What's Your Experience Learning Draw Bends?

WOO HOO! Congrats!! That’s how it goes:
Aww this is hard
Aww it seems like I’m getting worse.
Aww it’s still terrible. Should I give up?
Aww it’s STILL terrible. I think I should give up.
Aww this is hard.
And then, all of a sudden, as if by magic…
Wait a sec., I think I’m actually DOING it!!!
This kind of process still happens to me all the time when I’m learning new things.

Thanks for sharing your encouraging news, Poppo. Keep on rocking my friend!

Aloha,
Luke

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I’ve been having issues with my 2 draw not sounding like a bend when I isolate -2. Keep trying to keep my throat relaxed and tongue in the “ah” position but it still sounds a little flat. After a few tries I’m closer to the right pitch but -2 is giving me fits! -1, -3, -4 are all gravy either played straight or bent thankfully.

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I probably not the one to answer this question, but I was having the same problem and had to make sure my throat was fully open (I practiced yawning). The throat restriction seemed to partially bend several draw notes on the harp.

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Hey Christopher - it’s not unusual to have problems playing -2 in tune. Keeping your jaw relaxed like you’re trying to do is the right way to go.

You can bend -1 -3 and 04? Are you able to bend -2 all the way down?

Have you tried working with the Bend it Better tool? That could be helpful. You could work on bending it down, pay attention to how it feels, then release it, and as you see the pitch going higher, just keep doing what’s making it go higher…

Keep us posted.

Aloha,
Luke

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Hi Luke,

While following your lessons on bends, I could get -1’, but I was just dropping my jaw. Therefore, when I tried to bend -4, well nothing came.

I have needed one month and a half to get the first bend, and also dropped the harp for a while.

The best explanation which brought me to bending is from the online resources of “Harmonica for Dummies” by W. Yerxa. It’s similar to your airplane pilot tip.

My trouble is: when I bend too much, a metallic sound comes from the harp. Am I asking the reeds too much and it’s their way of telling me “leave us alone”?

Ciao!
Pietro

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Hi Pietro @p.alfarano

That metallic sound can come from several sources. Most frequently these are: 1) the reed is not parallel to its slot; 2) the reed is twisting during the bend.

To see if the first problem applies, you must take the harp apart and remove the reedplates from the comb. Hold the reedplate up towards the sky or a brightly lit wall and look at the offending reed. There should be an even space along each long side of the reed for the light to pass between the reed slot and the long sides of the reed. If that is not what you see then you need to attempt to slightly and very carefully pivot the reed at its rivet so that this space becomes correct (= even along each long side of the reed).

The solution just described (to pivot the reed at its rivet) is most easily and safely done using a harmonica repair kit reed wrench that can be purchased online from Hohner or Seydel or some individual sellers.

If the first problem is not what you find, then the it is most likely the second: the reed is twisting along its long axis when you are attempting a bend. This problem has occurred frequently (actually on all) of the Suzuki Pro master harps I own and on one Suzuki Blues Master. It is not easy to repair but if that is your problem, let me know and I will attempt to explain how it can be approached.

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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@Luke and @Poppo thank you both for your help. I sat with the Bend it Better tool and worked through getting my tongue relaxed enough to get the right pitch.

Funny enough…part of my problem was that I got too much spit in the reeds :sweat_smile:

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Hi Slim,

thank you for the excellent explanation. My harp is a Lee Oskar in C (just wanted to be as cool as @Luke on beginner to boss). Since there are more than one draw bends which give a metallic sound, I think it’s more something in my technique or lack thereof. I think I suck too much. Well, you need to suck to do draw bends…

Does in your opinion (as expert) a Lee Oskar bend with less force than other harps? (In case you ever tried one).

Thank you again!
Pietro

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Hi Pietro @p.alfarano

I have owned and played (and still own and play) various Lee Oskar blues harps ranging from Low F to Eb and all of them have been very easy to bend. :point_left:

I have noticed that they seem to not be very “air tight” and so I have done a number of mods to improve that. If you use proper technique, however, even an “out of the box” Lee Oskar harp should permit draw bends with no additional force than when playing a straight draw that is not bent. So, since numerous draw bends are producing that noise, I suspect that your technique is not correct and you are trying to force the draw bends by using too much force.

Another cause of multiple reeds being out of alignment in their slot is if the harp has been dropped onto a hard floor, landing on one of the ends or corners of the comb. Harmonicas are sturdy little instruments, but they still can suffer from hard shocks.

