[Harp-L] 5-draw bend

philharpn@xxxxx philharpn@xxxxx
Fri Feb 2 11:17:39 EST 2018

The best way to master bends is with a keyboard.  A real piano or electronic keyboard. That's because it's a lot easier to match a note than it is to create it out of thin air. 

Cf: I have no idea what Db (D flat sounds like in the abstract but I can match the Db on the keyboard by bending the Draw 1 (D natural) down to the D flat on the C diatonic. All the bends work that way on the keyboard in the People's Key of C. (It also works in the other keys but C is easier to explain.)

Electronic keyboards cost about $50-- I just bought a 37-key roll-up keyboard to carry in my briefcase.

Also several keyboard apps are available for use on cell phones for the same exercise. The electronic keyboard/ phone apps work better than an acoustic piano because the electronic keyboard will sound as long as you hold the key down-- without the usual decay you get with a piano.

You will NEVER find an easier way to learn and check bends than on a keyboard. But then you need to know the names of the keys on the piano/keyboard and the reeds on the harp.

Keep on harpin



-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Snowden <mike.snowden at xxxxx>
To: Steve Baker <steve at xxxxx>; Robert Hale <robert at xxxxx>; Harp-L <harp-l at xxxxx>
Sent: Thu, Feb 1, 2018 12:47 pm
Subject: Re: [Harp-L] 5-draw bend


When I started, it was clear that my 5 draw was only a partial bend, so I must be doing it wrong, according to my instructional book!
The observation that meant most to me was that "regular" bends are always between the reeds, so perhaps they should be referred to as "inside" bends.  

As 5-draw is between 2 reeds that are only 1 semitone apart, it CANNOT be a regular note.  

After finding that, I stopped worrying, and practiced only the deeper bends with a tuner.  While I could go further, I tried to keep that headroom for vibrato.

      From: Steve Baker <steve at xxxxx>
 To: Robert Hale <robert at xxxxx>; Harp-L <harp-l at xxxxx> 
 Sent: Thursday, 1 February 2018, 17:29
 Subject: Re: [Harp-L] 5-draw bend
The 5-draw bend is an essential part of the blues harmonica repertoire, I use it all the time. There are examples of this in the recordings of the great blues harmonica players such as Little Walter.

I would also point out that no fully bent note has a note value which corresponds to a note on the piano, they are all lower than the note value usually quoted in harmonica instructional material by about a quarter tone. Even accomplished musicians often hear these notes as regular note values even though they’re not. Example: the solos in my Blues Harmonica Playalongs vols. 2 & 3 were transcribed by a good pro sax player. For tunes in 2nd position he consistently transcribed the 4-draw full bend as a 4th (C on a C harp), even though it was in fact significantly higher in pitch. I presume that’s because as a sax player, that’s the note he would have played. I spent hours going through the transcriptions correcting this.

Steve Baker


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