blocking and bending


Randy Lilleston writes:

        I've been teaching myself the tongue blocking technique
        and I wonder if anyone has any tips on how to bend notes
        when tongue-blocking.

Well, the first thing is you have to throw out all that stuff
about tongue position relative to bending. It can't apply when
your tongue is pressed against the mouthpiece.

How you place your tongue against the mouthpiece could make a
differenc to you individually. I personally find that on a
diatonic harp, I can bend better with the tip of my tongue
directly on the mouthpiece, but I've heard reports from others
who prefer to curl the tip upwards. so that the underside of the
tongue is against the mouthpiece. Could be that whatever you
practice is what you get good at. Hwever, you must make sure that
you've got an airtight isolation of the note(s) you're bending.

The only thing that tongue blocked bending has in common with
pucker bending is that some kind of a constriction occurs in the
airflow. With the tongue free, this can occur at several points
anywhere from the glottal area in the throat all the way up to
just behind the tip of the tongue. But with a tonguw block, it
can only occur in the back regions - again, the tongue is not
free to curl up and act as "air trough."

Factors that can come into play include contracting the cough
muscle to constrict the airflow at the back of the mouth
(probably the most useful), closing the mouth around the tongue a
little, and enlarging the overall mouth cavity by dropping the
jaw a bit (this last will not produce a bend, but may make it
easier or more resonant).

By the way, don't neglect to learn to play out of *both* sides of
your mouth, and to bend out of each side. This can be useful at
the bottom of the harp, where it's inconvenient to play a
right-opening tongue block, and in doing split bends.

One observation on high bends. Mark Hummel, an avid tongue
blocker, tells me he switches to pucker for high blow bends. You
can probably learn to play high blow bends with a tongue block
(I'm working on it a little currently), but it's a lot easier
with a pucker.


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