Playing the Overblow
Once you feel you can control the choked blow reed and can get the draw reed to sound, you can put the two parts together and play an overblow.

First forget about playing the overblow and just concentrate on playing the blow reed. Slowly bend down the note and try to reach the point where the blow reed chokes.
Chances are that you when you do reach this point the draw reed will immediately start to sound.
If it doesn't then don't panic, stay concentrated on keeping the blow reed choked and gently try to get the vocal tract in the right position for resonating the note the draw reed should produce.

If this turns out to be very difficult then try to set the gaps on both reeds a little lower (or very low) that should make them respond better.

Blow to choke to overblow
User Contributed Notes
20-11-2011 22:58
Hi, It's great.
26-01-2011 04:29
Yes the answer stays the same. Open up the harp and isolate the reeds. First do the two parts of the overblow separately and only then see if you can do them both at the same time
26-01-2011 00:02
Mr Jones
Perhaps it wasn't clear in my previous post, but I also wanted to make clear that I also can't get the overblow 'unclear'. It's not that I'm able to get to a bad-sounding sound where I can hear the blow reed AND the draw reed. When I try to bend down the blow note, I just hear a normal blow note.

Just wanted to make that clear, does your answer stay the same now you know this?
25-01-2011 19:51
@Mr Jones: all three probably. A badly set up harp would make it difficult to bend the blow note which would make it impossible to choke the blownote which would make it impossible to get a clean sounding overblow. Open up the harp, block the blowreed slot completely and then try to play the overblow. If that works then the problem is the setup of the blowreed or your control of the blowreed.
25-01-2011 18:56
Mr Jones
I can get all the overblows to sound except for overblow on hole 1.

I can't even bend it down. But I was wondering: maybe it's because of the harp.

