Breathing or sucking?

TO: internet:harp-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Karl Storck describes his notebending attempts, and notes that if
he breathes he gets a clear tone but can't bend, while he can
bend if he sucks but gets a lousy tone.

First off, you should definitely breath from the lungs and not
suck with the mouth. That's the only way to sustain a note. It
also gives you the best tone and the most control.

So why is sucking giving you your only access to bending?

Bending is caused by a change in the acoustic properties inside
your mouth. In you mouth you can create a resonant chamber that
has a specific resonant frequency. When you do this, you can
cause the harmonica note, within limits, to change its pitch to
the resonant frequency in your mouth.

When you suck, you're closing off the back of your mouth and
drawing air or liquid into your mouth with suction. By closing
off the back, you're defining a particular space, which has a
resonant frequency. This will allow you to bend some notes, but
won't sustain long, as your mouth won't hold very much air, and
gives lousy control, tone, and volume.

The trick is to define a resonant space inside your mouth while
allowing the breath to flow through it. This can be done by
creating a constriction or narrowing of the air flow. This can be
done with the tongue or with the glottal muscles.

The part of the tongue used is the same part that says sounds
like "K". These are muscles on the top surface of the tongue near
the back, and they are touched to the roof of the mouth to create
a "K" sound. By using these muscles to narrow - but not close -
the gap through which air is channeled, you can create a resonant
chamber. Then you can slide your muscle-valve forward and
backward in your mouth to vary its size. Moving forward will make
the chamber smaller, with a higher resonant frequency. To bend
down, you need to lower the frequency, so you will move the valve

That's the basic info.

Winslow Yerxa
Harmonica Information Press


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