Regards,
– Slim

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Well I am discouraged with draws. A little over a week ago I (thought) I reached a breakthrough. I was able to NAIL all 8 draws on both of my G harps. I was able to do that multiple times on each with surprising ease. Over the next few days my 4 and 6 draws became easier, but all other holes became harder. I find that doing my draws with a ‘deep mouth’ are harder than moving the harp further out on my lips, and I have almost entirely lost my abilities on the 3 hole. Is this just a part of the “normal” learning process or am I missing something. I know is probably a dumb post, but I am desperate for help or even encouragement. Any suggestions would be wonderful…Thanks guys for putting up with this old guy.

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I’m wondering if your “Deep Relaxed Mouth Position” is actually a bit too deep? Another helpful word for the technique is the “Semi-Pucker” technique, because it’s mostly the top lip that should be deep on the harmonica, the bottom lip puckers so that the sides of it are blocking either hole adjacent to the one you are playing, if that makes sense?

As long as the harp is touching the moist inner-part of the lip, you’re good. No need push it further than that.

Don’t be discouraged. This is perfectly normal part of the learning process. Every new technique I’ve learned on the harmonica from isolating notes, to bending notes, they all went through periods of “Oh I got it!” followed by “Wait, why the heck can’t I do it now? I thought I had it?”

Totally normal part of the process. Keep the faith. You’re gonna be rocking and rolling before you know it!

Aloha,
Luke

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Does a “Bent-onica” Harp exist, where all the notes on the same holes have a distance of a major-third, so that one can bend three half-tones? For example, as one does at draw 3 on a Richter Harmonica? I wonder whether this instrument would be impossible to play, or simply so cool that I should phone my friend Lee Oskar and tell him to suggest Tombo to make one… :wink:

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Found it! Hohner XB-40 (discontinued since many years) was exactly this! Bendable two half-tones on all holes (three half-tones on draw-3). A review here: Hohner XB-40 (patmissin.com)

And check also the Wikipedia article out (bottom): Richter-tuned harmonica - Wikipedia

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I owned an XB-40 back in the day. It was a big chunky thing. I didn’t end up loving it in the long run. Not surprised they discontinued it.

I tried Brendan Power’s slip-slider harmonica recently, but it lacked the responsiveness I need to feel happy.

Perhaps his PowerBender or PowerDraw harps would be appealing? I just got one, but haven’t given it a real test drive yet.

You might enjoy taking a dive down the rabbit hole of the alternate tunings forum post.

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Thanks, Luke! I will stick to a standard harp until I can master it enough, anyhow thanks for the tip :slight_smile: – Pietro

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I can play all of the draw bends on my C harmonica in tune with ease now after about 3 months of practice, with the exception of hole 3.
I found that when I can play -3’ and -3" I can’t reach -3"’, and when can play -3"’ I can’t play -3", it’s like I can get one or the other of the two lowest -3 bends.
I’ve been starting at -3 and sliding slowly all the way down and trying to play them individually and this seems to have helped.
I’ve found that -1’ and -2" tend to come from the throat more than the position of my tongue, it’s hard to explain.
Interestingly, I find much easier to bend on a G harmonica compared to a C. On my G I can hit every draw bend in tune no problem but I can’t replicate that on my C.
Practice makes perfect

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Hey @marquis77 congrats on all your progress, my friend!

Everything you say in your post. The 3 half-step bends on -3’ -3’’ and -3’’’ are the hardest to master and play in tune. The -2’ and -2" back and forth is also challenging. I’ll let you know if I master them, but these are lifelong pursuits in my experience thus far!

Also, what you say is true that to get the low bends to go even deeper requires further back movement in opening the throat.

Rock on!
Luke

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One of the things that got me interested in playing the harp is a recording (Precious Lord) of Sherman Andrus (vocal) and Jeff Easter (harp), who plays such rich and pure sounds, Draws, Overbends?, Overdraws? Trills- I had no idea all those tones could come from one diatonic harp. I can listen to and marvel at the sounds that Jeff coaxes out of his harp. Fantastic! Available on Amazon or Youtube.

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I also find it much easier to bend my G harps then my C harps. However, I am not very good even on the G’s, and they are much better quality harps than any of my 'C’s

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Hi @Poppo,

The melody in itself (I found a score in G) when played in 2nd position on a C harmonica does not require any overblow or overdraw techniques – just the usual draw bends (and then only on hole 3, if I remember correctly). Of course, you can transpose the song into any other key (I know you like your G harp, so look at transposing the song to D). What makes it probably most difficult for beginners is the -3" (an A) that needs to be held for relatively long periods. Not impossible, but difficult to control.

Jeff Easter plays really beautifully and it looks like he is using a Hohner Golden Melody harmonica. His control of the draw bend notes is absolutely fantastic.

Regards,
– Slim

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