So here's my question. If it's a problem because of my harp, where would I be stuck? Bending it down, choking it, or getting the 1ob to sound clearly. My guess is that if it's the harp it you should be able to go until you make the reed squeek, no?
03-05-2010 20:22
oh sorry I missed this bit "gap close and imboss the blow reed", do the same for all the reeds.
03-05-2010 20:14
I think that there is little more you can do other than practice to relax as much as possible. The overblow doesn't have to be forced out, it can be played very gently. Learning to play it relaxed is very helpful.
Kein dank, ich bin froh das ich helfen kan.
03-05-2010 19:35
but tinus what can i do to the draw reed to make the ovrerblow easier
(i only gap close and imboss the blow reed).
Vielen dank nach vorn
03-05-2010 19:26
befor i wrote u the text i tried the isolated draw reed & it was giving the same as left facing the blow reed, this is why i suspected the behave of the draw reed.
But after ur text i tried it well & i found u are right it was my technic
the bent up overblow to my way is easier to z muscles of the tougue and it was tired of many tries for a reed test
02-05-2010 23:49
I am afraid it is your technique. Does the isolated reed also give a bent up overblow?
02-05-2010 23:40
hi tinus,i gapped close the blow reed of hole 5 and i got an easy overblow but the problem; it is giving a bent up overblow (exemple on a C harp overblow on hole 5 should give F# note, it is giving a G note). i can bend the overblow down a half step but it feels like an artificial hard not natural overblow embouchure.
is it my technic?
or an adjustment that should be made for the draw reed?
thanks forward tinus.
28-04-2010 02:26
you probably shouldn't mess with the tip too much. Some embossing might work, but I fear that this partly might be caused by your technique. Maybe you should start by working on playing the isolated reed as an overdraw and getting it to play at very low volumes to increase your resonance.after that you might be able to get it to sound with the tightly gapped reed.
28-04-2010 02:13
Hi tinus,
i arced and gapped the 7 draw reed (marine band key of G#)so close that it is not drawing
and still the facing blow reed is not overdrawing unless it is isolated.
Do i have to file the top of the slot?
or file the top edges of the reed?
or simply imboss?
or gap closer the blow reed?
thanks forward
19-04-2010 21:21
hi tinus, i hope you're fine
you told me oneday most harps overblow out of the box
I tried to overblow an out of the box LEE OSKAR key of A
it succeeded on hole 6 with sqweaking
but it did it anyway, and i held it long as i wanted.
thanks for ur infos tinus
you are right
07-04-2010 01:12
@Danny: completely correct.
07-04-2010 00:20
Happy easter tinus, thanks to u everything is lighted.
Few days ago i tried the overdraws on isolated blow reeds
and it worked, i found out that it is approx. the same technic as overblowing
with the same tongue shape, the only diffrence is inhaling instead of exhaling.
I also found out that overblowing is nothing but blowing the draw reeds
and overdrawing is nothing but drawing the blow reeds (the only thing is beeing able to do it)
But i found out that it is harder to both over(blow/draw) a longer reed,
am i right tinus? It feels like every reed have its own embouchure when overbending.
25-03-2010 16:06
@Danny: overdraws are always very tricky on out of the box harps. The main problem is the squeeking that most harps do. Overdrawing can be done out of the box on most harps but the result usually doesn't sound to well because of the squeeking drawreeds. The best hole to start on is hole 9 or hole 8. hole 7 is a notoriously difficult overdraw.
25-03-2010 15:49
Does fire breath and marine band delux overDRAW out of the box ?
or overdraws need necessary modifications ?
i should know first cz i never overdrawed in my life.
and what is the easiest hole for overdrawing as a start ?
thanks a lot forward tinus.
25-03-2010 15:48
@Danny: you probably have to change the setup of the reed slightly for that overblow on 1 to work. However you do need the technique in order for it to work. I suggest that before you change the reed offset you try the isolated reeds to see if you can choke the blowreed when it is isolated and if you can overblow the drawreed when it is isolated.
25-03-2010 15:42
you are right tinus i tried overblowing on a regular out of the box marine band
key of F and it worked on hole 4, 5, 6.
but i tried overblowing on hole 1 on suzuki fire breath and marine band delux
out of the box and it never succeded it feels like loosing the air quicly from the chambre.
Do i have to cotumize them?
or it is me who is getting a wrong embuchure? cz i tried soooooo
11-03-2010 01:14
@Jerid: what I think you are experiencing is both the blow and draw reed playing simultaneously. I think you are loosing the choke when the drawreeds starts sounding. Are you able to play the overblow with the isolated drawreed? If so then work on just bending the blownote down until it chokes and keeping it choked without getting the overblow to sound. Also you might try tightening the gap on the blowreed so it will choke easier. Set it very tight first so that you can play the overblow easily, then when you can do that widen the gap until both the blow and overblow note are both easy to play.
BTW if the sound you hear is a high pitch shriek then you are experiencing torsional vibratios and you should reed the page on waxing the rivet end.
11-03-2010 00:37
Jerid W.
I'm having a hard time getting this to work. I star the blow, choke it, and then I get this horrible raspy train whail sound. I have yet to ever get it to sound like one smooth note. Anyone have any experience with this?
26-02-2010 14:31
@Danny: you don't have to make any modifications for overblows. Most harps will overblow out of the box. However they might not play very comfortably. The modifications are mostly meant to make overblowing easier but they aren't neccesary per se.
26-02-2010 14:27
@Danny: no choking is purely an acoustical phenomenon. It is a result of resonance; on some frequencies resonating with the reed will amplify its sound on other frequencies it will stop the reed from sounding. The reed has a limited range of tones it can produce, if you bend it down far enough it will simply stop making any sound.
26-02-2010 04:34
Should i curve the high 8, 9, 10 small reeds? or just gap them with a strait shape?
Is CURVING (as i know and do; the middle of the reed will be lower that the edge touching the rivet and its end) THE REED and the other one facing it with a low gap, enough for a hole to overblow? lets say hole 4.
Of course i know that i have to play every modification i make to the reed to test it but i am asking in generaly.
26-02-2010 04:14
hi tinus magical site bro you made the harmonica
the only misterious instrument in all the world.
i read a lot in this site but many things i did not understand:
when the reed chokes , does it touch any edge of the slot?
20-01-2010 22:11
the onion
thanks so much for the help tinus! i'll get back to work ;)
20-01-2010 21:39
No I don't think leakage is your problem I think resonance is your problem.
You are resonating the wrong pitch when you choke the reed. Please try the following: don't play the overblow, just play the blownote and gently bend it down. Do this very slowly and as relaxed as possible. try to get down as far as you can without choking the reed completely and try to play with good volume. With every attempt try and get the note to go lower than the time before. I am hoping that if you do this you will discover different methods of choking the blowreed and hopefully one that is compatible with playing the overblow at the right pitch.
20-01-2010 20:50
the onion
hey tinus. to get back at you; i've blocked off the blow reed and everything. it is indeed very easy to get the overblow on an isolated draw reed. i'm able to bend the note up and down as i please and with ease. choking the blow reed isn't a problem for me - with or without isolating the blow reed. however, just as you stated yourself, putting the two parts together is the hardest part. like i said, i am at a point now where i can choke the blow reed and get the overblow without any isolation whatsoever. still everytime i get that overblow, i get it to high; it would sound the same as 7blow.
now if i think about it - if i can get a perfect overblow on an isolated drawreed, the only conclusion could be that too much air still escapes through the blow reed as choke it, thus being the problem for the high pitch. so i considered trying out the arcing and embossing as you describe it. i even took a shot at it, but i stopped after few attempts because when i looked at it, the reed would already be so close to the plate without modification, that i couldn't possibly get it any closer. do you think that leakage is my problem? thanks buddy
19-01-2010 20:53
the onion
thank you very much for the quick response tinus :) very appreciated. i'll try it out.
19-01-2010 12:22
You are not the only one others also have the problem that the overblow turns out too high, however most people have the opposite, usually the overblow is too low. how to remedy this? Well you are on the right track trying to bend it down. Apparently you are resonating the wrong pitch when the overblow starts so we will have to get it down. I suggest practicing with an isolated drawreed. If you block the blowreed you will have freedom in playing the overblown note. Hopefully that will allow you to practice getting the right pitch. It also might just give you insight into what is happening when you overblow and what is causing you to get the wrong pitch. Let me know if that helps.
18-01-2010 22:19
the onion
hey, great site! these tips have helped me alot! i've been able to get the overblow to sound for a couple of weeks now but i always seem to get the same problem: the overblow i get is always off. let's say i was doing an overblow on the 6hole - my overblow would sound the same as 7blow. what could be the problem? i've been working really hard now to get the right tone, sort of bending it down but i'm not even getting close to the note equivalent to the overblow. is this just a matter of practice? has anybody else had this problem after starting to get the overblow for the first time? hope you can help me out. thanks :)
07-11-2009 13:20
Ok. My time will not be wasted on searching perfect gapping on first hole anymore.
I know you've read it many times, but I feel I should say it anyway. This site helps me understand how to play overblows. And the ability of playing overblows makes me happy. So this site is pure source of happines for some people. :D Thank you.
07-11-2009 00:05
The slow transition between ob and blow in hole 1 is a problem everybody has to deal with. This is caused by the weight at the tip of the reed. One of the "solutions" is to replace the reed with a reed from a higher harp and then tune it down. This does help but it also causes a lot of problems and it will never solve the problem completely. Good technique can help a little but really fast trasitions are just very difficult on thet hole 1.
06-11-2009 18:11
I've noticed one problem while practising overblow on first hole. After playing it I have to stop blowing (or at least weaken air pressure) and only then I can get an usual blow note. It takes some time and notes do not sound continious. I realised that this happens because the blow reed is pushed from inside by air so it can't vibrate again without going back to its natural position. I tried to change gapping but it was no use.
So the question is: does this happens only to me? If not, maybe you know how to eliminate this problem? Or maybe it's normal and I should just keep working on playing 1 OB - 1 B?

