Bending - I can do it but

Hi! I’ve gone through the amazing video about bending ( How To Bend a Note on Harmonica for Beginners). I can do the “high pitched tea kettle” sound on a C harmonica on hole 4

however, unless I’m really really quiet, I’m only able to variate between a “High pitched tea kettle” and “train too-too horn” sound, whereas in the video it seemed possible to have various pitches - is it my technique, the harmonica or something else? Do I just need more practice?
thanks in advance!

4 Likes

Hi @yuriythebest - welcome to the forum! Glad to have you here. I’m not familiar with the video, so I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about, but, if you haven’t seen it already, maybe this vid might help provide some other perspectives?

3 Likes

Hi Luke! Thanks, yes, that’s the video I was talking about

1 Like

It is almost certain that your technique is still needing more work (= more practice)! Bending is something that harpists never stop practicing and perfecting.

When your technique is correct you should be able to bend even at low volume levels. Most beginners use too much power and try to force the bend. This can actually damage/destroy the reeds. So practice at medium to low volume levels. :point_left:

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

4 Likes

@yuriythebest

It is your technique. Try placing your tongue bent down flat against your lips. SLOWLY pull your tongue back while drawing air in, and you should (depending on the hole) pass through multiple notes while bending.

Don’t give up! The hardest bend is the first one…And I think the second hardest is the next where you have to figure out what the heck you just did to pull it off :slight_smile:

3 Likes

The Bend It Better Tool is the best.

Important Tip, it is very important to also hear the note that you are trying to hit. You need to train your ear. Make sure to use the play function on the tool and not just the visual.

Happy Harping!

6 Likes

Hi @yuriythebest, I’ve been using the ‘bend it better’ tool for a week or so and it’s helped me a lot. My learning is not a straight-line improvement over time, sometimes I play worse this week than I did last week. Bend it better has definitely given me a boost. I can now vary my -1’ in C, up and down pretty much at will, looking at the line on the screen rising and falling. Doing that effectively within a song is a different matter of course. There are tips, as you know, on how to bend, what to do with your tongue etc., and they are very helpful. Here’s my take on it though and I’ll try not to ramble on too much.
When my kids were little, I used to do a lot of funny voices for them; Felix the cat, Quick draw and Baba Looey, Marvin the Martian etc. and I could do a pretty good James Stuart for the grown-ups. I can still do them but I’m out of practice. My point is that I don’t know how I do it, I just can. Most of us can mimic a foreign accent with varying degrees of success, but we couldn’t explain what we’re doing with our mouths and tongue and larynx to achieve that different voice. So, I think to a large degree we just need to listen, try different things and practice, practice, practice, until we get it.

5 Likes

@PapaCurly
Glad to hear your getting the hang of it!

2 Likes

I know that Jon Gindick sometimes posts in this forum, many years ago one of his tips got me bending in minutes. Think of the shape of your mouth when you make the sounds eeeee and oooooo. Then incorporate those shapes into your bends. It worked immediately and in a couple of days I was bending with confidence . I probably looked goofy walking around making eeeee oooooo shapes with my mouth, but it worked. Play on.

4 Likes

Thanks, Luke for the vid. I’m finding it helpful even though most of the time I can’t manage the bends. Yes, I have managed occasionally but then can’t do it over and over again. So reading the other posts about this was helpful - inspirational. I just have to (not) grit my teeth and keep trying.

3 Likes

PS What I mean is that I thought it was just me, that I was particularly useless at bending or that there might be something peculiar about my mouth - but now I see that others also find it difficult and those who can bend are very encouraging. So I’m going to keep trying. I do love the sound. Thanks to everyone.

4 Likes

@explorermatt good to see you on the forum again bud. It’s been a minute! Those are the vowel shapes I used when I first learned how to bend, and that’s how I used to teach it as well, as in this vid from 11 years ago:

About 5 years ago when I made the Blues for Beginners vid I asked a pro harmonica player to critique it and I had said “if you don’t know how to bend, try say oy” (oh and ee) and he was like “What?!? That’s backwards, if anything, say Waoo”.

