Harmonica Review: The Powerbender

Lee Sankey gives a quick overview of the new harmonica tuning invented by Brendan Power called the Powerbender. Lee explains some the main benefits of this tuning, including new chords and achieving minor third and flat 5 notes without using overblows or overdraws.

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tripharmonica says:

Hey Lee, I’m officially intrigued – great presentation BTW. Would you say that this configuration is better suited to 2nd position than 1st? I play blues, but mostly old time and country melody based music . . . is there a natural 7th for instance like a country tuned harp?


Dutch Martin says:

Hey Lee, I recently received my power bender harp with book/CD. I’m really enjoying learning to play it, especially since it’s been a while since I’ve played harp (been taking care of family) It’s a great innovative tuning. I’m still working on the basic pentatonic scale to really get myself comforable with the full range of the harp. The biggest challenge for me is the draw bends on holes 8 – 10 (the high notes), but I’m working on that. It’s a great harp.

Lee Sankey says:

Hi Dutch, I can’t recommend this tuning enough. It’s straightforward and rewarding. Let me know how you get on with it. Cheers Lee

Adam Clement says:

Argh! This was messing with my mind till I realized the video is reversed? Looks like you are holding harmonica right hand but actually your left??

Tsutsomu says:

Hi Lee,
Thanks a lot, well explained.
Friendly :

Ambar Das says:


Dutch Martin says:

Hey Lee, I’m having a little difficulty on draw bending the high notes (8 – 10) of the Power Bender. Getting those quarter note bends is a little tricky for me. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Lee Sankey says:

@wheelharp Hey Konstantin, glad the video helped explain the merits of Brendan’s new tuning design. It is very suitable for blues. I wouldn’t say it’s a replacement for a standard tuned harp, but it’s something new to add to one’s box of tricks. Best regards Lee

Lee Sankey says:

@Conradbluesman Hi Conrad, I’ve never really bothered with new tunings but this one definitely warrants closer inspection. Thanks to you for watching and for your interest! Regards from cold, snowy London

John Malcolm says:

That was really worth watching. I recommend watching to the end.

Sandor Schaffer says:

Thanks Lee Sankey

Lee Sankey says:

@honeydawg Hello, thanks for your positive comment and subscribing. It’s good to hear that this video helped show the potential of this new harmonica design and that it isn’t something that only works for Brendan. Check out the tune I wrote for him using the Powerbender, it’s called “Brendan”. Regards Lee

Lee Sankey says:

The draw notes on the high end are one of the best things about this tuning. It’s not difficult to get your head round. Just think of 8d,7d,6d, being basically the same as 4d, 3d,2d. Let me know how you get on. Cheers Lee

Lee Sankey says:

@droverboy1 Hey Rusty, good to hear from you and once again I ‘m touched by your kind words. Tone to me is everything on the harp so it means a lot to receive this feedback from a knowledgeable harp fan such as yourself. I started playing when I was 18 which is quite late. Brendan Power was 20. The point is we are all still learning and anyone can make huge progress after many years. The lick at 1.57 is simple in terms of the notes. It’s all about the feel you give them. Do you know the notes?

Lee Sankey says:

Hi Dutch, in a word “practise”. Bending higher notes i.e. shorter reeds, requires more finesse than lower notes where you tear in the bends with more power. Up high it’s a case of getting the pitch right with the right amount of force. They’re more sensitive. May be start by getting the minor third on the draw 7 bend, then resolving to the draw 6. Lee

Rusty Bergi says:

Hey Lee i was wondering if you could taech that lick you do on this video time was 1;57 seconds i love that lick i remember you did that lick on your Slow blues song. I still alway”s go back to your video’s when im stuck or feeling down on my playing. I still tell everyone you have the best tone i ever heard and ive listen to Blues my whole life i only wish i kept up with my playing cause i started harp when i was a kid. Thanks Lee for putting these video’s up means the world to me man. Rusty B.

Lee Sankey says:

@nvwoos Hi Brendan, well I’m sure you are going to enjoy it. May take a few weeks to adapt but as the notes are all familiar to you from a standard harmonica it should be quite straight forward. Lee

John Malcolm says:

Would I be making a mistake if I increased the clearance of the reeeds from the plate? They seem to take quite a bit of breath-force.

Dutch Martin says:

@leesankeygroup Lee, I just ordered the power bender with the book & CD. I can’t wait to dive into it!

Jim Wood says:

Thanks Lee. I’m waiting for one now. And, thanks Brendan!

fiendant says:

Thanks Lee, i usually find talking about tunings very confusing. You’ve simpified it in a great way and now i want one;o)

Jörgen Overgaard says:

Thanks Lee for sharing the info! Excellent! I was thinking about the power bender, but you made me make up my mind. I’m getting one to test asap! I really like what’s available on the higher end on the Brendan one!

Lee Sankey says:

@fiendant Cheers for the feedback. Defintely worth picking one up. Like I said it’s not really a tuning, it’s more of a configuration. Brendan has taken all the notes from a standard tuned harp and laid them out in a clever way that makes key notes draws and also bendable. Lee

Lee Sankey says:

@tripharmonica Hello Trip, thanks for watching and for your feedback. I’d say 1st position works very well on this harmonica. Mainly because you can get the minor 3rd in the middle octave (draw 5 bend) and the dominant 7th (draw 3 bend) without overblowing. There are aslo the new chord possibilities which work well in 1st. If there is any compromise, it’s in the high register. Here I probably edge towards standard tuning. But overall the Powerbender works great in 1st, it’s just different.

Lee Sankey says:

Cool, let me know what you make of it. Lee

Lee Sankey says:

@droverboy1 Hi Rusty, 1st position, which this lick is, must have been well covered on YouTube by Adam, Jason etc. If you feel it would be off benefit I can upload something. But the notes on this lick are pretty simple. Just 2d, 2d*, 2d**, 2b, 1b. * = bend. This kind of of Sonny Boy lick is all about the tone and timing. You have to try and hang on the first part and flick the last part, if that makes sense. Lee

Dutch Martin says:

Lee, great review. I’m gonna get a power bender very soon. Cheers!

Rusty Bergi says:

Lee, I know the notes somewhat but need to learn a little more. Some nights my tone is good when im really warmed up iam able to bend from a tongue block and virato good ive really worked on my bends and vibrato alot but need way more work but i go at it everyday and try to learn more. You bend from your throat on tongue block correct? Like i said someday’s i do ok and others i dont . I guess it’s like having one foot in the bank vault and the other in a pile of shit. LOL!

David B says:

On Brendens site he uses the “A” key in all the positions….what key is your video in? And would you recommend a key for starting out?

Lee Sankey says:

@nomoboy Hello there, yes that’s true. But the powerbender offers some new possibilities which most blues and roots players would find useful, even if they can overblow and overdraw.

I don’t know if Suzuki will offer the tuning. They should do. Meantime, Brendan can make Powerbenders in Suzukis. But I say well done to Seydel for offering the configuration first. That’s real innovation.

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