(Video) How to Bend Notes on the Harmonica

The strange magic of the blues harmonica has a lot to do with the way you can make it cry by bending notes. The way the little metal harmonica reeds respond to your breath creates a new voice, part machine and part flesh and blood.

There are two main ways to use bending as a technique on the harmonica. One is for expression and the other is to create and sustain specific musical notes to fill in the gaps left by the notes that the reeds are tuned to.

There is one muscle in your body that does most of the heavy lifting to manipulate the vibrations of the reeds. It’s your tongue. In the video above I talk about the basic principles you work with to bend notes and a specific image you can use to train your tongue to create the shades of pitch available to you by all the forms of bending notes. Enjoy!

5 Comments

  1. Mike Lancaster

    April 22, 2017 - 10:59 pm
    Reply

    Iave been bending notes for some time but this video is a booster shot of information.
    Thank you

  2. RONALD TOZIER

    April 23, 2017 - 7:21 pm
    Reply

    Thank very helpful

  3. Sandy Siegel

    April 24, 2017 - 11:01 am
    Reply

    I will forward this to a few friends who have been struggling with bending.
    I know that the valves on a chromatic make bending different than on a diatonic because you’re only dealing with one reed. I can bend pretty well on a few keys on diatonic but struggle with the chromatic.
    Any tips or a future video on chromatic bending would be appreciated.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Sandy

  4. Nick Fermi

    July 28, 2017 - 9:40 am
    Reply

    Hi Richard. Love your vid. Have been learning for just under two years now and bending using quite a lot of air pressure I realise now thanks very much. Your spoon visualisation technique is giving me much better control and tone. Much appreciated.

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    August 16, 2017 - 1:20 am
    Reply

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