“When You Are Gonna Sound Like You?” The Art of True Improvisation

So many students want to sound like Little Walter, Big Walter and a hundred other guys. I really cannot and will not teach this way. If that is what you want there are many fabulous books that will address those styles.

What I find interesting as a teacher is , those same students often come back to me feeling frustrated: that even though the licks helped them improve immensely, they still feel they haven’t found what they are looking for.

The good news is, we all go through this stage trying to sound like our heroes but we all wake up one day to reality we are NOT those players. This is the greatest lesson on harp or any musical instrument to realize our heroes had their own unique individual identity and musical voice. So the question each student must ask himself is: Why does Little Walter sound like Little Walter? Why does Sonny Boy Williamson sound like Sonny Boy? The answer is quite simply each artist follows his own path and takes musical risks on the way to originality.

Once a student reaches the stage in his development where he has the fundamentals down and has learned a great deal from his heroes he has to take the “Leap of Faith” and find his own way in the music he loves. (Jerry Portnoy quotes this in his Blues Harp Masterclass.

The quote is from Eric Clapton). The great news is that when you come to this stage you are ready to learn even more: you will open doors to your own original style and increase your ability to improvise on gigs and jams.

If you go back to the basics of what the Blues is all about, you will find first and foremost it is a Vocal Music, and if you listen closely to the instruments you will find that the music (like Jazz) is a conversation between instruments.

Your goal then is to learn how to get your harp to “speak” to other players on the bandstand. You do this by learning how to sing (at least a little!) and phrase ideas. Here are some important points that will definitely help you in your search for your individual voice in both singing and playing harp.

  1. Force yourself to start singing! You have to do this to really get in touch with your own original musical voice. When you sing a blues you should listen carefully to yourself :how you phrase lyrics or breathe between verses or the vocal decorations you apply to the song. These are great to apply to the harp. The throat vibrato you hear me use is a direct result of this. I know it can be scary at first, but it will do wonders in time.
  2. The next thing to do is- you guessed it! Record yourself singing to hear how close you got to the notes! This will improve over time as well. Once you do this you might just discover a couple cool sounding vocal phrases, so pull out your trusty harp and see if you can find the ideas on the instrument.

3.To create rhythm ideas try listening to the way you speak. For example, I might say “How you doin?” You might say: “Doin really great!” “Learnin’ tons of stuff!” You can hear and feel the natural original rhythms of your speech. This technique will give you endless ideas for rhythmic phrasing and improvisation.

  1. Take any phrase you would say in conversation and use it for a rhythm figure. This is by far the best method I know to break new ground and it is so obvious that most over look it as a learning tool!
  2. Also remember “Less is Best” when playing out at a jam when you are just starting out. If you can’t think of anything to play it is the same as you can’t think of anything to say! No problem there! Don’t play! You would be surprised how great a musical decision this can be.
  3. If you work on these points in your practice regimen, you will find new and original ways to play your instrument and they will fundamentally be your own.

Improvisation comes from so many sources that include imitating masters and technical development, but true improvisation comes from having the courage to “sound like you!”

The Only Chromatic Harmonica Practice Tips You Will Need

TIMING!
First and foremost! With or without your instrument, PRACTICE TIMING! I cannot make this clear enough. Without good timing you have nothing. It’s like building a house of cards on a windy sand dune, one gust and you’re out of the game.

With a well developed sense of timing you can trip up, yet easily step right back in again with the beat. With well developed timing you can fit in with most song styles easily. With well developed timing, you’re more likely to be respected as a musician. For six months make it a habit to tap in time to anything that has a regular beat.

The radio, Television, Movie theme song, tap your toe, the CD you’re listening too, your metronome, puff air in & out in time, advertisement jingles, walk to a beat, click your fingers to a rhythm, Muzak in the elevator, irritating dripping of water, a horse walking along the road, tap your finger, the annoying click of the stone stuck in your car’s tire, click your tongue, washing machine through all its cycles… absolutely anything with a regular beat. I promise you if you make this a commitment to yourself, musicians will commend you on your timing. The overnight secret that changed me from a struggling beginner to a performing musician was that you can play a bunch of really bum notes throughout a song, but if your timing is impeccable… it will still sound great.

