Using These Tunes To Finally Break The Bank!

Yeah okay – So it’s been a while since I wrote about some of my Aha-Eureka Moments.

It’s not that I’m not having them – I am. It’s just that in exploring all their ins and outs, as well as how best to express/share them – That’s where the challenges and real fun begins!

Actually, when one experiences their own Aha-Eureka Moments, I know for myself I become speechless. Yeah, hard to believe, but true! Why? Because virtually no words can describe the utter amazement as Spirit moves through you answering whatever it was you were struggling with and/or questioning and/or working on at that particular time! Praise God, Allah, Buddha, Jesus! The Universe! Whatever your higher beliefs in the Powers That Be are!!

Okay so enough of the philosophical, albeit Spirit is always there anyway – And yet too before getting onto the lowdown brass tacks of this Aha-Eureka Moment, first some brief history.

Thing is, this month I celebrate my full straight year in studying harmonica as my instrument of choice. From my introduction with JP Allen’s DVD boxed set lessons – for me the best harmonica home course in the world; to David Harp; Howard Levy; Norton Buffalo; the list goes on and on – I’ve come to my first circle of what I hope to be many circles more.

Yeah so, congratulations to me and all that jazz.

But I’m not writing this for kudos and back slaps; instead I want to discuss the most difficult thing I’ve come across so far, and that is: Bending!

Yeah, sure, it’s everybody’s most difficult thing to do, so why should I be any different? And I agree with you 1000%!

Now though, whenever you first read about bending – after you learned to play your first Oh Susannah or When the Saints Go Marching In tunes – like most people, you want to get right into and start doing it. And like everybody who after getting a 1, 4, or 6 Draw Bend – it’s when they get into the 2 & 3 hole bends they discover it ain’t as easy it as it all sounds, is it?!

Of course it isn’t. If it were, everybody would be doing it. And we’re not all harp players at that. But for those of us who are…

Sticking with it then, it took me approximately 8-9 months to finally get my 2 & 3 hole bends so that I knew I was doing them. Again, no kudos or congrats wanted or necessary here. Rather something I found in this journey I’d like to share with you now. To wit:

Thing is, like most people, I was getting some bends right of the bat. Well, at least I thought I was. Sure, I can get a 1 & 4 Draw Bend on even those cheapo Hohner made in China harps.

However as we all come to find out – If you really want to learn this instrument, you have to be willing to invest in something better. And while investing in upgrades and whatnot, you’ll also eventually have to learn about maintenance, gapping, cleaning etc. etc. But all this aside –

On my Spec20s and Golden Melodys, and with use of a chromatic tuner, I was making those 2 & 3 hole bends. But nothing all that great to me to be sure.

I then also worked on JP’s Chin Up exercises and the other riffs posted here:

However, while I could do the 4D-4d’- 5D and/or 4d’-4D-3D riffs to some extent – In all honesty, after doing them a few times, my mind and mouth begins to wander and I go into something else entirely different. It’s true! I get bored with it; and find myself doing some harp traveling more often than not. Why?

Well, okay, riffs such as these may have and are used by rock ‘n roll harp players the world over, all well and good. Yet to someone who isn’t into rock ‘n roll harp playing all that much – What does that actually mean to me?! Really, truthfully, not a whole helluva lot to be sure!

So yeah, JP offers these riffs – And Steve Baker’s Harp Handbook has plenty of similar exercises to work on too. And those are the key words here: ‘exercise’ and ‘work’! Which if you ask me – sounds too much like “practice” which in my view (as most know here) is “sheer friggin drudgery” at that! And it’s no fun at all!

So then what to do, what to do?

Well, whether one chooses to admit it to themselves or not – everything in learning to play this instrument is a process. On ongoing process. Taken step-by-step; little bit by little bit.

Okay that’s the known, the given. However, what’s not necessarily known of me anyways is that I’ve collected many books and tapes from various harmonica instructors over the years. Add this to the other DVDs and CDs I’ve invested in, in a relatively short amount of time now – And it’s pretty a decent collection, I must say. Well up into the 20s, 30s at the very least.

