Getting the draw reed to sound
Getting the draw reed to sound is the easy part of the overblow, all you need to do is resonate the right pitch. Again I would suggest you start with an isolated reed by blocking of the blow reed. Gently blow and try to find the right tongue/throat position that will allow the draw reed to sound.

It helps if you have a clear idea of what the note you are going to play should sound like. This helps set up the muscles in your throat for resonating the right pitch.

Remember this is not a matter of force, the isolated draw reed will sound at a whisper of a breath if you are resonating correctly.
User Contributed Notes
22-04-2015 19:38
Great page!

Like other guys, choking was not THAT much of a problem.

The real problem was making the draw reed sound. After 2 days of intense practicing, I finally got it.

The answer came making short "K" sounds, that's the best way to start making the reed sound. Best tip in my humble opinion...

Thank you, Tinus!

23-06-2014 23:23
This page is great! Thank you!
I figured out how to choke the blow reed but couldn't get the draw reed to sound.
I found out that flipping the harmonica over so the draw reed is on top did the trick.
Thank you so much!
10-06-2013 14:53
1. Choking the reed will indeed result in a very limited airflow. You are doing it right.
2. You do not have to change anything to the reed (unless it is gapped ridiculously wide) but you have to change the position of the back of the tongue. Bring the back of the tongue up to the pallet. The trick is to find the right resonance for the drawreed to start moving. This is best done with very little air pressure because too much pressure would also choke the drawreed.
09-06-2013 19:13
Jeppe muk
Dear Tinus.
i am quite new to the harmonica and would like to ask two questions.
1. I have succeded in choking the blowreeds quite sufficiently although when they are chocked
i can only blow a very small amount of air. Am i doing something wrong?
2. I cant get the drawreeds to sound at all, except for the 1 hole, which only plays a very silent major 2nd.
is there something i dont understand or should i do something about my draw reeds? (i used the guide above with an isolated reed, and i am a singer so i have always sung the note that i tried to hit before blowing)
I hope you have the time to help me:)
Thanks for the site and a good day to you!
Jeppe Muk
17-02-2012 18:18
@Javier: A matter of taste I think. Both work but they work in different ways so it is very personal. I also know people who mix the two: valves on holes 1-3 and overblow on 4-6.
17-02-2012 13:56
Javier Dardon
Yeah, your right, I tried yesterday blocking the blow reeds with tape and after a lot of triying I do was able to produce the draw reed sound, is actually more brigth, some times I got more than one full tone over the draw reed note. What are the advantages and disadvantages of halve valved harps and actual overblowing?
17-02-2012 01:57
@javier: you are probably blowbending the reeds down to that pitch. If that works for you you might want to consider playing halve valved harps. On a halve valved harp the way you are doing it is exactly the way to go only with the valves it is much easier to do.I f you want to play without valves and want to learn actual overblows I suggest you block the blowreeds and learn to play the notes you are looking for on the drawreed alone before you start overblowing with an unblocked blowreed.
16-02-2012 23:15
Javier Dardon
Tinus, your site is the best man. I have a BIG question or problem, I was triying to learn how to overblow, and I read that is something like a normal blow bend, so I try and try, until some thing started to sound; Then I made the Harp modifications on my standard C Lee Oskar, put the H spot to work and after that the missing notes are sounding a lot better and without too much effort. But here is the problem: I was convinced that in order to get a F# on the second octave I need to overblow the 6th hole, hole 2 and hole 5 for Eb. Now I saw the this is wrong, but the funny thing is that I actually was able to produce the notes I wanted in that holes. What do you recommend me?
10-10-2011 23:02
No you don't even need the half step. Bending up the overblows is only useful in fast ornamentations. Most of the time you only need to bend the overblow a little bit to get the intonation right.
10-10-2011 22:56
Tinus , YOU ARE THE MAN thanks , I have been playing C diatonic harmonica for only 3 weeks I don't want to get fancy i just love jazz and i want to be able to play the harmonica chromatically do i need more than one half step to be able to do so?? or just half step at each hole is enough , thanks for sharing your knowledge wish you all the best :-)
10-10-2011 22:43
Tip1: play very gently.
Tip2: be sure to use the back of the tongue and not the tip.

You can bend the overblow several half steps depending on how tight the reeds are setup. )ne half step is usually pretty doable. I have heard people bend up a fifth and more.


10-10-2011 22:39
Tinus, thanks it worked I finally got it !!! it seems that i wasn't covering the blow reed properly , but it came once and went i can't hold it !! any tips??? , when you said to the right pitch what did you mean , how many pitches are there?? thank you very much!!!
10-10-2011 22:24

First of all you have to stay calm :)
You probably have to bend the note to the correct pitch. Chances are you are bending the overblow up.
10-10-2011 22:16
i blocked the 6 blow reed ,the 6 draw reed reacted first i got a strange hissing sound then a note came out MY PROBLEM IS THAT IT'S NOT THE 6 OVERBLOW I ALWAYS HEAR IT'S NOT THE DESIRED NOTE WHAT SHOULD I DO PLEASE HELP !!!
06-02-2011 20:17
@Baker: the mouth cavity functions as a resonator for the reed much like the pipe in an organ. In order to play bent notes or overblows you have to adjust the resonant frequency of the column of air in the mouth. The reed - mouth system functions like a Helmholz resonator. There is a very interesting paper by Robert B. Johnston who studied the fenomenon: http://mis.ucd.ie/Members/RJohnst/oldharp.pdf
06-02-2011 16:31
Hi, You talk about the need to resonate the note properly. Can you explain a little more what you mean by resonate. Thanks.
16-05-2010 22:31
You have to use the back of the tongue to resonate the pitch that the drawreed will make when you overblow it. Practice with an isolated reed first.
16-05-2010 22:23
I don't seem to get the draw reed to sound.