Breathing Exercises
Breath Control is a very important part of playing harmonica well. It pretty much comes second to timing because it is so closely linked to it. But in addition your breath capacity limits how long you can hold a note or how strongly you can play a note. Your ability to control your breath limits how gently you can play a note, it controls how quickly you can play a complex pattern of draws & blows in a fast run. Without good breath control you cannot keep time and play what you want to how you want to. You must develop your diaphragm control & strength as well as increase your breath capacity so you may become a good harmonica player. Especially if you want to enjoy it! A good start is to make it a part of your morning and nightly routine when you’re waking up or settling down lying in bed: to do five minutes relaxed breathing exercises. 1.

Gently fill your lungs completely, let your chest expand in a relaxed manner until bursting.

Now sip in a few more little snippets of air relaxing your stomach to accommodate the extra air.

Hold for 30 seconds or as long as you can without straining. RELAX!

Now slowly let the air out, however do it ~ without letting your chest deflate~ * When you first let the air go it will want to come in a rush, use your gut or diaphragm to hold it back a little, as you the air comes out; like a balloon, it’ll start to slow down, * So now using your diaphragm gently push the air out of your lungs, try to keep it at a steady flow. * Keep your chest expanded. * As you reach nearly empty you’ll need to start pushing harder to keep the flow steady.

When the last bit of air is gone, your chest will still be nearly totally expanded and your diaphragm nicely tight but not straining.

Cough out the last bit of air sitting in your lungs.

Try and hold this for 15 seconds or so. Don’t let yourself get dizzy or faint though.

Keeping your chest expanded and start to slowly draw air in, don’t let it rush in though.

Use your diaphragm to draw air in continuing the steady rate.

As you get to the last bit you’ll need to accommodate more & more so relax your gut as you did the first time.

Go back to step 1 and do it again. Keep at it for about 5 minutes. RELAX and enjoy it. …..

The first few days it is quite a strange feeling breathing without moving your chest, but you’ll get used to it. You may find from time to time you need to cough up stuff. This is all the muck in your chest, its a good chance to let your body clear itself.

If you smoke, well… you know. 😉 I also find panting a good exercise for developing an ability to keep rhythm. Another one is try using your diaphragm to fill up with air through your nose as quickly as possible. Then let air out through your mouth as slowly and as evenly as possible.

After doing this a few times, try reversing it so you draw in slowly through your mouth and expel air through your nose as quickly as possible. Be careful not to block your ears doing this.

Practice Regularly
It is better to practice for 10 minutes a day, than for four hours on Sunday afternoon. Ideally the more time you can practice on a regular basis the better. There is a lot to learn and especially when you are starting out you can actually overload your body and mind and actually stop learning if you keep at it doggedly.

If you are tired, frustrated, feel soreness then stop and rest. Take it up later. Maybe intersperse your day with with short practice runs. Learning a song is a good way to give yourself an achievable goal. Start easy and work your way up in difficulty as you feel comfortable. I found keeping your chromatic with you at all times is a great way to find time to learn, you can grab a couple of minutes here and there to practice a technique or a run. After a couple of months you’ll be amazed how far you have come.

Technique and Method Valving A Diatonic Harmonica

One problem with diatonic harmonica is that there are missing notes. Some can be obtained through conventional bending, but there are still some missing. These can be obtained by overblowing, or by installing valves, also known as “windsavers”. It’s the same device, but is used for a different purpose.

Bending is accomplished by acoustically coupling two resonant devices so that one affects the pitch of the other. In conventional bending, the higher reed is bent by coupling it to the lower pitched reed in that hole. The lower pitched reed cannot be bent because the other reed is higher in pitch, and bending only works to lower pitch.

Using valves (or windsavers – little plastic flaps over the reed slots opposite the reeds) allows us to bend the normally unbendable notes, as single reeds, using our internal resonance as the “second resonance” in the bending process.

I feel that it is also a great way to develop your tone (resonance). If you can’t bend the valved notes, you are not resonant Your tone will be weak. It can be vastly improved. When your resonance is “right”, you will be able to bend valved reeds, and your tone will be spectacular.

Windsavers are available from Hohner, as well as other sources. The “technical” price is something like US$8 for enough to valve a 64 reed chromatic, but Hohner is pretty good about sending out samples – enough to valve a couple of diatonics. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You can make your own out of thin plastic, such as overhead transparency film. I’ve had good success with this. I’ve seen some made with nonadhesive ribbed surgical tape, backed with adhesive surgical tape. But it’s an awful lot easier to bite the bullet and order them from Hohner, especially for that first one.