P.S. I'm sorry for my terrible English. If you did not understand something, just ask. :)
27-05-2009 04:32
I am working hard at this. I can choke blow reed on 4 hole. Just found way to get that draw reed to sound for first time. Take off top of harp, once you correctly choke blow reed, then place finger over blow reed and the draw reed almost instantly resonated (after half a dozen tries).
14-01-2009 21:09
That is why I keep pointing out not to use the tip of your tongue for getting the overblow; you need it to do other things.
14-01-2009 21:06
Er...scratch that lass comment, I figured it out. I found that flapping just the tip, while keeping the back of my tongue arched up seems to work best.
14-01-2009 21:04
Hey...love the site. I tried other sites to learn the overblow, this is the place. I've got firm control of overblows 4, 5, and 6. I was trying to play some typical boogie licks, and came across some difficulty when attempting to rearticulate an overblown note. My question: is this possible, and do experienced players do this? I can't seem to tongue the note and get an overblow at the same time.
31-08-2008 21:14
For sustained overblows there is one thing of paramount importance: control of the blowreed. Learn to choke the blowreed really well and playing sustained notes becomes relatively easy. Maybe start out by practicing with an isolated reed?
31-08-2008 19:31
S D B,
To answer your question, first, are you using puckering or tongue blocking for overblows? For puckering, Howard Levy's video is really good, you can get it in one day. Bascially, you have to move you tongue up towards the roof of your mouth. For tongue block method, its a little more tricky, but its essentially the same, you have to move the back of your tongue towards the roof of your mouth.(same as you are doing blow bends with TB) you have to find the position with trial and error. As for sustaining the OB, it just getting use to doing OB