When I have choked the blow reed, should I lift my tongue up a bit more or press it a bit down? Or something else perhaps? Btw, very good site, couldn't have gotten this far without you!
11-11-2009 23:50
Hey Chris,

Many people can play bend notes and overblows with a tongue block. This might be useful for you in order to stabilise the tongue and keep the lips on the right spot. Of course it could also be that it is difficult to bend that way because it uses a lot of the throat muscles. But you should give it a try. You can also bend with the tip of the tongue, but that gives you a thinner sound.
11-11-2009 22:46
just to clarify i meanth the back portion of the toungue not the bottom
11-11-2009 22:41
I have cerebral palsy i am very saddened to relise that i cannot control the back of my toungue i understand now why i can't bent notes or over blow i also have to put my lipes ontop and bottom of the harmonica because i cannot keep my lips on the little lip hopefully you'll have some ideas cause i dont want to give up but if i cant get bends and overblows than i would consider giving up the harmonica.

i c control the tip of my toungbut when i try to move the bottom i lose the way i have my lips around the harmonica and my toungue goes in wierd positions.

any ideas?
10-09-2009 18:42

Thanks, I followed your advice and it worked a treat. Exactly how you said. I wasn't choking the reed at all, just overpowering them. With the coverplate off and the 1 blow reed covered. The 1 overblow did eventualy sound. With a minute amount of pressure. No beetroot faced behaviour like in holes 4-6.

But minute, almost just a breeze and it sounded perfectly. That's obviously just the amount of resonance that the particular hole/key/instrument/my mouth combo requires. Seems I am going to have to mod the 1 blow after all to get it to choke properly now! ;-)

Thanks for all your help!
10-09-2009 15:12
@G: have you tried opening the harp and just playing the overblown note while closing the blownote slot with a finger? It could be that you are overpowering the reed. You don't need force to get that reed to play, but you do need good resonance.
As far as tricks go I'd say: make as much room as you can. Drop that tongue to the bottom of your jaw and open up as much as possible.
10-09-2009 15:02

I'm a diatonic player, and about a year ago I bought a Suzuki Firebreath to learn Overblowing etc. Not being a harp modder I wanted an out of the box model, and so far so good. Sure the notes are still hit and miss affairs but I'm slowly approaching full chromatic.

I can overblow on 4, 5, and 6 and overdraw on 7 and 9 (and curiously 8 as well which gives the same note as a regular draw 9). So really I've achieved my objective. With the 6 OB and 7 OD I can get a 2 octave blues scale.

However, try as I might I just can't get a 1 hole overblow. I know it's possilbe, as you've shown us the way. And I can get the blow reed to choke but I just can't get the draw reed to sound: try as I might.

Now I'm nervous about tinkering with my 70 pound beauty so I was wondering, is there a trick to the 1 OB that I'm missing? Or a little mod that might help for the draw reed? As I said the blow reed chokes fine.

Thanks a lot man! Love the site.

05-09-2009 11:31
Emboss, arc and gap
05-09-2009 00:43
How do I reduce the air loss?
04-09-2009 12:22
When the blowreed opens the escaping air causes a change in the resonance qualities of your mouth/reed resonant system. When the blowreed is open you loose a little compression. Setting up the reed so that the loss of air is minimal when the blowreed is chocked helps a lot.
04-09-2009 02:06
I am able to get the draw reed to sound on hole 4 when I block the blow reed and blow out; however if I unblock the blow reed I don't hear the sound of the draw reed or the blow reed. Why does this happen?
06-02-2009 22:41
For those who are having troubles (as I have been) getting things in position for the right frequency of resonance, here's what's been helping me--finally--get some decent results, at least on holes 4 and 5. I start on the note *above* the overblow pitch I'm looking for, and then move my mouth as if I'm bending down a half-step while shifting to the lower hole.

For example, to hit the 5-hole overblow, which is a half-step below the 6 blow, I start with a 6 blow, then shift down to the 5 hole while imagining I'm bending that 6-blow pitch down a half step. This seems to get my mouth and tongue in the right position, as it's easier to "visualize" the right pitch coming off the overblow.

If I don't get it at first, I just keep going back and forth between the 6-hole blow and the "bent down" version of that note (the 5-hole overblow), adjusting the mouth-shape for the bend bit-by-bit until the right pitch emerges. Trying to keep the air pressure the same (relatively gentle) for the 6-blow and 5-overblow helps, too.

