee Oskars, but M-350s and XB-40s especially, WILL NOT WORK WITH THIS TECHNIQUE BECAUSE OF THE DOUBLE REEDS ALLOWING FOR BENDING ALL HOLES, so use a Blues Harp Pro or a Lee Oskar when you get good enough not to mess up the plates and block the reeds. Until then Johnson's cheap sets are the perfect experimental modification harp.
30-09-2010 18:33
Johnson makes a set of all 12 diatonic harps with a case for $55 that is considerably better than the Cracker Barrel C diatonic. The great case is worth $30 The problem with Cracker Barrel Harps is the reeds break (especially the 3 half step bend on hole 3 draw).
This method is amazing and certainly takes the harp to a classical kind of instrument level, although I do find myself still sometimes wanting to do a 3rd position Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) Chicago style that many older harp players crave. I've been playing guitar for 30 years and harp for 28. 20 years ago I picked up mandolin, banjo, dobro, etc. Most people are best on their first instrument, but harp is the only instrument I play without having to think. But this method has changed that. With the dramtic change in style, I get a wider range but at a price. So there are times when I just have to play old, but I am hoping that an analogous grand epiphony moment comes like it did about 10 years after picking up mandolin, banjo, etc when I no longer have to translate into guitar, with this new style. One of the things I always felt good about was the ability to play in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 11th position (F on a C harp). I find myself playing more like a Richter tuned chromatic. Anyone else have any advice or ideas about this?
27-05-2010 04:07
This Site Kicks man better than any other source...THX Tinus!!!!
17-12-2009 23:10
My son and I both learned on the Cracker Barrel models and while I doubt you'll be seeing us on tour in this lifetime, those harps did "spark" an interest and led us on to bigger and better things. There are worse harps out there being marketed as the real deal that are way worse.
15-12-2009 02:36
If you have a problem with both reeds sounding you could try closing up the blowreeds. It could be that they are open too wide so that the point where the blowreed chokes lies past the point where you can make the drawreed sound. The problem could also be that you loose the choke when you get the drawreed to sound. To practice this you can choke the blowreed without getting the drawreed to sound. the very slowly and softly let the drawreed sound but concentrate on keeping the blowreed choked.
12-12-2009 03:48
Hey Tinus. I've been toying more with adjusting my harmonica for overblowing. Here is the problem I am running into now:

On some notes on some of my harps, when I play the overblow, the regular blow also sounds. You would think this is a problem with choking the blow reed, but hwen I isolate the blow reed, I can choke it totally fine, and same with isolating the draw reed, (and i can overblow on other notes), what in the setup causes this?

Also, On the overblow on hole one, I can get it if i dont connect my lung air to my throat (just kinda push my tongue forward in a whistle) but not in a sustained blow. How do I adjust these low reeds for overblowing, without compramising their bendability?'

30-06-2009 22:06
o no i don't wont to overblow i don't need them
i play easy and bluesy
and i play for my self
i play long with sonny boy
and little walter
and i am happy :))

p.s. i know how to overblow but i don't use
thanks tinus you are wonderful player :))
29-06-2009 17:48
@Franjo: don't worry if you can't overblow. With time and practice you will get the hang of it, no need to get frustrated.
29-06-2009 17:17
*** blased sonny boy!
no owerblow for him...
18-09-2008 11:02
I also found that the Chinese Hohners have good reedplates. Only the coverplates make them sound muffled. The very low black blastic coverplates stop the airflow and make them difficult to play. I am talking about the harps that come in sets of all keys. Piedmont Blues I think. If you have some spare coverplates then a set of these is a steal.
18-09-2008 03:54
Just a comment on the "$5.00 Cracker Barrel harps". These are every bit good as the Special 20 Hohner. They seem to be the same harp but only available in C . They get people started but they have to buy the Special 20 if they want other keys. It's the upgrading and keys that lets Hohner get their money. Also the Cracker Barrel "Blues Band" is made in China not Germany.
05-06-2006 13:50
Forget the trial with the ruler, it'sonly a game. If the Blow-Reed doesn't choke it's gap is to wide. But also the width of the Draw-Reed is essential to get an Overblow.
01-05-2006 22:27
First I must approve that this page is the best free instruction I found which describes how to learn a bend and an overbend, too.
But now I want to add my idea to simplify the chocking of a blow-reed without to open the harmonica or taping the gaps. Because I have only one harp and I don't want to open it everytime to change it's gap-settings.
My idea is to take a plane small ruler and shift it into the harps backside-opening to close the blow-gaps. To improve the gasket of the gap only a Postet can be wrapped around the ruler.
With this additives the learning musican is in the position to close the gaps easy and fast.
(Mac Gyver is greeting)
Only with this help I managed it to get an overblow until now.
But I will continue my attempts...
13-04-2006 13:06
The problem you are experiencing is probably a mixture of technique, harp setup and understanding.

The note you played in hole 8 wasn't an overblow but a blowbend. As you will notice the pitch goes down when you play that note. Overblows go up in pitch. Also hole 7 cant be overblown but can only be overdrawn.

Take a look at the scalefinder to get a clearer picture of which holes can be overblown and which can be bent.

If you manage to choke the lower blowreeds you are well on your way to play a proper overblow.
In order to overblow you need to set up your harp properly. The harp you are playing is fine, it just needs some minor adjustments. You probably need to set the gaps a little lower.
However it will be difficult for you to judge the right gapping because you have only just started overblowing. To remedy this use some tape to cover the drawnotes on the reedplate. This will isolate the blowreeds (and will stop you from playing an overblow) so that you can get used to the feeling of choking them and can learn the relationship between the gap and the efficiency of the choke. After you set the reeds and have practice the choke take the tape off and put it over the blowreeds. Now you can practice playing the overblow without having to worry about the choke.
13-04-2006 06:06
hello overblow.com. I am a recent admirer of your website and more so the harp. I've played the guitar for a number of years now and have been waiting for something to bring a little melody to my rythmic style of playing. And after buying my first harmonica and running across your site I'm amazed at the expansive capabilities your technique could add to my small amount of knowledge in this field. So not to waist your time, I have one question at the moment. For two days Ive practiced the overbow tech. and had no results with the low blow notes(cegc). Then thinking I was doing something wrong decided to try with the 8th hole e and it worked imediatly. so knowing I was doing it right began practicing on the other blow notes but can only get the 6th and 7th to choke but not sound. In capping - I can overblow on the 8th and get the 6th and 7th to choke but nothing else will work, do you think Its my technique or the harp that I'm playing (a hohner big river band probably at most $30, it was a gift, but better than the $5 cracker barrel harps.)
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