How to Bend Notes on Harmonica

By JP Allen

Written by JP Allen on . Posted in Blog: Harmonica Articles, Harmonica Lessons

If you want to get that big bluesy sound that’s made the harmonica famous, you definitely want to learn how to bend notes on harmonica. I’m happy to show you how.

Most people who pick up the harmonica never figure out this essential technique for playing with incredible soul and feeling. If you watch the free video down below on this page, you will definitely succeed in learning the secrets to this awesome technique.

I’m going to strongly recommend some prerequisites before beginning:

1. Make sure that you are easily able to play with the Deep Relaxed Mouth Position

2. Be able to play a confident, single note using the “Lip-Blocking” technique

First Things First: Bending The 1-Hole Draw

In this video I use the terms “The Deep Relaxed Embouchure” and “The Deep Relaxed Mouth Position” interchangeably and they refer to the same technique.

If you’re having difficulty learning to bend 1-Draw, that’s normal. Please simply move on to the lesson below and see if you find learning to bend 4-Draw easier.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you’re learning to bend on a high quality harmonica. If you have a harmonica that cost under $10, it is likely to be insufficient for learning to bend. My top recommendation is the Hohner Special 20. It will make learning to bend ten times easier than most of the professional harmonicas on the market.

Bending 4-Draw: This Note Wails!

Once you learn how to bend one hole, it is only a matter of time before you learn how to bend all the holes of the harmonica. The majority of harmonica students find learning to bend 1-Draw the least challenging. However, about 30% of students find bending 4-Draw easier. Either way, bending is challenging, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get it on the first go around. (Please note that only holes 1 through 6 draw are “bendable” using the basic bending technique, so if you’re trying to bend 7, 8, 9, or 10-Draw you may drive yourself loony).

To learn how to bend 4-Draw, I highly recommend you work through my step-by-step harmonica lessons.

Please take your time and offer yourself a lot of gentle patience when learning to bend. Bending is a highly refined technique that takes time and practice to learn to do.

Ready for the Next Level?

Why not try out the advanced harmonica dip bending technique! :)

JP Allen

JP Allen believes that anyone can learn to play harmonica. Are you a beginner or intermediate who is looking for an especially easy approach to getting good fast? Do you think it would be fun to play blues or some of your favorite songs with minimal practice? Then CLICK HERE for JP's Beginners Harmonica Lessons, the world’s only 100% play-along harmonica video lessons.

Comments (73)

  • Rhiannon

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    My dad got a tattoo of a Hohner Special 20 with the words “harmonica buddies” around it. He did it for me because I am his harmonica buddy. It looks good. I tell my dad I like a song and he keeps playing it till he gets it. We are not really good yet but we have fun. Thank you for your emails. I always look forward to them. Your Friend, Rhiannon

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Hi Rhiannon! I love your dad and I’ve never even met him. I’m so happy for you that your dad is your harmonica buddy!

      jp

      Reply

  • Alma Engel

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    Wonderful lesson on bending! It’s difficult for me, but I will keep trying. My great-grandson is learning harmonica along with me. He is doing much better than I. He hasn’t seen this bending lesson yet, but I know he will catch on quickly.

    Thanks so much for spreading harmonica joy around the planet. I love your e-mails.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      You’re welcomed Alma!

      It’s difficult for everyone at first….but your great-grandson may make it look easy…

      jp

      Reply

  • Tony

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    JP just love it when I get a mail from you, been trying to bend but now you have given me some more tricks to try I know I have to be able to bend to play the blues and I will get there, thanks.

    Tony

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Right on Tony.

      Make sure you’ve got the deep relaxed mouth position mastered. It’s essential that you find a mouth position that enables you to play single notes and have total freedom in the opening and closing of the jaw.

