Tone on hole 3 bends

Hi there!

I’ve been playing the harmonica on and off for several years, having played piano far longer than that. I have three harmonicas: two are Lee Oskars in C and A, and the last one is an old Hohner in C-minor tuning.

When I started out I was immediately obsessed with learning to bend and to play the bent notes in tune. This is likely a “missing-note-o-phobia” resulting from my piano playing experience. By now I’m able to get most notes confidently, and with little effort.

My problem, however, is one of tone. Bent notes do sound different, and that’s part of the charm of the diatonic I think, but my hole 3 draw bends sound like the mating call of some large animal. On the old Hohner this problem isn’t so apparent, but on both LOs it’s very noticable.

What happens is when I start smoothly bending the hole 3 draw, the first thing to go is the sharp edge of the sound. This is when I’m at about the half-step bend. When I go further, I get a very leaky sound as well. So on the deeper bends the resulting sound is an airy and muddy tone that likely is more pleasing to an elephant than to me.

There are so much information out there on how to bend, but less on how to get a good sound when doing so. Got any tips on how to keep a good tone when bending? Do you have any similar experience with the LO’s? I tried gapping the third draw reed closer to the reed plate on my LO A; it certainly improved the responsiveness of the note, but the bend is still as leaky and dull.

I can make a recording of this later.

Here we go!

IMO…It sounds to me like you need a larger mouth cavity and you need to pull the air from your gut. It sounds like you are just sucking with your mouth.

Imagine you have a fairly large bite of very hot potato in your mouth and you can’t spit it out. Can you picture how you enlarge the cavity of your mouth and BREATH air in and out around the hot food? This is what you should be shooting for to get a good full tone.

Another hint to help you form the bend is to say QUE as you draw air in, large cavity on the UE.

I hope this helps!

Thanks Paul, that is what I’m trying to do. It feels like the bends are coming from my stomach at this point, and the tongue/jaw movement is very small.
I’ve been experimenting further, and I found that by gapping the BLOW reed closer to the reedplate, that leaky sound was reduced. I also bought a Hohner Golden Melody in G, and have absolutely no problem with the 3 hole draw out of the box on that one.

It also seems to me that playig louder on the LO brings out the proper tone, but being forced to play loud is a bad solution.

So, with gappng the breathy quality of the tone is almost gone, but it still sounds muffled compared to the unbent note.

Good news: More gapping work did wonders for me!

I believe it is an ongoing thing. Mine is still improving, more polished the longer I play and learn.