To valve a diatonic for bending unbendable notes:

  1. Disassemble the harp, and lay out the reed plates reed-side-down.
  2. If you have precut windsavers, lay them out over the reed holes, dimpled end over the rivet, so they slightly overlap the reed holes, but not by much. If they overlap TOO much, they may interfere with the comb, especially on Oskars. Place them over draw 1-6 (lower reed plate, inside the comb) and blow 7-10 (upper reed plate, outside the comb), on the side OPPOSITE the reeds. If yours are not precut, or the wrong size, cut them so they overlap the reed slot by about 1/16th inch, or about a millimeter if you use that “other” ruler 🙂
  3. Place a drop of Superglue on a piece of cellophane, aluminum foil, or other nonporous surface. I like cellophane because it’s easier to see just where the drop is.
  4. SLIGHTLY dip the dimpled end (if it has a dimple), convex side up, in the superglue. One drop holds a ton, so a very little is all you need for a little tiny valve. If you use too much, you’ll get Superglue in the reed slot. I like to use tweezers, but they’re not required.
  5. Place the windsaver over the rivet, on the back side of the reed plate (not the “reed” side). Press into place with a little finger pressure, for just a scant second. Remove tweezers, press on the free end with your other finger, then remove your finger from the glued end. If you take too long doing this, you will become attached to your harp – literally. If it’s not on straight, it can be easily repositioned, so don’t worry too much about it. If the glue sets first, simply pull the windsaver off, chip the old glue off the reed plate, and reapply.
  6. Reassemble the harp and let it set an hour or so. Overnight is even better. It allows the superglue fumes to dissipate.

This will allow you to bend the normally unbendable blow 1-6 and draw 7-10 reeds IF you use the right technique – a very “open” mouth and throat. You won’t have to “force” these. They come quite easily and naturally with the right technique. I can play harp for twelve hours straight (with the traditional gaps and breaks of course), and I couldn’t do that if it were at all strenuous! This bending method (which I call “resonant bending” but you are free to call whatever makes your bobby-sox go up and down, produces a vastly superior tone, so if you have trouble bending valved harp, this will give you TWO eventual rewards; more bends and better tone.

New to Tremolo Harmonicas? Here are Things You Should Know First

Tremolo harmonicas are Diatonic models constructed with double holes, each containing two reeds tuned to the same note, one tuned slightly higher than the other. Since both reeds are either blow or draw, when played both will sound together – the slight difference in tuning creating a beautiful vibrating or tremolo effect. Tremolo models are popular for ballads and gospel music, as well as for Latin, Asian, European and other international folk styles.

Octave Harmonicas
Octave harmonicas are similar to Tremolo models in reed layout and musical range. Instead of having reeds tuned to the same note, however, each double hole has one reed tuned an octave apart from the other. The resulting sound is stronger and full bodied, but without the tremolo effect. This is the harmonica equivalent of a twelve-string guitar and is ideal for regional and international styles like Cajun, Old-Time and Irish music.

Playing Double Reed Harmonicas
Double reed harmonics have note layouts similar to the regular 10 hole diatonic harmonica, except that each reed is doubled, and can be played in a similar manner, except that they are almost always played in first position (the same key as the harmonica). Each set of holes one over the other are either both blow or both draw, you cannot blow and draw on the same hole as with diatonics or chromatics. They may be played in second position, but it is almost impossible to bend notes, so you can’t get the same “blusey” sound as on a diatonic.

Until we can get our own octave harmonica page written, here is a link to Ted van Beek’s site and his article “A Short Guide to the Octave-Tuned Harps”

My Opinion on Tremolo Harmonicas

Paul van der Sijde
(also known as “Doc Harmonica”)

It’s nice that finally someone picks up another type of harmonica than the currently so usual diatonic or chromatic. I have several tremolo and octave harmonicas in my collection and will try to share with you what I know about them.

Tremolo harmonicas are so called “double reed” harmonicas. They have two reeds for each note, tuned a fraction apart so that a certain resonance effect develops when playing, giving a wavering sound. Closely related to the tremolo is the octave harmonica. Basically the design is the same, though the reeds are tuned exactly one octave apart to give more fullness to the sound. I prefer these since they have more expressive abilities than tremolos, yet tremolo harmonicas are the more popular kind in the world. Especially in the Far East they are immensely popular.

Playing chromatically there often consists of holding two tremolo harmonicas, one in C and one in C# in hands simultaneously and switching between harmonicas if a sharp or a flat is needed. This may seem awkward, but Cham-Ber Huang, former Hohner harmonica technician and very accomplished classical chromatic player, once said that playing that way is not only very well possible, but also potentially faster than playing a “standard” chromatic harmonica!

