Last update 5/2/2024
When playing the guitar, the ability to bend strings and achieve the sweet notes ‘in-between”great guitar string bending technique makes a guitar player sound truly special. Guitar string bending is a fundamental yet expressive technique that adds soulful depth and emotion to music. Mastering the art of bending strings unlocks a world of sonic possibilities. From subtle, melodic bends to powerful, soaring pitches, these techniques are the secret sauce behind a lot of iconic solos and soulful guitar-playing moments.
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However, bending guitar strings is more than simply altering the string’s pitch. It’s a unique signature for a guitarist. As such, it’s essential to know the various basic types of bends to make them your own. We prepared the following video performance and a detailed explanation of the bends used in this article.
So, what’s string bending?
String bending is a cool technique that lets you change the pitch of a note by pressing down on the string and moving it toward or away from the bridge. It’s a great way to add expression and excitement to your playing, and you can believe us when we say it’s surprisingly easy to learn.
To bend a string, press down on it with a finger or thumb and then move it towards or away from the bridge of the instrument. The harder you press, the higher or lower the pitch of the note will become. You can also bend strings in different directions, such as up and down or in a circle, to create different effects.
A few tips for string bending
- Use your fingertips, not your fingernails, to press down on the strings. This will help you to avoid scratching the strings or the fretboard.
- Apply pressure to the strings evenly so they do not go out of tune.
- Experiment with different amounts of pressure to see how they affect the note’s pitch.
- Practice bending strings in both directions so that you can create a wider range of sounds.
Once you have the basics of string bending down, you can start to experiment with more advanced techniques. For example, you can try bending two or more strings at the same time or bending strings while also playing other notes. You can also try using different bending patterns, such as bending a string up and then down or bending a string up and then holding it at a higher pitch.
String bending is a great way to add your own personal style to your guitar playing. So yeah, with a little practice, you’ll be bending strings like a pro in no time!
Here’s a tip
Here’s a fun analogy to help you remember the basics of string bending: imagine that the string is a spring, and your finger is the weight that compresses the spring. The harder you press down on the string, the more the spring compresses and the higher the pitch of the note becomes.
Guitar string bending technique
The central concept for string bending is altering the pitch by bending one or more strings. The following are standard string bending techniques used by guitarists.
Types of single-string bends
There are many types of string bends at the disposal of an experienced guitarist. Let us discuss them one by one.
Half step bend
A half-step bend is when you bend a note a half step up (1 fret). It’s an easy bend because it’s short with minimal pressure.
Full step bend
Typically, this bend is what guitarists aim to learn first, as it’s a common ingredient in most blues and rock solos. A full step bend is when you a whole step up (2 frets)
This type of bend is more challenging and less common than the previous one. Bending three frets up is not something many players usually do, as it requires strength in the left hand and control over the note. Bending techniques that involve two or more strings are:
This technique is widely used in everything from blues to metal, as it can sound anything from wild to aggressive. Unison bends are typically played on the top 2 strings, the B and G strings
. To play it, place your finger on
any note of high E or B string, then bend the string above it from a half step down to the pitch of the lower string.
The logic is the same as the unison bend. However, it doesn’t have to be a unison pitch. You bend two strings of different pitches to achieve different effects. Other types of string bends are:
A prebend means bending a string to pitch and then playing the note while it’s bent. To recap, bend the string to the desired pitch, play the note, and release it fully.
Bend and Release
The bend and release technique is pretty straightforward. It happens when the above bends are played and then held until it’s released back to its original pitch. String bends can be incorporated into other guitar techniques. An excellent example of that is bending double stops – (playing two strings simultaneously). Vibrato is also, in a way, small miniature bends.
How difficult is the technique of string bending?
Some variables will affect how easy or difficult playing a string bend is. The gauge of the string (the diameter of the string) is a significant factor in how much tension is needed to perform a bend. Being able to reach many different micro pitches makes bending something piano players wish they could do.
Correct practice makes for perfect bends.
You quickly pick a guitar player who has mastered his bending technique from someone who still has some work to do on their technique. Bending is a technique that is unique for every player. You only need to practice to the point where your bends are right on the pitch consistently.
With patience, proper ear training, and other great string benders as a reference in time, you will have no problem with bends. David Gilmour from Pink Floyd is a master of bending. Check out some of his solos to create an idea of how fully inundated bend with smooth vibrato sounds.
Bending Strings Tips
Record your bends, playback, and listen. Building a good ear for pitch is essential and requires practice. The first step in correcting a lousy bend is recognizing that you need to work on it.
How to practice
Playing the tone you want to bend to is a good practice exercise.
Then, bend the note to the same pitch. Practice playing the notes on a scale and then bending up to it. Refer to the video, and if the pentatonic scale is your main go-to for leads, start by bending each note of the scale-up to the next.
Use multiple fingers
When bending, use more than one finger. The best practice is to put your index, middle, and ring fingers together to support the ring finger with a wrist movement for any bend. The motion is a smooth rotary one. How fast or slow determines how you sound and your vibrato. Pay close attention to that!
Furthermore, try practicing bending down when bending the lower three strings. The first reason is the thickness of the string and how the hand is positioned on the guitar’s neck. The second is that the fretboard is not wide enough to support the strings.
The thumb position is critical while bending. Depending on which string you are bending, the thumb supports the hand as it moves about the fretboard. This grip gives the wrist the extra space needed for a rotary motion. If bending feels challenging, you should probably check how your wrist and thumb are positioned.
The best approach is to build up your knowledge and technique over what you already know and master.
Go to the chord shapes, solos, and scales you are familiar with, and try to play around with different bending techniques. Confirming that the pitch is correct is essential for becoming an excellent string bender. String bends are a great way to give your guitar playing your sound.
Continue to practice the techniques and make them your own.