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Guitar Techniques - Bending


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There are many techniques to guitar playing, but none as useful as string bending. Bending is often used to add “character" to the guitarist's playing. It's a technique used by most lead guitar players, but sometimes, even country musicians (such as myself) use it for our own country solos!

Bending Technique

Bending the strings far enough to bring the tone up one semitone (which is our goal for today) takes a great amount of effort. The easiest way is to use three (some people use one finger, we'll talk about that later) fingers to bend the string, instead of just the finger on the fret you're trying to bend. You can do this by placing your third finger on the fret you're trying to bend. Place your first and second fingers on the frets behind it, and pushing up.

A step by step guide

Start by fretting the 12th fret of the second (or any string, the lower he string, the harder to bend) string, with your third finger. Your second finger should rest on the second string, 11th fret. Your first finger should rest on the second string, 10th fret. Our goal is to bend this note up one semi-tone (called a “half step"), and then return the note to it's original pitch. First, play the 12th fret, then the 13th fret, so that you can hear the pitch of the note you're trying to bend to. Then pick the note (with your 3rd finger on the 12th fret), and push your fingers in an upwards motion (towards you), while still pressing down on the string so that it keeps ringing. Use all three fingers to bend the string, not just the third finger. Then, return the note to it's original pitch. It helps if you slightly curl your 1st and 2nd fingers towards your 3rd finger as you bend.

Most probably, when you first attempt this, you won't get the pitch to bend much. This is especially true if you try bending on an acoustic guitar - they are much harder to bend strings on, as they use much heavier gauge strings. Be very patient. . . you probably haven't used these muscles before, thus they are not really “warmed up". Keep practicing, and you'll get the knack for it eventually.

A Harder version of the Bending Technique

This exercise is the same as the one above, except this time, we're going to try to bend the note up two frets (a “tone", or a “full step"). Start off by playing the 12th fret, then the 14th fret, to hear your “goal" pitch you're trying to bend the note to. Now, while fretting the note on the 12th fret on the second string with your third finger, play the note, and try to push it up to the 12th fret, then bring it back to it's actual pitch (while still pushing down on the string). Remember to use all three fingers to bend the note, or you'll probably won't be able to push the note all the way up.

A few Things to Remember:

* If the note is starting to fade away before you've finished bending, you've probably stopped pushing with enough force against the fretboard to keep the note sounding. You must remember to use all three fingers. Make sure you're pushing the strings upwards, towards your face.

* Bends are usually done on the top three strings (E, B and G), as they are much lighter, and thus are easier to bend. It's easier to bend on the higher frets on the guitar. the first few frets are extremely hard to bend,

* This is NOT an easy technique, so don't be frustrated if you don't get it right the first few times. Practice will help a lot.

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