The number of octaves available, as well as the starting note in #1 Blow may differ, (see note layouts) depending on the number of holes in your harmonica. Double reed harmonicas usually have a discrete comb, that means that every reed on the reedplates has its own chamber in the comb. A combination of one blow/draw note therefore always requires a minimum of four holes! Due to the fact that two reeds are involved the tremolo harmonica takes more wind to play than a single reed harmonica like a standard 10 hole diatonic or a chromatic harmonica does.

Bending notes on them is possible, however it takes a totally different technique. Bending down any note using both reeds is enormously difficult if not impossible since that would take too much wind. Instead you can block one row of holes (either top or bottom) with your lip and bend one of the two reeds. Be aware though that this will reduce your volume with roughly 50 percent. Only one reed is sounding where normally two reeds do. This too is the significant drawback of a double reed harmonica. Due to the fact that you have to move two reeds these are made thinner and softer to make sure everyone can actually get the reeds to move. Bending notes on a double reed harmonica therefore is easier, but also wears the reeds out much faster than on a ‘normal’ diatonic. Be careful! The bends you achieve on a double reed harmonica with its discrete comb are single reed bends, meaning you can blow bend reeds you can’t do on a standard diatonic. But be aware! The strain you put on the reeds wears them out much faster than on any other harmonica. That means you will blow out a reed much sooner and usually there is no way of correcting that but replacing the whole harmonica. That can be a costly past time and probably not your aim in life.

Usually tremolo harmonicas here in the West are used to play folk tunes. I use them to softly play tones like an organ or strings in the background of a gentle ballad. I never solo on them. If I use a tremolo as fill and I need to solo, I switch to either a diatonic or a chromatic for its capabilities. So what you bought is mainly something to enhance your playing, but in no way to replace your regular solo harmonicas. The tremolo has limited use in Western popular music, yet it can be used to fill in some background stuff or play solo all the way. It is a nice addition to your collection that however requires you learn to play it differently from any other harmonica you have known so far. It can be tedious, but if you see the challenge in it you may even grow to like it, like I did.

How to Learn the Chromatic Scale with Chromatic Harmonica

These models incorporate the full chromatic scale and allow the player to play in any key using one harmonica. Chromatic models provide the complete 12 note octave with all sharps and flats. The preferred instrument for Jazz and Classical, chromatic harmonicas are also used for Popular Music and in some instances for blues.

Defining The Chromatic Harmonica
by  “G”

Reprinted here by permission of the author

When I first learned about chromatic harmonicas I found it confusing as to what harps did what and worked in what way. My first “chromatic harmonica” was a Hohner Koch which strictly speaking is a slide harp. I bought it as a result of asking the shop keeper for a chromatic harmonica. What’s more it was in key of G which only confused matters for me.  I made the same mistake again because I wanted a chromatic harmonica in C and I still didn’t know the difference between a slide harp and a chromatic. But this time around I also got Mel Bay’s “The Complete Chromatic Harmonica Method” by Phil Duncan and compared the Koch against the book and realized my mistake. I took both the book and the Koch back. I said “I just bought this harp, I want to exchange it for this.” and pointed at the cover of the book. At which point the shop attendant produced a Hohner Super Chromonica in key of C, I paid the difference and walked away a little wiser.  I now want to share what I have since learned for those who are as confused as I was. 

Typical Chromatic Harmonica
By Typical Chromatic Harmonicas I am talking about a harmonica that has a full major scale in the key of the harp repeated every 4 holes for each octave, and by pressing the button it raises the pitch of each hole by a semi-tone. The most common key available for a chromatic is key of C, the same as the white keys of a piano. To continue the comparison by pressing the chromatic’s button you can then play the black keys on the keyboard along with a few of the white ones.
The Bass harp & Chord harp can be considered chromatic harmonicas. And there are other harmonicas which could be considered chromatic harmonicas which I will cover and why I don’t consider them typical chromatic harmonicas.

Despite the fact a chromatic can be played in any key some are in fact available in different keys. 
There are a few reasons why: 
· Probably most understandably, if you want to be able to play chords in a particular key on your chromatic you need to have the right notes next to each other for the key you are playing in. 
· Having a harp tuned to a key can make playing in that key or related keys much easier as the amount of slide use is reduced. 
· A similar point is, some keys on a C tuned harp have predominantly draw or blow notes which can lead to breath control issues. 
· Also it can be easier playing by ear with a harmonica in the same key of the song. 
A key of C chromatic harmonica is a satisfactory instrument in itself. Its like a piano or wind instrument; by sticking to one tuning you can ingrain where all the notes are and go on to learn how to play in any key on that same instrument. Eventually with lots of practice and experience you will be able to work out how to transpose a tune into the key you want to play in without having to reach for another harmonica.  However if you enjoy playing chords or should you find it easier to play on different key harps in your favorite keys, you may consider what other tuned chromatics are available.

