Bending is the art of stretching a string to raise the pitch. Bends create a moaning or wailing sound associated with the blues, but can bring expressiveness and style to pretty much any type of music. A few well-place bends can turn “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into “Mary Had a Little Lamborghini.”
Don’t know a bent string from a bent nail? Here’s how to get started:
1. Grab the neck of your guitar like a baseball bat, with your thumb draped over the top.
2. Line up your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fingers on the 2nd string, so that your 1st finger’s on the 6th fret, your 2nd finger’s on the 7th fret, and your 3rd finger’s on the 8th fret.
3. Pick the 2nd string.
4. Push the string up toward the ceiling with all three fingers, while sustaining pressure against the fretboard with your 3rd finger (so that the note continues to ring).
5. Disinfect and bandage wound.
And here are some general guidelines for bending:
1. Unless your name starts with Popeye and ends with The Sailor Man, you’re going to have trouble bending notes on an acoustic guitar if it has typical (medium-gauge) strings. You can certainly try 1/2-step bends on the first or second strings, but anything else is going to make you wish you ate more spinach.
2. Even on an electric guitar with lightish strings (first string gauge .08-.10), bending requires some serious force, so for most bends, line up your first, second, and third fingers on the same string. The third finger is the one fretting the note, but all three fingers push the string.
3. Scientists have proven that having a pained expression makes bends sound better. Which shouldn’t be a problem—unless you’ve got calluses of Kevlar, your fingertips will provide plenty of inspiration.
4. You’ll notice that other strings tend to get in the way when you bend a string up. Try not to let them slip under your fingertips, or over the back of the nail. In both cases, those strings will make noise when you release the bend. Instead, the strings should pile up against your fingertips.
5. Usually, you’re going to want to bend a note up to to a specific pitch—either a half-step (one note) or a whole-step (two notes) higher. This means you need to train your ear to recognize the proper pitch you’re bending to. To do this, first play the target note, and then try to reach the same pitch when bending. For example, if you’re bending a note on the 3rd string, 5th fret up a whole step, first listen to the note on the 3rd string, 7th fret.
If you’d like to learn more about bending, or see proper hand position, check out this good lesson on YouTube.
Enjoy the music,