      Thanks Tony!

      jp

      Reply

  • Geoff - down under

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    Thanks this really helps. I have been having a lot of fun during these recent school holidays improving as I am going along trying out new tunes. Even my family members are beginning to appreciate it somewhat now – and that’s saying something.
    Thanks once again.
    Geoff – down under.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      He Geoff,

      Good to here from you – down under. Nice that your family members are supporting you in your progress. This can be a big help when family members are encouraging.

      jp

      Reply

  • Egert

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    You really teach well…

    There are many videos in youtube, but most of them are hurrying too much. All they do is demonstrate theyr own skills and some forget the prime thing… (there are exeptions, of course:)

    Good job!

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      THANKS EGERT. Wow. I try so hard to explains thing slowly and clearly. I’m so glad my efforts are paying off. I really love to help people with the harmonica.

      jp

      Reply

      • mohamed a.j

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        hi can you help me we are unable to play kiryus harmonica theme,you are our hope ,no one plays it you will find it at youtube,or at least hear it and say for us in witch harmonica tone if c,d,e or something can be play it we need to play this plz

        Reply

  • JP Allen

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    Wow. This is amazing. Just tonight my best friend here in Kauai, Hawaii was just encouraging me to go to New Zealand. I’d love to stay with you some day!

    What months do you recommend I come. Does it get warm?

    jp

    Reply

  • Kayleigh

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    I just want to say that I love your DVDs! I started harmonica around 5 years ago and stopped because I was stuck, and couldn’t find a teacher anywhere. I wanted to take it up again and your DVDs and lessons have helped me so much. The deep relaxed embouchure really helped getting those single notes out and the notes sound so much more clear and soulful. And I can wail and bend! I have so much fun playing and it really gets me all hyped up and happy :D Can’t wait to learn more!

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Hey Kayleigh,
      I’m so glad to hear you’re getting so much joy out of playing!

      jp

      Reply

  • Gary LeBlanc

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    I started playing the harp in my teen years and still love this instrument.I am a big fan of the blues and always will be,but as you know there is more than just playing the blues on a harp.Your videos and explanations are truly helpful and there is no doubt you are helping to carry on the great tradition of harmonica players the world over.Thanks for all that you share.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Thankyou Gary,
      I appreciate the encouragement and gratitude, I love sharing this instrument.

      jp

      Reply

  • Miguel

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    Thank you…thank you,,,Thank you…!!!!!!!!!!
    My Name is Miguel,,,i’m from Miami… and It’s amazing…I Did it..!!!!! just During the Video,,,, Holy Harmony..!!!
    Incredible the Sounds that i just played…!!!!!!!!!!!
    i just started playing Harmonica….
    I’m so Greatful with you… you are such a huge inspiration,motivation to me,besides Sonny Boy Williamson…..
    THANX AGAIN…!!!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1XzAqInUK0 i uploaded on june 1st.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Hey Miguel,

      Excuse my french but I just checked out your YouTube video and you are kickin’ A!

      I know we all have a lot of room for improvement but your really on the right track.

      Keep it up and thanks for being a harmonica buddy1

      jp

      Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Right on Miguel!

      jp

      Reply

  • Robert Ziejewski

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    I saw your cross harmonica playing course & I bent a couple of notes on the harmonica. Ta- ta, for now!!

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Nice going Robert!

      jp

      Reply

  • Arlene

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    Hello! Thanks for this video on Harmonica lesson that I am receiving from you. I may suggest you to create a fan page on Facebook and from there, I can like your page and may even suggest you to my friends there. Thanks a lot for this lesson! I never regret purchasing my Harmonica which is with me for almost one year now, hope you can visit Philippines. God bless!!!

    Arlene

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Your welcome Arlene,
      Thanks for the invite,

      jp

      Reply

  • Jim

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    In 1948 I listened to Wayne Raney(sp), and his houndog talking harmonica. Now 62 yrs later I’m finally trying with my Honer Special 20, and its good for “lung power.”
    CD’s & DVD’s by you JD has helped, maybe this old fogie will possess the ability to get way past happy birthday…..tnks again.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Hey Jim,

      yes harmonica is great for the lungs, have fun chuggin’

      jp

      Reply

  • jason

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    I`m 10 years old and learned bending on my first try!

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Hey Jason!!!