The 12 hole Chromatic Harmonica
This is probably the most common chromatic available. They have a 3 octave range with 48 tones. Most models are available in a number of keys. With practice these harps are reasonably easy to hold, cup and play. I would strongly recommend anybody wanting to buy their first chromatic harmonica go for a 12 hole chromatic in key of C.   A 12 hole Chromatic Harmonica in key of C major has the following note layout:

 BlowCEGCCEGCCEGC
Slide OutHole123456789101112
 DrawDFABDFABDFAB
12 Hole Chromatic, Key of C
 BlowC#E#G#C#C#E#G#C#C#E#G#C#
Slide InHole123456789101112
 DrawD#F#A#CD#F#A#CD#F#A#D


Blow hole one blow is middle C. However when playing songs that go below middle C, it is common practice to use the lowest octave on the harp as the lowest octave in the song and work up from there, effectively playing the song in a higher octave. Of course the harp has a three octave range, so if your part extends passed this then you simply need to substitute lower or higher octave notes which is reasonably acceptable to the ear.  Note that every 4 holes has the same pattern, except for the last hole. This means that when you have mastered playing one octave, the rest are the same. So if you learn one octave, you have the lot as it’s just a matter of moving along 5 holes either way. 

The only trick with chromatic layout is the highest note, instead of continuing the hole pattern, which as you might see from the table means you have two C’s (B# & C are enharmonics, they sound similar) and with the slide in the draw note of hole 12 is a D. This gives just that bit extra range to the harp, and from experience I can say I am glad that this has been included. It takes a little practice, but when you are playing hole 12 it is hard to not know you are there, so remembering the layout is different only takes some practice.  The note range of a 12 hole chromatic harmonica is pretty much on a par with a lot of woodwind instruments. The Hohner Super Chromonica is one example of a 12 hole chromatic harmonica.  Hohner, Hering, Huang and Suzuki all sell 12 hole chromatic harmonicas. 

The 16 hole Chromatic Harmonica
These big animals are similar to 12 hole chromatics, their advantage is they have an extra octave below middle C.  Because of their size it takes more practice and attention to get a solid hold and cup around these harps. Also with the extra holes and octaves to switch between they require more practice to automatically know where all the notes are.   A 16 hole Chromatic Harmonica in key of C major has the following note layout:

 BlowCEGCCEGCCEGCCEGC
Slide OutHole12345678910111213141516
 DrawDFABDFABDFABDFAB
16 Hole Chromatic, Key of C
 BlowC#E#G#C#C#E#G#C#C#E#G#C#C#E#G#C#
Slide InHole12345678910111213141516
 DrawD#F#A#CD#F#A#CD#F#A#CD#F#A#D


Hole one blow is C below middle C, so the next set of C’s are middle C. On some 16 hole harps the first octave holes are numbered 1 to 4 with dots above them, then the remaining holes are numbered 1 to 12. Other 16 hole chromatics are numbered from 1 to 16. It depends on the make, model and release date.
Hohner and Hering sell 16 hole chromatic harmonicas.

Varieties of Chromatic Harmonicas
Different tuned 12 hole chromatics are available in various keys or ranges, such as Hering’s Baritone or Hohner’s Tenor tuned CX12 and Chromonica, all of which are tuned in key of C but a whole octave lower than standard 12 hole chromatics. A bit like having the first 12 holes of a 16 hole chromatic. Also the Hering Baritono lacks the extra high note on draw 12 slide in.  There are a few 10 hole and 14 hole chromatics available that cover 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 octaves respectively. They work the same as 12 and 16 hole chromatic harmonicas, however their note layout starts slightly differently due to the incomplete octaves. The Hohner Chrometta is a chromatic harmonica that comes in 10 hole and 14 hole models. Hohner Meisterklasse is a 14 hole quality harmonica.
Also a lot of people customize and/or custom tune their harmonicas, replacing the comb, the mouthpiece, and possibly swapping the reedplates to change the way the harmonica plays which they find easier. C/F tuning is where the blow 4 hole is retuned from C/C# (slide out/slide in) to Bb/B which makes certain keys a lot easier to play with minimal disadvantage.  Flat slide tuning is where when you press the slide the hole goes down a semitone, this is a popular tuning for Irish music.  Customizers can usually improve the overall performance, comfort, feel and possibly the longevity of harmonicas. As you gain experience & wish to invest more in your instrument, this is definitely worth investigating.

