Bending Problem -3'

Can’t believe i’m writing this, I have been able to bend all the draw notes for a while now. Or so i thought. While using the “harmonica .com bending tool” I’ve noticed that my 3 draw half step bend is ‘no longer there’ I can bend it a whole step still and also a step and a half (A flat ) . But i can not get it to just a 1/2 step anymore?
Has anyone else had this problem, it seems odd that i can go past it but not stay on it… I’m sure Luke might have an idea… Hey Luke or Slim???


DUDE. YES I HAVE THAT PROBLEM ALL THE TIME! :rofl: You’ve probably heard me say that it takes days, weeks, or months to learn how to activate a bend, but it takes a LIFETIME to learn how to play in tune. The -3 is THE MAIN ONE that takes a LIFETIME.

Yes, my friend you are on the path, and what you are experiencing is NORMAL! In a way the -3’’’ is the easiest because you just go ALL THE WAY. The -3" and -3’ require a lot more FINESSE.

So here’s the deal:

  • List item For a shallower bend OR. a higher note: the movement your mouth needs to make to achieve it smaller and more forward.

  • List item For a deeper bend OR. a lower note: the movement your mouth needs to make to achieve it bigger and further back.

Here are some ideas for you to check out:

1.) Notice the difference in your mouth between -3" and -3’’’
Most likely your “Kk” zone placement is further back and/or the back of your throat is more open? Move the OPOSITE direction/size to go from the -3" to -3’

If you feel where your tongue is near the roof of your mouth, moving point of contact more forward toward your teeth should be helpful.

2.) If you’re getting the -6’ without any problem, do that, try and keep your mouth position exactly the same, and slide to the -3 and you should be in about the right position for -3’

3.) Sometimes for -3’ I like to think of it more like I’m just lowering the tip of my tongue rather than raising the back of it. You could try that.

4.) If you happen to own an A harmonica and can play the -4’ easily, that should be the same mouth position as -3’ on a C harmonica.

Once you do get, do you know that tune “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance?” If you do, then playing it on the harmonica in 2nd position like this will kick your ass, and be very helpful for mastering the intonation on -3’ and -3":

-2 -3" -3’ -2 -3" -3’ -4 -3’ -3" -2

Again, you are working on a technique that all the pros are constantly trying to improve upon. so CONGRATS!


Well , How dependable you/ this site is… And what a comforting explanation too. It’s topped my confidence back up to where it used to be.
I thought it was just me , but after listening to what you say I’m glad (in a sort of way ) that others endure the same problem.
You’re a great help Luke and this site is valuable.
Happy harpin’


Hi @martorgan

The advice from @Luke is just great and should get you going to -3’.

His further tip:

I guess would also help, however I only know that place but not that song. :laughing:

If following the tips from @Luke do not help (remember: practice, practice, practice and don’t expect perfection too soon), then it might be necessary to correct the curvature of the 3 draw and the 3 blow reeds (they interact during bends). Unfortunately this is not easy to explain or to do and the method of correcting the reed shapes should first be learned on a cheap harp because you can easily ruin your good one!

– Slim :sunglasses:


Slim !, Many thanks for your help too. I was hoping to find a simple tune with the -3’ in it, as i’ve always found it easier to ‘feel the sound’ of the bend easier in a song than trying otherwise.
So i’ll take a look at and have a go at your suggestion.
Again, my thanks to you .

1 Like

Oh dear, aha, just played that tune on my harp and my wife walked into the room doing a belly dance with a 6 ft cobra !! Ha ha, …I know the tune now i just googled it, I’ll give it a try cheers.


Hey Luke ,Slim. I know this isn’t a one to one conversation on here. But I have to tell you this…
RE, 3hole draw bend '…
took in what was said on here and practiced this evening UK time. I could get the 6 draw bend ok but still not the 3. So…
I dug out my old Hohner deluxe, and was able to bend all my draw notes on it. When i pick up my usual crossover, I still struggle as before.
Could it be (like you mentioned) that the reeds need adjusting ?
I do have an old harp that i can practice on, I’ll try it with that first., I think ?
Thanks again for the help. Mart (Martorgan)


Well now, @martorgan, that is really interesting:

I would say that this is pretty good evidence supporting the idea that the reed shape is not optimal. Definitely begin your learning (about how to shape reeds for better and easier bends) on that old harp. If you fail, it will at least have taught you about the limits of what you can do before the reeds are ruined! On the other hand, you might learn quickly and actually give the old harp a second life!! :partying_face:

There are various YouTube videos out there that show some of the things that you should consider doing to get the reed flattened and gapped in the proper way to make bending easier.

