As You've written, there are many ways to play a bend note
on the 10-hole standard (Richter system) diatonic harmonica.
Harmonica bending is flattening the pitch of a reed. Here's what I do:
Holes 1-6 inhale (not hole 5):
Whichever embouchure (mouth shape) you use, tongue block,
u-block or pucker, the idea is to create a smaller than normal air
passage in the mouth, by moving the tongue to the back of the mouth,
for draw reeds.
To bend a draw reed in a harmonica chamber, the two reeds must
be at least a whole step apart, scale-wise. On a key of C harp,
hole #5 draw is an F note, and the hole 5 blow note is an E.
E-F is an interval (distance in pitch) of a half step. We can't bend
the draw reed F in hole #5.
The two reeds are a half step apart (C blow, B draw). We can't bend
the C reed in hole 7.
Holes 8-10 Exhale:
To bend notes in holes 8-10 (on exhale reeds), we move the tongue
from the back of the mouth forward, to the front of the mouth. The result,
while exhaling, is bended reeds (flattened).
Holes 1-6 overblow; holes 7-10 overdraw:
The squealing sounds you are getting in the lower holes are overblow
pitches. The overblow technique in the lower holes 1-6, and overdraw
in the upper holes 7-10, raise the note a half step on the hole's highest
Work slowly, be patient. Your tongue must be precisely located in the mouth,
to produce in-tune bends and overblows/draws. If you practice slowly,
concentrating on developing a good tone, the muscles will "learn" where
to place them selves to achieve the bend & overblow techniques.
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA.
Welcome to the Harmonica Club.
You have many new friends here.
Just for fun, try this free website for
harmonica players. It's a play-along site,
with thousands of pre-recorded tunes.
The tunes are written in harmonica tablature,
not traditional music notation. You may download
the tablature, and the recorded tunes, free.
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA
Thanks for your link to the sonkeybpm website.
It will be very useful to me.
I entered "River Kwai March," and found many
The tune was based on the "Colonel Bogie March,
but "River Kwai" has an interesting countermelody
to the Bogie theme.
The Judy Simpson-Smith's bass harmonica book,
"Learning to Play the Bass Harmonica", is
designed for the 2-deck, octave-tuned
chromatic bass harmonica.
It's sold (price unknown) at:
Thanks, Keith, for your patience and understanding.
Yes, I am the John Broecker at the Slidemeister forum.
Keith and Dexer:
I agree with you both. Stay with whatever learning system works for you.
There is no need to study any other system, unless you'd like to learn
songs that are unfamiliar to you, that you've never heard or played before.
It's impossible to learn a new tune with harmonica tablature alone.
This topic was originally (post #1340) started by Irishscot, who asked for
tremolo players to submit their performances. Then, the topic was changed
in post # 9031, to a discussion of learning techniques, I offered my opinions.
I'm a retired musician (60 years) and music teacher (50 years). I've been a
professional music composer, arranger, transcriber, founder and president
(10 years consecutive) of a harmonica club, and it's music arranger and director
I play all harmonica types except the Hohner Harmonetta.
Each person's opinion is equal in a forum. I respect your opinions.
Whichever system of music notation that is most successful for you,
stay with it. But, the time you've spent inventing another tab system
could have been used to study traditional music notation.
I've discovered at least 2 dozen music tab systems for harmonica,
world-wide. Also, Each musical instrument uses it's form of tablature,
and each type of harmonica has it's own tablature.
When studying with an instructor, the tab system is usually used with
traditional notation at the start, and tab is dropped after 6 months.
In Japan, the Suzuki Method is standard for new string instrument players,
especially young students. The young players avoid all music notation until
they are more advanced. They learn by the listening system.
The theory is that, since we humans learn the spoken language before the
written language, the audio arts should learn with the same system hearing
Each music notation system is imperfect, including traditional notation,
But the traditional notation, having evolved over 600 years, is the most
Harmonica tab is the quickest way to learn a tune that you already know.
But, if you are learning a new tune, never heard before, traditional notation
is quickest. It's like reading a newspaper..
"Tab" lists the harmonica mouthpiece hole number and direction of breath,
two things that "Trad" notation doesn't list.
Trad notation lists tempo, meter, rhythms, expression marks (loud, soft, etc.)
key signature(s), sharps & flats and natural notes, repeats, bending and overblowing,
special techniques. Tab doesn' t list any of those, except bending & overblowing.
Traditional harmonica music notation is the same in all countries that use it.
Tab harmonica notation seems to change with every musical style,geographic or
By learning harmonica tablature, or by devising your own
harmonica tablature, you are stacking extra information
onto an already complex music language. This will make
tunes more difficult to learn.
This will slow your progress, and is a waste of time.
Learn the traditional music notation if needed.
Many players learn tunes by listening and play-back,
avoiding sheet music completely. This is also a slow
There is no easy way to learn tunes, but why stack
German on top of Spanish, on top of English?
Use only one language. Your choice. The best
written music language is the traditional notation,
Save your broken reeds for sale!
McDonald's restaurants make French fries out of them.
(just a joke)
I was also a Tremolo forum member. When they moved to Facebook,
I didn't follow.
The most popular sizes for the tremolo harps (at least in the USA),
are the 24-double hole, 3 octave tremolos, and the 20-double-hole
The 24 is available in Richter, Solo and Asian reed placements,
from various manufacturers. The 20 hole is usually set like a
standard Hohner #1896 Marine Band single reed per note,
Richter system harp.
The 24 has a "discreet" comb, where each reed has a separate
chamber. The 20 usually has a "Knittlinger" comb, like the Hohner
Auto Valve, but the Auto Valve is an octave harp. The Knittlinger
comb, first introduced in Knittlingen, Germany, allows two reeds in
Richard, your performance is very nice. We all have enjoyed it.
