Bending is a great technique that will go a long way to help bring your guitar playing alive. If you cannot bend well, then it's high time that you learned how...
Think of any accomplished lead guitarist – all of them will use bending at some point. Bending will breathe life and expression into guitar playing in a way that very few other techniques can.
Bending notes is one of the classic sounds of lead guitar. Players such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert and Yngwie Malmsteen are all great note benders. Bending helps to add emotion and intensity to the music, as well as giving your playing a more vocal-like quality.
A bend is achieved by fretting a note and then pushing the string sideways across the fret-board towards the adjacent strings, (either up or down depending on the string). One important point with bending notes is to use a supporting finger behind the finger you are using to make the bend. This gives you more strength and better control.
When bending notes, it is also helpful to have the thumb of the left hand right up over the edge of the neck to help push back against the pressure of the fingers. The TAB symbol for a bend is a curved arrow accompanied by the symbol “B”.
Try the following bend:
How did that bend feel? Was it tough to push on the note? If you found it difficult to accomplish a smooth feel for that bend, you'll need to more fully understand a few of the basic principles of bending.
Here is an exercise for developing a better ability for bending notes.
STEP 1). Hand Position... Set up your hand position at the 3rd string on the 5th fret.
This is where we will establish our first bend. Set-up your hand position as shown in the image below:
STEP 2). Testing... Test the feel of the string you have your fingers on by pushing on the note you have fretted. See image below:
STEP 3). Leverage... Getting ready to play a bend lick accurately requires leverage. Move up to the 7th fret of 3rd string. Develop more leverage for the bend by hooking your thumb over the neck. See image below:
Make sure you reach /target the 'exact pitch' that you are trying to bend to. In this exercise you are trying to bend from the D to E on the third string. How does this feel? How is your pitch accuracy?
Listen carefully as you practice making the bend to make sure that your bent "E" note is not too sharp or too flat. Try recording yourself bending some notes and then listen back to check the pitch of your bends.
Now we will try an "accuracy" bend lick that targets a tone between two strings. This will be excellent for self-testing your overall bend accuracy. Try the example shown below, where an "E" tone on the 7th fret of the 3rd string, is bent and then another "E" is played on the second string. See TAB below:
Be sure to target the sound of the 5th fret of the 2nd string while pushing on the 3rd string 7th fret. You'll want those tones to meet and form an "in-tune" response. this way you know that your accuracy level is matching the two tones properly. Your fingers need to be set-up on the neck properly for achieving the best sound. See image below:
PERFORMING BEND LICKS:
Now, let's start having some real fun by trying out how to play through a couple of bending licks.
LICK #1). In lick example one, there are two bend ideas shown. Starting at the first measure, a slight bend is performed off of the 5th fret of the 3rd string. And then, in the tail end of the lick a 3rd string "bend and release" is performed off of the 7th fret. Listen to the audio clip to fully comprehend the sound of this line.
LICK #2). The next lick moves through a two bar phrase that has an 8th fret bend on the 3rd string in measure one. In measure two, the lick wraps up with a bend up at the 11th fret of the 6th string. This lick demonstrates the importance of learning how to control bends on any guitar string. Once the feel has been developed, the bends will become more natural. Listen to the audio of this bend idea and spend time working at playing each bend as smoothly as possible.
Listening and practicing many different licks, in all kinds of guitar styles, will make the biggest impact on the overall success of bending for you. Have a look through the "QwikLicks" series in the Creative Guitar Studio members area. This series of QwikLicks lessons is free to general members and can go a long way help introduce many guitar techniques (including bending). Become a member today to take advantage of everything the site has to offer.
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