How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

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Brendan
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How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Mon Jan 31, 2022 6:40 pm

Bending notes is one of the most iconic and beautiful sounds of the diatonic harmonica. Soulful note bends are what give the harp that characteristic 'blues wail'; they also add important extra chromatic pitches missing in the primary scale. However, the amount you can bend a note is limited by the tuning of the harmonica; in most cases it's only one semitone. But often the music would sound BETTER if one had the ability to bend notes down further when needed. Could that be that possible? Here I demonstrate two highly effective ways it can be achieved:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJV6_6tFiJQ

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Re: How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by EdvinW » Mon Jan 31, 2022 10:45 pm

That's a clever idea!

Could you comment on any advantages of the slide-bend-enabler over the TurboSlide?

The ones I could see are that it's easier to build yourself from a stock harp and the wider range of the 12 holes.

The downside could be that the magnet blow bends are not smooth and the larger size with longer jumps. Depending on what chrom you use the TurboSlide might be cheaper. Getting a TuboSlide is definitely less work... :)
Edvin Wedin

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Brendan
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Re: How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Mon Jan 31, 2022 11:58 pm

Good question Edvin...

The magnet-induced pitch lowering on the blow reeds from the TurboSlide is less precise than the lowered blow tones you get by detuning the blow slider notes on a chromatic. The magnet-induced blow bends can vary in pitch a bit depending on how hard you blow. This can in turn make the lowered draw bends a little less precise - but it's controllable by ear, one can adjust.

Pat Byrnes suggested the name Half-Flat Slide for the chromatic version, which is pretty descriptive: thanks Pat!

A definite advantage of the HFS approach is that the altered slide-in blow note can be lowered further than with the TurboSlide (which can effectively only lower the blow note a semitone without problems). This can give optional bends bigger than two semitones if desired.

On balance, the Half-Flat Slide approach is better, I think. It gives more options

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Brendan
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Re: How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Tue Feb 01, 2022 5:26 am

I've known about the TurboSlide method of getting these extra bends for years and used it occasionally, but the idea of partially retuning a chromatic to get the effect only came to me a few days ago.

Whether on Half-Flat Slide chromatic or TurboSlide diatonic, it opens up a lot of beautiful new bending expression on the harmonica. It can work well on ANY tuning. On Richter it gives you the ability to bend 5 draw, which is nice. Actually ANY tuning with semitone intervals (which I usually try to avoid in my harps) suddenly becomes capable of bending notes!

For example, with the Half-Flat Slide method, Solo Tuning becomes fully bendable. You can bend the F draw with either approach, but It won't fully work on the TurboSlide because the TS only lowers the blow notes a semitone effectively. However with HFS you could bend the B draw in holes 4/8/12 to Bb by lowering the C# blow with slide in down to A 👍

All draw notes in Bebop tuning become fully bendable with either approach, whilst remaining fully chromatic with a combination of bends and slide pushes. That's a real bonus, because Bebop is a great tuning whose only weakness (in my opinion) has been the inability to bend on half the draw notes. Now you can! Same could go for Tony Eyers' Major Cross, David Fairweather's Four Key tunings, and many more...

Using the slide-in scale to enhance the expression of the slide-out scale in this way definitely opens up a lot of soulful new sounds and bluesy licks impossible before! It will be interesting to apply the principle to other tunings and see what it can open up.

It's yet another example of the huge un-tapped potential of using alternate tunings with slide harmonicas...

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Brendan
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Re: How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Tue Feb 01, 2022 5:39 am

An interesting alternative approach to the Half-Flat Slide would be to flip it!

That is, instead of lowering the slide-in blow reed and making the slide-in draw the same as the scale note, do the opposite: make the slide-in blow the same as the scale blow note, but lower the slide-in draw below it by at least two semitones.

This would now enable true interactive reed bending on the blow reeds, adding a huge amount of expression and extra phrasing possibilities to the harmonica. Hmmm...

