Bending Help

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    So…I’ve gone through lesson #5 and have been practicing bending for a few weeks now. I’ve got the bend matching the sounds on the jam trax for the #1 and #4 holes…but not for #2, #3, and #6. Any other techniques or advice, other than keep practicing?



    What I did was to find a youtube video of the note I was trying to make sustained. That way I had time to “get it”. Here’s the 4 hole draw bend.


    Thanks Benjamin, that’s helpful. Do you have videos for the bends on #2, #3 and #6 holes?

    Mitch GraingerMitch Grainger

    Hey Guys,

    Here’s a few tips.

    Remember every hole is slightly different, so don’t simply repeat the same thing over. Vary the main techniques involved a little. For example you might try moving your tongue to a slightly different angle, drop your jaw a little, breath from further back in your throat or try going for the bend slowly etc..

    Then when you do hit the bend on any given hole, repeat it 10 or more times immediately, to program the memory!

    The other thing is to keep in mind is that the 2 and 3 holes can produce multiple notes when bending (this is covered in detail in step #7) so any bend on those holes at first will do.. to get up and running.

    It can take a little while, regular everyday practice is the key!


    Ok, thanks Mitch!


    I’ve had a harmonica for about a week now. I had played a little a few years ago and can play piano and guitar. Really loving playing again but i just cant seem to get the 4 hole bend or the 6… i find the 1 hole very very easy. But the 4 hole… nope!


    Hey Mitch – I’ve made lots of progress the past few weeks, and now am doing a solid job bending all the notes…with exception of the #6 hole. Sometimes it’s ok, but lots of times when bending the #6 hole I’m getting a sound that’s almost like interference when you have your phone near a speaker. It’s real weird. Any tips on how to avoid that?

    Mitch GraingerMitch Grainger

    Hey Dan,

    That’s great to hear your getting the bends now, and I’m glad you asked the question… The 6 hole is extra susceptible to being bent too much, and that noise you describe actually comes from you bending more than the reed can handle. So, just back off the volume and intensity of the 6 bend to find the sweet spot. A slow gradual bend is always good practice, in this case.

    That should do it!



    Thanks Mitch, I’ll give that a try!


    I’m just a beginner ofcourse… I’m only able to bend acting like I have to get a thick mass of icecream past a straw. I’m Dutch, so maybe this is put down a bit silly πŸ˜‰


    I’m a newbie and I wanted to share some things I’ve learned that might help other newbies regarding bending. It’s a bit long, sorry

    My first harmonica is a Seydel 1847 classic, which has stainless steel reeds. Not sure if stainless bends easier or harder than brass reeds but I feel that’s important to mention because I’ve discovered that the reed gaps from the reed plate significantly effect not only the playability of the instrument but also the bending, so I can only assume that other qualities of the reeds would effect bending as well. I discovered this after spending weeks trying to get the #3 draw bend to go down and I just couldn’t make any progress. The #1 and #2 were dead easy, almost too easy to bend as I had to actually try hard NOT to bend those holes.

    “A poor musician blames his instrument” –says everyone who has a working instrument perfectly configured that never needs any adjustment.

    I took a break and measured the tuning of my harmonica and found that 13/20 reeds were tuned too sharp by about 15 cents on average (some 10 cents, others 25 cents!), so I took apart my brand new expensive harmonica and applied a tiny microscopic dot of epoxy using the tip of a needle to the tip of each of the 13 reeds and remeasured. This tiny amount of extra mass flattened each reed very slightly. I prefer this technique over the grinding away metal from the base of the reed (which is a destructive change rather than a reversable change; epoxy can be filed away or scraped off entirely). Repeat until all reeds are perfectly in tune. I tried to bend again and noticed that I couldn’t bend the #3 hole AT ALL., not even a little bit, not even using my super pinched pucker and super strong draw technique (which sounds terrible by the way but it’s a reliable way to get some sort of bend).

    It turns out that my tuning altered very slightly the reed gap on some of the reeds because I used a thin shim to brace the reeds as I fiddled with them. I then took out a dental pick and bent very slightly the draw reed and the blow reed and discovered the following:

    1) The draw reeds are on the bottom and should be hanging toward the bottom cover and away from the hole.
    2) The blow reeds are on the top and should be hanging into the hole away from the top cover.
    3) The gap of the blow reed effects blow AND draw performance, and the gap on the draw reed effects draw AND blow performance. They are both important to each other.
    4) Bending is easier when the gap is as small as possible on BOTH reeds without making it difficult to blow or draw. You’ll find that point quickly when you notice a sort of “stickiness”. If the blow gap is too small then blowing will actually seal the gap and no note will come out at all. Same with the draw reed. At this point back off a tiny bit until it starts working again. Don’t worry, you won’t break the reeds with all this fiddling.
    5) Bending a semitone involves only the draw reed, but bending more than that will eventually stop using the draw reed entirely and switch resonance over to the blow reed.