      That’s so cool. If you can bend well at age 10 you can easily become a professional harmonica player if you want to.

      I didn’t know how to bend till I was about 22….(that’s when I started playing harmonica…so you have a big head start over me…

      jp

      Reply

      • jason

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        thanks for the inspiration

        Reply

      • SparkyBoy

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        Hey JP, I just want to say that I’m 22 and saving to buy my first harmonica,the Hohner Special 20. Knowing the fact that you actually started playing harmonica at 22 is very encouraging for me,because I see that it is never to late to learn harmonica. I hope that in the near future I’ll also be able to buy your course.
        All the best wishes…
        SparkyBoy from Europe…:)

        Reply

        • JP Allen

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          Yes SparkyBoy,
          it’s never too late to bring on the music,

          jp

          Reply

  • yang

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    uggh…this will be difficult to learn TAT

    I’m not old enough to buy anything online so i am unable to get ur full dvd set.
    but thanks for posting this online jp ^^

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Your welcome Yang

      jp

      Reply

  • Colin B

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    Hi JP.

    Have worked my way through the first two dvds and almost throught the first cd 1 of your bundle and i am really enjoying learning this instrument. I’ve never been able to learn to play an instrument properly but i am so focussed on being able to play the harmonica.

    My question is, with Xmas coming up, is it worthwhile maybe asking for some harmonica in different keys? I currently have the 2 bluesband harmonicas plus a C key Big River Harp and was wondering when you thought it was suitable to try out a harmonica in a different key.

    Thanks again

    Colin
    Scotland

    Reply

    • jpallen

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      Hey Colin,

      I think you’ll be stoked to get some different keys. The four most helpful are G, A, C, D. You might want to try the special 20.

      Good luck Colin!

      jp

      Reply

  • Colin B

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    Hey JP,

    I’ve worked my way through the first 2 DVDs and 2 cd’s on your bundle and last night started on the third DVD. Really struggling on the bending at the moment.

    Do you suggest that i move onto the DVD “Finally learning to bend” or should i be focussing on single note playing as i am still struggling to get clear notes especially on holes 8,9 & 10.

    We’ve got 3 feet of snow outside so i’m hoping my harmonica playing will put some warmth back into my house over this cold winter.

    Kind regards
    Colin

    Reply

    • jpallen

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      Hey Collin,

      First I want to say Congratulations for accomplishing so much so fast.

      I agree with what you said in your message. Before moving on with bending it will be very helpful to become confident with your single notes.

      There are many ways to do this: You could learn a simple song. You could start on my Blues DVD #1. You could also just have fun improvising and playing any single notes you like in any order.

      Looks like the snow is doing your harmonica some good.

      Warmly,

      jp

      Reply

  • Colin B

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    Thanks JP

    Yeah the snow is stopping me from going out so i’m staying in with the harp!

    I’ve got a few tabs for Xmas songs that i will try and learn over the festive period.

    Hope you have a good xmas and new year!

    Colin

    Reply

    • jpallen

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      Thanks Colin!!!

      jp

      Reply

  • Chet

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    JP, excellent video! I’ve seen other instructions on bending but nothing has worked until I watched your instructions. Not solid yet, but instant initial success. Mahalo, brah!

    Chet (on Oahu)

    Reply

    • jpallen

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      Hey Chet!!!

      You’re welcomed. I’m glad you liked the video. Beautiful last couple of days here in Hawaii.

      Keep practicing those bends and stay in touch.

      jp

      Reply

      • Chet

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        Hey JP,

        Stay dry and safe! I hear it is crazy there now with the rain. We’re next in line.

        Your follow-up lessons are terrific! Your enthusiasm is clear and very welcome and refreshing. I’m advocating your lessons to other musicians at my workplace. I also look forward to soon buying your DVD set and the Hohner harmonica you suggest.

        Mele Kalikimaka!

        Chet

        Reply

  • JP Allen

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    Thanks Chet!!! If you can treat yourself to a Hohner Special 20 I think you’ll be very happy with it.

