I'm back. I took a few months to practice and familiarize myself with the instrument rather than plague these good forums with every question that crossed my mind. Most things I was able to work out on my own, but one still bothers me: I can't get any movement whatsoever on the 10 hole blow bend. All the other holes work just fine, including the 2 draw (which I understand is supposed to be the difficult one). The 9 blow bend seems a bit fragile, but it does work if I'm careful. I've tried using different keys (I'm only missing Db and F# now) and different brands/models, but the 10 hole blow won't budge. Any suggestions?
The first suggestion that I can make is this: Relax, and be patient.
Play the hole #10 blow with an easy, relaxed breath, then "slide"
into the blow bend, keeping the same relaxed breath. Be patient,
practice the #10 hole blow bend every day, for at least a minute.
You will be successful.
The second suggestion is this: change your embouchure (mouth
shape) to a "pucker" if you play using tongue blocking or U-block.
The Pucker is like whistling. The pucker doesn't have the tongue
on the mouthpiece. With the pucker system, the tongue stays back
in the mouth, never touching the mouthpiece. This permits easier
bending, on both draw and blow bends.
For the blow pucker bends in holes 8-10 of a standard diatonic blues
harp (Richter system reed placement), the tongue starts back in the
mouth, and moves forward to the mouthpiece, never touching the
The technique you describe (moving the tongue forward) is what I use. It works great from 1-9. Based on how fragile (or rather sensitive to very slight movement) the 9 bend is, I can only guess I'm not being delicate enough on the 10 bend. I've only been playing since July, so I'm still very new to the instrument, but I was able to get all the draw bends on the first day. 8-9 took a little while, but I've never gotten even a hint of a bend on 10. I'll continue to work on it, though. I was just wondering if there was some trick or difference there that I wasn't aware of.
Sarge: I've noticed that there seems to be very little call for blow bends in the music I've seen thus far. Given that, I was tempted to write it off and move on, but it just felt incomplete and unsatisfying to leave it unlearned.
Ah, the pesky 10 hole blow bend, it seems like second nature now but in all actuality took years to get down.
The resonant chamber created for this bend is at the front of the mouth, I visualize an almost pea sized bubble
at the tip of my tongue, I use a pucker embouchure on this hole. I can tongue block bend every other hole, but hole
10 seems easier for me to control with pucker. Approaching the bend slowly is the advice I would give, if you get
a squeak you are getting close, the difference in the resonant chamber you are creating for hole ten is just slightly
incrementally smaller than hole nine.
Playing the first position blues scale in the upper octave was a good exercise for me in getting the blow bends in
hole 10, (there are two, a half step, yikes! and a full step).
Work on it with the lowest harps you own, a G, A, or Bb, in the long slot standards, and any Low harp lends itself
to easier blow bending due to the longer reeds.
I know this is redundant, but go slowly, if you get the squeak you might have success trying to "pop" the bend, applying
a consonant sound like "twee" . Once you get the full step bend, try working on the half step, arguably perhaps THE
toughest bend on a standard harmonica. I practiced this like Hell, persistence paid off. Remember this, what works on
the one, will work on the four. Meaning whatever works on the I chord generally will work on the 4 chord. This can be used
to great effect in second position. When the tune goes to the 4, you can use licks that you play in first position 7-10 blow.
Good luck, most players are reluctant to play above hole 6 in second position. Sonny Boy Williamson, Jimmy Reed, Kim
Wilson, Lester Butler, are just a few I can name who use first position for incredible blues. GET SOME!!!