Hello! In today's harmonica lesson I'll teach you how to bend a note while using the tongue block embouchure.
As a harmonica teacher, I get asked a lot of questions. One of the most common is "Can you bend notes while tongue blocking?" The answer is yes! The bigger question is how to do it...
Step 1 - Solid blocking
As obvious as it may seem, a strong tongue block is crucial to getting a good bend, and this is usually the most common problem with bending while blocking. Can you get clean single notes with a tongue block? Can you play fast phrases smoothly and cleanly using tongue blocking? If not, don't attempt bending yet. Check out my free starter lesson on tongue blocking.
It's also important to make sure you are putting the harp deep inside your mouth. Check out the demo in the video, where I show you just how far onto the instrument I get. This makes your seal much tighter, meaning the airflow is more efficient and the bend is much easier.
So how do you actually achieve the bend?
Step 2 - Adapting your pucker technique
The good news is that you can adapt your lip pursed bending method to work with tongue blocking. The main difference is that your tongue is - of course - on the instrument when tongue blocking, so how do you use it to change the note?
The best analogy I can think of is from the game of snooker. Sometimes you'll hear the phrase "hampered cueing" used for when a player has to adapt their technique because of an onstacle on the table. We can do the same thing. Remember that with a lip purse bend we're aiming to hump the tongue by bringing the tip backwards, creating a curve with the middle of the tongue going upwards. With a tongue block, we can still try to get this curve but instead of bringing the tongue back, you need to push the middle of the tongue upwards. Your tongue will still be on the instrument so the curve will be more towards the front.
It's as simple as that!
Step 3 - Focused practice
The reality with bending is that no one else can see (nor can they feel) what you're doing inside your mouth. This means the work is all up to you. You need to experiment with the tongue movement slowly and focus intently on what you're doing. That way, you'll hear and feel the sweet spot when the note starts to move. There's no substitute for practice!
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