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The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes

Updated: 3 days ago

Some say the coolest thing about the guitar is the ability to bend your string and to sound close to a vocalist.


Those people are 100% correct. In today's article, we are going over the fundamentals of bending!


The topics are as follows:


What Is Bending?


Bending is really simple in terms of what it is.


Bending is when you take the string on a given note and by the act of pushing the string or pulling on it to alter its pitch.


This effect on the pitch can sound gradual which can imitate the sound of how a vocalist raises and lowers their pitch.


Vocalists often have a gradual rise and fall of their pitches and due to this technique, it allows the guitarist to have certain advantages over other instruments such as piano.


The unique sound of that swelling from one note to the other makes it have more gravitas and why many guitarists are big fans of bending.


Which brings me onto the next topic,


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When Is Bending Used?


Bending can be found in many styles of genres usually they take place in soloing on the guitar to give any pitch an expressive sound.


Typically, it can be found in blues, metal, funk, and many many famous solos.


In your own playing you would typically use bending to add a dramatic effect onto your notes adding a tension and release to getting to the next note.


I bet you are asking……


How Do I Bend Notes?


One of the main issues when learning to bend is the physical aspect of it.  


Most of the physical aspect of it is in the left hand (if you are right-handed). 


Your technique can also change depending on what string you start on.


A good rule of thumb is that if you start on the Low E A and D string you pull down on the bend because of the space on the fretboard is limited and it makes the most sense to pull down for the bend.


When it comes to the G string you have a choice because there is more space to bend which means you can bend or pull on that string in either direction to get the same pitch.


Which leads onto the last set of strings due to the lack of space to pull downwards on the B and high E string it’s advised to bend upwards. But what is the technique we need to bend?


To start off, the resistance caused by the strings on your fingers can feel like there is a lot of tension. Its for this reason we start bending with the third finger as that’s the strongest finger on your hand, we also add the two fingers behind the third for extra support onto the same string you are bending it should look like this:

The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Picture 1 | Grokit Guitar
The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Picture 1 | Grokit Guitar





This is very important as it allows for the other two fingers behind the string to take most of the tension, freeing up the fretting finger to hold the note properly.











 

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The next step is to have the thumb over the neck like so:


The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Picture 2 | Grokit Guitar
The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Picture 2 | Grokit Guitar


This allows for the bend to aim towards to the thumb and it pivots the wrist into the correct position for bending.




One common thing you will find with the technique of bending is that you will have to change your hand position quite frequently from fretting regular notes into a bending position. We also have to be mindful of our wrist and what its doing. 







Before bending the wrist should look like this:


The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Picture 3 | Grokit Guitar
The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Picture 3 | Grokit Guitar

You then turn the wrist like you are turning a door knob in a turning motion up towards the thumb.


This is what your wrist should look like when its fully bent.


The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Picture 4 | Grokit Guitar
The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Picture 4 | Grokit Guitar

The last thing to focus on is unwanted noise when bending. It’s the step that a lot of players forget to take care of.


If you want a cleaner sounding bend then you need to learn how to mute unwanted string noise.

 

What you can do for this is you can use your palm of your picking hand to lean on strings you don’t want to produce sound and with your fretting hand most of the noise will most likely come from bending under the strings above which can be mitigated with the palm and if you rake all the strings, you can use the first finger to mute the strings that the palm isn’t muting.


Another technique is to rest the picking hands fingers on the strings and mute the ones that are not being picked.


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Now we know the correct technique on bending it’s now time to learn….

 

How To Practice Bending 


It often gets asked how to practice such a technique. To practice bending we have to have the correct aim.


The correct aim of bending practice is to hit the correct notes and to practice different distances.


If we look at Example 1


The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Half-Step Bend | Grokit Guitar
The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Half-Step Bend | Grokit Guitar


The first note we are going to aim for is a half-step away.


We first play the note which in this instance is D#/Eb to get familiar with the target note. From there we bend to that note from half a step below on the 7th fret of the G string.

 

The next example in Example 2 is bending up a whole step. From the D to the E.

The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Whole-Step Bend | Grokit Guitar
The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Whole-Step Bend | Grokit Guitar

As with the previous example we play the note first then bend up to it.


We want to gradually bend to it and meet the pitch to match it that’s how you know you are doing it properly.


This continues with bends that are a tone and a half a way. In Example 3.  

The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Whole-Step & Half-Step Bend | Grokit Guitar
The Fundamentals Of Bending Notes - Whole-Step & Half-Step Bend | Grokit Guitar

We now are playing the F first before bending to get the reference tone and then bending to match.


You can continue if you feel confident to go further in the distances but the further you go the harder it becomes and the more tension you are adding to your fingers so I wouldn’t advise doing this if you are just starting out as you want to avoid over straining your finger muscles.


I hope this article has been useful for you in learning how to bend please leave a comment below if you found this helpful.



See you in the next article!

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Thank you! Now I’ll be the biggest bender in town!

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