    Thanks for spreading the good word.

    jp

    Reply

  • Judi

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    JP you are absolutely a joy to watch ! Your enthusiasm and personality are second to none ! I hope your course helps me…. Just need to play one little harmonica piece to Harvest Moon by Neil Young. I told my friend who I have been watching play guitar and sing for 30 yrs if HE would learn that song I would learn the harmonica part.. WELL… he sure did learn it…. so now I must honor my word lol. then after I can play that, I plan on continuing….

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Hey Judi,
      Have fun with it!!

      jp

      Reply

  • Morgan

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    I just got my first harmonica for Christmas, I’m learning my first song (Silent Night), and I’m already (beginning to) get it with bending! I’m already in love with my new best friend; thanks so much for your awesome videos, lessons, songs, and info! :) I hope I’ll get as good as I hope to be! Thanks again!

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Hey Morgan,
      I’m so happy to hear you’re enjoying them

      jp

      Reply

  • ali sadeghi makki

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    Hi. Thanks for all your video. I live in iran. There is no harmonica refrence here. Your videos are very useful for me.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Great to hear they are helping you Ali!

      jp

      Reply

  • Felipe Atton

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    Hey JP!
    I’m Felipe, from Santiago, Chile!
    I just bought and armonica last week and i have done all your three free lessons levels, and they were awesome! Learn all the train tips, hints and rythms, they are really good to start getting good flows.
    Your way to explain is so good, i encourage some friends that quited harmonica to get it back and they loved it!
    You are a good teacher and give everyone so much courage and cheer us up so much that i really wanna play better even with one week of playing!
    I still have some trouble though. I can’t bend like you or the sounds i hear in other videos, and i think its some tongue thing. I just wanna bend notes to sound great!
    Any help would be awesome!
    Abd remember, you have a place to stay in chile anytime you want! Just email me and here will be my family for you and friends!
    Best wishes for you, and REALLY thank you for all the help and tips you taught me!
    Felipe

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Hey Filipe. Wow! I felt so grateful reading your email. Thank you for your kind words. If you don’t have my bending DVD I would say the best way to progress on bending is to begin my focusing on the 1 draw and/or the 4 draw holes. You’ll also need a professional instrument like the Hohner Special 20. I would also recommend you practice without the harmonica. Here’s how to practice without the harmonica in your mouth: 1. While inhaling drop the tip of your tongue and raise the back of your tongue. 2. Create a tight passage way for the air to pass through by pushing the back of the tongue against the roof of the mouth. All the air should shoot up the center of the mouth and no air should leak around the teeth. This is called a JET STREM (the sound of the air rushing through your mouth at and accelerated rate). Try to make the sound of the jet stream as loud as possible. 3. Now move the back of the tongue forward and backward in the mouth to change the pitch of the jet stream. (This is the key to bending. By changing the pitch of the jet stream you are changing the resonant frequency of you mouth and the harmonica reed will respond in kind). REMINDER: MAKE SURE THE TIP OF YOUR TONGUE STAYS DOWN as you scrape the back of your tongue forward and backward against the roof of your mouth. I’ll make another special free video for you soon to help you more clearly understand this. It may take me a few months but I’ll add it to my to do list. I hope that helps Filipe! You’re Harmonica Buddy, JP

      Reply

  • ali sadeghi makki

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    Hi jp

    Thak you for your very useful lessons.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      You’re welcomed Ali!
      jp

      Reply

  • Mary

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    Thank you soooo much for the free lrssons !!!. My boyfriend gave me a Johnson harmonica a few weeks ago. I really enjoy learning from you !!!
    Thanks again.
    Mary

    Reply

  • John

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    Hi JP from Flint in North Wales UK.
    I am 52 years young and found an Honner Harmonica in my loft when I was moving and picked it up the other day, I have just joined a Welsh Male Voice Choir, so I am trying to lean the Welsh language. It is so hard
    anyway thanks for the advise on playing it, I play the Guitar and have done since I was at school all those years ago,
    your teaching is Awesome my friend

    Reply

  • Andy

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    Made a bit of progress… I am able to bend the lowest note, but that’s it.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Nice going Andy! jp

      Reply

  • Paul H

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    JP what if anything is the difference between the Hohner Special 20 and
    the Hohner Special 20 / 560 is there a difference then what does the 560 mean…

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Not sure what the 560 means, but there is no difference….same harmonica. jp

      Reply

  • Peter D.

