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3 easy steps to bending notes on harmonica

Hello! Today we're looking at the three steps you have to take to start bending notes on the harmonica.

Bending in an awesome technique for getting really cool sounds out of the harmonica. You can try the three steps below on any diatonic harmonica (in the video I'm using a Hohner Special 20 in the key of C). We'll be trying to bend hole 4 draw. (Want to know more about which holes will bend, and how bending is possible? Check out this post.)

Before you try this, make sure you can play clean notes first.

Step 1: Mouth shape

Your default mouth shape when playing unbent notes should be an "ah" or "uh". Not too tight and small, not too wide. In order to get the note to bend, try to gradually shift your mouth more towards an 'OO' shape. This will naturally want to push the harp out, but resist letting it go too far. The important thing is the movement of the jaw and restriction of the air cavity. On its own, this won't bend the note, but it's a step. Let's move on to step 2...

Step 2: Air pressure

Now you need to try to "slurp" the air. Imagine you're drinking milkshake through a straw - it's a similar feeling. Don't pull, it's just an extra bit of pressure that helps to get the air through the newly narrowed cavity. Again, we won't get a proper bend at this point, so let's move on to our final step...

Step 3: Tongue position

Finally, you need to curl your tongue. Try dragging the front of your tongue backwards, so that it humps up in your mouth. The further you go, the lower a bend you will be able to get. Make sure you do this very slowly because if you go too far, you'll miss the bend.

The sweet spot

If you take the three steps outlined above, you should be able to hear the note move downwards from its natural pitch. If you get no movement, or a horrible sound, or no sound at all, the best thing to do is to start again, this time making the movements as slowly as possible while paying close attention to everything you hear.

Hole 4 is usually easiest, but feel free to try all of holes 1-6 draw. Generally, bending lower needs requires a bigger mouth cavity (so the tongue is back further in the mouth to make room).

More tips for bending

Still need more helps? Check out this post.

Thanks for studying with me today. I hope you enjoyed the lesson!

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