beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Bending
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1 post
Nov 11, 2016
10:50 AM
Which harps are good for beginners to learn to bend notes on?
I have a Lee Oskar C harp.

1893 posts
Nov 11, 2016
12:49 PM
A Lee Oskar should be fine for you.

Another I would recommend would be the special 20.

However Some people find that Lower or Higher keys are easier to bend. So I recommend getting an A harp and a D harp. If you continue to play you will need them anyways.

Then just keep at it. Bending is one of the toughest things to get and to explain. But once you get it your home free. Watch multiple youtube videos on the subject. There are MANY different explanations for beginners on how to get a bend. Everyone finds different methods helpful. Eventually one of them will click.

Hope that Helps.
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1873 posts
Nov 11, 2016
3:02 PM
Yes, I'd echo the different keys thing. I found it easier to learn on lower key, A. But I've read some people found it easier on a higher key.

One bit of ad-hype to be aware of is that a particular model is 'easy to bend'. Once you get the knack, they are all more or less the same - over a certain quality level.

The only proviso is that the harp needs to be in good adjustment. Whether the one you buy is or not seems to be luck. It would be annoying to find yourself struggling to learn to bend, only to find later that the harp wasn't right. In that sense having some other keys can help too.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Nov 11, 2016 3:04 PM
1874 posts
Nov 11, 2016
3:07 PM thing to say is, just because you hear the teachers on the vids bending notes beautifully to pitch, don't be fooled into thinking that the bends click into place. It takes a lot of control to get some of those bends stable.

Otherwise you might think something was wrong with your harp.

They weren't designed to bend, it's a happy accident and they don't give up their notes easily. It doesn't require any increased physical effort, just fine control. Like holding your car still on the clutch, on a steep hill.

(although if you are in the US I believe you all drive automatics :) ha ha so that comparison doesn't work).

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Nov 11, 2016 3:12 PM
2 posts
Nov 12, 2016
4:29 AM
Well I have been trying to bend notes with good results so far since Friday afternoon. Not real good or consistent but getting there. Can bend straight off, but when it comes to alternating between the note and the bend I'm having trouble, will keep working on it.
3 posts
Nov 12, 2016
4:36 AM
BTW, thanks for the replies so far!
1876 posts
Nov 12, 2016
6:37 AM
That's good. I think the big step is to be able to do it at all. Then it's a case of refining which is more a case of gradual improvement.

I guess you are talking about draw bends. Then you have the blow bends up top. Same kind of thing in principle (doing something odd with your tongue) - just the detail is different.

What may come as a surprise, if you only have one harp, is how different the other keys feel to play. Even going one step C to D, or C to Bb surprisingly different. Again, if you didn't know you might think it was the make/model of harp to blame for that.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Nov 12, 2016 6:39 AM
1898 posts
Nov 12, 2016
1:50 PM
All great points MTG. (Btw I ONLY by stick cars.) 8^)

Yes Tom, I'm not sure how long you have been at it, but just the fact that you can bend at all is good. Now that you know what it feels like your home free. It's all just practice from there. Some people take weeks, months, years just trying to get it to bend at all.

When you say alternating between note and bend, what exactly do you mean? Perhaps i can help.

Note: it takes a while before you build up your "bending muscles" i think. But just keep at it and your bends will get better. Just be aware that (as mtg pointed out) it doesnt take air force to bend. I can bend just as good (if not better) with the softest of breath as i can with a harder one.
It's tough to describe, but its like the muscle in your throat effects the air moving and causes the harp to bend. So regardless of the amount of air or force that you use to breathe in, the muscle for bending is independent of that.

Sorry if this is confusing.

Last Edited by Killa_Hertz on Nov 12, 2016 1:55 PM
4 posts
Nov 12, 2016
4:31 PM
I started learning the harmonica about 16 years ago, for some reason I stopped. At the time I could play some simple songs and the major scale.
Just recently I have been looking at it again and thought I should give it another go. So I have acquired a couple of books, dug out my instruction book I bought 16 years ago, looking at websites on the topic again.
Bending has always intrigued me, never tried it years ago. Read up on it the last week or so and started trying to bend on Friday. I also have to get back into those simple tunes and exercises.

Yes, I was referring to draw bends.

When I say alternating between note and bend, I mean alternating between the bent note and the unbent note (and vice a versa).
For example, between -4' and -4
D to Db.

Sometimes I can draw bend 2 (F#) hole easier than the just 2 draw.
1899 posts
Nov 12, 2016
10:56 PM
2 draw can be a tricky one to get really clean. I have got a decent one now.