I have “saved” several harps that I otherwise would have thrown out or spent $$'s buying new reed plates for them – and that is for brand new harps that cost over $50. Yes, unfortunately not all harps are correctly set up when you buy them – but that is because they are mass-produced. If the factory spent the time necessary to deliver a perfect harp every time then they would probably cost around $90 and up.

– Slim :sunglasses:


Yes i agree Slim. I appreciate your help very much.
I think i’d be lost without this help. cheers !


Been there, done that, and still on the road. Just when it seems I can’t bend at all, a nice clean bent note comes wailing out of my harp.

Getting it to happen consistently when I want it to is the challenge :wink:


Hey HHMc… I just want to give you some encouragement here.
For months and months trying to bend at all, I was ready to give up. I then realized if i dont know what the sound is in my head I’ll never get it., Like when you first started playing your first tune. Maybe it was a nurserie rhyme . You had the sound in your head of the next note you were going to play. Right ? So I found a tune witch had some bent notes in it. Then whilst playing the tune and coming to the bent note, my brain or whatever made me ‘feel’ the sound. Thus , while having the sound in my head and moving my tongue as well as breathing from lower down in my diaphragm I was able to get the note bent. All I had to do then was to improve on the quality of it.
Basically, what I’m saying is Find a tune in second position and practice it. It WILL work


Hi! Smoke on water! It has -3’ and -4’, it so well known that you already know when you’re not in tune :slight_smile:


This is great advice!

The song I typically do is Lean On Me.

Great suggestion @p.alfarano for Smoke on the Water :sweat_drops: :notes: :+1:


Hello @martorgan,
You are not alone :joy:!
What works today may not work tomorrow. :grin:
This little instrument has more power over us than we sometimes realize.
Because of this, listeners think that playing the harp is easy. You don’t see how much our tongue and larynx have to do and many other things on the building blocks.
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Hello Astrid, Many thanks for these comments . I totally agree about how much work/effort goes into playing the ‘correct’ note, and sound.
I also think we (we never stop learning and improving) do not concentrate enough on the notes that we take for granted. Like, a 4 blow on a C harp will give us a ‘c’, But check it out on a harp tuner and see if it’s a nice clean and perfect’ C’. because like you mention, A lot has to do with the articulation done in the mouth and larynx .
Nice chatting Astrid, Happy harping. Mart’


Hello @martorgan,
I find what you write very interesting. For me it’s the other way around.
Two different harp tuner apps, each tablet or smartphone, show me correctly. But after recording it doesn’t sound right. But for me it depends very much on the form of the day.
Yesterday I opened my practice harp, what you can find there, despite regular cleaning… :grin: Thanks to my illuminated magnifying lamp, I was finally able to see that two reeds were slightly twisted. Yesterday I aligned all the reeds (the long columns). In the next few days I will look at the distances again because I don’t like it yet. But that is usually not completely correct with all reeds anyway. This also requires patience and time.
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position: and many thanks for the interesting exchange.


Hi Astrid @AstridHandbikebee63

Very glad to read that you picked up an illuminated magnifying lamp (or glass, as Americans call it)! Now you can join me and become a real reed freak!!

– Slim :face_with_monocle:


Oh yes, @Slim, I am a Reed Freak :rofl:

I even have tooth wax :slightly_smiling_face:. You had shown a photo of your work with the wax here and actually I had marked it. Unfortunately I can’t find it anymore. I’m sure I did it right with my harp, because it’s playable. But please show me again for comparison.

It’s so thrilling and exciting.
I had never completely disassembled the harp. This time also the reed plates removed. I was surprised at how the wooden comb the Hohner owned looks after 8 months (open Side).
What if you never do that? :pleading_face:Incredible! Apart from water, I don’t drink while playing.
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Hi Reed Freak @AstridHandbikebee63 !!

Das Foto ist hier. Was nicht gezeigt wurde ist wie die ***Blow-***Stimmzungen, die ich auch mit Wachs behandelt habe, aussehen. Um zu verhindern, dass das Wachs an den Luftkanälenwänden des Kamms klebt (was ein erneutes Auseinanderbauen erschweren wurde), habe ich die “Wachstropfen” seitlich mit einer Razierklinge enger/schmäler abgeschnitten (habe ich das richtig ausgedruckt??). Falls das nicht verständlich ist, kann ich Dir ein Foto davon zusenden.

Ja, es ist eine sehr gute Gewohnheit beim Spielen nur Wasser zu trinken! Super.

– Slim :sunglasses:


Very good, @Slim! I did the same. Just a scalpel instead of a razor blade. I can also hold fingers securely in my hand.
I’m really looking forward to learning something again. Many thanks for the fast service!
Have a nice day, Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position: