Okay so I keep hearing players bending the 5 draw down and I wonder how and why don't they blow out their reeds? Here is a perfect e.g. at about the 20 second mark. I'm always worried I'll blow out my 5 draw reed.
You have to feel the "floor" of the bend - where it won't go any further....sensitize yourself. It's tactile. Then, place that bend about 1 foot above that floor and you won't have to worry about stressing the reed.
Rick is a master of understanding this - even when he inhale bends 4 or 2 hole, he places the note a foot above the floor to give it more true pitch (unless he decides to go that extra 24 cents below the pitch by INTENT and not because of bad habit). ---------- The Iceman
You'll only blow (draw?) the reed out if you try and bend beyond the range of the reed.
The same is true for all the other bendable notes. Players bust out Hole 4 a lot, sometime 2 or 6, as well - all from trying to bend past the hard floor.
Draw 5 bends down roughly a quarter tone. It's the shallowest draw bend on the harp; all the others bend at least a semitone.
So if you try to bend beyond that shallow quarter-tone floor, you'll stress the reed and eventually it'll go out of tune and break. If you stay within the limit - and maybe practicing with a tuner that shows cents is a good idea - it should last as long as any of the other reeds.
Thanks guys but doesn't it sound like Rick is bending not a quarter tone but a whole tone on that 5 draw? Or close to a whole tone? Are my ears deceiving me?
Last Edited by Django on Jul 07, 2017 8:35 PM
@Django -- A major part of your problem is that not only are you bending past the floor of the bend, you're also guilty of using FAR TOO MUCH BREATH FORCE in your playing and that makes matters 1,000 times worse and you NEED to use 50-80% less breath force in your playing in order to get this under control and EVERYTHING about your playing will improve dramatically and you won't be constantly blowing your harps out all the time. What may SEEM to be like he's playing really hard is often NOT the reality and many people get easily fooled if a player is moving along with the groove and it easily fools them into thinking that they're playing really hard and the truth be told, that is NOT what's really happening because mind, body, and harmonica is all working together as one, and for most non-pro players, often times this is what's NOT happening at all. I haven't blown out a 5 draw in 25 years and that last time was when the reed finally succumbed to metal fatigue and using less force makes everything sound better, bends much more accurate and all your harps will last a helluva lot longer. What you're doing is flat out bad playing technique in a nutshell. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
OK thanks everyone. I guess my ears are getting fooled into thinking that bend is more than it is then. I have been careful to not blow too hard and haven't blown a reed in a few months but I will re focus on continuing to play light and perhaps even lighter still just to make sure I don't overdo it, especially when trying to play "new" licks where my focus can be more on getting the right notes.
The control of your breath force is even more necessary when it comes to note bending because most players, especially self-taught players have a tendency to use much more breath force in order to force the bend to happen, which is the wrong thing to do. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
OK B.Bob, thank you for the insightful tip. I have blown a couple 5 draw reeds in the past in the belief that guys were able to bend that reed a whole tone somehow and would just keep trying it over and over but I know now that it's just my mind tricking me into thinking that 5 draw bend is a whole tone and not a quarter tone. I will just have to get used to that sound and develop my ear into hear ing it and I'll make sure to stay relaxed and not try to "force" my bends. Thanks again everybody for your knowledge.
I have wondered about the mechanism for the frequent 5 draw failures. I haven't found a satisfactory explanation using resonance. I believe the "floor" is established by the relationship between the pitches of the two reed in the chamber. Attempting to bend past the floor by changing the resonance of the oral cavity should not add additional stress to the read, but it will not bend the pitch any lower. What I suspect happens it that when the pitch stops bending, the player draws harder to get it to bend, and it is the extra breath force that does the damage.
I was messing with the 5 draw and found that if I lighten up just when I bend it that it seems to sound more bent. Perhaps it's in my mind or maybe the less air pressure allows the reed to vibrate more freely and sound less choked. That would go along with STME58's theory of extra breath force.
Django, I think you have hit on through experince something that Barbeque Bob is frequently trying to get across to us, a harp sounds better and is more responsive when played with a lighter touch. I have certainly found that to be the case, even though I am still playing hard enough to break the ocassional draw 5.
Cotton uses it to somewhat good effect on the vanguard record of Rocket 88, 3rd chorus of solo especially.
Destroying reeds? Yeah, it's possible, especially when you're practicing. My solution (not specifically for 5draw) was to learn how to mend them. I just ordered 35 reeds from Germany. It cost me $54 Australian, delivered. So well under $2 each. I have some $ invested in tools too, but I was ahead after the 2nd repair. When I started mending others' harps I had to start accounting for time as well but for my own work I just count the parts and overheads. Both Hohner and Seydel make new individual reeds available. I put a new reed in a Seydel Noble yesterday, and another in a Zajac custom marine band. If those 2 harps had been written off for bad 5 draw reeds, over $250 AUD to replace. I'll charge $30 for the pair. Even if another reed goes bad in same harp, it's still worth mending at those prices.
