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Sounds of a Diatonic with overblow/overbend vs. Chromatic


Was wondering if anyone could tell me the difference between the sounds of a Diatonic played with the overblow/overbend technique in order to achieve the Chromatic sound, versus the sound from a regular Chromatic harmonica?

I've always been a fan of the jazzy/ballad type sound, which is one of the reasons why I've always had a slight favoritism towards Chromatics harmonica.

However, having just been exposed to overblow/overbend and seeing diatonic players such as Christelle Berthon on youtube has completely shattered my initial perception when it comes to Diatonic and Chromatic.

As a novice, it seems the diatonic played with overblow/overbend allows the player to play the chromatic scale and achieve that cleaner sound that is often represented by the Chromatic Harmonica (not as clean as chromatic, but 90% maybe?). While at the same time allows the player the luxury to choose how much of that classic diatonic wa-wa sound he or she may want to retain.
And the ability to sound clean while being able to apply that slight wailing signature sound of the diatonic is how it is able to achieve a sound that not only sounds chromatic, but much more expressive as the same time?

Is this a fair assessment of it? This is coming from someone who has yet to start his harmonica journey, so my analysis is based strictly on the sound I'm hearing.

I guess the analogy would be like comparing a Violin to a Chinese Erhu (which is a violin like string instrument i'm also extremely fascinated with because of its wailing and expressive nature. It just sounds so much more emotional.)

Here are some examples of erhu in action:

As someone who is looking to get started and have originally planned to learn the chromatic harmonica, I must say, I'm quite torn now between the two choices.
It definitely seems like the Diatonic is the more versatile and expressive of the two.
I absolutely love the wailing, almost atmospheric sound that Christelle Berthon showcased in this video:

I don't think you can get exactly the same tone from both, but the diatonic can take on some of the tonal qualities of the chromo. Making the chromo sound like the diatonic though is not as easy.

I recommend listening to Carlos Del Junco if you are getting into overblowing. For my money he's the best at making his overblows sound like they aren't overblows.
Overbends in general seem to have a distinct character which is not as rich as a normally-played hole. Some people do a smashing job of playing quite rich overblows and some people, well, don't.

Carlos Del Junco. A good starting point would be his album Blues Mongrel, which has jazz and latin influences as well as bluesy roots.

One more thing I'd like to add about the chromatic scale played on diatonic: I've never heard the full scale executed perfectly, though I've heard it done well. But never perfectly. The middle octave seems to be easiest to treat well as far as pitch goes. Some of the low overdraws can sound ghastly and very pitchy.
Overblows allow the player to extend the instrument and play more chord tones and of course more (all) keys. But it isn't quite a replacement for the chromatic when you want to play across three (or more) octaves using rich, strong, melodic tones.
One great advantage of overblowing is that you get access to some pretty handy notes yet you can still execute bends with the power and finesse that a diatonic harmonica allows. This means that some truly expressive music can be created and really there are few limits to where you can go from there.

Many of us are familiar with Christelle's playing. She was a member here briefly several years ago.


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