Landing consistently on the 3 draw with a half-step bend is essential for cross harp blues, and it’s especially important if a song is in a minor key. As many have noted, you can play minor over a major song, but you can’t play major over a minor song.
For example, if a song is in E major and you grab your A harmonica to play cross harp, you can either play cross harp major (unbent 3 draw) or cross harp minor (bent 3 draw). Major will sound sweet, minor will sound bluesy.
However, if a song is in E minor, you can only play cross harp minor. Gotta land on the 3 draw with a half-step bend, every time. Playing an unbent 3 draw during a minor key song is the musical equivalent of chewing aluminum foil or scratching a chalkboard with your fingernails.
Building consistency with your 3 draw, half-step bend is a challenge in two parts. Sure, it’s about your bending technique, but it’s also about your ear. If you can’t hum, whistle, or sing the notes you want, you won’t be able to tell if you’re in tune or not. And staring at an electronic tuner is not an option when you’re in the middle of playing a song. You have to know the SOUND you’re aiming for.
This is why Adam Gussow’s “Spoonful” exercise is so perfectly on the money. It’s a dead-simple riff that everybody knows – and if you don’t know it, listen to my demo (or to Howlin’ Wolf or Cream) and after about 20 seconds you’ll have it in your head forever.
-2 -3' That spoon -2 -3' That spoon -2 -3' -2 That spoon - ful
Spoonful, played on C harp
What To Do
Listen to the song, get it in your head, then sing, hum, or whistle that part to yourself. Now try to play it on your harp. The “spoon” part has got to be bent slightly, or it sounds too bright. It just doesn’t sound like the song unless you get that bend. Make it sound like you’re singing it, every time, and you’ll be on your way to a more consistent 3 draw half-step bend.