Bent Draw Notes

The lowdown on the Mississippi Sax. Just for Google, this section is about harmonicas.

Bent Draw Notes

Postby jagarner70 » Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:08 pm

I have recently decided to try to truly bend the 2,3,4 draw and I am having a tough time. Of course... I can get the pitch to change as I push my tongue further against the comb as I drop my jaw. The problem is that the bend is not deep enough or strong enough. I know this will eventually come to me but I was wondering if anyone who tongue blocks would have some tips that I havent heard of. Thanks.
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Re: Bent Draw Notes

Postby jeffl » Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:33 pm

Are you practicing 'em by goin' up or goin' down....? I'd try it the opposite way you're used to and see if you pick up some control that way. The thing that helped me (if I can remember back 40 years or so) was using actual riffs or tunes to work on-- not just practice exercises-- so that I had an actual pitch in mind to hit. In general though, it sounds like you self diagnosed the issue: there's no shortcut; just repetition. If anything, maybe you could pay attention to what the back of your tongue is doing, as well as the tip. If I'm not mistaken the back of your tongue should be gettin' fatter too as you drop your jaw. How's your diaphragm..? Are you gettin' good abdominal support...?
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Re: Bent Draw Notes

Postby jagarner70 » Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:33 am

I think my breathing is good as I can hold a note for a long time. That in itself took awhile to get used to. I am bending down into the note as well as hitting the bend and the letting up. I just keep it going over and over but the sound just isnt dropping enough. Up until this point I have been satisfied with any bend but now I want to really bend the notes. I have also tried various ending finishing with a nice bent 2 but I just dont hit the sound that is in my head. I know its mostly time now but I thought Id fish for something that might help speed up the process.
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Re: Bent Draw Notes

Postby MakaInOz » Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:55 am

My last harp teacher's favourite expression was 'with practice........in time'. And that's how draw bends went for me. First a short 'honk', and then a little more sustainable. Lots of effort to get it to bend, and then more to hold it.

More practice, more time. Others in my harp group have had success with the Bendometer. Google for it - its an online readout of the accuracy of your bent note (has some issues with passords etc apparently). Personally, I don't like playing to the computer - I'd rather listen to an instructional CD that has the bent notes in an exercise that I can copy. Another alternative is to figure out what note you are playing with the bend and use another key harp to play the same note for comparison. For example (and I'm at work so this may be slightly incorrect), on a C harp a semitone bent 3 draw is Bb. If you've got a Bb harp, a 4 blow is Bb. So you can play the note on the Bb harp and then try to reproduce it accurately on the C harp.

The one thing I really noticed is that the more I worked on bends, the less effort was required. Not only can you get to the bend when you want to and sustain them, but its a simple task. I can't believe how much hard work it was when I first started, but once you've got the technique bolted into your brain its no effort at all. The next problem was a tendency to flatten (slightly bend) all 1, 2 and 3 hole draws. That took a while to get the technique for swapping from bent to straight and back again 'remembered'. All "with practice......in time."

Good luck
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Re: Bent Draw Notes

Postby songdog » Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:52 pm

Ditto the good replies above. Practice.....

The Bendometer is a good tool as it will let you see how close you are to hitting the note. Then success may be as simple as tilting your head upwards, relaxing your jaw or taking a deeper breath. Experiment until you hit the note.

I've found if I get lazy and don't continue to work on my breathing technique I'll often miss a full bend.... I just run out of air at the critical moment.
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Re: Bent Draw Notes

Postby jagarner70 » Fri Jan 18, 2008 2:03 am

Well, I tried masking tape over the 1 and the 3 holes and I was able to bend the 2 the same as I cab bend the 1. I drop my jaw and my tongue and the note bends just like it should. Awesome. I can still remember when I had trouble getting sound from the 2 draw. Now I need to figure out how to get the same bend while tongue blocking.
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Re: Bent Draw Notes

Postby MakaInOz » Fri Jan 18, 2008 2:07 am

We had a different venue for our Thu harp night last night - at the house of the keen Bendometer user. She had it all set up and has all the password issues sorted out.

It was my first serious play with it and it really is useful. My 3 draw semitone bends were consistently a little flat - I've been putting a little too much on them. It was also interesting to use the lower keys (you can select harp keys and microphone settings on Bendometer) and see how well techniques REALLY translate to the 'fatter' low key harps. Works OK with the blow bends, but my interest was mainly in the variations on 3 draw.

I'm much more impressed after last night's tryout. Bendometer is a useful tool for learning, and ensuring you maintain the accuracy of, bends. You've got to like sitting and playing in front of the computer though!
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Re: Bent Draw Notes

Postby songdog » Fri Jan 18, 2008 2:23 am

One thing I do which is REALLY REALLY useful is to use the Bendometer to help transcribe a lick. If there is a lick on a CD that I can't quite figure out by ear, I'll play the CD through my computer mic and watch the notes on the Bendometer 8)

Sometimes the notes may be playing too fast for the Bendometer to accurately display, in which case I will slow down the song using the Amazing Slowdowner software 8) 8)
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Re: Bent Draw Notes

Postby hmont3 » Wed May 14, 2008 11:46 pm

I'm considering using the Bendometer but I don't have an interface with a USB connector to plug my mic into. I think I need something with phantom power to power the mic from my Mac but I'm not sure. I checked out an Mbox mini from digidesign but it seems like overkill being that it's about $300 and comes with Pro Tools. Any suggestions ?
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Re: Bent Draw Notes

Postby barbequebob » Thu May 15, 2008 5:34 pm

Bear in mind that hole #2 has two bends, hole #3 has three bends, and hole #4 has 1 bend. Each hole will bend down in 1/2 step increments to within a 1/2 step of the lowest note in the hole. For example, on a key of C diatonic, hole 2's unbent draw note is G and the blow note is E, and from G, the next note (1st bend) is Gb/F#, and the next one (2nd bend) is F. Most people don't get the bends right away because one of the most common problems with harp players is the use excessive breath force often known as playing them way too hard all the time, and that's a huge problem even more so in the note bending process and the majority of players haven't got a clue that they're guilty of this, often because they don't have someone around them who really knows their stuff and won't be afraid to tell them so. Try cutting back as much as you can on it because too much breath force causes complete loss of control of EVERYTHING and it severly limits what you're able to do. You also may be guilty of having your embouchure way too stiff and uptight, and this is very common with beginners, especially with those with the excessive breath force problem (and that's gonna be 80-95% of all beginners).
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