You are on page 1of 5

Part A:

2 draw
2 draw
3 draw
3 draw
4 draw
4 draw
5 blow
5 blow
5 draw
5 draw
5 blow
5 blow
4 draw
4 draw
3 draw
3 draw
PART B:
1 blow
1 blow
2 blow
2 blow
3 blow
3 blow
3 draw -- bend whole step
3 draw -- bend whole step
3 draw -- bend half step
3 draw -- bend half step
3 draw -- bend whole step
3 draw -- bend whole step
3 blow
3 blow
2 blow
2 blow
Part C:
4 draw
4 draw
5 blow
5 blow
5 draw
5 draw
5 blow
5 blow

4 draw
4 draw
4 blow
4 blow
3 draw
3 draw
3 draw - bend
3 draw - bend
Part D:
2 draw
2 draw
3 draw
3 draw
4 blow
4 blow
4 draw - bend
4 draw - bend
4 draw
1 draw
1 draw

Bending Notes with the Harmonica


If you play the main blow and draw notes available on a diatonic harmonica, youll be able to sound seven different notes (or
19 different pitches, if you count the notes that repeat). The complete chromatic scale contains 12 different notes, which
means that the standard diatonic harmonica is missing five notes. A special technique called bending makes it possible to
play some of the missing notes of the chromatic scale on any ordinary diatonic harmonica.

Blows and Draws


Blow bends: Notes you can sound by bending the blow notes of holes 810
Draw bends: Notes you can sound by bending the draw notes of holes 16

How Blow Bends and Draw Bends Work


The physics behind blow bends and draw bends is rather complex. The quick explanation for how bends can possibly produce
notes that dont exist on the harmonica is this:
By altering the flow of air through the blow reeds and draw reeds at certain holes, you can make both reeds vibrate at once,
which in turn allows the missing notes to sound.

Why Use Blow Bends and Draw Bends?


You would use blow and draw bends for two main reasons:
To play missing notes: If a song or melody you want to play calls for a note not normally available on a diatonic
harmonica, the only way you can sound that note is by playing a bend.
To add accents to solos and melodies: You can use bent notes to add some flash to the melodies or solos you play. The
dissonance created by playing a note outside the harmonicas diatonic scale can add a bluesy feel to your playing, which
explains why bends are used most often in blues- and rock-style playing.

The C Harmonicas Five Missing Notes


The 12 notes of the chromatic scale, starting on C, are: CC#DD#EFF#GG#AA#B(C)
The final C (in parentheses) is one octave higher than the C that starts this chromatic scale. The notes followed by the # sign
are called sharps. Each sharp note can also be written as its equivalent flat note, which is the next highest note in the scale
followed by b, the symbol for flats. For instance, C# is also Db. Though they go by two names, these notes (C# and Db)
are exactly the same. The chromatic scales five sharp (or their equivalent flat) notes are the missing notes on the C
harmonica: C# (Db), D# (Eb), F# (Gb), A# (Bb). Playing blow bends and draw bends will allow you to sound most, but not
all, of these five notes.

Half Steps and Whole Steps

The notes that make up musical scales are all either one half step or one whole step apart. All the notes of the chromatic
scale are one half step apart, so C and C#, for instance, are one half step apart. The distance between any two notes in the
chromatic scale, such as F and G, is one whole step. By bending the notes of a diatonic harmonica, you can sound notes in
half-step increments below the normal blow or draw note. So, for instance, bending the hole 4 draw note (D) will sound the
note one half step below D, which is C#. Without using the bending technique, its impossible to play C# on a C diatonic
harmonica.

Draw Bends
Draw bends allow you to play notes one half step lower than ordinary draw notes. But draw bending only works on holes 14
and hole 6 of the diatonic harmonica. On holes 1 and 6, you can draw bend just one half step below the normal draw note of
the hole, whereas on hole 3 you can draw bend three notes in half-step increments below that holes normal draw note of B
A#, A, and G#. The diagram below shows the complete selection of notes you can play in half-step increments by using draw
bends.
Note that you can play two of these notes (F and A at holes 2 and 3) elsewhere on the C harmonica by drawing hole 5, 6, 9,
or 10. You might use the draw bend versions of these notes to avoid having to move from hole 2 or 3, or as a way to add
ornamentation to a solo, such as by alternating between the other draw bend notes at holes 2 and 3 (F# at 2, G# and A# at
3).

