But it's not quite that simple. For overblowing to work well, the harmonica needs to be finely adjusted, with close reed gaps and slot-embossing. Out-of-the-box harps will overblow, but any serious player who uses the technique will either buy expensive hand-customised harps, or spend considerable time working on their own harps to optimise them for overblows and overdraws. Even with such customisation, overbending is a high-level playing technique that takes years to master throughout the whole range of the harp. As a result, the number of really good overblow players in the world is still small, even 40 years since the technique became widely known. Harmonica chat groups are littered with posts describing the struggles of beginners trying to incorporate overblows and overdraws in their playing.
My Overblow Booster makes overbends much more user-friendly, enabling total beginners to overbend with ease straight away - all the way from hole 1 to hole 10! For advanced players, it enhances their sound, volume and expressiveness. It gives greater control of both overblows and overdraws, allowing easier bending of them, adding soulful expression such as vibrato on overbends, plus new effects never before possible. The Overblow Booster works great on standard harps without any special gapping or embossing. Even the difficult-to-get overblow in hole 1 is now a breeze to get on a stock harp out-of-the-box! On a fully customised harp the overblows will sound and play like butter, sounding as strong and expressive as standard bends, and give expert overbend players a whole heap of extra fun. Watch the video to see/hear for yourself.
For a long time it's been known that if you stop the lower-pitched note in a chamber from sounding, the overblow/overdraw plays much more strongly. Various harps have been created in the past to make this happen, but none succeeded - because they were either too complicated, too expensive (often both), and forced players to buy new harmonicas. My Overblow Booster is far simpler, cheaper, and doesn't require you to buy a new harmonica: it can be added to your favourite harps in under a minute, and removed just as quickly!
The Overblow Booster only works with harps that have open-back covers. These include the Hohner Crossover & Marine Band Deluxe, Seydel 1847, Suzuki Manji, and some of the models from the excellent new Chinese brands Easttop and Kongsheng. Make sure the harp you are ordering for has open-back covers; select the brand and model in the drop-down list. It comes in two versions: Basic and "Full Monty". The Basic version comprises two light ABS plastic parts that sit almost invisibly beneath the coverplates, fitting snugly to the harp with small tabs that correspond to the reedplate screw positions for each model. The open outer ends of the individual reed channels can be closed with your fingers as you play, thus stopping the inactive reed and making the overblow/overdraw much stronger, and play with greater control.
The Full Monty version adds the Booster Bar: a rear hinged lever attached at the bass end of the harp that closes all the coverplate channels with one quick movement - thus avoiding the need to select the individual channels with your fingers. The Booster Bar's neoprene pad seals to the channel openings when closed, but the harp plays normally when it's held away from the back. It doesn't affect the tone of the harp, hand wah-wah effects can be used on all notes (including overblows/overdraws), and it works well with a handheld microphone too. Watch the first video from 9:15 to see the Booster Bar in action!
An impromptu late-night SPAH clip from Swedish harmonica maestro Filip Jers. Filip finds the Overblow Booster very useful for getting overbends on low-key harps (like this Low Eb Manji), which is normally very difficult. Apologies for the poor sound from my phone! Check out Filip's website for more of his music.
Listen to the super-talented Chinese player Long Deng Jie trying out the Overblow Booster at the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival in Beijing 2018. The harp is a standard Easttop 10 hole, with no reed gapping or embossing:
Check out the in-depth review and demo of the Overblow Booster by Christelle Berthon in this video.
" I recommend you try these Overblow Boosters Brendan's come up with.
I tried them out on a standard out of the box Marine Band Crossover - I wonder how they would work on a custom harp?
Once fitted they are invisible and make it easy to get overblows on holes 1, 4, 5, 6, and overdraws on holes 7, 8, 9, 10.
Not only will you get the 'overbends', you will also get further bends on each one - the pitch shift on my A harp was a major 5th pitch raise on the overblows and a little less on the overdraws.
Now you are pitch bending the overbends - who knew that was possible?
You will also notice drawbends are now possible on hole 5, blowbends on hole 7.
All this enables you play a blues scale in 2nd position from hole 6 going upwards and in 1st position from hole 4-7. New territory for expression for most of us.
This is a similar effect that you can get with the expensive and now ex-production Suzuki Overdrive (with 20 cover plate holes) and the Bahnson Overblow Golden Melody with a button.
The optional extra 'Booster Bar' - which now has a quick release cullet attachment so so would only need one bar for all your boostered harps - serves to close all the holes at the same time in a simple hand movement.
One of my friends - let's call him Pete - had never achieved an overblow until I forced him to try the overblow booster. It taught him a lot about the technique, so I guess it also has merit as a learning tool - like stabilisers on a bicycle.
So with the increased range of notes available, your capacity for playing different tunes, scales, and keys, your improvising takes a sudden leap forward.
With the boosters in you can choose to ignore them completely and the harp is as 'normal'. You can use hand vibrato, microphones - all as usual.
With a custom harp many of these things are also possible so compare the cost of a good custom job with the overblow boosters.
Must be worth a try for everyone I think - and I believe they are cheaper if you buy a set of 12 or so. You probably need to ask Brendan that question unless he puts that as an option in the cart which I would encourage him to do. "
Ben Hewlett (July 2018)
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" Finding that the one and four overblow adds many new options to first position blues !! Having fun with that. Still tweaking the harps but the overblows and overdraws are coming easier now. Thanks again for your innovation. "
Joe Galicic (July 2018)