This is quite possibly the single most important element in guitar playing. It’s your personality and your signature all in one. It’s worth spending a lot of time to perfect your bends. It’s your identity.
String bending is a great way to make your playing stand out apart from everyone else. With a slight bend of a string you can take your soloing into a whole new dimension.
String bending refers to actually stretching the string upwards towards the ceiling, or downwards towards the floor, causing an increase in pitch as the string is being stretched. If you are not familiar with string bending, you should definitely start taking action today and practice it. Use your ring finger to firmly hold down a note on the fret board. While holding the note down, bend the string upwards or downwards, while making sure firm string pressure remains on the fret of the guitar.
A good rule of thumb is, when bending the LOW three strings ( E,A,D) you should bend down towards the floor. On the HIGH three strings (G,B,E) you should bend upwards towards the ceiling. One very IMPORTANT rule when string bending is to be able to nail the pitch you’re going for without drifting. This makes your playing sound much more professional and pleasing to the ear.
Example: You are playing a solo within the pentatonic scale, you are getting ready to bend a note with your ring finger and intend on bending it a whole step (two frets up). When you bend that note you accidentally over bend making the note slightly sharp. Or, under bending the note making it slightly flat. This is a common over looked problem in players who bend a lot of notes. The majority of the people who are doing this don’t even realize it’s a problem for years. It’s the difference between Professional and Amateur.
A great way to improve your playing with string bending is to work on adding more emotion into your playing by utilizing the bends as a tool. Look at some of the blues greats like S.R.V. or Clapton. They don’t necessarily play with burning speed, but the notes they do play, and the bends they apply, display powerful emotion and feeling within their guitar playing.
When soloing in any style of music, your bends can really take the solo to new levels, unleashing all the power and feeling of what you are trying to say musically. Bending the notes in different ways can change the feel of your solo as well. By bending slowly and gradually reaching that note is a whole different sound then just a quick bend up.
Another great sounding technique to try is “GHOST BENDING”. This is done by starting the note in the bent position and releasing it back to the original note. Pre-bend the note up a whole step and then release it moving it back down to the original pitch. This has a very unique sound, similar to a whammy bar dive.
Take the necessary time to examine how you bend your notes. Be sure to either bend your strings a whole step up or down, or a half step up or down. You’ll need to practice on nailing the pitch with complete accuracy. This will help clean up your playing tremendously.
Out of control note bending can destroy a great guitar solo.
If you properly practice your bends daily, you’ll soon get to a point of complete control, and you won’t even be thinking about it anymore. This is when you’re actually using bending as a tool, Or Weapon!
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Post by: Bob Molton
Guitar Instructional Product Development
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To hear some great examples of “ghost bending”, listen to the solo on The Beatles “The Night Before” and James Burton’s “Corn Pickin'”