Harmonica - bending???(!!!)

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Brus
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Harmonica - bending???(!!!)

Post by Brus »

OK, harmonica experts.

How do I do this? Bending.

I've read instructions from books. I've watched internet videos.

I've contorted my mouth into all sorts of strange positions, apparently following instructions, but the notes won't bend.

I even tried an electronic tuner to see if maybe the notes were bending even inaudibly. Nope. Not even a tenth of a cent.

How do I do this?
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Re: Harmonica - bending???(!!!)

Post by Loren »

Spend $16.95 for one month of bluesharmonica.com (or get a free month with any new hohner harmonica purchase) - the bending video instruction section on that site explains and shows the process better than anywhere else and will get you going. Trying to explain here via text won’t likely be any more help than what you’ve already seen and read.

That said, the short answer is that you have to learn to hump your tongue up and move the hump backwards in your mouth with a wave like movement. Where the tongue has to hump up, and how far back it has to move varies from note to note - very high notes happen in the front of the mouth near the teeth, lower notes increasing further back. Takes time and experimentation for most people to sort this out. Unfortunately most people, even pros, don’t actually know exactly what they do in order to bend, so their instruction is usually not terribly helpful. David Barrett at bluesharmonica.com has it sorted out though, and even had MRI scans showing how the tongue works during bends. Well worth the money, and TONS of other great instruction on the site.
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Re: Harmonica - bending???(!!!)

Post by An Draighean »

Like Loren said, it's very difficult to explain or show anyone how it's done - the action is all inside the mouth and throat. It seems more about moving the soft palate than the tongue to me, but I haven't seen the MRI's and etc. that Loren mentioned so I will take his word for it.

What model harp are you playing, to try and learn on, and in what key? Most diatonic harps can do bent notes to one degree or another, but in my experience some are easier than others. To me, the Hohner Special 20 and Blues Harp and the Lee Oskar Major Diatonic are the easiest to bend on (among the reasonably-priced harps). Get one of these in the key of A (so that you can play blues in the key of E), and play along with some classic blues harp recordings, and keep at it. I don't even remember how I learned, but it wasn't from anyone else - one day, I could just do it - after listening to a LOT of good players on records and continual effort.

I didn't realize that trad players used bent notes, but I've never seen/heard one in a session either. I guess it makes sense, since the original purpose of bending notes was to obtain the "missing" notes not naturally in the scale of a diatonic harp.

Good luck with it in any event, and "endeavor to persevere".
Last edited by An Draighean on Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Harmonica - bending???(!!!)

Post by Loren »

There is a 4 part discussion series on YouTube about the the MRI study, part 1 is here: https://youtu.be/I5ZjNUWnhgk You can follow the links below that video for the other parts.

And the actual MRI video: https://youtu.be/I5kogDrivvQ

Also, if you want to play with blues in the key of A, using 2nd position/cross harp, you’d need a harmonica in the key of D, not E. E harmonica plays in the key of B in second position.
That said, D harps are pretty high pitched and hard on the ears particularly for working the high blow bends. So, you’d probably want a low D harp for playing in A all the time, but the low bends on that are tough for someone new to bending. Better to start with an A harmonica and play along to blues in E: Easier to learn all the bends on an A harp, and the lower pitch is more comfortable for you and those around you.
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Re: Harmonica - bending???(!!!)

Post by An Draighean »

Loren wrote:Better to start with an A harmonica and play along to blues in E: Easier to learn all the bends on an A harp, and the lower pitch is more comfortable for you and those around you.
Yeah, this is what I was trying/meant to say, before my dyslexia kicked in. Thanks for the correction.
And thanks for the links to the MRI video.
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Re: Harmonica - bending???(!!!)

Post by Loren »

Heh heh, it’s easy enough to mess up - Damn complicated harmonica tuning and position playing. I need a chart half the time to sort it all out, lol.
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Re: Harmonica - bending???(!!!)

Post by Mikros »

To bend a note while drawing (inhaling) you basically pull air downward through the hole. At the front of my mouth I pull my tongue downward, and slightly increase the draw strength, and it can also help to tilt the harmonica downward away from you, so you are pulling air at a downward angle through the hole. It is much easier on the lower notes, try about the 3 hole.

To bend while blowing (exhaling) you kind of (slightly) over blow the hole compared to normal, and move your tongue frontward and back changing the size of the air chamber in your mouth. This is easier on higher notes. (on the "A" harmonica I have sitting here it is easy at the 5 hole and above) I'm not a great harmonica player but I've been a hack for many years lol, and that is how I bend notes. Hope this helps.
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Re: Harmonica - bending???(!!!)

Post by AuLoS303 »

I actually managed to bend a note near the middle of my harmonica after much practice, and once you do it you can see how the principle works, and how hard it is to explain it!
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