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Playing Chromatically

Regular bluesharps


How to play chromatically on a regular bluesharp.

Playing chromatically on regular bluesharps implies to master the overblows. Overblows are a sort of bend where the sound is produced by the reed opposed to the breath. For example the player blows in the 6th hole, blocks the blow reed and makes the draw reed vibrate. It necessitate a good adjustement of the reeds offset, a good attack to block the blow reed and a proper mouth shape to activate draw reed.

For a full description of this technique, refer to Tinus's great site:

It is important to keep in mind that the overblows don't sound very well and are difficult to play perfectly in tune, even when the technique is mastered. This poses no real problem when the overblow falls on a weak time or when played at high tempo but makes sounding good quite difficult on slow songs.

The most useful overblows for the blues player are on the 1rst and 4th (minor third in 1rst position), 5th (flat fifth in 1rst position) and 6th hole (minor third in 2nd position or flat 7th in first position).

The following tablature describes a riff containing a minor third played in second position and first position.

Here is the blues scale in first position:


The 1rst hole overblow:

The 1rst hole overblow is particulary difficult to obtain. In our opinion the best alternative is to valve the 2nd blow and use a valved blow bend to obtain the minor third in first position.


Even if the overblow technique is quite difficult to master, it worths working on it as it helps mastering every kind of bend and shaping a good sound on regular notes.

Laurent Vigouroux


Planet Harmonica - 2004