However it requires considerably wider retuning from a stock chromatic than the basic HFS version, as the slide draw reeds would need to drop by 4-5 semitones. For most people this would only make it a practical possibility if it were sold pre-tuned out of the box. An unlikely prospect at this time, but it's good to know the possibility exists.

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Re: How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by IaNerd » Wed Feb 02, 2022 10:05 pm

In Solo, two draw notes can bend only one semitone, and two cannot bend.
In HFS Solo, two draw notes can bend either one or two semitones, and two can bend only one semitone.

In PowerChromatic, four draw notes can bend only one semitone.
In HFS PowerChromatic, four draw notes can bend either one or two semitones.

In Inverted Bebop, four draw notes can bend only one semitone.
In HFS Inverted Bebop, four draw notes can bend either one or two semitones.

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Re: How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by IaNerd » Wed Feb 02, 2022 11:00 pm

Here viewtopic.php?f=9&t=844#p3742 I showed that D major is practically tied with G major as being the dominating keys of Irish music.

Now let us assume a D major harp with DLT (Double Leading Tone) tuning, as described here: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=829#p3642 In essence, it would be:
Blow: C# E G B
Draw: D F# A C#

Note how the draw notes are -- importantly -- the first, third, fifth and seventh scale degrees. Three of these can be bent by one semitone.

Now with Half-Flat Slide (HFS), the D is now bendable, and the other draw notes can be bent by either one or two semitones.

Now let's consider G major -- the other giant in Irish music. A G major harp in DLT is:
Blow: F# A C E
Draw: G B D F#

This shares the same bending relationships with D major DLT (above), with and without HFS. In fact, any major key cast in a DLT structure would.

These considerations lead me to ask this question for Brendan (or anyone else, really): Which notes of a scale would you MOST WANT to have bending -- or even double bending -- ability?

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Brendan
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Re: How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Thu Feb 03, 2022 7:48 am

Good question, Pat!

In all the tunings above, the most the basic scale allows are draw bends of 1 semitone. It's nice to be able to optionally bend them to two semitones.

In some cases it would be great to be able to lower them further, to three semitones - which is possible with HFS, except that the midway 2 semitone bend will not be as stable as the deep 3 semitone bend. So for now I'll ignore the 3 semitone bend option. Here are the scale degrees where I think it's especially useful to have stable bends of one or two semitones, in order of importance:

3rd - down to minor 3rd or 2nd
Tonic - down to major 7th and flat 7th
5th - down to flat 5th and 4th

It's nice to be able to bend ALL notes to stable bends of varying degrees actually, but that would take a lot more reeds, and extra sliders...

My twin-slide DoubleChrom concept could be adapted to the HFS principle to give some of these extra bends, but since it isn't currently an available option, it's probably frivolous to map then out at this stage. Maybe in future... 🙂

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Brendan
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Re: How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Thu Feb 03, 2022 8:10 am

This is digressing a bit from the main topic of this thread, but anyway...

Pat, I was having a look at your Double Leading Tone tuning posted above:

Blow: C# E G B
Draw: D F# A C#

It could be adapted to:

Code: Select all

Blow	C	E	G	B	C	E	G	B
Draw	D	F#	A	C#	D	F#	A	C#
Forgive my ignorance, but have you posted this tuning before? Is it the modified PowerChromatic you posted about a few years ago?

Whatever, it's a good one! All draw reeds bend a semitone and it has two full major keys without bends: D and G. Several other keys can be played with one or two easy draw bends.

The drawbacks are that in D and G, the fifths below the tonics are two holes away, which is not good for Irish music.

But I seem to remember we discussed all this on another thread a few years ago... 🤔

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Re: How to get Extra, Deeper Bends on Harmonica

Post by IaNerd » Thu Feb 03, 2022 1:41 pm

Brendan, the adaptation of DLT that you show in the box above is Inverted Bebop (mentioned four entries above this one). The two tunings differ only by that one note. :o

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