The 1st Time I Bent, This Happened…

The 1st Time I Bent, This Happened…

Smiling sooo hard.

When I was 15 my friend tried to teach me how to bend a note on the harmonica. I was frustrated, and feared that I’d never be able to get that cool bluesy tone he was able to achieve. “UGH! — How come he got all the talent, and I got none of it?” :rofl:

Still, I tried, and tried again… And again…. And again….

Then, finally, one day when I was trying he said, “There! You did it! I heard it bend down a little.”

“I DID?!?” I was smiling so hard it hurt my cheek muscles. Breakthrough! I’d gotten the -4’ bend.

Now, could I do it every time I tried? NO!
Could I bend any of the other draw notes? NO!
Could I rip an awesome blues harmonica solo? NO!
I’D SIMPLY BENT A NOTE for the first time. I was OVERJOYED! :heart:

It’s important to take time to celebrate the little victories in life. If we just keep always moving the goalposts forward, without ever celebrating our accomplishments along the way, we can become tired, discouraged, and burnt out. Celebrating the wins will lead to a lifetime of joy, and perhaps, counterintuitively, it will also accelerate our growth as harmonica players.


1.) Say “kk” and pay attention to the BACK of your tongue as it touches the top of your mouth, while the front of your tongue is down low. Now, keep the back of your tongue up there, and feel the suction that is created as you inhale. Now do that on holes -1 through -4 and see if you can get a bend.

2.) Still not working? Try tilting the harmonica up toward the ceiling at about a 45-degree angle. This simple trick has helped countless people get their first bend, including yours truly. If you’re still not nailing it, check out my complete step-by-step bending lesson here. And remember - celebrate those little wins :slight_smile:


:rofl: 1x, 10x, 1,000x or more? Oh yeah, my jaw and tongue got it, but my harp must be concrete…
Patience, patience, patience, it’s good that you can’t expose harps to severe shocks, otherwise they would have flown so sometimes :wink:.


You make me laugh!

I had a similar experience, but different.

Despite your advice to go to the back of the throat for the bends, I instead focused on restricting airflow. The first was as you mention, to bend the harmonica at a 45 degree angle. Then I did it by blocking the air with my fingers, or bringing my “Wa-Wa” hands in tight to restrict airflow into the hole. They worked to varying degrees, but definitely not the same as getting it deep back in the throat.

Gotta get a little roar in there. :slight_smile:

Problem is being able to hit all the different bends on demand. Still working on this one, and from what I understand, I’ll be at it for a while. :laughing:


This feels like the 1st time I’ve done it properly!!

I am still learning (started May 2022) and am chugging through the Beginner to Boss Course.

I’ve been bending with by tongue and jaw but I was finding the transition between -4’ and -4 delayed and really difficult due to the formations of my tongue. It was taking me slightly longer to change the shape of my tongue with the effort required to reach that note sequence whilst practicing the Blues scale. It could also get my tongue cramping a bit!

Well, us Brits are known to stay calm but inside I’m ready to burst with another exciting chapter in learning this beautiful instrument - I feel like a kid again - it’s an instrument that keeps giving even after a frustrating period.

I’ve managed to use my diaphragm to control the bending (okay -1’ is tough on the C, G & A I possess so I use my tongue as well for that) but now it frees my tongue massively to practise the scale. I had heard and read about using the diaphragm and today it has clicked why it also is beneficial and important. Scales are fun I’ve now found!

A massive shout out to Luke and the Team for all of your tuition, efforts and wit - without you I would still be sweating over where to turn on this journey.


Sounds like your really getting it. I can bend a bit but haven’t nailed it yet. I’ll look into the diaphragm thing.


So happy to hear about the breakthrough @harveybabes! I’m not sure what you mean by “using your diaphragm to bend.” Can you please try and explain what you mean by that?


Good Morning Luke (GMT)

Here goes… I would liken it to when I occasionally try to disguise my belly when on holiday :wink: (which I’m sure middle aged people would relate to)!

My tongue is raised and further back in my mouth for bending as normal but I’m not contracting it as hard. Contracting my diaphragm inwards and upwards (or imagine drawing your stomach in from as high as your lower sternum - not at low as your belly button) changes the air pressure at the same time as drawing on the hole to bend. You can feel the muscle / diaphragm at the base of your sternum tense.

I might be explaining how diaphragmatic breathing works unintentionally but I find it really helps !

It doesn’t employ my tongue as much and therefore I find it so much easier to go up the Blues Scale. Going down isn’t such a problem.

I’ve checked it against your Bent It Better and it works and has helped with my -3".

I think there is a Pilates exercise similar and it helps tone your stomach (win-win).

I hope that helps anybody who wishes to try it out - I’m only a humble beginner - lets hope I’m not teaching anyone to suck eggs on the Forum.

Thanks, Luke


Well, @harveybabes, if sucking eggs gives a clean accurate -3" then why not? :sunglasses:

– Slim


Thanks for the bending motivation Luke!
Really great to hear about yours and others’ experiences in this aspect of our individual musical journeys.

I can kinda sorta bend, sometimes, so I’ve a way to go yet but I’m in no rush; loving the experience.

Thanks particularly for this life reminder:

It’s far too easy to forget this and get sucked in to the ‘more more more’ aspirational mindset, which whilst good in moderation for development and pushing yourself, is a surefire way to burnout (especially in a career sense too).

Cheers again Luke for the slick teaching, rad attitude, and role model behaviour.

As you say, rock on!


Agreed @MikeyJay! Thank you so much for your kind words my friend.Yeah it’s amazing how the gratitude attitude can flip the script when we’e feeling down.

Rock on brother,