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String Bending Technique

Justinguitar.com on Technique

String bending is a basic blues and rock technique. The idea is to "bend" (push a string across or over the fingerboard with your left hand fingers) so that the string gets tighter and the pitch goes up.

It is very important to practice this as it sounds awful when done badly. In fact if your guitar is in tune, it is very hard to play a note out of tune, unless you bend. If you don't practice bending in tune right away you will risk sounding like a child learning violin, not something you should inflict on your friends or family, or a paying audience :)

This is a very hard technique to teach using only text, so try and watch the video for this lesson a few times.

The Lesson

1. Always use two or more fingers (usually your second and third fingers). At more advanced stages you may use only one finger, but only if two are not available (or if you do a first finger bend).

2. Try to use your wrist to make the bend and use your fingers as levers.  As you work on the technique you should find that it feels very easy when you do it right and very hard to do if you have the technique wrong!

3. When practising always hold the bent note to check that it is properly in tune (the most important aspect of bending practice).

Exercises

To practice bends as shown, use the same finger throughout- usually your 3rd finger.

Play the note you want to bend followed by the note you want to bend to. Then play the original note again and bend it to the pitch of the second note. This will improve your intonation (get you in tune).

Some teachers recommend using a guitar tuner to work on getting it in tune, not a bad idea, but I think that it is better to use your ears - you won't be using a guitar tuner on stage!

Once you feel comfortable with the technique and it feels easy you should start to work on your vibrato. The "pro" approach is let the note ring pure before adding the vibrato on after a small amount of time.

Listen to the blues masters and try and emulate them. Try and develop the feeling that you can make the guitar sound and way that you hear it!

You should also practice "fast bends" where the note is not held for long at all (Chuck Berry is a good example of this technique), and very slow bends that are held for a long time (like say Dave Gilmore).

Examples in the tab and notation

Download the pdf file - here.

• Example 1 shows a semitone bend on the 2nd string. Make sure you play each note for a whole beat. You will pick the note four times in total!

• Example 2 shows a tone bend. Make sure you get it in tune!

• Examples 3 and 4 both show similar exercises but high up the neck. It is important to play these exercises on ALL string and in low, middle and high registers, meaning around the 5th fret, around the 10th fret and above the 15th fret.

Onwards...

Bends are great to experiment with and some very unusual effects can be obtained by getting creative with them. Try bending fast and slow, try ghosts (where you start with it bent before you play it) Double bends, two string bends, bending big intervals (like two tones - 4 frets), bend and then using tapping... it goes on. There is a lot to experiment with in this technique, some of which will be covered later, but you can go and explore all by yourself too!

 

Video Lesson

The original video for this was old and very poor quality... it is now covered in the Intermediate Foundation. Here is the video lesson from there, but you might want to check out that whole series too!

 

Lesson ID: TE-106