Yet within all these courses, while all discuss special effects such as vibrato etc., when it comes to bending which they all discuss too – I’ve found less than a handful that offer a different kind and unique approach to it.

Not that they’ve actually come out and said it directly; more it was implied to be inferred by the serious student. Of which I decided to be and have become one.

The three I credit for helping me along in this leg of my journey are books and tapes by: David McKelvy; a guy named Marcos; and Jon Gindick, the guy who first scared me, but no longer!

What do their books and tapes offer that I haven’t found from anyone, anywhere else?

Well all three do have plenty of songs to be sure. Yet it’s how the songs are presented which led me to some great Aha-Eureka moments in themselves.

First though – My other most recent Aha-Eureka moment was in teaching myself to play more than one song at a time. I explained this in the following thread:!/

Hopefully those who have read and begun applying these methods have already experienced some success with it. Be that as it may…It was that in conjunction with this…Well, time now for the songs I’m using to illustrate and demonstrate the next level of Aha-Eureka moments. [Please study them carefully before moving on. Thanks!]

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Version #1 Amazing Grace (V1/AG)

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
4B 5D 6D/5D 6D 6B 5D 4D 4B

That saved a wretch like me
4B/4D 5D 6D/5D 6D 6B/6D 7B

I once was lost but now I’m found
6D/7B 7B 6D/5D 6D 6B 5D 4D 4B

Was blind but now I see.
4B/4D 5D 6D/5D 6D 6B 5D

Version#1 When The Saints Going Marchin’ In (V1/STS)

Oh when the saints
4B 5B 5D 6B

Go marchin’ in
4B 5B 5D 6B

Oh when the saints go marchin’ in
4B 5B 5D 6B 5B 4B 5B 4D

Oh Lord I want to be in that number
5B 5B 4D 4B 4B 5B 6B 6B 6B 5D

When the saints go marchin’ in.
{4B} 5B 5D 6B 5B 4B 4D 4B

Holes separated by / are played as eighth notes.

A hole marked by { } indicates an optional extra note.


1D 2D 3D/2D 3D 3D” 2D(3B*) {2D*} 2B 1D
D G B-G B A G {G} E D

1D/2B 2D 3D/2D* 3D 3D”[~3D] 4D
D-E G B-G B A [~B] D

3D/4D 4D 3D 4D/3D 3B [3D~]3D” 2D* {2D*} 2B 1D
B-D D G D-B G [B~] A G {G} E D

1D/2B 2D 3D/2D* 3D 3D” 2D*

Holes separated by / are played as eighth notes.

A hole marked with * means you can substitute 3B for the 2D = G.

A hole marked with { } indicates an optional extra note.

A hole marked with [ ] is a slur, yet can also be played optionally.


2D 3D 4B 4D

2D 3D 4B 4D

2D 3D 4B 4D 3D 2D(3B*) 3D 3D”

3D 3D 3D 2D* 2D* 3D 4D 4D[{~4D’}] 4B
B B B G G B D D[{~C#}] C

2D 3D 4B 4D 3D 2D* 3D”[{~3D}] 2D*
G B C D B G A [{B}] G


3B 3D 4B 4D

3B 3D 4B 4D

3B 3D 4B 4D 3D 3B 3D 3D”

3D 3D 3D 3B 3B 3D 4D 4D 4D 4B

3D 4B 4D 3D 3B 3D”[{~3D}] 3B

Please Note: When playing the various versions of the songs, it’s entirely up to you as to how you play the rhythms through the patterns. Have fun! Good luck!

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The Aha-Eureka Moments. To wit:

As I sat and played these songs repeatedly several times as presented above, and in my doing them rather successfully and being fairly recognizable – It finally dawned on me when:



In my knowing the straight harp songs, back and forth, inside and out – It wasn’t until I researched and found the “CROSS HARP POSITIONS” of these tunes; and then played and heard them this way from/on my own harp that bending finally made sense to me!

