Help with blow bends

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Help with blow bends

Postby bosco » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:01 pm

Who among you pros has some practical, simple advice for executing blow bends?

It's probably the only technique I have never mastered on a diatonic harp. I can pucker, tongue block, warble, play octaves, comp and play damn near anything else blues related with the best of them. Polkas, Waltzes, Marches, folk tunes...got them too. Admittedly, my playing is much more feel driven than technique oriented with the majority being self taught over a 35 year period and now almost automatic. I've never really had a need for blow bends until now.

Here's the deal; I've been challenged by a friend of the band to learn and perform "Whammer Jammer." There's a crisp $50.00 bill in it for me and I've always wanted to be able to play the song anyway. Like a lot of other harpers I have avoided it until now largely because it is considered the "Free Bird" of harp tunes. I have the tab from Coast2Coast, the song on CD and can already play 90% of it. The #10 blow bend is holding me back at this point.

Serious responses only please from those that utilize the technique, no speculation.

I have the Portnoy Masterclass but can't recall a blow bend section in it, if there is one, a heads up would be appreciated. Thanks in advance-

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Postby jeffl » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:31 pm

Bosco: check Portnoy's disc,somewhere between #15 and #18; I'm pretty sure he's got about a 3-minute segment on upper register blowbends. I'm not very good at 'em at all,so I don't use 'em,but I'm pretty sure I've worked a section from his disc on 'em.
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Postby kingley » Wed Jun 21, 2006 7:00 pm

Bosco,

Some of the tricks to getting blow bends are:
1. Don't blow too hard (softly, softly catchee monkey!)
2. Try going from saying eeee - oooo with your mouth shapes.
3. Don't tongue block them (as a rule it's easier to play blow bends with lipping)
4. Play from the front of your mouth not your diaphram until you get the hang of them.
5. Take off your cover plates and try deadening the draw reeds with your fingers. This will give you the blow bends easily, and you will learn the mouth shapes pretty quickly this way.

I have used blow bends for years and this is how I learnt them and how I teach them to people.
I was taught to play them over the telephone in 2 minutes using this method!!

Hope this helps
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Postby brianp » Thu Jun 22, 2006 4:56 pm

The easy way to get started.

Put your tongue tip on inside of your bottom teeth, bring your teeth together and blow. As you blow push your tongue toward the roof of your mouth to narrow the airflow. It should pop out for you. This is obviously not the best embouchure but it will help you find it. Start on an A harp and use hole 8 or 9.

I hope this helps,

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Postby songdog » Thu Jun 22, 2006 5:31 pm

What I have done recently when trying to copy a song, or difficult part of a song, is to just improvise through the part that I'm not technically capable of playing yet.

I hope this doesn't sound like a copout, but there's nothing in the harmonica rule book that says you have to copy a song note for note. Of course, this could be just the incentive for you to learn those blow bends and become a better harp player, or is the agony and frustration worth the 50 bucks :?:
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Postby dcblues » Thu Jun 22, 2006 7:42 pm

Blow bends are really important to know, not just for that "Whammer Jammer" lick, but for playing in general. I couldn't play first position blues effectively without the blow bends. When you get those bends down, get some prewar blues harp recordings and listen to what some of those innovative old players could do. Also, listen to Big Walter and Jimmy Reed's first position playing.

Whammer Jammer is a great song that I once learned with a band that broke up before I had a chance to play it live. The song itself isn't really hard - it's really an instrumental made up of some classic, standard blues harp patterns/licks, etc., with some "Magic" to make it more modern. It's remembering how it all goes together that makes it difficult. It's one of those songs you have to listen to and play over and over again to get right. And it's a song the band has to know really well for you to play right.

Bosco, it's good you wan to learn the whole song before trying it live. I've heard players at jams who thought they knew it but really screwed it up.
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Postby bosco » Fri Jun 23, 2006 12:06 am

Thanks for the tips guys, I'll let you know how it pans out.

No worries DC, I'll make sure that I (and the band) have it down or we won't play it. I've survived without it until now.

My signature instrumental now is "Eagle Rock" which Junior Wells recorded in 1952. It took me months to learn but I finally got it down. After people hear that tune we get a lot of comments that it sounds a bit like Whammer Jammer. I believe it to be the precursor to WJ...has anyone heard an earlier version of Whammer Jammer than Magic Dicks? After some checking around it appears that Juke Joint Jimmy, who is credited with writing the song, is a pyseudonym used by the Geils band whenever they had a group collaboration.

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Postby hashtaff » Fri Jun 23, 2006 2:05 am

I thought the main riff was based on SBWII's "Bye Bye Bird" (but speeded up).
Let us know how you get on.
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Postby dcblues » Fri Jun 23, 2006 2:34 am

The beginning rhtyhmic is a lot like "Bye Bye Bird" and the last verse is a lot like Cotton's version of "Rocket 88."
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Postby bosco » Tue Jun 27, 2006 5:41 pm

Looks like even Magic Dick couldn't hit those blow bends like he did 20 years earlier-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlP0_8GW ... =harmonica

:?
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Postby hashtaff » Tue Jun 27, 2006 10:30 pm

That's cool, Iceman.
Still, doesn't sound too shabby does he?
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Postby barbequebob » Thu Jul 13, 2006 4:54 pm

Blow bends are actually the draw reeds doing the bending, so the ears picks the sound split seconds later and most people play these bends with WAY too much breath force. THey can be done tongue blocked on harps from Bb and lower, but beyond that, the pucker technique tends to work better.
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blow notes

Postby colmanL » Sun Jul 30, 2006 11:39 am

hope this can help anyone to bend high notes. using an A or G harp
makes it more easy to bend a high note. so start with one of them and you`ll do better. you have to look at blowing high notes like a trumpet
player,and tightin` up your aperture. purse your lips,then hold your tongue in the middle with a slight dip. blow in hole #8 easy,think of
the word DOO then say IT. yes! DOO-IT if you pronounce this right
the note will bend. another bend tone is DOO-ONN. this causes a bend
with a different tone. you can`t have real good harp tone without
vocal tone.the two work together naturaly. work on it and you will
bend high notes. just don`t blow to hard,remember blow easy.......
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help with blow bends

Postby patfitz » Fri Aug 18, 2006 4:41 am

Hey Guy, Good to know you are working on Whammer Jammer.
That was the song that inspired me to bend in the upper register.
Now you can also learn some Jimmy Reed stuff also.
Basically when you bend a draw note you pull the air down when it enters your mouth. Took me a long time to realize that is what I was doing.
OOps, the secret is out, hope these other harp players don't come lookin for me.
Now, to bend a blow note you push the air down as it comes out of
your mouth by changing the way your mouth is formed.
You can try all those things the other folks wrote but in the end you
will realize that is what you are trying to accomplish.
Yes, a pucker is better for this style in the begginning but once learned
you can also tounge block.
It's all about the air flow as it comes out of your mouth.
Just experiment around with it and don't get frustrated. You'll get it.
I wish I had this kind of bulletin board when I was learnin, you kids
these days got it easy. I used to have to play the harmonica in the
snow on my way to school, uphill both ways!
Good Luck,
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Postby bosco » Fri Aug 18, 2006 12:33 pm

I wish I had this kind of bulletin board when I was learnin, you kids
these days got it easy.


Well, I'm a 50 year old "kid" that started harpin' in the late 60s with no one to teach me either. I just never learned how to blow bend.

Thanks for the info Patfitz.

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