Tested model: Bahson Overblow harp based on
the Hohner Golden Melody.
The overblow technique requires two actions (given
here for the 6 first holes):
- Prevent the blow reed from vibrating.
- Make the draw reed vibrate.
This is of course the opposite for hole 7 to 10.
The first action requires choking the reed. A
gap reduced to the minimum and a proper breathing technique
The principle of the Bahson Overblow harp is to
allow the player to more easily achieve the overblows by pressing
a slide: when pressed, the slide blocks the blow reeds in holes
1, 4, 5, and 6 and the draw reeds in holes 7, 9, and 10 allowing
the player to concentrate on making the opposite reed vibrate.
The slide only acts on the reeds that would supply
the notes missing from the chromatic scale. For example overblows
are not facilitated in holes 2 or 3. Why? Because the notes
that would be produced are already available by other means.
But what would be the value of including them?
Let's say we have a harmonica in C and the player wants to arpeggiate
and Ab7 chord. That's one semitone above a G7 chord. So why
not just play overblows in Holes 1,2,3,4,5? This is not an intellectual
exercise. Players like Allen Holmes do exactly that. On a Bahnson
harp, the player would instead have to play Overblow 1, draw
3 bent 3 semitones, blow 4, blow 4 OB, OB 5. Much more complicated.
Moreover, an isolated reed can not only overblow, it can bend
the overblow up in pitch several semitones. Let's say you're
playing blues in G on a C harp. Db is that all-important flat
5. The usual way is to bend down to it from Draw 4. But what
if you could bend UP to it? Overblow 3 would allow you to start
on the 4th degree of the scale and bend up to the flat 5.
Is it a major drawback? It is likely that advanced
players think so as this limits their expression. But intermediate
players would most probably not be bothered by that.
This design was invented by Dr. Henry Bahnson
in 1990. A first batch of harps, based on the Golden Melody
were commercialized. This is the modele we've reviewed.
The Turboharp company has designed a new version
based on the Special 20.
- Very Small.
- The overblows are extremely easy to play and clean and can
be sustained with vibrato.
- No need of gapping low: the harp can be played really hard.
- It is probable that the price will not be too expensive.
- Not commercialized so far!
- Not really a customized instrument. Very playable but not
- The player has to deal with the slide and has to be careful
not to push it while blowing as this could hurt the vibrating
How to play it:
The Bahson Overblow being a richter harmonica,
playing chromatically implies to master the overblows. See the
standard richter harps chromatic playing
The Bahson Overblow harp is a very good design
which definitely eases the overblows and allows to play the
regular notes very hard. As such, this would be a very good
solution for the keys more difficult to overblow.
We've asked James F. Antaki (from AntakaMatics,
Inc.) what were his plans regarding the Bahson harp. His answer
is that the Bahnson overblow based on the Special-20 currently
exists but is very complicated to mass produce. As a result,
his higher priorities are the new TurboHarp/AX and the ELX.
Both are moving along slowly (prototypes exist but mass production
issues are slowing down the release to the public).