Practicing Overblows

No one ever said overblow playing was easy.
One thing most people will agree on is that overblow playing requires a lot of practice.
So what do you practice to get to a point where you can incorporate overblows into your playing and more importantly, how should you practice?


One thing that really helps when you are learning to play overblows is to have 2 old harmonicas where the reeds have been taped shut. One with the drawreeds taped shut and one with the blowreeds taped shut.
On these you can easily practice the different parts of the overblow technique. Use the harmonica with the tape on the drawreeds to practice bending the blowreeds down untill they choke and use the one with the blowreeds taped to get the drawreed to respond to you when you are blowing into the hole.
You will find that the seperate parts of the overblow are relatively easy. Putting them together is hard, but becomes a lot easier when you have a clear feeling for the different parts of the mouth that are involved when doing these seperate elements of the overblow.

User Contributed Notes
08-10-2017 02:55
Thanks Tinus. Do you play a C harp for everything? Yeah when i do the practice thing with the cover plate off i can bend the blow reed down easily and sound the overblow but when the cover plates go on it changes the embouchure and makes it feel a bit different. A lot of times i get the overblow and it sounds good but a lot of times it's like the bit you say in the video "If it sounds like that then you're not choking the blow reed." It sounds buzzy. My goal is to be able to get that overblow to the point i can use it with confidence and know i'm gonna hit it without that horrible buzzing. At the moment i go through a practice regimen of playing all major scales and then minor pentatonic's through the cycle of fourths. It's great practice but any major scale that contains the Eb i need to start from the higher position because of not being able to get that low Eb overblow reliably. But it's hard i even saw a video of Jason Ricci saying it's a difficult note to hold. So if i feel bad i often think about that!!
07-10-2017 18:10
@Gary: have you seen my video on hole 1 overblow technique? https://youtu.be/80b3NM4ar9Q
07-10-2017 18:08
@Gary: I don't gap the reeds very low, I mostly make sure that they are straight so that when they choke they really snap shut. The reed has to be open enough so that the normal note doesn't sound muffled.
07-10-2017 03:50
Thanks Tinus. Do you gap the #1B and #1D really low? Usually if the low reed is gapped tight it sounds kind of bad. I was thinking of trying chromatic but the price of them and the extra maintenance required puts me off. Do you feel dipping the reed at the rivet pad makes a big difference to the OB quality?
06-10-2017 23:23
@Gary: It is more difficult on the C harp because of the weight at the tip of the reed in combination with the curve of the reed. Some customizers change the reed with on from a lower harp so they can change the shape of the reed. I usually just change the curve of the reed so that it dips a little at the rivet and comes up straight after that.
06-10-2017 23:05
Hi Tinus. I play a C harp mostly like yourself and play it about 90% of my playing. However no matter what i do i can't get the hole 1 OB with fluency so that i can use it in my music. I can get it a lot easier on my key of F harp where i can get it at will. But on the C harp it's really difficult unless i gap it so tightly that the reed ends up getting jammed. Any ideas why i can get it on the F easily but not the C? Is it the shorter reed length or because it's a higher pitch harp? Anyway i kind of gave up on it on the C because it just feels too difficult to get.

03-03-2015 15:03
OK thanks, I'll try that. By the way, is tongue-blocked overblowing harder than puckered? If so, maybe I should go for what's easier for the time being.
03-03-2015 14:26
@Daniel: take the coverplates off stick some cellotape over the blowreedslot put the covers back. BTW it is possible to play all overblows with tongueblock. I can play most (except hole 1) with tongueblock and I have a tongblocking student who plays all of them with TB.
03-03-2015 14:23
Thanks for getting back to me Tinus. I tongue-block everything, including the draw bends, so yes, I play the 6 overblow with the back of my tongue (though I don't tongue-block the overblow). When I try to stop the blowreed 6, it starts to go down, then the OB just pops out. When I try the exact same technique on 4 and 5, the blowreed starts to go down, but doesn't choke, and of course no overblow. I'll try regapping a little. And what's the best way to isolate the drawreed? If I take the coverplate off, it makes playing a lot harder.
01-03-2015 19:11
@Daniel: if you are playing the overblow with the back of the tongue the technique will readily transfer to the other holes. If you use the tip of the tongue things will be harder.
Are you able to stop the blowreeds in hole 4 & 5? Have you tried playing the overblow with an isolated drawreed?
28-02-2015 19:28
Hi Tinus. I can quite easily get a nice overblow on hole 6, both on my Firebreath in Bb and a custom harmonica in C. It comes out sounding nice and relaxed. However, on holes 4 and 5, there's nothing at all, despite months of trying. What differences are there in tongue position for the different overblows? How can I apply what I do on hole 6 to the other holes? thank you
11-06-2008 19:48
If the reeds stick than they are probably gapped too close. It can help to make a slight adjustment to the edge of the slot. If the slot edge is nog perfect but has small gauges in it then it is more difficult for the moisture to form a film, making the reed sticking less likely.
Take a small file and gently carve a couple of marks in the slot edge.
11-06-2008 16:52
Daniel Cohen
I've just started trying to incorporate overblows, but the problem I'm having is the the blow reed always gets stuck after the overblow. Is there a way to cut down on the amount of spit, or do I need to gap the reeds more?
Also I've been debating whether overblows or valving is the way to go. What are the pros and cons?
21-02-2008 12:54
Yes I was quite surprised about it as well :)
21-02-2008 05:28
Ben Klein
Thanks for telling me- I never knew that overblowing would require a lot of practice! :)