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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > 3rd hole bending beyond semitone
3rd hole bending beyond semitone
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4 posts
Jan 11, 2021
2:08 PM
I am practicing bending now and just started getting slightly more reliable technique. I think that in the past I relied more on tilting the harp partially because my single note embouchure was previously done with partial tongue "touching" and now I worked out better pucker embouchure so I can actually work on shaping the resonant properties of mouth cavity. I watch YT videos and I try to relax, move tongue back and up - all that.

Got reliable half tone on hole 1 and 4.

What is a bit surprising (on hole 4) that more backward tongue is not necessarily translating into deeper bend - there is some fine tuning of the shape of the mouth cavity that gives you nice stable bend fairly early in process of moving tongue back. And it does feel as if you hit resonance - with narrow bandwidth - move jaw more and bend weakens.

Not sure if that is what is expected.

What bothers me me is that I cannot seem to find anything remotely similar on third hole. I get down maybe 40 cents and it is airy and weak - can't go any farther.

Any pointers?

PS. I work on A harp now (Special 20) - it seems that bending "geometry" is key dependent - perhaps I should start from a different harp/key?
6 posts
Jan 11, 2021
10:28 PM
My first thought here is that you probably would have an easier time learning these bends on a C or higher.
6877 posts
Jan 12, 2021
4:34 AM
Well, I dunno. On an A harp tuned to 443 I can bend the B in hole 4 down to an A, albeit 30 cents sharp. I have the tip of my tongue touching the harp and am basically "humping" the tongue back into the cavity of my soft palette. Some people describe this as opening their throat and claim to be bending from the throat. It can feel like that, if that's where you focus your attention, but it's actually a combination of factors, or a coordination of movements involving much of the vocal tract, which is dominated by the tongue and glottis and driven by the diaphragm.

As to the 3, which is a natural G# on the A harp; it will bend to a rather sharp E in my mouth. About 40 cents sharp of the E in blow 3.

I remember when I obtained my first Low F, I could not bend the 1 draw, and found the 2 draw rather a challenge.

When I a asked for advice on MBH, the first such was "umm, practice?".
I didn't find that very helpful at the time, although it's essentially correct. There are ways of practicing though.

I think the advice above, about using a higher key harp, will probably help, although I'm sure you'd get there on the A as well.

You need the right embouchure, and the embouchure needs to develop strength and coordination. You can't really force those things, but you can encourage them. Playing on a C harp may well help, a little like weightlifting. When you start out you simply don't have the strength to move the big weight and you can spend a long time trying and getting nowhere and not be a lot better off. If you start with something you can actually move, you will develop more quickly.

And keep at it. You know the type of movement that's needed so keep on trying and you will get momentary successes. Gradually you will learn how to make those more frequent and as you do you will develop your coordination and control over the muscles you are using to get the sound. It really is a lot like learning to speak. There's a lot of experimentation going on.

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