You started playing harmonica recently and you’re thinking about learning bend notes because that’s how you’ll be able to play the blues or the blues scale? Are you wondering about spending the rest of this year learning how to set up your harp, so you may perform the hole 6 overblow and extend the blues scale up to the central part of the instrument? Welcome to this blog on teaching harmonica. My name is Luciano and today, I’m going to share some thoughts with you on a topic: Bending and overbending.
Before I start, I wanna ask some questions: Why do we find it arduous for everyone to learn and play harmonica with bending, despite all those great tutorials available on the mentioned topics, particularly when using the technique of tongue blocking?
Secondly, do you want to play music or do you just wish to play bent notes? I know some harmonica enthusiasts; it took them 6 months to finally perform one overblow and even after that, they couldn’t play music well, simply because they won’t execute the notes in the context of what they were playing: music is a complex thing.
Let’s say that learning bending takes time and effort, usually a few months. Though generating clean and tuneful notes is a tidious job; it’s needed to be developed over a certain period of time. Precisely for this reason, a recommended practice is to study a little every day, but not too much as it would waste your precious time which otherwise could be consumed in learning things that come on top priority, especially when they are crucial for all those who have just commenced playing harmonica.
Personally I don’t like to go for overbending, anything that requires a modification in the instrument does not appeal me at all; I simply don’t use to unassemble the harmonica if it is working right, secondly, I’ve always believed that it can be played even when the only notes available are the ones present on the blow and draw holes; furthermore, if you learn to produce ‘bending’ you’ve got, actually, everything you need to create an excellent music.
Bending is a powerful technique: I consider it a great value-added feature; however, I don’t recommend beginners to focus on it in the first few months of their study. Mostly what happens is that, ninety percent of their time is taken away in learning how to play the blues first and then in learning to produce the blues scale in second position, for which comes the need to practise the bending technique on the first holes of the harmonica, and this is exactly where you fall prey to such ‘trap ’that can keep you engaged for months and bring about frustration.
Before learning to bend notes on a harmonica, I would rather suggest you to learn how to play beautiful single notes, to manage your breathing and look for a full and constant tone. Besides, an important thing that a beginner should emphasis on, is to practise playing on time, keeping track with a metronome and strive to perform less but good.
When you start learn playing harmonica, you’ve to do things that take an extra effort on your part but they are still within your reach, so you get positive results which let you stay motivated and keep progressing.
This is a short list of what you would want to learn and practice first:
• Correct harmonica handling.
• Correct breathing (most players show shortness of breath or they get full of air quickly).
• Playing clear single notes with the correct embouchure.
• Tongue position for those who play using the tongue blocking technique.
• Playing on time (another common issue, also with intermediate level players).