The Blues Scale

The “Blues Scale,” of course, is the musical alphabet for the Blues, just as the Major and Minor Scales are alphabets for other types of music. My Blues and Rock Breathing Patterns approximate the notes of the Blues Scale — that’s why I use them to teach Blues and rock music. But playing an actual Blues Scale requires the technique known as “bending” notes.

About Bending
“Bending” means changing the shape of the inside of your mouth — mostly by using the tongue — which changes the flow of the air going through it. This changes the “pitch” (highness or lowness) of the note. Generally, bending a note means making it sound lower than it normally does.

Your Current Bend Status: Dwahs and the "Choked" or "Funky" 2 In
You’ve already begun to bend notes to a tiny extent. The dwah effect changes the shape of the inside of your mouth, which gives you the dwah sound. And when you get a “choked” or “funky” 2 in, you are accidently doing a partial bend.

If you can get clean, clear, single in notes, you can try to lower the pitch of a note like this: start, completely empty, on 4 in. Begin the note with your mouth completely relaxed and as open inside as possible.

After a second, tighten your tongue and pull it back and down (about an inch). Some people liken this to saying “whee-ooh.” If you hear the note change pitch, you’re at least on the right track!

It took me ten full months to get my first bend (a 2 in). Now, most people using my Bending the Blues method (see end of RWB book) get their first bend within a few hours of serious practice spread over several days. Mastering this technique, like so many other things, is the work of a lifetime...

Excerpted from Three Minutes to™ Blues, Rock, and Folk Harmonica

© David Harp, 2003, All Rights Reserved