[Harp-L] Draw bend 5

The Iceman icemanle@xxxxx
Fri Feb 2 12:04:09 EST 2018

wow. talk about injecting a lot of "laboratory" chat into the conversation.....I like to keep it simple.

Yes, I can hear a difference in that Inhale bend 5 depending on Equal Temperament and that of Just or compromise tunings....now, when is one able to hear the difference? It depends on the situation. In a laboratory setting, if you played an example of each, I would clearly hear the difference. In playing chords on the harmonica, I can clearly hear the difference. In the heat of performance with back up band, it gets harder to hear, but I can still determine the difference.

To a "citizen" listener, since they hear harmonica notes differently and are kinda used to harmonica sounding a bit out of tune, it probably has no impact on them.

btw, I have found that if you use your bending technique to take that pitch to the floor, it actually sounds almost 1/4 tone below the actual pitch of that note created through bend technique - this also translates to the "height of that note room" on hole 5 inhale - it is actually a little bit taller, or that floor is a little bit lower than what folk have described so far....so, it's not so much about the "tone" here, but the actual pitch range that exists for one to play with in crafting a living, breathing style of blues harmonica.

-----Original Message-----
From: Tom Halchak <info at xxxxx>
To: harp-l <harp-l at xxxxx>; Steve Baker <steve at xxxxx>; Michael Rubin <michaelrubinharmonica at xxxxx>; The Iceman <IcemanLE at xxxxx>
Sent: Fri, Feb 2, 2018 10:31 am
Subject: Draw bend 5

​​The conversation about the 5-draw bend has me thinking about the various tunings available on our beloved 10-hole diatonic and how that affects everything.  Ask any Harp Tech, and they will tell you that the most commonly blown out reed is the 5-draw and many believe that it is due to the fact that players try to bend it down a full semitone.  As a player, it is enlightening to hear such prominent players and Michael Rubin and Steve Baker state their cases in favor of the use of the 5-draw bend.  And I like Iceman’s point about the ability to “humanize” or “color” a note using something less than a full semitone bend.  I must confess that I have probably allowed the Left Brain to suppress my Right Brain on this.  

But here are my thoughts about tunings.  We know that there are 100 cents between semitones.  On harmonicas that are tune to Equal Temperament, like a Golden Melody or a Lee Oskar, the 5-blow and the 5-draw are, in theory, tuned 100 cents apart.  But with other tunings, the two reeds are tuned slightly sharp or slightly flat, and in the case of 7-Limit Just Intonation, very flat.

For example, with 7-Limit, the tuning chart calls for the 5-blow to be 14 cents flat and the 5-draw to be 29 cents flat.  So, with 7-Limit, the interval between 5-blow and 5-draw is 115 cents.  One might think that would give us a little more room at the bottom when bending the 5-draw.  And, it is worth pointing out, that an awful lot of the traditional blues music that is such a huge part of the harmonica heritage, was played and recorded on harps tuned to 7-Limit.

Modern Compromise Temperament calls for both the 5-blow and the 5-draw to be 12 cents flat, it maintains the interval of 100 cents.

19-Limit Just Intonation calls for the 5-blow to be tuned 14 cents flat and the 5-draw to be tuned 3 cents sharp.  That reduces the interval to only 83 cents between the 5-blow and 5-draw.  In theory, should that not affect the ability to flatten the 5-draw?  

I have noticed from my numerous conversations with other harp players, that many have a much better ear than I do and hear subtle differences in tone, etc. that I don’t.  I’m not tone deaf, but I am probably middle of the road relative to the fantastic ears pro players have.  Have any of you noticed a difference in the 5-draw bend from one tuning to the next?


Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas LLC
P.O. Box 14401 Clearwater, FL 33766
Blue Moon on Facebook
(727) 366-2608

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