Basic Chords & Bending

In the following diagrams, a C Major harp is used as an example only. Although the notation layout for other keys will be different...

These Patterns of Notes, Chords & Bends Will be the Same on all Keys.

Major Diatonic
Example: Key of C
Chords available on the Lee Oskar Major Diatonic Harmonica

1st Position (Blow)

A complete Major scale is available in 1st Position, without bending, using holes 4 to 7.

2nd Position (Draw)

Bending is necessary to achieve a complete scale in 2nd Position, using holes 2 to 6.

1st / 2nd Position CHORDS

CEG = C Major Chord (1st Position)
GBD = G Major Chord (2nd Position)
GBDF = G Dominant 7th Chord (2nd Position)
also known as Flatted 7th or “BLUES CHORD”

Bending

It is possible to bend certain reeds down (flatten) to produce a more fluid and expressive sound than can be obtained by playing exact notes precisely. Also, several important notes that are missing on the Major harmonica (in 2nd Position) can be found by bending.

Bending Technique: Start drawing gently on hole #3 until you get a clear, clean tone. Then drop your jaw slightly and draw your tongue back toward your throat. This will cause the reed to flat or bend. Saying the syllables “AAH-OOH” helps with draw bends and “EEE-OOO” with blow bends.

With practice, you will be able to control the amount of bend, and also you will be able to maintain the pitch. Eventually it will be possible to play the exact bent note directly, without having to bend down to it.

Caution! Bending will fatigue reeds much faster than straight playing.

Bent Notes Available on the Major Harp

  • Bending is used mostly on Draw reeds, but Blow bends are also available.
  • Draw reeds # 1,2,3,4 & 6 can be bent.
  • Blow reeds # 8,9 & 10 can be bent.

Major Diatonic
Example: Key of C

Notice that Draw # 3 will bend from B to Bb to A to Ab, or three half-step intervals. Other reeds will only bend down one or two half-step intervals and some reeds will not bend at all.

This same pattern of bent notes is available on all 12 Major keys.