Harmonica For Dummies
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The bends in the harmonica’s middle range — Holes 4, 5, and 6 — are shallow and not too difficult to control, so this is a good place to start. When you bend a note, you can isolate a single note either with a pucker (with your tongue off the harp) or with a tongue block (with your tongue on the harp).

Each of the following licks has three versions — one for each of the draw bends in Holes 4, 5, and 6. Each lick helps you develop skill by placing the bend in the most important situations with the other notes.

Play the notes of each lick as one fluid motion; avoid any pauses unless they are specifically identified. Any time you have two or more draw notes in a row (including bends), play them on a single, uninterrupted breath.

For each lick, learn each version (Hole 4, 5, and 6) on its own. Then, after you’ve mastered all three versions, you can play them all in a row as a continuous line.

As you learn a lick from the tablature that follows, listen to this harmonica bending notes and try to play what you hear:

Yellow Bird lick

Yellow Bird lick

This lick starts with an unbent draw note. Bend the note down, hold it for a moment, and then release it back to an unbent note. Think “Eee-Ooh-Eee.” Tip: For a crying sound, try closing your hands around the harp as you bend down, and then open your hands as you release the bend.

Bendus Interruptus lick

Bendus Interruptus lick

This lick interrupts the bend so you can practice stopping and starting on a bent note. First, you go down to the bent note and stop your breath with the note still bent. Think “Eee-Ooh!” Hold your mouth in the bent position and start your breath again so that you start the note already bent. Then let it rise back to the unbent note. Think “Ooh-Eee.”

The most important thing to remember when you attempt this lick is that when you stop your breath, nothing else changes. The harp stays in your mouth, and your lips and tongue don’t move — all you do is stop breathing. When you start breathing again, everything is in place to sound the bent note, and the bent note should start right where you left off.

Close Your Eyes lick

Close Your Eyes lick

You play this lick in two different holes. Play a draw note and bend it down. Then move one hole to the left as you release the bend. You’ll get a different unbent note from the one you started with. Now retrace your steps by shifting back to your starting hole as you start another bent note. Then release the bend. Think “Eee-Ooo-(shift to the left)-Eee-(shift to the right)-Eee.”

When you release a bent note, you only have to lower your K-spot by a tiny amount to allow air to flow normally. If you know you’re going to immediately go back to the bent note, keep your tongue lowered but positioned to bend, and then simply raise it again to resume the suction point that will reactivate the bend.

Shark Fin lick

Shark Fin lick

This lick goes from blow to bent draw and then back to blow. Don’t let the unbent note creep in between the bent note and the blow note. Think “Hee-Ooh-Hee.”

The same advice applies to this lick as to the Close Your Eyes lick. Simply lower your tongue slightly when you play the blow note, and then raise it again to reactivate the draw bend.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Winslow Yerxa is a widely known and respected harmonica player, teacher, and author. He has written, produced, and starred in many harmonica book and video projects, and provides harmonica instruction worldwide. In addition to teaching privately, he currently teaches at the Jazzschool in Berkeley, California.

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