I was like What? This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about! But then I tried it and to my utter shock I got a bend. This turned my world upside down. I was beside myself for several days.

How could opposite mouth movements both produce bends!?!?!

Then I consulted my Harmonica for Dummies book by Winslow Yerxa and he talked about the Kk spot. I think the lifting of the BACK of the tongue (which makes the front of it go down) is key, and I think both “ooo” and “aah” can create a mouth movement that puts the tongue in that position.

At the end of the day, according to Richard Sleigh, only one thing creates a bend, and that is tuning your mouth to the resonant frequency of the note you are bending to. I think this is why whistling from high to low, or doing “the airplane dive” as I describe in Bending for Beginners can be so helpful. SLOWLY moving the tongue back into that position at some point you’ll hit that frequency and get a little bend.

@explorermatt I’ve now gotten away from “eee” as the default way to come out of a bend as it creates very BRIGHT tone. I mean that can be cool sometimes. But I went through a period of “breaking the habit” because I wanted to also be able to release a bend into a warmer vowel shape, if that makes sense.

@angela_67 I’m so gad you are feeling encouraged and inspired to keep on trying. THAT’S THE KEY. There’s only one path to learning any new technique:

Try. And try again.

It’s so exciting the FIRST time you get a new technique, and then so frustrating when you can’t replicate it at will! I’ve been more recently experiencing this all over again with learning over-blows so I’m with you 100%.

Keep on trucking! :sunglasses::notes:

@Slim this is so good, I think it bears repeating:

Yes and amen. :notes:

4 Likes

Hey Luke,

Do not know how to DM directly or if it’s possible.

Anyway I recently saw one of your articles explaining differences between the crossover and MB deluxe.

Based on your instruction, I will buy the MB deluxe next time I buy harps.

In fact, I just bought two Special 20 progressive Bb harps. May send those back and buy 2 MB deluxe Bbs.

Thanks!

2 Likes

Eh @HoneyBoy better to keep conversations like this public anyways so people can potentially benefit from them.

Yeah the MB Deluxe is my favorite Hohner.

To stay on topic with this thread, I’ll mention I think the MB Deluxe and SP20 I find to be equally easy to bend.

The tone of the SP20 is darker, so for key of Bb you might prefer the MB Deluxe to cut thru the mix, but if you were buying a key of F you might consider the darker SP20 as it might be less shrill. Just a thought.

Look forward to hearing how you move forward. Make a new thread and keep us posted with your results when you get there. :sunglasses:

1 Like

I’ll just reshare here, what I shared on @Luke amazing course “beginner to boss” in case it can help anyone.
For me the -1′ bend is by far easier. I could do it from first try and can reproduce it almost anytime. The reason is that I almost just need to put my mouth in a yawning position without worrying about the tongue or the other techniques and I get it. If I switch to the -4′, I could not get it at first. I definitely need the Kk and work on the the tongue position. But it is something else that helped me get it to ‘click’. When Luke explained the “airplane dive/ee-yaw” technique and went from -4 to -4′ I immediately thought, “hold on, this sounds like the Once Upon a Time in the West – Man with a Harmonica Theme. Just a different note”. Apparently the bend on that theme is done from -6 to -6′. And, I also find trying to reproduce that far more easy than bending -4. I guess it is because we have heard that iconic riff so many times that we know how it is supposed to sound like. It is just like my mouth naturally knows what to do to reproduce that -6 to -6′. I think that knowing how it should sounds, and feeling when you get it right makes it easier.
If it helps anyone else, I found the tab for the “Once Upon a Time in the West – Man with a Harmonica Theme”. I think it is very simple and makes for a good practice exercise Once Upon a Time in the West – Man with a Harmonica Theme | Harmonica Club