RE: [Harp-L] Why am I killing the 4-blow reed so quickly?

Howard Levy was not the first to show that the blow reed participates in draw bends. That was shown in a scientific paper by Robert Johnston ("Johno") published in Acoustics Australia. Dr. Hank Bahnson illustrated in video what Johno had already documented through experimentation, by using fiber optics to demonstrate this using Howard Levy as as a test subject.

Bending the 4 draw all by itself won't kill the blow reed. It's bending too hard. It takes very little force to activate a bend. But it's a bend that players like to to play with great enthusiasm - understandably. When you express that enthusiasm with more force than the reed can handle, it will fatigue and break.

One way to make your reeds last longer is to try playing your bends into a tuner. Draw 4 bends down to a note that's flatter than a semitone, and when you bend it down that far, it's out of tune and sounds like it. Learning to bend down to just one semitone will not only make your bends sound better, it will also get you to stop fatiguing the reed so much.


Winslow Yerxa

Author, Harmonica For Dummies ISBN 978-0-470-33729-5

--- On Sat, 8/29/09, chicago bluesman <chicagobluesman@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

From: chicago bluesman <chicagobluesman@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: RE: [Harp-L] Why am I killing the 4-blow reed so quickly?
To: opus314@xxxxxxxxx, harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx
Date: Saturday, August 29, 2009, 8:36 PM

I have the same pattern of reed fatigue with my harps and I attribute it to the fact that the #4 draw bend is such a popular and often-used note in the blues scale. It's my understanding that Howard Levy's ground-breaking use of fiber optics to observe the innards of a harmonica while being played demonstrated that draw bend notes are actually produced by the blow reed being forced up into, so as to move in the direction opposite to its usual direction of travel, producing the bent note(s). The poor blow reed just can't hold up with repeated pressure to be pulled up into a position it wasn't designed to take, gets fatigued and loses its tuned responsiveness, going flat. This is my simple, nontechnical understanding--I'm sure there are expert technicians on the list who can better explain what's going on...but this is my rough explanation. Other than trying not to bend so deeply, so loudly or so frequently, I don't think there's anything to be
 done about it. I'd be interested to hear whether or not my grasp of harp mechanics while bending is accurate or not.


> Date: Sat, 29 Aug 2009 16:34:16 -0700
> From: opus314@xxxxxxxxx
> To: harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: [Harp-L] Why am I killing the 4-blow reed so quickly?
> I have normally had Lee Oskars as mentioned in my prior post...
> But since I've decided to renew my effort to master the instrument...
> and I was having trouble with the high notes (holes 7-10)
>Â I decided to try another brand.
> I bought a Key-of-C in the other brand and really liked it. High notes
> seemed to play much easier.
> But after a couple of weeks the 4-blow reed seemed to go dead and no
> longer sounded right. I opened the harp up and the 4-blow looks
> funny... more down in the slot than the other reeds around it... and
> it doesn't "plunk" right...
> I bought another of the same brand in the same key. Got it and it
> played great. Very nice instrument.
> But, after a couple of weeks the 4-blow reed in that one also started
> sounding bad.
> What could I be doing?
> Could bending the 4-draw somehow effect the 4-blow?
> I don't think I'm playing that hard... actually I'm just practicing
> simple melodies to improve my accuracy, improve my ear training,
> muscle memory, and learn my way around the instrument.
> (Hey, I'm a former drummer, we always had big targets, and no need to
> listen to melody :)
> Over the years I've occasionally fooled around with my half-dozen Lee
> Oskars and can't seem to hurt them...
>Â but I've heard they be difficult to learn to over-blow... so now what
> do I do?
> One side benefit... I did learn to play the high notes (somewhat) and
> can now do so on the Lee Oskars... so at least blowing up the other
> two harps did gain me something.
> But... I would like to play this other brand... (and even others)
> without fear that I'm going to break the harp in a week or two.
> Thanks for any help.
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