30-08-2008 04:10
I have been trying to figure out how to get the overblow down on 6 and how to get my notes held longer. Any suggestions
29-08-2008 19:21
I've either just overblowed or broken my draw reed.
28-08-2008 23:46
28-08-2008 19:09
@ kev:

Have you tried getting the draw reed to sound with an isolated draw reed? If not, then open up the harp put some tape (or a finger) over the blow reed so that you are only playing the draw reed. When playing the overblown note on the draw reed it helps if you hum or whistle the note you want first. Maybe play it on a piano to get the note in your head.
28-08-2008 18:00
i can get the blow reed choked but i cant sound the draw reed.
i dont know what im doing wrong
17-08-2008 22:35
Ok, thanks for your fast answer.

I didn't really realize where to apply the wax, but after a revisit to the "Waxing the Rivet End" link the picture made it all clear. Can't understand why I didn't see the wax on it the last time. Seems to be fairly easy to apply anyhow.
17-08-2008 20:37
It is quite possible that your technique needs work, but it is equally possible that the reeds need some wax. Don't believe the promotional blurbs the factories write. They usually have little to do with reality.

By the way it is usually the choked blowreed that squeeks, so try to get the drawreed to sound properly, maybe open up a harp and block the blowreed manually.
17-08-2008 20:25
Does anyone have any experience of the Suzuki Fire Breath? In the ad of the Fire Breath you can read this line:
"However, this new reed design makes it easier to play the instrument chromatically, right out of the box!"

I bought it because I didn't want to modify my Lee Oskar, and I don't really want to modify my harmonicas at all. So, I try to overblow hole 4, I get the blow reed choked, and then, sometimes I get the draw reed to squeak. Does this mean that I have to wax the rivet end on the Fire Breath as well? Or is it my technique that needs honing?
01-09-2007 09:04
Ole Behrendtsen
thank you for your comments, and inspiration as well. i really do want to incorporate a few overblows into my tongue blocking style. i have been playing for 30 years, and up until now, i figured it would simply not be possible. i just adjusted the blow 6 on an old Db marine band, and performed my first overblow. it is not yet adjusted to let the natural 6 blow Ab sound escape, but the C comes out, using tongue block. I was quite surprised and pleased. it did require more pressure than i would like to eventually use to achieve it, and of course, i want the natural blow note as well.
13-08-2007 19:37
On Dennis' cd Jump Time there's one OB6 (if I listened well during dishwashing :-))
Just for the record; I like Dennis's playing - just using him as an example because he's one of the people who claims he TB's his OB's.

