What's Your Experience Learning Draw Bends?

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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@ slim Hi Slim: Transposing was never one of my best talents. On the Accordion, I just had to adjust my starting point for my left hand to the proper position, then play the melody in the new key. When I started playing the Organ, I basically played everything by ear (or rote memory) and just played it in C, F, or G. On the harp, I don’t even sometimes know what note I am playing, I am either playing by ear/rote memory, or from a tab. I do know that Gaither plays Precious Lord in Ab. I can play the -3" on occasion, but not as a starting note, I have to play -3 and then work like crazy to bend it, and hopefully I can find 3", but if I can it is fleeting. Anyway, I tabbed the song myself, in (at least I think) the key of A. My tab starts (G Harp)
-4 … … 5… … … 6 . … 6… …6. …-7
Precious Lord take my hand.(dots…for spacing
I find that I can get rather expressive because I can bend the 4th and 6th hole and partially bend 7D (probably not the right description). I first tabbed it in ‘B’, starting 5 -5 6 6 7, but when I started bending and realized what I COULD do, I re-tabbed it to get the expressions I could handle. It is one my very favorite songs, and I can listen to Jeff and Sherman by the hour (well nearly). Jeff is a Bass Player and a Singer, and apparently just “messes around” with the harp, but he has been messing around with it for 40 or so years…
Anyway thanks SO much for your input…I always welcome it. I am just a baby on the harp, and will probably never really learn to “walk”. But I am having fun anyway. I very much enjoy (and sometimes hate) tabbing my favorites, and even some new tunes (to me) such as “Lonely is the Hunter” (Jimmy Wakely) from a 1958 move. I fell in love with that haunting tune when I watched the movie…Happy to send it to anyone who wants it.

Thanks Again, Poppo

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I am kind of interested in the golden medley (or is it the LO melody maker that Luke was mentioning.)
Anyway I think it was the LO. Has 3 holes changed for melodies and all of the bends on it are single bends. My question is would I effectively have to quit using my current harps and re-learn my tabs to use this? Would that be very difficult? Apparently you and luke and a lot of other folks use a combination of righter tuned and melody tuned harps…Perhaps I am better off retaining my knowledge and forgetting about trying to learn a new layout such as melody maker? Thanks In Advance!

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Hi @Poppo

I seem to remember you telling us that you purchased a Low C harmonica (Lee Oskar, as I recall). If so, then you can use it in the version of Precious Lord, Take My Hand that I found and, since it is a Low C harp, you do not play the -3" (an A) in that low octave, but rather in the high octave that A is now -6. In fact, there are no bends at all unless you wish to add them for more emotion when playing.

I have written out the score I found and tabbed it for your Low C harp.

Feel free to download this picture and print it out. If you have trouble downloading it, then send me a private message with your E-mail address and I will send you the picture as an attachment that can be printed.

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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@Slim I see I wrote key of A but mine, like yours is actually key of G, plays well on my G harps. Except for a couple of grace notes, and a couple slight variations in the arrangement, my version is the same as yours. It works very well on my G harps and I can add my 'expressions". However, I believe that the guy who wrote the song was Thomas A. Dorsey. He wrote the song after he left his wife (in Labor) in Chicago heading for a program in St Louis. When He arrived in St Louis he had a message that his wife had died, but the baby was OK. Later that nite he was told that the baby had also died. In his despair he wrote this song. BTW, he and Mahalia Jackson toured together for some time…,

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Hi @Poppo

There are some unanswered questions about the exact origins of the song, although most agree that the text was written by Thomas A. Dorsey. The composer however seems to be unclear. Mr. Allen is sometimes also given as the composer and his melody was then slightly adapted by Mr. Dorsey.

Whatever the actual facts turn out to be, the melody and lyrics are very beautiful and sound great on a diatonic harmonica. Have you also attempted to play it on your Low C harp? I have a Low D and it sounds great on that low harp.

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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@Slim I don’t use the L.O. LowC much. I liked it at first because of the low tones. I still play most of my songs in 2nd position, which I think probably covers the top half or so of the harp, which Is why I like the lower tones. I have found that (in my opinion, anyway that it takes more breath, I can barely bend the notes, it doesn’t register on the Bend-it tool, and it pulls my mustache. I am certainly no threat to anyone who gets paid for playing the harp, and never will be!

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Hi @Poppo

I remember you telling us that, but I was hoping that this melody (which does not require any bends) might get you to play the L.O. Low C and at the same time get you some return on your monetary investment :wink:

Give it a try and see if it works using the tabs in the score I provided for you.

– Slim

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I still play it, and have played “Precious Lord” on it many times. I also have other songs that I play on it. Part of my problems include lips that tire very quickly, which severely limits my practice/playing time. I would gladly soak my lips in brine if that would toughen them up. When I was 13 or 14 I talked my folks into letting me play the Trumpet. My sister, even bought me a new trumpet from her earnings from her music. I played for around 8 months or so, and finally my instructor told me that my lips were too sensitive for the trumpet mouthpiece. They would actually swell so much that I could barely form a tone. I never thought that they would be a problem with the Harmonica. I do get a small amount of relief by following Astrid’s advice and putting wide, clear scotch tape on the top cover plate.

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Hello @Poppo,
it’s good that the tape helps you a bit.
You write that you already had problems with your lips when playing :trumpet: when you were young. Unfortunately, I don’t know what metal trumpets or the different harmonica models are made of.
But could it be that you react extremely strongly to nickel or others and have some kind of allergy?
Just a thought!
Best regards from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:

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I love this way of showing the music @Slim. Kind of a combination of standard sheet music and harp tabs…

Incredible! :+1:

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Thank you very much, @HarpinBobbyMcB !

I too prefer this method of showing tabs: I can use the normal musical staff when I play my flute and the harp tabs when playing the harp (and have the note durations available as well).

It is rather time-consuming to make this type of leadsheet, but that’s life. :clinking_glasses: Cheers!

– Slim :sunglasses:

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I doubt it. I played the Trumpet in my teens because I ALWAYS wanted to play the trumpet. After somewhere between 6 months and a year I was unable to play for more than 20 minutes before my lips got so sore that I could not blow a note, even when I was taking my lessons. My teacher, who had played with some of the big bands told me I was unlikely to find a solution and I quit playing the Trumpet. I pretty much find the same thing happening on the Harp. I hear of harp players complaining about having so much saliva in their harps. I never get ANY. I have to continually lick my lips, and if I play more than 20 minutes (which I tend to do) I find that my lips are ‘puffy’ and sore. Usually if I play over 20 minutes, I am not able to play the next day. So, I try to play 3 or 4 times a day for 5-10 minutes. It seems like after about a 5 minute warm-up I am not so bad on my bends, but after 10 minutes I can barely bend at all. I am trying like crazy to slowly increase the time I can play, and I am using a LOT of Chap Stick or Vaseline.
I have never had an allergy to anything in my entire life…I also notice that if I play my lowC (LO) harp, my lips get sore much quicker. ??More vibration??

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