I had a Huang Compact 48 chord harmonica, the twin of your Swan harp.
They are both made in the Shanghai General Harmonica Plant. The only
difference is the printing on the covers.
The Compact 48 has all the chords of the bigger Hohner and Suzuki 48
chord harmonicas, but it's only 13 inches long, and has single reeds for
each chord note. That's the price difference. At today's prices, the Compact
48 harps retail at about $400-$500 (a guess ).
The Hohner and Suzuki models are octave-tuned (2 reeds per note, an octave
apart. They retail at about $3,000 (Hohner with acrylic combs); and Suzuki, at
a little less (about $2,500, another guess) than the Hohner model. Hohner has
discontinued the pearwood combs on it's basses and chord harps, since 2012.
The octave tuning harps have a better sound (tone is fuller and louder), than
the Chinese models (my opinion). Also, the tuning of the reeds is better on the
expensive models (Hohner, Suxuki).
The Chinese Compact 48 models are more realistic for those players who have
a limited budget. They have plastic combs. The Compact 48s' smaller size means
the mouthpieceholes are smaller and closer together than the Hohner and Suzuki
On the original sheet music for piano (1913), the tune has an introduction in C;
then 2 verses in Db (C#) (verse 1: "oh, my heart's in a whirl.."); then the Refrain
("Peg O' My Heart....") played through twice.
The tune was copyrighted in 1913, by Leo Feist, and composed lyrics by Alfred
Bryan and music by Fred Fisher.
The 1975 arrangement of "Peg..." a transcription verbatim of the Harmonicats'
version, was written by Dick Gardner, autographed by Dick, Jerry Murad and Al Fiore
(The Harmonicats in 1975).
In that version, the verse starts in Db (C#). That's the Al Fiore solo on the chord harp.
Then, the tune goes to the key of G with Jerry's slide chromatic solo. The third section
is "free meter" (no pulse, slower), staying in G, with embellishments (ornamentations,
The tune was first recorded by the Harmonicats in 1947, and stayed at # 1 in the Billboard
charts for over 6 months. Since then, the Harmonicat's version has sold more than 30
million copies. It is the 2nd most popular tune, behind Irving Berlin's White Christmas.
Here are a few free websites. New harmonica
players often have many questions. These websites
are not only for beginners, but also for experienced
(information, harmonica maintenance & repairs)
(information, patents, note charts)
(information, reed placement systems)
(bending & overblowing techniques)
(play-along tunes in harp tablature, no
traditional music notation. downloads and
printing are free, no copyright problems)
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA
If you are a tongue-blocking harmonica player, try the pucker,
to lessen the stress of the reeds. The U-block embouchure
is primarily for melody playing. Chords, splits and corner
switching are not easily available with the U-block.
If you decide to try the pucker, you may lose some of the
tongue blocking techniques. Corner switching, octave
playing may not work with the pucker. Bending and overblowing
seem to be easier with the pucker.
I'm a U-block player mostly, with the pucker used for bending/OB.
For me, the tongue blocking is the least used, because I never really
If you have trouble finding single replacement reeds, try removing
reeds from a broken, not playable harmonica. Use the same company's
reeds (Hohner for Hohner, Seydel reeds for Seydel; Hering for Hering;
and Suzuki for Suzuki.
The Suzuki reeds are mostly welded to the reed plate, so they may be
difficult to remove and to replace a broken reed. Phosphor-bronze reeds
are stronger than brass reeds, but less flexible. Suzuki uses mostly
phosphor-bronze reeds; Hohner, Hering, Huang and Seydel use mostly
Stainless steel reeds are produced mainly by Seydel. They have been used
for about 10 years on selected Seydel models. They seem to be the strongest
reeds, with the least flexibility. The first patented harmonica (1821), the Aura,
made by Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann (1805-1864) in Berlin, Germany,
had steel reeds. But, they were not stainless steel reeds.
If using reeds from a broken harmonica (not playable) the replacement reed
must be of the same size as the broken reed, and must fit in the reed plate's
reed slot. If they are the same pitch, that will eliminate re-tuning the replacement
reed to the proper tuning.
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA
G'day, Richard (Armstrong).
Here are a few observations about your hole 7 exhale reed
breakages. These observations are only opinions, and are
provided only resulting from your written descriptions.
Playing sustained reed bends will weaken a reed over time.
Eventually, the reed might break, or go lout of tune. Your hole
7's exhale reed is normally the "do" reed of the harmonica's
factory-installed scale, if you are playing a standard Richter
system, 10-hole blues harp.
You won't be able to get a useable bend (in the music scale)
on the hole 7 exhale reed. Hole 7 has a "do" reed and a "ti"
reed of the factory-installed scale.
To bend a reed, the two reeds in a hole must be at least a
whole step apart in factory-installed pitch, so that the higher-
pitched reed in the hole may drop in pitch. The two reeds in
hole 7 are only a half step apart, so the higher-pitched exhale
reed has no bending available.
The hole 7 exhale reed will get more playing than the other reeds
of the scale. It's played more often than any other "do" scale reed,
if you play mostly in 1st position (the factory-installed "do" scale).
Try playing in 2nd position (the "so" scale on the harmonica), to
lessen the use of the hole 7 exhale reed.
Having problems with one specific reed location (hole 7 exhale
on a diatonic blues harp) in a year and a half, on many brands
of harp, suggests a player's technique problem.
You might be putting too much strain (intensity) on the "do" reed
of the harmonica's scale. Try using a different embouchure (lip shape):
tongue block, pucker, or U-block, as a replacement for the technique
you are now using.
Contact MandoHarp in Australia, for more advice: