Re: Practice exercises...?

Chris Pierce writes:
> To be blunt, my bending sucks!  I have a really hard time bending the
> 3 draw at all, much less to more than one level.  Whenever I try to do
> a bend the 3 draw a full step it just sounds like the half step bend.
The 3 draw bends are the most difficult draw bends.  I have to practice
them constantly.  Otherwise, I can't hit the note I want and the tone is
awful.  I think the half step bend--Bb on a C harp--is the hardest to
hit because it's touchy.  You can easily bend too much or not enough.

When I started bending, I used my throat to choke the notes.  That seems
to be a fairly easy way to bend the lower holes.  Drop your lower jaw
slightly, pull your tongue back while keeping its tip near the floor of
your mouth, and draw the air into the deepest part of your throat.
It's hard to describe.  You'll know it when you've got it.

The problem with the throat bending technique is that it produces sort of
a growling or choked tone.  Lately, I've been working on moving my bending
control to the front of my mouth.  This is even harder to describe.  To go
from an unbent to a bent note, I make my upper lip harder while moving
my upper teeth forward against the lip.  At the same time, I pull my bottom
lip back, tensing it.  These movements are VERY SLIGHT.  What I'm trying
to do is redirect the air with the smallest muscle movements possible.
Large movements are slow.  Small movements can be much faster.  The goal
is to make the bend happen, seemingly by just thinking about it.  Notice
that the movements I described are similar to Todd's tipping the harp in
his mouth, only the harp stays stationary and the mouth tips slightly.
In addition to being faster than the throat bend, this technique is more
accurate for me on the 3 hole.  Also, I can keep my throat open and get
cleaner tone.

A good exercise that uses the easier to bend 4 hole is

	4dh 4d 5d 4dh 4d 5d 4dh 4d 5d 4dh 4d 5d

	d=draw, h=half step bend

It's a lick that shows up in songs once in a while.  An example is in
James Cotton's solo in "Sugar Sweet" from his "Mighty Long Time" album.
Play it as four triplets (ba-da-da ba-da-da ba-da-da ba-da-da).  Start
slow, then work on speeding it up.

> Any suggestions for improving technique on bending (I know this is an
> old topic, but I do NOT have the resources to buy books and tapes, so
> any help you can give will be appreciated).
I'll second Todd's recommendation for the library.  Most libraries will
even order books.  I suggest "Bending the Blues" by David Harp.  You
might even be able to afford to buy it.  I think it's $5 or $6.

Soaking wooden harps, as Todd does, doesn't affect the reeds, except to
make them corrode faster.  What it does do is improve the seal between
the wooden comb and the brass reed plate.  It's a combination of the
wood swelling and the water molecules acting as a gasket.  This prevents
air from leaking between those parts.  Therefore, more air is available
to move the reed, which makes the reed seem to be more flexible.  In the
long run, soaking harps is bad practice.  I buy good quality plastic
comb harps.  Lee Oskar is my preference.  I also like Hohner Golden

Practice.  Practice.  Practice.


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