Other Harmonicas
The remaining harps are not what I consider typical chromatic harmonicas, but I think they need to be included because of their chromatic ability.

Slide Harmonicas
Slide harps are two diatonic 10 hole short harp reedplates selected by a slide which when pushed in moves from the lower pitch reed plate to a semitone higher reed plate. Similar to the effect of the button on a chromatic, this almost gives a full chromatic range of tones.  The reedplates are different from diatonic reedplates because the draw and blow reeds for each hole are mounted next to each other. Not dissimilar to how chromatics are made. But they generally do not have windsavers on the majority of holes like a chromatic harmonica.  As the reedplate tunings are generally the same as diatonic short harps, to get the full chromatic three octave range you need to know how to at least draw bend to fill in the missing notes.  There are also variations on the slide harmonica available where pressing the slide lowers the tone by a semitone called “flat-slide” harmonica. This has the advantage of simulating bends on a standard short harp.
An example of a slide harp is a Hohner Koch which comes in key of C and G.

Valved Diatonic Harps
A valved short harp in the hands of an experienced player becomes a chromatic harmonica of sorts. It is simply a 10 hole diatonic short harp with valves. Using the same valves found in most chromatics.  Unlike chromatics the windsavers are only added to draw reeds 1 to 6 and blow reeds 7 to 10. By doing this and using a slightly different bending techniques, a practiced harpist can play many more tones than are normally available on a standard short harp. The advantage over a chromatic is the range of expression and tone.  Notes and bends available on a valved short harp by an experienced harper
  

BlowBend”””BbDb
BlowBend””’ CbD
BlowBend”” AbCEb
BlowBend”’ DbEADbE
BlowBend” BbDFBbDFAb
BlowBend’ BEbGbBEbGbC~EbGbB
Blow CEGCEGCEGC
Hole12345678910
Draw DGBDFABDFA
DrawBend’ DbGbBbDbAbBbDbEAb
DrawBend” FAC
DrawBend”’AbB


Quote from IronMike, an experienced valved harp performer:
“… If you use the typical bending technique, valved reeds will prove unbendable…”
“…I valve the bendable reeds in mine – 1-6D and 7-10B. This allows me to bend the normally unbendable reeds 1-6B and 7-10D, using a resonant embouchure…” 
However the clarity, quality, accuracy of pitch and availability of any bent note is highly dependant on the ability and experience of the player. To achieve all the bends on a valved diatonic requires a lot of work and practice.
(Thanks both to Ironman and BrassHa’per for this information.)

Suzuki sell Promaster harps which are allegedly good quality diatonic harps. They can be purchased with valves installed. Refer to the links page for online harp shops.

Playing 10 Hole Diatonic Short Harps Chromatically
This is beyond the scope of this page, however it is possible by using overblows and overdraws to play diatonic harps in a chromatic fashion and if I am going to make a site about chromatic harmonicas I have to at least mention this.  Some very skilled harp musicians have mastered the technique of overblowing and overdrawing certain notes on the diatonic 10 hole short harp which gives them the full 12 semitones for each octave. However like the valved diatonics the quality and accuracy of these tones is very dependant on the ability and experience of the player. I understand overblows require regular practice to maintain consistently accurate pitch.   To use this technique generally the short harp being played needs to be set up with the smallest practical reed gapping which requires some work on the average harmonica.

Blues, Country & Rock – Diatonic Harmonica Home Page

The popular types of music are unusually played on a 10 hole diatonic harmonica. This is the instrument most people think of when you mention a harmonica, and this is the type most of us had as kids. These models include some of the most popular harmonicas and are used in Blues, Folk, Country, and Rock.

All feature reeds which are tuned to produce the natural notes of the scale without any additional sharps and flats. These musical styles are usually played in “Cross Harp”, using riffs and fills that add to and complement the music rather than playing the song melody.

Even though you may be playing Rock or Country harmonica, the playing style used is very similar to playing Blues harmonica, indeed these musical styles themselves have their roots in the blues.

Diatonic harmonicas come in 12 standard keys for the (G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C , Db, D, Eb, E, F, F#) so you normally would change harmonicas to change song keys. There are some specialized techniques used by some players to play a diatonic harmonica chromatically, but most people start playing diatonically and work on those other techniques later (see Bending, Overblows and Valving a Diatonic for more information on these techniques.)