How to Play Draw Bends

Playing draw bends requires you to move your tongue and your throat muscles to control how air flows through the
harmonicas holes when you inhale. If youre sceptical that moving your tongue can change the airflow into your mouth, try
whistling by inhaling. As you whistle, move your tongue up and downthe note that your whistle sounds will change as your
tongue moves. Draw bends work in much the same way. The easiest harmonica note to bend is the hole 1 draw. Follow the
steps below to sound the draw bend at hole
1.Use the single-note embouchure to draw the note. You can use tongue blocking, but most beginners find it easier to learn
bending by using the single-note embouchure.
2.As air flows into your mouth, lower your tongue toward the base of your mouth and expand the opening to your throat.
Perfecting the right combination of lowered tongue and throat muscle control is the key to draw bending notes effectively.
3.Though you might feel inclined to draw in air harder to bend the note, resist the temptation. Drawing harder actually
makes it more difficult to sound a draw-bend note.
4.As you lower your tongue, youll hear the pitch of the note changeit should sound slightly lower. If youve done the draw
bend on 1 correctly, this note will be C#.
5.Repeat steps 13 until you can consistently alternate between the draw note (D) and the draw-bend note (C#) by lowering
and raising your tongue as you draw.
Though you can bend the draw note at hole 1 using just your tongue movement, other bends are achieved by flexing the
larynx muscle in your throat. Every bend note requires a different throat position, which you can only achieve by learning to
control your larynx muscle. As air passes into the throat, flexing the larynx muscle causes the throat shape to change, thus
altering the airflow and forcing the note to change pitch. You can get a sense of this muscle movement by saying the word
peel very slowly. As you say eel, your larynx will change shape, mimicking the position required for bending.

What if You Cant Play Draw Bends Properly

The tongue and throat control that draw bending requires is challenging, so dont despair if you cant bend successfully the
first time you try. To help you practice, cover with masking tape all the holes except the hole youre trying to bendapply the
tape to the side of the harmonica opposite the holes. This way you can focus on perfecting your bending technique rather
than worrying about playing the right isolated note. The best way to test whether youre playing the proper notes when you
bend is by playing those notes on another instrument, such as the piano, and comparing them to the ones you play on the
harmonica as you bend. If you dont have another instrument on hand, youll just have to play it by ear.

Draw Bending Notes Lower than One Half-Step


Below the Regular Draw Note

Holes 2 and 3 allow you to draw bend notes up to three half-steps below the holes regular draw note. You can sound these
notes by controlling the depth to which you lower your tongue in your mouth and adjusting your throat muscles to the proper
position. In general, the deeper you lower your tongue, the lower the note. For instance, to play the note one half step below
hole 2 draw (the F# below the G at hole 2), lower your tongue about half as far as you can possibly lower it in your mouth.
To sound the note one half step below that F# (or one whole step below the G), lower your tongue as far as you can. With
practice, youll get a sense of how low your tongue needs to go in order to sound each note.

Blow Bends

Blow bends enable you to play notes in half-step increments below ordinary blow notes. Blow bends work on holes 810 of a
diatonic harmonica. The four notes that you can play by blow-bending are D, F#, A#, and B.

How to Play Blow Bends

Blow bends work like draw bends: by changing the position of your tongue and controlling your throat muscles while blowing,
youll alter the flow of air you exhale through the harmonica and in turn change the note that you sound. There are two main
differences between blow bending and draw bending. To blow bend, you move your tongue upward, not downward. In
addition, to play blow bends, you must constrict your throat muscles tightly, almost closing off the air pathway to change the
pitch. This difference in particular makes playing blow bends considerably more difficult than playing draw bends. To practice
playing blow bends, start by blowing hole 8 (D to D#):Use the single-note embouchure to blow the note. Again, you can use
tongue blocking, but beginners often find it more difficult to do so. As air flows out of your mouth, raise the back of your
tongue toward the roof of your mouth. Pulling your jaw in toward your neck can help make raising the tongue easier. As you
blow bend, youll feel your throat constrict a bitthis is normal. As you raise your tongue, the note should change from D to
D#. As with draw bends, theres no need to blow harder than you normally would. Repeat step 1 until you can consistently
alternate between the blow note (D) and the blow bend note (D#) by raising and then lowering your tongue as you blow.

