Five Guitar String Bending Tips That Made Me A Better Guitar Player
String Bending Is A Signature Guitar Sound
Bending the strings on a guitar, especially on an electric guitar, creates a unique sound that we all have learned to love, instantly recognize and associate with specific music styles. Just think about how many power ballad guitar solos start with that huge up-bend that normally goes on and on for several beats. Can you imagine the Blues without those singing guitar notes?
To emulate these styles when playing guitar you have to know some tricks that make it easy to bend the strings on your guitar. Here are five tips that not only helped me to improve my bending technique on the guitar but have also made me a better guitar player overall.
Tip One: Bend Against The Fretwire Not Against The Fingerboard
When I first learned to play the guitar I learned to press my fingers against the strings behind the frets. When the string touches the fret wire, the length of the part of the string that can vibrate is changed. This in turn allows us to play different notes.
As a result the sound of your bending will be smoother and require less effort.
To easily bend the strings on the guitar it helps to adjust the positioning of the fingertip pressing against the string. To make bending easier I suggest that you allow your bending finger to make contact with the fret. Rather than trying to bend by rubbing the string against the fingerboard, try to bend the string by rubbing it against the metal fret wire. Metal rubbing against metal allows for much less friction than rubbing metal against wood. As a result the sound of your bending will be smoother and you will require less effort to play bends.
Check this Youtube Video to see this bending tip in action!
Tip Two: Use A Little Help From Your Fingers
Depending on the string gauge you use it can be quite hard to bend the strings on your guitar. Placing two to three additional fingers on the same string behind your bending finger to help pulling the string to the side not only reduces the strain on the bending finger but will also give you more control over the tempo and expression of your bended note.
Even if you apply these rules you may still need to build up strength in your fingers by doing the right exercises. Will Wallner posted some string bending exercises on Guitar World. Also remember to make sure to move your wrist to bend and not your fingers.
Tip Three: Bend Within The Scale
Bending does not sound right by itself. It has to be done in a musical way. For bending to sound great in any style you should consider to bend to notes that are in the scale of the song that you are playing. You can bend up by half notes or full notes or even more if you have the strength to do so. No matter which interval you choose you should bend to notes that would also sound good if you were to slide to them.
When considering the first position of the A Minor Blues scale you could bend the third string – third finger D – half a step up to the D# blue note or one full note (ie. 2 half steps) to the E.
Tip Four: Imitate Singers
String bending on the guitar has its roots in imitating singers. Singers are not normally one hundred percent precise in their intonation. There is some fluctuation in pitch that makes singing sound enjoyable and if you like human. Do not overbend! As such you can also play with the way you bend your guitar strings to imitate singers. As a rule, I suggest that you do not overbend. However, bending too little, also known as underbending, sounds fine to our ears while bending too far does not sound good. This is probably one of the reasons why bending a note by only a quarter ie. less than half a note, can sound very bluesy and therefore pleasing in the right context.
Tip Five: Imitate Singers Even More
Singers also often use vibrato. A cool way to make your guitar playing sound even better is to add some vibrato to your bending too. Bend your strings on the fret and call on your other fingers to help with the pullingThis is not easy and requires strength and control but can be achieved when you use the first two tips presented in this post. Bend your strings on the fret and call on your other fingers to help with the pulling.
PS: What was the one technique change that made the biggest difference in your guitar playing? – I’d love it if you share it in the comments below!
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