    I verified (5) using a Q-tip. I inserted the Q-tip into the bottom cover and rolled it over the #3 draw reed to seal it. Then I drew air from the hole. No note came out of it, as expected, that is until I adjusted my mouth, tongue and throat in a new way. I discovered that I could get the #3 blow reed to make a very slight note! It resonated around G#4 which is one semitone above. Progress! It becomes easier to do the smaller the gap, and harder to do the larger the gap. After I reduced the gap of the blow reed to the limit of playability, which changed the resonance to G#4-50c, I then practiced for about an hour until I could make the G#4 note about every other attempt. I can’t tell you how ecstatic I was to finally get bends out of the #3 hole even if I had to play a harmonica that looked ridiculous because a Q-tip was sticking out of it. Good thing no one else was around!

    I removed the Q-tip and everything changed a bit. The #3 blow was just too “sticky” especially compared to the #3 draw so I had to expand the gap again (oh no!) but only by a little bit. The muscle memory and technique I developed over the last hour came back and now I’m bending the #3 hole over it’s entire range without much difficulty. I can also do blow bends on some of the holes even though I haven’t got to the lesson yet, that’s how much practicing I’ve been doing trying to get this !@#$ #3 hole to bend.

    In conclusion: if you are having trouble bending a particular hole take a look at the reed gaps. Try making the gaps smaller, slowly, gently, on both reeds and see what changes. It might make things easier. If that fails, try the Q-tip technique to isolate the blow reed when learning the extra deep bends.

    Mitch GraingerMitch Grainger

    Hi David,

    This is an excellent in depth description of how the harmonica functions on a technical level and I would definitely encourage those members who are technically inclined to have a look , especially at your conclusion. Adjusting the gap on reeds is a well known part of maintaining harmonicas, especially in the pro world.. and you’ve inspired me to do another video for the tool shed on this topic.

    As for tuning, you may have seen this but just in case here is Seydel’s (fine) tuning they use on most harps. It’s called the compromise tuning, where they aim to have melodies and chords sounding equally as musical on the same instrument. This topic of intonation in it self is another big one!

    One things I would say is to warn members off using epoxy on their harmonicas though, while I do appreciate your idea of non destructive flattening, unless you’re highly skilled and have a very steady hand too much damage could be done to the harp. Gluing reeds to the reed plate would be a gap too far!! πŸ™‚

    Thanks again David, great post!




    I put only a tiny tiny drop of epoxy of the face of the reed near the tip and wait for it to dry completely before reassembling, but ya, I’ve thought about how wet epoxy could really mess things up.

    I’ve been working on a theory on how bending works and why. Please tell me what you think:

    For some reeds it’s simply a change in the size of the resonant cavity (the size of your mouth and throat) but for most others it seems to be a pressure change either drawing in both reeds slightly or blowing both reeds out slightly.

    The reed is like the diagonal of a right triangle. The horizontal component of the triangle is the reed plate and the vertical component is the reed gap. During a draw the draw reed is sucked toward the hole and its angle decreases, increasing the horizontal component making the reed effectively longer and lower in tone. Also during a draw the blow reed is drawn further into the hole increasing its angle making the horizontal component shorter and higher in tone. The opposite happens during a blow bend: the draw reed is blown further out of the hole making the angle larger, the horizontal component shorter and higher in tone, while the blow reed is blown toward its reed plate making the angle smaller and the horizontal component longer and lower in tone. An alternative explanation is that as the angle on the reed increases the stiffer the spring becomes, making the tone higher. I’m not sure which explanation is correct, maybe both, but the result is the same.

    When blow bending on hole 5 I initially go below E and make it all the way to D# before the blow reed resonance collapses and the draw reed takes over above F which I can then push to F# before its resonance starts to collapse and then both reeds start to go at the same time, cutting the pressure in half, and I have two notes going: one only half a semitone below E and the other only half a semitone above F. I see these two separate spikes on the frequency plot.

    This theory also explains why I can’t seem to do much bending of any sort with the 7-10 holes because their reeds are so short and stiff that there just isn’t as much possibility for altering the natural angle of the reeds through simple pressure changes. It explains why a small reed gap on both reeds improves the ease of both draw bending and blow bending: it seals the hole more making pressure changes more important to the reeds.

    Just some thoughts that have been going through my head while I practice, which is a lot more fun now. By the way, on a completely random note, my cats HATE my harmonica. Whenever I practice my cat immediately finds me and gets literally in my face to stop me from playing.

    I have a macro lens on my camera. I could try uploading a picture of my altered reeds if you are interested.

    Dave A


    Just my 2 Cents:

    If you play for a while and give it more than one try, you’ll be able to blow bend the upper reeds as well (8,9 halftone bend, 10 halftone and tone bend).

    For me the draw bends as well as the blow bends are more a question of learning and training the muscles needed to move the voice box up and down, playing with the airflow, restricting it – than trying to get an understanding of the physics behind the bends.

    But that’s true just for me. We all need different approaches to our invisible instrument.

    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by UdoUdo.

    Hi Mitch and David,

    It’s great to learn in depth the technical stuff from our instrument so we understand more the working principles and what happens when we are playing it.

    @Mitch i have just done my first β€œtuning” using the toolched video to guid me trough it step by step 😊
    With patience it worked out very good if i say so myself with the right teacher and tools.
    Looking out on the toolched video on gapping πŸ€—

    Thanks for all the great information 🎢🎢🎢😎

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