How to Blow Bend Notes Lower than One Half Step


Below the Regular Blow Note
Only hole 10 will enable you to blow bend more than one half step below the holes ordinary blow note (C). As with draw
bends, you can blow bend in half-step increments by carefully controlling the positioning of your tongue. Blow the note at
hole 10 and, as you raise up your tongue to blow bend the note, listen for the point at which the C lowers to a B and then to
an A#. With practice, youll get a feel for this point and will be able to alternate among all three notes (C, B, and A#) by
controlling the height of your tongue.
Overbends are a special type of bend that enable you to sound notes that are higher in pitch than the ordinary blow and
draw notes of certain holes on the harmonica. These notes, called overblows and overdraws, make it possible to sound even
more missing notes on the harmonica, but theres a catchthey require an extreme degree of tongue, throat, and breath
control that usually takes years of practice to achieve. To learn everything you have ever wanted to know about this
technique you should visit overblow.com

Basic blues
2-draw
4-blow
3-draw
2-draw

HarmonicaNotes
Many beginning players are confused about harmonica notes, particularly since some of them appear to
be missing. This articles shows the notes on a harmonica, and the reasoning behind their layout.
Harmonicas come in a variety of keys (click here for more about harmonica keys and note names). The
most common harmonica key is C, the notes on a C harmonica are shown below. In the diagram blow
means the note when blowing into a hole, draw means the note when breathing in. This note layout is
called the Richter tuning, is used for most harmonicas and is shown below.
Hole

10

Blow

Draw

Look at holes 4 to 7. The notes from these holes are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, which make up a C major
scale. Not surprising for a harmonica in the key of C.
However holes 1 to 4 are different. Starting from hole 1, the notes are C, D, E, G, G, B, D, C. Very
confusing. Unlike holes 4 to 7, these lower notes do not make up a major scale. However look at blow
notes 1 to 4, which are C, E, G and C. These notes make a C major chord. Blow into the first 4 holes to
get this chord. Can you hear how these notes seem to agree with each other when played together?
Now look at holes 4 to 7. The blow notes are also C, E, G and C. Another C chord. Similarly, the blow
notes for holes 7 to 10 are also C, E, G and C. Yet another C chord. So, all the blow notes on a C
harmonica come from the C chord. This is no accident, and is the reason why harmonica blow notes are
arranged this way.
Similarly, the draw notes on holes 1 to 4 are D, G, B and D. These notes all come from the G chord, which
is a very important one when playing in the key of C. Blow and draw repeatedly on holes 1 to 4. Can you
hear how the two chords seem to match each other?.

Providng these chords in the bottom 4 holes whilst allowing a major scale in the middle holes is the basic
reasoning behind the Richter tuning system used on most harmonicas.

TheMissingHarmonicaNotes
As outlined above, arranging the harmonica to provide chords means that some notes are missing,
particularly in the bottom holes. However a common harmonica technique called bending allows these
missing notes to be played.
Bending harmonica notes involves changing tongue position, mouth shape and breath pressure, and is
often very challenging for harmonica students. Detailed instructions for bending notes are in the online
lessons at my Harmonica Academy site.
Bending a note lowers its pitch. Bending is done mostly on the draw holes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6, and blow holes
8, 9 and 10. The diagram below shows the notes commonly obtained through bending on a C harmonica.
Hole

10

Blow

Eb

F#

Bb

Blow bend
Draw

Draw

Db

F#

Bb

Db

Draw
Draw

Ab

Ab

The regular blow and draw notes for the C harmonica are shown in bold. Looking at the draw bends,
notice that a single extra note is available from holes 1, 4 and 6. Some players also bend draw hole 5 a
little, but strictly speaking an extra note is not available by doing this.
The 2 hole draw allows two extra bent notes, while the 3 hole draw allows 3 extra bent notes. Controlling
all of these notes takes much practice, but is a skill known to most advanced players.
A single extra bent note is available from blow holes 8, 9 and 10. A very small group of players can get two
distinct bent notes from the 10 blow.
Even more notes are available using an advanced technique called overblowing.

Howdoyouremembertheharmonicanotes?
Given that 12 harmonica keys are available, each with different notes, the task of remembering them all
would appear overwhelming to new players. Good news. It is not necessary to remember all of the notes.
Many players would be hard pressed to name them, especially for the less frequently used keys.
Most players instead remember scale degrees. These are closely related to the do re mi fa so la ti do,
which many learn at school. This technique allows tunes and solos to be understood without needing the
note names for specific music keys. There is much more to this than outlined here. Suffice to say however
that an elephants memory is not required to progress with the harmonica.
All that is needed is a love for the instrument, persistance, good instruction and like minded musical peers.
All of these can be found.