And I can say without a doubt, when these same things happen to you, then everything will come together for you! But there’s more! Check it out, and in no particular order:

  1. In V2/AG and V2/STS respectively, under the holes are included the notes on a C harmonica.

Why is that important?

Because you can now take a chromatic tuner and check to see if you’re actually hitting the bent notes properly!

By playing the section of the Cross Harp song(s) repeatedly, especially where 3D” appears – Because you already know what the song should sound like, you can check yourself to see if you’re hitting the “A” note itself!

If you can bend it three out of five run-throughs, or even at least 50% of the time – Still, congratulate yourself because you’re now starting to get it!! Yet if you’re still having some difficulty, please don’t sweat it too badly because:

  1. Believe it or not: Whenever you play in Cross Harp, the song is actually going to sound different than what you think it should sound like.

Why is that important?

Because A) no two harmonicas are the same, and B) no two players play Cross Harp the same!

Meaning, in playing ‘straight harp’ – while there is some room for improvisation, there’s even more room to improvise in playing Cross Harp melodies! Which then leads us to:

  1. Okay, so how does one going about getting songs in Cross Harp?

Good question. But also where your own homework and desires must come in too!

Meaning, researching McKelvy, Marcos, and Gindick to name a few – and acquiring their materials will help you in those regards. There may be some online programs that can/may do this as well. I don’t know as I haven’t gotten that far yet!

However another benefit is: Once you learn to hear and play these simple tunes on a C harmonica, then pick up your A harmonica and work them out on this!

You’ll surprise yourself on just how much you can get out of these experiments!

Additionally, once you know you’re hearing and playing these bends then you just may be inspired to go back and try those other bending riff exercises. The choices are up to you.

One of the difficulties of learning the bends in tunes is breath control.

For that reason, one little overlooked magical element of Cross Harp is that the 2D and 3B are the same notes!

So when coming across a long stretch of Draws, and since 2D is used plenty of times over the course of the riffs – Learning how to substitute 3B will save your lungs and your sanity too!

In studying the above song layouts, it’s up to you to learn where and when you want to use a 3B for a 2D and vice-versa. Songs sound good enough either way. And besides, who are you trying to impress anywho?! Hehehe!

Still yet another wonderful discovery came from Jon Gindick. In his books he relates that once a person learns the melodies in any Cross Harp position – It’s up to them to personalize and make it their own!

Meaning, as you’ll notice, not all notes in Cross Harp are played as bent notes either!
Depending on how you want to flavor and/or color the song with additional bent/slur notes is entirely up to you. Thing is, as you progress and gain more experiences, you’ll find that you don’t have to bend every damn note which comes along in a Cross Harp position melody either.

Extra Bonus: In learning all of this, if you pretend that except for the 3 and 4 holes, the rest of the harmonica is all blocked up and/or choked off – You can actually play When The Saints Go Marching In on just the 3 and 4 holes themselves! Try it! It’s fun!

Extra Extra Bonus: For those who like to play by ear this one’s for you!

The song Taps! or Night’s End! can be played in straight harp on a couple of blow registers. Starting on 3B, one will end on 4B. Or starting on 6B, one will end on 7B.

However, when played in Cross Harp, using Draws Only – Starting on 1D, ending on 2D – may your lips, mouth and ears be your guides!

Bottom line here is: If you’re only wanting to learn bending as bending, with having no other reason to do it only that it’s there and you think you have to do it to go anywhere –

All well and good if it helps you!

However, if you don’t want to end up frustrating and killing yourself in the process – It is my firm belief that: UNTIL BENDING ACTUALLY BECOMES PERSONAL FOR YOU – UNTIL YOU CAN DEFINITELY HEAR IT – AND KNOW YOU’RE DEFINITELY HEARING IT – BENDING WILL MEAN ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO YOU!

And it is further my firm belief –That where all of this is concerned: Anyone who uses these cross harp tunes (noted here and found elsewhere via their own research) will far be on their way onto finally breaking this big illusive bending bank for themselves!

Good luck!


Thanks for reading!

Peace & SPD Out!

Thanks Spud.