As a lead guitarist, string
bending is an essential technique you need to learn. Using bends adds
colour, emotion and "feel" to your guitar solos, and actually gives
you a lot more physical freedom when playing scales.
picking the next note, you can bend to it! You should at least
have that option.
I'm sure you know the basic
principle behind bending (you...uh...bend the string), but this lesson
will show you how to execute it with ease and get
you physically used to the action.
using an acoustic guitar, you'll find the
strings have a lot more tension in them (partly because you tend to use
higher gauge strings on acoustic), so bending will be slightly
difficult. I'll show you some finger exercises later on to help build
strength in your fingers.
bending with ease on the guitar neck
A lot of beginner
guitarists struggle with physically bending strings. The idea is to get
as much finger power behind the string as possible. Think of it like
lifting furniture - if there are 2, even 3 people, the job gets done
easier. Same with bending - to begin with, try using 3 fingers
the string more easily...
So whatever fret you're on, and you know you're
going to bend at that
fret, use your ring finger to fret the string and
place your middle and index fingers behind to
support it. You'll find this makes bending physically easier.
Eventually, you probably won't need this support.
Now, obviously to use this
technique, you'll have to know how to use
your scales to actually get in the position where your ring finger
lands on the fret you're bending at. We'll look at this another lesson
- one step at a time!
Your fingers may be strong
enough as they are to
bend without the aid of 1 or 2 other fingers - the above method just
bending less of a strain, especially on acoustic guitar.
Half step & whole step string bending
When you bend, you're essentially raising the pitch of the note being
played, and you need accuracy with your fingers and
with your ears
to bend to the pitch you want. The new pitch after the bend
most cases, going to be part of the scale/key you're in for that
particular song. That's where your judgement and knowledge of note
comes in (yep, another lesson/section!).
Let's first look at
bending a half step, which is the
equivalent of moving up one
fret in pitch.
Fret the G string
at any fret with your index/1st finger (for this example we'll use the
G string at fret 7, which
is the note D)
Find your target note on the fretboard so you've got a pitch
reference. This is the note you
want to bend to
first when training your ears. We said we'd be bending a half
step, so the pitch we're bending to is the equivalent of one
fret up from the original note.
Try bending to that
new pitch from the original note...
Click the diagrams in
this lesson to hear examples.
is how a string bend would typically appear in a
tab. In this example, we're bending from the 7th fret to the equivalent note of
the 8th fret.
I have also seen people tab bends using the ^ symbol. For example 7^8
different bending speeds. Sometimes
you'll want a slow, lazy bend, other times you might want a quick, knee
jerk bend (especially if following it with a pull off
- more on this
You'll notice with a half
step bend we don't actually have to bend the string that much.
Now let's try a slightly
larger bend - a whole step bend, which is the
equivalent of moving up two frets in pitch.
Follow the same procedure as
before, but this time find the new pitch a whole step up from
our original note.
Bending degrees of one and a half steps (equivalent of 4 frets), and
even larger intervals are no uncommon and
occasionally used as a "climax" in a solo.
Don't forget the higher strings. These are slightly easier on the
Bending the bottom two strings
You'll have probably realised by now that when bending in the direction
towards your head (pushing the string rather than pulling it), the A
and low E
are restricted by the edge of the fretboard. If you bend the A string
more than half a step, in slips off the edge, and the low E string
probably can't even make a half step bend.
Simple solution to this - just bend downwards,
the string down to the floor.
Let's try bending the low E string at the 7th fret. Try
bending it a whole step (remember - that's the
equivalent of moving up two frets) by pulling the string downwards...
And finally the A string at the same fret, using
the same downward motion...
find that as you bend, especially if your guitar has a thin neck,
you'll come into contact with adjacent strings. Simply go with the
flow as if you're pushing them out the way as you bend, but without
fretting them (unless it sounds good of course!).
simple string bending exercises
Let's put the basic bend technique to more practical use. Below are two
common types of bend and some video demonstrations.
The first sequence is best described as "pick - bend - pick - release".
This is where you pick the note, bend it, then pick again at the peak
of the bend and finally release the bend.
So remember - we pick again at the top of the bend
so it can resonate while we release the bend. Speeded up, and mixed
with hammer-ons and pull-offs, this technique will no doubt become a
staple part of your lead playing.
Another common technique is simply "pick - bend - release". So
pick the note before and after the bend, not whilst in the bend
position like in the technique before...
These types of bends are great for a sharp,
Here's how such a bend would be tabbed out, with the "r"
symbolising the release (5th
fret - bend
to 6th fret
pitch - release
back to 5th):
This video looks at how you can use simple bends
to convey emotion in your guitar solos...
We'll look at some more techniques in the next part!
Quick string bending tips
When bending you might notice your strings go
out of tune
easily. This is most likely because they haven't had such tension
applied till now. In fact, bending is a great way to settle
strings in by stretching them out.
The lighter your string gauge, the easier it'll
be to bend.
So with acoustic guitars the strings are naturally a heavier gauge
means more tension and more physical effort needed for bending.
If you bend and hold the new pitch for more
than a second and
the note dies, apply another pick stroke and keep doing so until you
move on from that note.
Do you know
any scales? A lot of
used to bending using minor pentatonic because of the convenient
fingering, but try bending in different scales and modes (there are
backing track lessons for scales in the guitar
Well, that's our introduction to guitar string bending... something new
to play with when soloing.
In part 2, we'll look at more
advanced bending techniques.
Of course, string bending can
sound far more
interesting when combined with other techniques covered in the
lead guitar section. When you have more than one technique under your
fingers, try combining them in your licks.