Overblow and overdraw by José Luis Naranjo

Overblow and overdraw in a Harp Blues

In the following table we see the distribution of the notes in a diatonic harmonica of 10 channels, Blues Harp, aspirated, blown and bending notes:

Audio sample of normal aspirated and blown sounds with bending in mp3 (175 KB)

The overblow technique is, compared to the Bending, quite new. It was discovered for the first time in the early seventies by a harmonica player named Howard Levy, from Skokie in Illinois (USA). He has discovered that certain tones can be supersoplados (overblowing) and superaspirados (overdrawing) and get in this way, even more tones. The interesting thing is that these were the tones that used to be missing in the harmonica:


Example of chromatic scale audio in the three octaves of the blues harp in mp3 (239 KB)


Through a pressure of the upper lip down, similar to some trumpet techniques, you can get to produce certain shades that are higher than those produced by that tongue.

In theory you can play those tones on any blues harmonica and in all tunings, but in practice it’s very difficult. Most harmonica players who use overblowing only do so on channels 4, 5 and 6, since they are easier to use.

However, in each channel, the corresponding lower tone (either blowing or aspiring) can be superspired and superspirated, unlike the bending, in which it is the highest pitch of the two that can be doubled.

Comparing the illustration of this page with that of the Bending page, you can see interesting parallels. If a tongue is doubled or supersopla, the lowest tone, the lowest tone of the two that have been produced with either technique, is, in both cases, approximately one semitone above the other tone in the same channel , either blown or aspirated. Let’s analyze the following two examples:

CHANNEL 6: the following tones are found: blowing SOL; aspired LA; supersoplado B flat; LA flat, tone sucked and bent.

We can verify in this first example that the blown tone SOL, when supersopla produces the new sound SI b, which is at the distance of a semitone of the sound aspired LA. And the same happens with the tone of LA, that when you aspire doubling produces the new sound LA b, which is at a distance of a semitone of the opposite tone blown SOL.

In the second example, the same thing happens, although this time a blown bendig and an overdraw (super superspirate) coincide in the same channel:

CHANNEL 9: SOL blown tone; aspirated tone FA; tone blown and bent FA #; and superspirated tone A flat:

In this second example, when the blown tone SOL bends, it produces a new sound FA #, which is a semitone of the sound aspired FA. In the same way when the sound aspired FA is overcome, we produce a new sound LA b, which is a semitone of the opposite sound blowing SOL.

This is gradually arriving at the bottom of the matter. It seems as if the same principle is decisive for both techniques.

That this is so becomes apparent when one removes the metal covers that cover the harmonica, and can contemplate what happens more closely. Here is an experiment that everyone can do on their own:

Remove the metal covers that cover the harmonica.

Double the aspirated tone of the fourth channel and maintain it. (DO # instead of RE, which is the proper sound of the suction tongue on channel 4).

Place your finger on the fourth suction tab (lower plate). And, surprisingly, the sound we are producing is not extinguished despite having obstructed the tongue.

That is to say, it is aspirated, but the bent tone is not produced by the tongue of aspirating, but by the contrary of blowing that vibrates a semitone above the own tonal height. The same happens when we bend the highest blown tones.

The aforementioned experiment serves, therefore, for all supersoplates and all superspirates which, moreover, can be touched much easier without metal covers, covering the tabs in question with the upper lip, or where appropriate , the lower lip.

The coincidence of two tabs with different tones in the same channel is a peculiarity of the blues harmonica. If there are vents stuck on the tabs, as in the case of the chromatic, those typical sounds of blues “bending”, as well as the supersoplados and superaspirados, sound differently, or simply do not sound, since, in that case, the Tabs only vibrate individually and not in the same channel, as in the blues harmonica.

Superspirant and superblow is something more difficult than bending. Most of the harmonics that dominate this technique agree that the model that best suits this technique is the “Golden Melody” by Hohner. Also the tone in which this tuned instrument can influence the level of difficulty, although in practice it can be done in any of the possible tunings of the instrument.

The easiest to play are the supersoplados of the channels 4, 5 and 6, and of this the 6 is the ideal for the beginning of the learning of this new technique.

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