Guitar Lessons – String Bending – Lesson 23
One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a seasoned guitarist and a total amateur is to listen to their string bending. A pro or any well practiced guitar player will have complete control over their bends and will use a variety of different types of bends in their playing. The pros string bends will be smooth and deliberate and won’t be bent too much (sharp) or too little (flat) while an amateurs string bending will be sloppy and careless.
To get a good handle on string bending, we need to look at what bends are, the mechanics behind them and how to use them properly. The technique of bending guitar strings is used to add character to regular picked notes. It involves playing a note and then exerting pressure on the string to slide it up in the fretboard (toward the top or bottom of the neck) to change its pitch. The finger that does the bending stays within the space between the two frets that the bent note lies and it should sound smooth as if you simply slid your finger up the string.
It’s not common to bend every note you play and string bending should be used sparingly otherwise it’s effect will be lost on the listener. Now, recall that I was talking about the difference between pros and amateurs when they are string bending. When we bend a note on the guitar, it’s not done hap-hazzardly and we generally have an idea of where we want the bend to end up. By that I mean we know what pitch the note will make before it gets bent and we also have the sound locked in our head of what the note will sound like after we’ve bent it.
A half step bend, or a semi-tone is the equivalent of playing a note and then playing a note one fret higher. For example, if you were to play the third string at the twelfth fret (a G note) and then you bent that note up a half-step, the note you hit at the top of the bend would be a G#. A well practiced guitarist will bend up to the proper note 99% of the time without even thinking about it.
To take this exercise a step further, you could also try a whole-step bend or bending one tone. This bend is best represented by playing a note and then playing a note on the same string two frets higher. As in our previous example, the first note would be on the third string at the twelfth fret (still a G note) and then at the top of the bend, you’d be playing an A note.
If you have difficulty bending the strings, try using more than one finger. Use your ring finger on the root note and use the index and middle finger to back up the ring finger and give it more strength. It’s much easier to bend strings on an electric guitar than it is on an acoustic. Try some bends all over the neck and get used to bending to the proper pitch. In the next blog post, we’ll dig deeper into more advanced string bending, so get bending and build those calluses up.