By the way, I'm making no conscious attempt to "choke" anything. When I tried to do that (say, by bending down the 5 blow in preparation for the 5 overblow), my mouth was not in the right position to resonate the draw reed at the *higher* pitch.

Finally, I seem to have the best luck when I start the overblow with a gentle "k" sound (from where the arc of my tongue meets the roof of my mouth).

Hope this might be useful to someone, and sorry if it just causes more confusion!
02-02-2009 17:49
With a blocked blowreed you do not need to modify the drawreeds to get them to sound. Throat, mouth, tongue, it is all one system. You need to get it into the right position for sounding that note and yes that is exactly like singing. Everybody can do this, everybody that can hum a tune can do this. It apparently is a little easier to do if you can curl up the sides of your tongue, but since it can also be done while tongue blocking this is not required.
Hum, sing or whistle the note you want to play and your mouth/throat/tongue will be in the right resonating position.

One thing that might be a problem is that you are using too much force. If you try to use power to get the reed to play you will most likely fail miserably. With a blocked blowreed the amount of airflow you need to get the drawreed to sound is about as much as blowing into a candle flame at a short distance without it going out. Very gently blow and move your tongue from the palet down as in making a wheeeejo sound. Ending on the pitch you want to resonate.
02-02-2009 15:38
Joe C.
I am having the same problems as cool guy and Rob. Even with the taped blowreeds, I cannot get a sound out of the drawreeds. Do I need to modify my harp (with a larger focus on modifying the blowreeds)? When modifying my harp, do I modify all the reeds or just the ones that overblow or overdraw?

Lastly, could you clarify what you mean by "resonating the right pitch." Is this at all like singing the right pitch (in terms of throat muscles)? Does everyone have the proper throat muscles to resonate correctly, or do you have to build those muscles with lots of practicing? It's also confusing, because Rob quoted your paragraph as "tongue/throat positioning," but your response to Rob indicate "tongue/mouth positioning." Is it really a combination of all 3 (tongue/throat/mouth positioning) that you need to get this to work? Please help!!!!!
25-01-2009 21:51
No you should blow. It is only impossible if you use a valved harmonica. Otherwise you need to spend more time looking for the correct tongue/mouth position.
25-01-2009 21:41
"Again I would suggest you start with an isolated reed by blocking of the blow reed. Gently blow and try to find the right tongue/throat position that will allow the draw reed to sound."

I tried to blow with the 'blow reed' blocked. This is quite impossible. Should I draw? or am I doing something wrong?

31-07-2008 11:15
It could work on the tremolo but it won't be easy. In tremolos the draw reeds are in a seperate chamber from the blowreed. So there is no need to choke the blowreed, you just need to blow into the drawreed hole and overblow it. However since there are two reeds for every note, you have to overblow them both or isolate a single reed. Good luck.
31-07-2008 04:27
should this technique work in a 24-hole tremolo?
blowing on the draw reeds all I get is a super high whistle
26-07-2008 12:52
No the overblown note is always higher than the blow note. so it is the C that goes to the Eb. You bend down the C untill it chokes and then you play the overblow Eb on the drawreed.
26-07-2008 10:37
Tinus Site, on your comment on 20-01-2006, did you mean the 5 hole overblowing an E to an Eb?

I just managed to get my 4 hole C down to a "B and a half" for the first time. Thanks for the help.
15-05-2008 17:01
Although the bendometer is a good working tool, I do think that learning intonation visually, either with bendometer or a tuner, doesn't work too well. When you are playing you can't rely on visual cues for your intonation, you have to rely on your ear. so you have to train to adjust your intonation by using your ear, not by using you eyes. In my opinion it is better to train your intonation against a piano or keyboard. That way you learn to hear when you are off key
15-05-2008 16:42
Tank you! :)

Download this if you don't got it: http://www.harmonicagame.com/run/run.html
Bendometer. If you got an mike you can look at the Bendometer and know what note you are playing
04-04-2008 13:18
will Scarlett
Beautyfully written info. Thanks for love!
03-06-2007 13:40
Okay, so it is not easy for everybody :)
However many people do find it rather easy to play the overblown note on a harp that has the blowreeds taped shut (or just on a single reedplate). I doubt that it is the harp that is the problem. It might be the force with with you are trying to do it. When the blowreed is closed of with tape or a finger, all the air goes directly to the drawreed. The drawreed only needs very little force and some good resonance to respond. If you try to put too much air through it it will choke, so try to play this overblown note very gently untill you find the exact position that resonates with it.
03-06-2007 05:00
cool guy
now way is this the easy part
i choked it real easy but i can only make it play the draw reed like barely ever and i cant replicate it
but maybe its just my harp
whatever this site is awesome anyway
14-12-2006 04:31
James Supra
Great info !!
20-01-2006 01:50
Yes that would be the overblown note.

So if you are playing a C harp and are working on hole 4 that would be an Eb. The note produced by the draw reed when it is overblown.
19-01-2006 22:44
Mike Snowden
This page could be clearer about which note I'm trying to sound at this stage - presumably the overblow note for that reed pair?