But for me the START of learning a good 2 draw was in changing the way i was breathing. Naturally when a new player picks up a harp they want to suck in it like a straw to play it. This is wrong. You want to open your throat a bit and just breathe.

Similar to if one were going to chug a beer. If you take gulps, you ll be there all day. You have to open your throat and pour it down. Sorry, but it was the analogy that came to mind at 1am.

As far as having a larger difference between your draw notes and bends. This week come in time. Practice bending with a tuner if possible. That way you can SEE exactly where your at.
Glass Harp Full
156 posts
Nov 12, 2016
11:03 PM
Hi Tom82. I'm returning to harp after a long break too. I first stared 15-20 years ago but stopped when travel, study and work got in the way.

I was at the point of trying to bend back then and found it a challenge when I took it back up again. I'd echo the advice above about practise. Two YouTube videos I found particularly useful were one from JP Allen where he talks about making a "koor" sound to get bends and one from Will Wilde where he uses different syllables to bet the different bends on holes with more than one. I can't remember what they were called exactly but if you search using "bending" and their names they should come up.
1902 posts
Nov 12, 2016
11:07 PM
Glass Harp Full ... I know the exact videos your talking about. The JP allen one is especially good.
1878 posts
Nov 13, 2016
1:03 AM
I watched all the vids when I was learning to bend, and I do think they are good. However, a note of caution - using those syllables is a good start and give your an approximation of tongue position but when you can actually bend notes properly you're doing a bit more that that. Or at least I am - try a full bend on say the 2D then hold that, take the harp out of your mouth and then vocalise that state.

The sound I usually get is like doing a 'funny voice' e.g. Mr Bean.

Mind you, if you sound like that already maybe the syllables are just the job :)
1879 posts
Nov 13, 2016
1:07 AM
Killa - re cars, I was brought up on the many, many American cop shows they used to show on the BBC. So I can't shake the implanted idea that everyone drives a great big 'American Car' with a V8 engine, lazy suspension and PowerGlide automatic transmission. Imagine, no clutch nonsense, just put it into drive and go!

Either that or a Pontiac Firebird.

When we went to car shows, there'd often be an 'American Car' on display and we'd marvel at how the boot was as long as one of our typical British Leyland cars. You wouldn't get that thing into one of the little parking space in the Co-Op car park.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Nov 13, 2016 1:24 AM
215 posts
Nov 13, 2016
5:50 AM
Couple of things....GHP and Tom82, me too. About a 15 year break after playing long enough to gather a set of harps and some books (rejoined the harp comm. about 5 years ago). For bending, time on task following all the advice here. I kind of think it's different ways of describing what turns out to be mostly the same thing that happens in one's mouth and throat. Ah, MGTD and an MGA1600 many years ago. My fascination was with British cars. Last year I finally gave to my son-in-law gearhead the balancer I had for the SU carbs in the TD. I got rid of them thinking back then they got in the way of life. Now I realize it was the other way around. Like with the harps many years later.
Phil Pennington
51 posts
Nov 13, 2016
9:59 AM
Do any of y'all use HarpNinja or Bendometer to gauge if your bends are in tune? I've probably overused them, but they have been very helpful to me.

Last Edited by Sundancer on Nov 13, 2016 9:59 AM
57 posts
Nov 13, 2016
10:57 AM
I always use the Bendometer app.
Especially when I'm trying to decipher a harmonica song. It's been a massive help to me.
It's great for learning chord arpeggios!
1904 posts
Nov 13, 2016
3:08 PM
Yea mtg ... that's funny. I'm sure over here we have a few sterotypes about yall aswell .... implanted by the tube. That's funny. Yea, we do like our HUGE suvs over here huh? ... while I do love pick up trucks and have owned a couple, (not enough to get 8 mph with todays gas prices) my car selection over the last 10 years would probably fit in better over there. Currently i drive a lil mazda 3 hatchback 5 speed. With a trunk full of tools. Acts as a little pickup ttuck more than anything ... lol. But alot more fun to drive. Lol.

Anyhow, I have heard of people using the bendometer, but i have never used it myself. Some use a tuner with the tone generator and try to match by ear. Some use a keyboard. Whatever works.

Last Edited by Killa_Hertz on Nov 13, 2016 3:11 PM
5 posts
Nov 13, 2016
5:05 PM
I downloaded the Bendometer app to my phone. That is what I have been using since Friday.
Yeah, I was going to ask what type of tuner and what settings does it need to work in this application?