IOW that (one OB6) simply doesn't count. I'd like to hear something fluent in a fast boogie, a bebop tune, klezmer or something like that. An uptempo tune with lots of OB's. So far I haven't heard anyone do that.
I'm not saying it can't be done, but am totally unconvinced so far.
I'm also not advocating against trying it out, it's just because my name was mentioned in the discussion that I felt I'd bud (sp?) in.
11-08-2007 17:06
well I have to go by memory here (will dig up the cd later)
there's only the occassional OB on it
which doesn't count :-)

11-08-2007 14:08
I don't understand what the problem should be? If I can play overblows with a tongueblock, not even beeing a proficient tongue blocker than why couldn't a real tongue blocker play overblows with tongueblock? I have long ago learned to not listen to harmonica players that say "you can't do this" or "you can't do that". If Dennis says he plays that way and you can not hear that he does it, is that because he doesn't play overblows or because you can't hear him playing them badly?
11-08-2007 12:44
I talked about this with several proficient overblow-players (Harp-L'ers, but offlist).
Most of them agreed that playing with TB will never be as fluent and fast as with pucker.

So, Tinus, can you name examples of tunes where OB's are played well with TB?
I don't know of any at all.
Dennis Gruenling is one of the players who claim there's no problem, but I haven't heard him do it; the one cd I have of him doesn't show it anyway.
05-08-2007 22:44
You can overblow with tongue block. I do it regularly. For me it is a method to practice not using the tip of my tongue, but I can imagine that for tongueblock players it will feel quite normal.

The only problem I see is that for very low overblows it might be difficult to create enough room in your mouth cavity, other than that there is no problem. Ludo thinks that it will be problematic to play like this, but I think that it can be done.
05-08-2007 05:18
Ole Behrendtsen
Is there any reason that one cannot overblow using tongue block embouchure?
19-05-2007 14:58
If you encounter squeeks when trying to overblow please read the page about waxing the rivet end. http://www.overblow.com/index.php?menuid=140
It describes how to remedy the squeeks. If you get a B on the C in hole 4 then you are bending down the C and not overblowing. You don't have control of the blowreed so work on that before you try to overblow.
17-02-2007 19:46
Well, I tried this but now I only get a squeecking (is dit de juiste manier van schrijven? hoog piepend) sound instead of the note. Actually sometimes I got a very soft B back when 'overblowing' the 4 (c-)hole. On the other numbes only squeeckes.
It seems to be overbending??
Nice 9 site!
29-01-2007 03:54
Rafael Morgan
Hi Tinus!
I am trying to get those overblows but I did not figured how to do it yet.
I can play the reed till it chokes but I am not getting the higher notes to sound.
I am very confortble doing blowbends and draw bends.
Can you say what am I doing wrong?
24-10-2005 02:15
Yes I notice that too. More with the sideways positioning than the tilting though.
I guess this has something to do with the Helmholz resonator principle that is supposed to govern the way the reeds respond, but I am afraid I know too little about it to comment on that intelligently.
I gather that the resonace frequency of the mouth can be altered by changing the size of the opening at the lips, but I am not certain this is correct. I will try to find out.
21-10-2005 21:59
Mike Will

I have noticed that some overblows (e.g. the 5) need to be played directly and accurately into the hole. I can take the same embouchure and breath pressure and move slightly from side to side, and when positioned properly the overblow will sound, otherwise it won't. I have noticed a similar effect with the tilt of the harp. My breath directly into the center of the hole seems to work best.

Thanks for the great site.