Q: Is it possible to do "full bends" on a chromatic.

A: It depends on what you mean by "full." I can bend notes on a chromatic by as much as three semitones, depending on the note.

On a diatonic, or on any harp where both the blow and draw reed are free to vibrate, the two reeds interact, and create a system wherein the higher-pitched reed can be bent and the lower pitched cannot. As the pitch of the bent note gets lower, the lower-pitched reed also begins to sound at the same frequency, and eventually takes over the vibration completely from the higher-pitched note. The effective limit to bending in such a system is slightly less than a semitone above the lower of the two notes.

For instance, in Hole 4 of a diatonic in C, the draw note is D and the blow note C. The draw note can be bent down to just a little below Db. By the same token, in Hole 10, C is the blow note and A the draw. In this case, the blow note is higher in pitch, and can be bent down to just a little below Bb.

When two reeds interact like this it gives a very different sound from one reed bending by itself. If you go back to Hole 4, put your finger on the blow reed, and bend the draw note again, you'll find that you can bend the note much farther (it also requires more care to control), but it sounds sort of "dead." And if you put your finger on the blow reed, you can bend the draw reed, which is not possible when the draw reed is available.

On most chromatics, the valves prevent any of the draw air from reaching the blow reed, and vice versa - like putting your fingers on the diatonic reeds. Thus any reed bent is bent by itself. This removes the range limit placed on bends in the system described above, and also prevents that "live" bluesy bend sound, but a casual listen to Larry Adler or Toots Thielemans will amply demonstrate that it is a very effective sound nonetheless -- "FULL BENDS ON A CHROMATIC?" 17 Feb 1994 WY

(FMI: "Chromey articulation" 30,31 Mar 94 WY)
(FMI: "Learning Chromatic" 18 Oct 94 RM)
(FMI: "Chromatic Tonguing" 15 Dec 93 WY)
(FMI: " Re: Tongue Blocking" 1 Feb 94 SJ)


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I began collecting data about the microphones used by blue harp players before there was an internet. I began organizing it into JT30.com in the late 1990s. I accumulated more stuff than I remember. This is some of it.

Street Theory

A Harp Player’s Guide to Music Theory

Learning Harp

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A guide to learning to play Blues Harp

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Usenet Articles

Harp Amps

I've been collecting Harp Amps for a while. This is the old Harpamps.com website. There is lots of information here. Here a coupld of links.

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A collection of songs and riffs that I’ve worked out over the years, plus some libraries of stuff I’ve converted to tablature. I’ve included most of the notes and instructions that helped me when I was learning to play blues harmonica.

Basic Riffs Simple harp tabs for songs Blues riffs and phrases.

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