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    I am 78 years old or as I like to say 18 with 70 years of experience. I had been fiddling with the guitar all of my life, but when I started to mess with the harmonica over one year ago, it was so much more enjoyable and more convenient than the guitar.

    When I started following you online, I began to learn. Now I intend to enroll in your courses to bet the full benefit of the harmonica because one is never too old to learn if it from the right instructor And, after checking out many others, your method appears to fit my needs.

    Thanks

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Hey Peter, I would be honored to be your harmonica instructor. Once you get started, please let me know how things are going, and/or a testimonial if you are so inspired: http://www.harmonica.com/contact
      jp

      Reply

  • Andrea

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    I think this is the right place to yell it…..
    I CAN BEND!!!! I CAN BEND, I CAN BEND!!!

    I’m so happy… when i was learning by myself, lot of time ago, i couldn’t figure how to do it… i saw it as something impossible, especially on 2 and 3 draw.
    I’m half way of your bending dvd, and i got it… in a very easy way!!!
    I’m ecstatic!

    Reply

  • david cary

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    JP
    I have ben trying to get you by phone with no luck.I need to find out what is te best harp to start out playing.I have two hap right now both in the key of c one is a blues harp made by Hohner and the other is a goden melody made by hohner.By the way I have oder your lession so far I am loving it.playing the harp has been a dream of mine for a long time just never new how to get started till came found your web page hope to hear back from you soon.David cary

    Reply

  • Gerard Humme

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    Thank You for the Greta songs JP

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      You got it Gerard. jp

      Reply

  • Ron M

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    J.P.
    Your video’s really help me my friend, I grab the harp when I can and try to get
    some practice in ! I get a little over whelmed. “Trying to hard I believe”
    hoping to purchase your videos soon. There’s a few songs I would like to work on by fall.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      I’m happy to hear the free lessons are helping you Ron. Keep it up. jp

      Reply

  • Bijan Zarei

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    Dear JP,

    It’s about one week that I’m working on bending. On the first night I tried so hard to bend, because you said “it is not a single night skill”, I tried to see if I’ll be able to do it on the first night! but I couldn’t!

    I kept on practicing and I’m able to bend the 1st draw now. I’m sure this that I’m doing is bend because it exactly produce the same sound as I here from your video. there is a complete match.

    I’ve to keep on practicing because however that I’m able to bend now, it is not 100% under my control. I mean I’ve to work to be able to start with unbend then to bend, from bend to unbend and other goals you’ve described. I’m also slow on bending now. but I did the bending finally and this made me so happy!

    I’m afraid to notify that there was a point in your lessons misleading me! the JET STREAM: the first that came into my mind was that I need high air flow. like making high volume sound because it was named JET stream. later I understood that I can bend even with low volume, I’ve to create a jet stream even with low air flow. the key is creating the jet stream not high air flow.

    Thank you so much You’ve changed the color of sound that I play with my harmonica. I appear to be more professional now.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      I’m glad to hear you’re getting bending down Bijan…and great job correcting yourself. Jet stream as you mentioned refers to a fine stream of directed air flow, and does not refer to force. keep it up! jp

      Reply

  • Galveston Mike

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    Dude! I’m buying your lessons just because you deserve it!… You had me bending notes in 1 hour with what I saw on the free videos. I can’t wait to see what you teach me next!.. Thanks!..

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Right on Galveston! I’m excited to have you as a student. jp

      Reply

  • Harpin' Doje (aka Jodi :)

    |

    An easier way to describe what you are doing is you are hissing like a ticked off cat but with your mouth open instead of closer together. At least, that’s what it sounds like when I listen – your mileage may vary :)

    Reply

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