How do I bend?
A: Bending is the lowering of the pitch of a reed. This can be done
on all holes of a chromatic, but only on the draw reeds of holes 1-6 and
the blow reeds of holes 7-10 of a diatonic (blues harp style). Bending
on tremolo or octave tuned harmonicas is probably less controllable. Bending
is achieved by changing the shape of your mouth cavity while playing a
certain note. Your mouth should be quite relaxed. Now try to retract your
tongue and to drop your lower jaw. Because the size of your mouth cavity
increases, its resonant frequency decreases, and the pitch of the note
will be lowered.
Some hints and keys..
1) Be sure you can get a good, clean, pure, loud, single note before
else. Don’t even worry about bends if you can’t get a consistent pure
1a) One good approach is to use the "lip block" embouchure
(how you "kiss" your harp). Tilt the harp up at the back about
30-45 degrees, open your mouth pretty wide, enough to cover 3 holes, with
your upper lip about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way over the top cover. Let the
harp nestle into your lower lip. What happens is that quite naturally,
without really trying and without forcing it, the lower lip blocks the
2 side holes and lets the center hole sound cleanly. The open mouth helps
in getting bends correctly. The harp needs to be well in your mouth…
Don’t be shy! You can’t just touch it with puckered lips and make it work
2) While breathing in, make "eeeeee" and "oooooh"
sounds. Notice how your draw drops, and pay attention to the feeling in
your throat. The bend happens when you go from "eeeeee" to "oooooh".
Try holes 2, 3, and 4 for your first bends.
3) The tongue is the key (for beginners). Start with it flat and forward
in your mouth. While drawing in with the "eeeee", *slowly* pull
it back, keeping the front low in the mouth, and humping it in the back.
At some point the sound should begin to choke a little. That’s the crucial
spot. Treat it like the "friction point" on a clutch car…
if you move to fast you’ll stall the car–or miss the bend. At that crucial
spot go from "eeee" to "ooooh". At first it may help
to increase the air pressure a little. But, you *don’t* have to play loud
or hard to get bends. You can bend notes playing quite softly.
4) Breathe in while making a hard "K" sound. Notice where you
make that sound in your throat. That’s where the bend comes from.
5) Breathe from deep within your body–from your diaphram. Feel your
stomach push out a little bit. This will help your resonance and make
6) "Practice, practice, practice" %^]
I tried to figure out what the simplest thing to do to get a bend is,
this is what I came up with:
1.) Using a pucker get a single pure note with a relaxed tongue, mouth
2.) Slowly move the back of the tongue back and up while lightly and
evenly drawing on hole 1, 2, 3, 4 or 6. Keep the front of the tongue about
half way between the bottom and top of the mouth. The tongue feels like
an accordion being squeezed to the back of the throat.