Watched those suggested videos and will watch a few more times.
I'm unsure how to make those sounds when inhaling / drawing.
1905 posts
Nov 13, 2016
5:38 PM
Following mtg's "mr. Bean " description. Which is pretty great. I think i can take it one step further.

Are you familiar with aqua teen hunger force? You need to make your throat like your making a "meatwad" voice.

Its a combination of pulling you tongue back into your throat, aswell as a change in your throat.

Youtube meatwad, I'm telling you that's it. Lol. As silly as it sounds.
6 posts
Nov 13, 2016
5:41 PM
I don't know what that is, but I will look it up!
7 posts
Nov 14, 2016
2:00 AM
HarpNinja looks good.

Does anyone here record themselves learning / practicing?
What equipment do you use (hardware / software)?
1906 posts
Nov 14, 2016
2:47 AM
Most definitely. Recording yourself is very important.

There are a few good threads about it.
Here's the one that was recently up.
8 posts
Nov 14, 2016
4:42 AM
Thanks for that.
I'm going to try recording with my phone and / or ipod and see how it goes.
I was thinking of using something like a Zoom Portable Recorder or something similar, but that might be overkill at the moment.

Do you have any problems with the quality of the mic and distortion etc on your phone?

Last Edited by tom82 on Nov 14, 2016 4:52 AM
1907 posts
Nov 14, 2016
5:11 AM
Yes I use my phone. If you have access to a Zoom, by all means. But the best part of using the cellphone is that you always have it on you AND you can save and catalog your recordings. It also tells you the date of the recordings so you can go back and listen to old ones and tell how much you have progressed.

The phone recording does sound a bit nasally. But not really distorted. Dont record too close to it. I set mine on my lap if sitting, or a few feet away if standing. Your results may vary.

I think you can get better quality listening if you use headphones. So the real downside is the phone speaker more than anything I think.

It's a great way to track your progress. And by waiting a few days and listening back its easier to get a true feel for how good it was.

If you find out any tricks that work good for you ( special recording apps, etc.) please share.
9 posts
Nov 14, 2016
5:13 AM
Will try it out!
216 posts
Nov 14, 2016
10:37 AM
For recording, Voice Record Pro has worked pretty well for me on my iPad and iPod.
Phil Pennington
55 posts
Nov 14, 2016
12:34 PM
I use the iPhone to record while simultaneously using a metronome on the iPad for time then when playing back I open HarpNinja on iPad to see how bends are landing.
289 posts
Nov 14, 2016
4:49 PM
I have been playing a long time,been on stage etc a lotta times........but now 'retired'.Anyways i haven't 'practiced' as such for years apart from blowing along to backing tracks for fun.
So just recently i decided to download Audacity (great free program) and record myself...holy shite gave me a fright.Sloppy playing and the 3 hole bends were way off pitch especially 3''.
So what to do?
Well i downloaded some one chord backing tracks in the key where the 5th is the 3'' on my harmonica .
(also known as 3rd position)
C harp use a track in Dm
D harp use a track in Em
F harp use a track in Gm
That way you get to play that bend a lot for the whole length of the track without worrying about chord changes.
Plus when you start to consider 3rd position you are half way there already.
I also bought the Bendometer software so i can visually see the note layout on each harp as i play.
I'm sure i'm not the first one to think of it but man it sure works.
After only a few hours i'm nearly back to where i used to be lol.
Should add here that i am talking about playing the V chord in second position where eg you need the 3'' to play the 5th note.

Last Edited by indigo on Nov 15, 2016 12:22 AM
10 posts
Nov 15, 2016
9:04 PM
Hey Killa_Hertz, what type of tuner would be useful, what features should it have?
Interested in looking in to this.

Thank you
1923 posts
Nov 16, 2016
2:48 AM
Im no expert here, but ive seen people use just simple regular guitar tuners.

My advice would be

If you have a smartphone check out some of the free apps. If you have an iphone it should work great, but androids (like i have) tend to not be very accurate due to latency issues. So i wouldnt exactly Trust their accuracy. But still you can see what options you find useful. One option that it should have is a tone generator ... so that you can put in which note you want to play and it will Make the sound and hold it. Then you try to emulate it with the note/bend you want to practice. Use this in tandem with the tuner so that you have a sound to match AND you can watch the tuner and see exactly what you are playing. (Again with android phones they are not very accurate, but atleast you will get an idea of what it is you want from a tuner should you go buy one.)

The Korg tuners are pretty good.

Also there free metronome apps with great options. I was just using one last night.

Check out some videos too. See what the better educated are using .. lol. Dont wanna lead you wrong.

Last Edited by Killa_Hertz on Nov 16, 2016 6:00 AM

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