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5 Steps to Hitting Bends Like a Pro

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Hello! In today's harmonica lesson I'm going to take you through five steps from basic bending to hitting bends as melodic notes accurately every time.


Before you start, it's crucial that you can play basic bends. Check out my beginner bending lesson if you need to learn this first. You will also need a chromatic tuner to check your notes against. Here are some tuners I recommend (note: I receive a small commission if you buy via the link.)


This diagram will help you to know which notes to aim for in the process described below.

So let's move on to the method. I'll be bending the 4 draw (D note) on a C harp for the purpose of this lesson, which is usually the first note to bend, but you can use any hole which will bend by referring to the diagram above.

STEP 1 - Bend down and up

The first step is to start from the natural note (D) and bend downwwards. This is probably the point you've reached on your own already so a good place for us to start. The key here is to 'bottom out' the hole - make it go as far as it will before it goes silent or jumps back up.

STEP 2 - Bend and hold

At this point, we want to try to bend and hold a specific note. On the hole 4 on a C harp, the bend is a Db (sometimes called C#). Use your tuner to check when you reach the Db, and then try to hold it. Concentrate on the muscles you are using and the shapes you're making in order to get the note, and try to maintain it. Any slight movement of the tongue can make a big difference so you need to be mindful of exactly what's going on in your mouth.

STEP 3 - Hit repeated bends

The next step is to bend down to the note (Db) and try to stop and start your airflow, so that you get an intermittent, repeated note. The important thing is to maintain your mouthshape and pressure so that when you start your breath again, the bent note (Db) plays without a slide down from the natural note. This is a halfway house between beginner bending and fully fledged melodic bends.

STEP 4 - Jump to the bend

Step 4 is to play the natural note (D) and then play the bend (Db), without sliding down it. You should hear two separate notes, without any blurred or 'bendy' sounds between the two. This will rely on knowing the shape and pressure needed for the note, which we developed in Step 3.

STEP 5 - Hit the bend straight off

Our final step is to hit the bend (Db) 'straight off the bat' - i.e. without any prior note or sliding needed. Again, you will need your tuner to make sure you're getting the note accurately, but you should be pretty close if you've practised Step 4 enough.

At this point, the note can be used melodically in licks, riffs and songs. You certainly won't master the bends quickly, but don't worry, it's worth the effort for the sounds you'll be able to get in the end!

Thanks for taking this lesson with me today. I hope you enjoyed it!

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