Last Edited by SuperBee on Jul 09, 2017 1:42 PM
If you are very aware of where the floor is on 5 hole inhale bend and never try to smash through it - rather, just touch it - and use breathing and not sucking in, I do not believe that you are in danger of ruining the inhale reed.
It does bend down further than a quarter tone - one can ALMOST get a half tone. It is used effectively to almost create the note of that 5 hole exhale - just missing it by 24 cents or so - by many players within their melodic line, opening up some pretty cool avenues for ideas. I've even heard some creative descending lines with an extra "note", giving the impression that there are three notes between 6 hole exhale and 4 hole exhale. ---------- The Iceman
IMO, popping reeds while bending is the nature of the too much force and ignoring the floor beast.
Pros that I listen to who don't appear to ignore these two issues include Charlie M and Rick Estrin. I also know that Kim Wilson may "punch it" once in a while to show that he can, but mostly plays with minimal force and respect to the limits of the bend. ---------- The Iceman
What also compounds the problem is the fact that the average player often doesn't where all of the notes are on all of their instruments compounded by a lack of knowledge of basic music theory and if a player takes the time to learn this, they'd know that there's only a 1/2 step in between blow and draw 5 and so you have about only roughly 1/4 step you can actually bend flat.
Another big reason for 5 draw going flat is too often whenever players go to an open jam and their surrounded by a loud guitar player, they too often go into AUTOMATIC MACHO STUPID MODE and play even harder to try and drown the guitars out and that is one of the DUMBEST things on the face of the earth because the only thing you do is LOSE the battle by either blowing your harps out plus in the end, you will ALWAYS wind up sounding like a really LOUSY harp player every single time!!!!!! Those people when they gut put together with most real pros would either get their sorry behinds fired or get a non-stop ration of crap from a pro and to be brutally honest, you're basically dealing with a really lousy musician that'll never get their behind out the jam hack stage. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
Well, as a practical matter, the 5 draw will bend farther on harps in some keys than on others. Why this is so, I don't know. But, so what? Other than to get a little inflection occasionally, there's no good musical reason to be trying to bend that note anyway.
TRUE STORY: I stopped by a blues jam last week and as usual simply plugged in and played with the house band most of whom i have played with in one context or another. After a while the bandleader asks me to lay out for a few tunes so another harp player could play. No problem. The singer/guitar player who came up with him played MISS YOU, the Stones tune with the harp riff by Sugar Blue.The harp player blew all sorts of fills bending all kinds of notes, but never played the Sugar Blue hook. Probably because he didn't know how. Now, I'm not sure whether he bent the 5 draw, but he sure as hell bent a lot of notes. Moral of the story: If a harp player knows what he is doing musically he is less likely to bend randomly and won't wind up trying to bend the 5 draw very often.
Last Edited by hvyj on Jul 10, 2017 3:30 PM
@yonderwall - We're not talking about overblows here at all but bending the draw and that's an entirely different thing altogether. People tend to hit 5 draw so damned hard to bend it that they're going past the floor of the bend and ultimately they heavily over stress the reed from too much breath force, which ultimately forms microscopic cracks in the reed AKA stress fractures and once that happens, the reed is toast and can't be retuned back to pitch. Overblow is a different technique, again bu it IS true when you attempt to bend past the 1/4 step floor of that bend, usually done by playing with too much breath force, the reed becomes toast. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
There is also only a half-step difference between the 7 draw and the 7 blow and I can't get any kind of articulation on the 7 blow like I can on the 5 draw. Maybe it's just me or is the 7 hole totally unbendable?
Last Edited by DanP on Jul 14, 2017 8:58 PM
Yeah just you danP. It's bendable, but there's not a lot of call for it. If your doing a lot of work on high 1st it's something to avoid mostly. You can accidentally hit it bent coming off the minor 3rd to the root and it's not a great sound. can kinda work on the IV chord as an accent way of hitting the 5th but a bit more intricate than my playing calls for atm
I don't usually care for blues in 1st position because blow bends generally sound too shrill for me. I do like some of Jimmy Reed's stuff on the high end though. I hardly ever blow bend so not being able to get anything but straight notes out of the 7 hole doesn't concern me much. I was just curious if a quarter step bend was there since the draw and the blow are only a half-step apart. Anyway, thanks for the input, SuperBee.
Last Edited by DanP on Jul 15, 2017 12:33 AM